Press Release

On Universal Children’s Day, the IACHR Urges States to Improve Investment in Childhood

November 20, 2017

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María Isabel Rivero
IACHR Press and Communication Office
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Washington, D.C.—The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) notes that one of the main barriers to the fulfillment of children’s rights is the lack of sufficient economic investment that would allow for these rights to be fully realized. The States of the region recognize the rights of children in their laws; however, the gaps between that legal recognition and the reality experienced by millions of children are obvious and undeniable. Meeting the international obligations that States have assumed with regard to children’s rights entails investing the necessary resources for the realization of those rights, yet States often claim a lack of financial resources to justify a shortage of means for policies, programs, and services for children.

For the IACHR Rapporteur on the Rights of the Child, Commissioner Esmeralda Arosemena de Troitiño, “legislative commitments alone are not enough, and political promises are in vain if governments do not allocate adequate financial resources in local and national budgets to meet them.” The Rapporteur said: “The protection of children’s rights, recognized in international treaties and in domestic law, cannot be carried out without sufficient financial resources to do so. States frequently argue that they lack the necessary funding to implement policies geared toward children, but it is essential and urgent to overcome this situation.”

Under international human rights law, complying with international obligations regarding the rights of the child implies allocating the maximum resources available for the realization of their rights, keeping in mind the obligation to provide special protection to children and recognize their best interests. Despite that, it is common for there not to be financial information available on a State’s investment in children, to be able to evaluate whether the State in fact treats the protection of children’s rights as a priority in its budgets, and on how this total investment compares with the amounts allocated to other sectors and with the overall budget. To meet their obligations, States should introduce in their budgets a justification for the specific level of resources allocated to children, considering the commitments made by the State in setting the objectives, results, and goals in the National Policy on Children in effect when the budget is adopted, and should indicate whether they believe this amount will be sufficient to meet those goals.

“Budgets should go hand in hand with the National Policy on Children, providing sufficient resources to meet its objectives. Transparency and availability of data on the budget and its implementation, as well as on the concrete results achieved with those resources, is key to improving management of public funds, preventing corruption, and increasing the effectiveness and efficiency of decisions on the budget for children,” the Rapporteur stated.

The countries of the region should take concrete, decisive steps that lead to greater and better investment in children and their rights. Improving data and information systems is critical to improve the quality of investment in childhood, as is having monitoring and evaluation methods that make it possible to track the investment and the results achieved. States should analyze the real repercussions that budgetary decisions have had on the fulfillment of children’s rights, and this should be widely available to the public in clear, accessible language, along with data on the amount of investment, to promote transparency and accountability. The IACHR also underscores the importance for the State to ensure that there is disaggregated information available, as a minimum, on the amount it has invested in children in each of the various geographical areas of the country, by age, gender, ethnicity, and different conditions of vulnerability previously identified in the situational analysis that serves as the basis for the National Policy on Children.

The budget process should consider the principles of transparency, effectiveness, efficiency, fairness, sustainability, accountability, and participation, and should specify anti-corruption measures at all levels. Furthermore, the principles of progressiveness and non-regression should guide the attainment of children’s economic, social, and cultural rights. The IACHR also considers it essential for the State to facilitate an environment conducive to the participation of interested parties in the budget process, including civil society and children and adolescents themselves. Participation should be guaranteed throughout the budget cycle, in other words during the planning, approval, implementation, monitoring, and evaluation of the budget.

The Rapporteur also warned that “the situation is more pressing in times of economic crisis, as children are one of the most vulnerable groups. In adopting austerity policies and budget cuts, the State should evaluate those options that would least undermine the exercise of the rights of children, because they are one of the groups most sensitive to the negative impacts of regressive measures.” According to the IACHR, the State should demonstrate that it has considered the best interests of children and that the measures are necessary, reasonable, proportionate, non-discriminatory, and temporary, and that any rights that are affected will be restored as soon as possible. Specifically, the State should demonstrate that the most vulnerable children will be the last to be affected by budget-cutting measures. “We are very troubled to see budget freezes and reductions in social investment in the region without there being any analysis showing that the State has carefully considered and weighed the impacts these measures could have on the rights of children, especially those who are in the most vulnerable situations,” the Rapporteur cautioned.

Investing in children and in the realization of their rights is a legal obligation, but there are also important economic arguments to make for investing in the realization of the rights of children. Investment in childhood, done equitably, has the potential to level the playing field and offer all children the same opportunities for their development, helping to create societies that are more inclusive, fair, and just. Insufficient investment, especially in the most vulnerable groups of children, can perpetuate inter-generational poverty and inequality and produce irreversible negative effects on children’s development.

“Public policies on childhood and adolescence should be given preference. The protection of the rights of children is not just an ethical and legal mandate, but is also an imperative aspect of expanding the possibilities for development that is sustainable and societies that are more democratic, inclusive, and secure for all,” the Rapporteur said.

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote the respect for and defense of human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 186/17