Posts Tagged ‘rights based approach’

The latest UN report on the MDGs states that progress towards the Millennium Development Goals has been made, but it’s uneven. It looks like the Goals will be missed in most regions.

I’m blaming Madonna for launching her line of MDG sunglasses and not linking them to an MDG promotion campaign (kidding!)

To discuss all this (well, except for the sunglasses part), MDG week is happening in New York from September 20-24, 2010.  I’ll be part of some of the activities, including 2 panels. The first panel is on ICTs, Innovation and the MDGs and the second is on Women/Girls and Mobiles. What better way to prepare than to write some blog posts to sort through some ideas?

This post looks at the link between child rights and the MDGs. I’ll write some additional posts and add links at the bottom of this post when they are ready. I would love feedback on which elements would be most important to highlight during the MDG panels next week.

Human rights and the MDGs

If you look at why some countries are more on track than others in achieving the MDGs, the answer often comes down to there being greater accountability and transparency at all levels, more citizen engagement, and more public debate. Human rights are instrumental in ensuring empowerment, access to social services, equality before the law, and poverty reduction. So the link between human rights and the MDGs is clear. There are a number of human rights concepts: shared responsibility, indivisibility, non-discrimination, equality, and accountability that are also necessary for achieving the MDGs.

Due to discrimination, the most marginalized are still not accessing their rights or being included in the MDGs. There are still massive inequalities between rich and poor, rural and urban, men and women, boys and girls, adults and children. Disability and ethnicity also prevent some groups from being included. Until these disparities are addressed, the achievement of the MDGs will be far off for many particular groups. The discussion around the MDGs needs to include and reflect the opinions and concerns of those who have been traditionally marginalized.

Girls and the MDGs

Children, especially girls, and especially girls in poor, rural areas and urban slums, are often the most marginalized in these processes and in general. The MDGs highlight some critical gender gaps, especially in education, but they do not reveal the power imbalances that are an underlying cause of these disparities. Girls are often subjected to harmful practices such as early marriage and sexual violence. In countries where literacy is lowest, girls’ chances of early marriage are highest. Girls spend more time working, shoulder the burden of household chores and are more often not in school. Organizations and entities working towards the MDGs need to do more to ensure that girls and other marginalized groups are not excluded.

MDGs through a child rights lens

Child rights are a set of specific rights for those under the age of 18. They are outlined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Much of the work that child rights organizations are doing is complementary to achieving the MDGs, and 6 of the 8 MDGs are directly related to children.

Working with children and young people to participate effectively in the development of their communities and the realization of their rights contributes directly and indirectly to the achievement of the MDGs. Ensuring that children, especially girls, and other marginalized groups are listened to and heard by decision makers at the local, district, national and global levels is critical in identifying and addressing the hidden power dynamics and the underlying issues that slow the achievement of the MDGs.

Applying a ‘child rights’ lens to the MDGs is helpful in identifying responsibilities for achievement of the different MDGs. A child rights lens can also help ensure the concepts of non-discrimination and the best interest of the child are incorporated into MDG work.

What is a child rights lens?  How can it be applied to the MDGs? In a simplified way, it means:

  1. Identifying and monitoring those persons and institutions responsible for ensuring children’s rights/achievement of the MDGs (the ‘duty bearers’).
  2. Helping children and adolescents (the ‘rights holders’ in this case), to empower themselves by knowing their rights/knowing the MDGs, and together with supportive adults and institutions, to hold duty bearers accountable for ensuring children’s rights/achievement of the MDGs.
  3. Supporting children to participate fully in the process. Children’s participation leads to better outcomes and policies, and involving children early in their lives helps them develop skills and attitudes that lead to a better society in the short and long-term. Not only do children have something to contribute to their societies now, but by engaging in community development and developing good leadership skills at a young age, they also become better leaders in the future.

A child rights approach should be central to all programs and funding that are addressing the MDGs, since the MDGs are interrelated with children’s rights to survival, development, participation and protection. In addition, the principles of non-discrimination and the best interest of the child should be paramount in all decisions taken related to the MDGs.



UNICEF’s Narrowing the Gaps to meet the Goals shows that paying attention to equity and the unreached can be a more cost-effective way of pursuing the MDGs in aggregate.

3 ways to integrate ICTs into development work

5 ways ICTs can support the MDGs

7 (or more) questions to ask before adding ICTs

Related posts on Wait… What

Child participation at events:  getting it right

Child protection, the media and youth media programs

Community based child protection

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