Child Friendly Budget “We Have The Knowledge, We Have The Resources And We Have The Capacity, And So It Is Totally Unacceptable That We Allow Millions Of Children To Suffer So Cruelly.” (Graça Machel, Nov. 2001) Introduction The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child states that every child has a right to an adequate standard of living, and the highest attainable standard of health and education on the basis of equality of opportunity. The 1990 Summit for Children urged each country to review its budget to ensure that priority is given, in budgetary allocation and budgetary outcomes, to the welfare and rights of children, especially in relation to survival, protection, development and participation. The fulfilment of the basic rights of children entails costs. It is the political branches that generate and re-allocate public resources. Therefore we can say that they have a substantial say in determining the value, scope, and predictability of the development, protection and survival of children and the attainment of their rights through the choices they make in allocating public resources. Because of this, children’s rights and welfare are intrinsically linked with public budgets. Why children and the budget? Children are voiceless and vulnerable, particularly when it comes to having access to and control over resources. Government spending, specifically on social services, affects children directly. Yet, the government does not meet its policy commitments to children supposedly due to tight budget constraints. This may or may not be true but we believe it is because children are not taken into consideration when budgets are prepared. There are several reasons to show why priority attention should be given in budgetary allocation for children. Some of these are: • Children form a large part of Ghana’s population – approximately 30%. • Children continue to suffer from poor nutrition, inadequate health services and basic education among other things. • Budgetary programmes, specifically socio-economic expenditures, affect the well-being and life opportunities of children directly. • Children are voiceless and are at a particularly vulnerable stage of life. They do not form a powerful political lobby to advocate for more effective delivery of socio-economic services that meet their needs. This document was produced through the joint efforts of Save the Children UK, Ghana Country Programme, the Institute for Democracy in South Africa (IDASA) and the Centre for Budget Advocacy, ISODEC. • Children are the majority of both today’s and tomorrow’s population in the country. Placing children at the centre of the development planning will allow for sustainable socio-economic development for all people. The lack of a detailed assessment of what government spends on children and on services not directly targeted at children, but which impact on their well being inhibits improvements in the basic living standards of children. Both the government and civil society groups active in children’s rights require critical data and analyses about the budgetary trade-offs that the government faces in meeting the needs of children in order to plan and monitor changes in their situation. What is a Children’s Budget? The Children’s Budget is not a separate budget for children. Rather, it is a first step in examining the resources government is allocating to programmes that benefit children, and whether these programmes adequately reflect the needs of children. The Children’s Budget is also an attempt to evaluate the resource implications of policy changes in key socio-economic sectors to enable both the government and civil society to monitor the performance of government departments in an effort to meet policy commitments, such as the National Programme of Action for children. Essentially, a Children’s Budget has two purposes: 1) It provides a critical information and analytical resource for civil society advocacy groups who are active in promoting the rights of children; 2) the research analyses provide policy- makers, implementers and legislators with the necessary information to consider the particular needs of children. This will help decision-makers to be aware of the impact of policies when drawing up “child-friendly” programmes for departmental budgets. A Children’s budget should: 1. Examine budgetary allocation to areas that impact on the lives of children most. Rather than tackle the entire government budget, it is better to focus on selected key sectors that are important to the survival, protection, development and participation of children. For example health, welfare, education, justice, and policing are some of the key sectors that directly affect children’s well being. 2. Include an investigation into what happens when the government does not provide the necessary services for children. 3. Provide support to advocacy efforts to strengthen the universal declaration, “First Call for Children” by: This document was produced through the joint efforts of Save the Children UK, Ghana Country Programme, the Institute for Democracy in South Africa (IDASA) and the Centre for Budget Advocacy, ISODEC. • Developing an overall perspective on what government is currently spending on children; • Examining the budgetary trade-offs involved in the reprioritisation of government spending in line with its policy commitments to children; • Building the policy capacity of civil society, especially those organisations that are active in promoting the rights of children; and • Proposing policy improvements through expenditure reprioritisation or policy design and targeting. The Importance of Budgets to Children’s Rights It is often said, that “where policies matter, budgets matter even more” because if policy pronouncements are not visible in the government’s budget, they are unlikely to happen”. On the other hand, what the government spends public money on, whether publicly pronounced or not, effectively represents government policy, even implicitly. Consequently, the character and performance of the government budget, both at the central and the decentralised levels, represent an effective barometer of true government commitment on the rights of the child. The public budget has a direct impact on the well being and quality of life of children, through allocations to sectors, such as education, health (including water and sanitation), justice and policing, which most affect their security, basic needs and development. As the key policy document of the government, the budget is crucial to the attainment of children’s rights because: • It reveals how much money the government intends to raise (volumes of resources), from whom (the way in which the burden is shared) and how it will be spent (in which sectors, and for what goals). These decisions can favour or disfavour children’s rights. • As an allocative tool, it is not a neutral document in the sense that it chooses, as a conscious reflection of government’s priorities, to allocate more to some sectors and interests than to others. The objectives and interests it most favours (or is compelled to favour), receives more resources and more opportunities compared to others. Therefore the budget outlines how the government intends to discriminate between objectives and interests. Social groups do not benefit equally from budgetary decisions. For example, taxation or expenditure allocation could be consciously used as tools for redistribution in favour of the poor or the rich. Budgetary allocation priorities for example may rank children’s rights low or high depending on a government’s commitments. The financing of budgets often generate debt burdens which both take away resources from areas essential to children’s This document was produced through the joint efforts of Save the Children UK, Ghana Country Programme, the Institute for Democracy in South Africa (IDASA) and the Centre for Budget Advocacy, ISODEC. interest and directly burden the children in the future as tax payers as debt payments fall due in their adulthood. • It is an economic as well as an administrative management tool in the sense that it seeks to operationalise government economic policies and beliefs (ideology). It is the tool by which government seeks to achieve its economic goals in line with its economic philosophy. As an economic tool it is designed to contribute to achieving such objectives as economic growth under conditions of low inflation. As an administrative management tool, it is a means to manage relationships between different institutions of government and to bridge the gap between policies and plans on the one hand and outcomes on the other. • It is a political tool in the sense that the process by which the budget is formulated, managed and assessed can be closed (exclusive) or open (i.e. inclusive, transparent, and accountable). The degree of closeness or openness of a budget impacts on the quality of its outcomes in general and on child rights in particular. More open budgets permit greater participation and consultation, greater information access and general transparency is essential for monitoring and influencing in the interests of children. Closed budgets tend to permit large and undue influences through personal relations and small interest groups (including external creditors), deliver poor budget outcomes and do not permit open debate. As a result, budgets may become a means by which governments become more accountable to external interests than to their citizens and democratic institutions. In closed systems, those without power and influence tend to suffer more losses. As a political process, it necessarily raises the question as to who has the right to be heard and whose opinion matters the most? The Ideal Budget In an ideal situation, the government budget should be a people-centred instrument for generating and equitably allocating wealth and opportunities, the elimination of poverty and the fulfilment of the rights and dignity of all persons, in particular those without power. Moreover, the budget ought to be a tool whereby the government as an agent of the people - the principals who provide the resources and bear the burden of government debt - assemble and manage those resources in accordance with the will and the mandate of the people (the principals) through constant consultation and acting within principles of transparency, inclusiveness and accountability. Such a budget has credibility in the sense that it reflects popular will, can be believed in the sense that it stays close to what has been promised and approved and is regulated by a clear legal and institutional framework. Such a budget is said to be an Open Budget. However open budgets are more often the exception than the norm. This document was produced through the joint efforts of Save the Children UK, Ghana Country Programme, the Institute for Democracy in South Africa (IDASA) and the Centre for Budget Advocacy, ISODEC. Budget Systems and Children’s Rights A child-friendly budget rests heavily on the system upon which the budget is constructed, approved, implemented, monitored and evaluated. The budget system, or the rules and processes (formal and informal) which govern the budget, is fundamental to the fair and equitable allocation of resources. Unless the budget system is open, the quality of budget outcomes, and the appropriateness and thorough implementation of budget policy, will be dependent on the good will of individuals in the government. Closed budgets deliver non-credible budgets and poor budget outcomes. Principle of a Child-Friendly Budget System The process of developing the budget should be inclusive, transparent and accountable. Budget documents are often issued once a year, at beginning of a fiscal year. However, developing the budget and moving it through the system is a year- round process. The budget is drafted, debated and approved before implementation. Implementation, monitoring and audit may occur throughout the fiscal year and even beyond in the case of multi-year projects. In all of these stages the promotion of children’s rights should be explicitly stated, priority allocation apparent and the views of children and child-rights activists solicited. Elements of an Effective and Child-friendly Budget System The budget should, in theory, reflect the policy commitments and priorities of government. A budget that has children’s well being as a key objective should: • make such objectives explicit in the resource allocation priorities alongside policy pronouncements in favour of the right to education, health, protection, participation, etc.; • disaggregate information to demonstrate the extent to which allocations reflect these rights; • ensure the participation of children or their representatives in the budget- setting, monitoring and implementation process; • strengthen the capacity of institutions such as the Ministry of Women and Children’s affair, the Department of Social Welfare (DSW) and the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) which advocate for and protect children’s rights; • aim at protecting children, reducing child poverty and enhancing children’s consumption of basic rights goods. This document was produced through the joint efforts of Save the Children UK, Ghana Country Programme, the Institute for Democracy in South Africa (IDASA) and the Centre for Budget Advocacy, ISODEC. What approach does a Children’s Budget take? First of all a Children’s Budget reflects an Open Budget System. Though the Children’s Budget follows the statutory definition of a child (a person under 18 years old), children are not a homogenous group. They face a continuum of risks and needs at various stages of their life cycle. For example, in the earliest years of life, inadequate nutrition and health care have the most deleterious effects on the child and interventions at this stage are extremely critical for a child’s well being. In later childhood, an overriding priority may be to improve school performance and retention. For older adolescents, the school-to-work transition, and health prevention and promotion become major areas for prevention of risk to youth. In Ghana, some sectoral programmes for children reflect this “differing ness”, with specifically age-targeted interventions such as free health care for children under five years. In other sectors, there is too little data available on the age breakdown of children receiving services to determine whether services reaching children are age appropriate or sufficient. The provision of the many services needed by children may involve the collaboration of two or more government departments and other community and NGO role-players. Most budgets how ever are drawn up along departmental lines, which do not recognise the inter-sectoral nature of service provision to children. Outputs of a Children’s Budget therefore should include: • Budgetary data, particularly on health, education, justice and social welfare; • Analysis of sectoral budgetary trends and reprioritisation towards children in line with broad and sectoral policy commitments; • Recommendations for improved service delivery to children; • Indicators to monitor and evaluate reprioritisation of government spending towards service delivery to children; and • Engagement by NGOs in budgetary debate in key sectors affecting children. Challenges to Producing a Child Friendly Budget The ability to develop policy critiques and alternative proposals to “hard” budgetary figures and to engage in budgetary debates regarding key sectors affecting children depends on the availability of a reliable information base. This document was produced through the joint efforts of Save the Children UK, Ghana Country Programme, the Institute for Democracy in South Africa (IDASA) and the Centre for Budget Advocacy, ISODEC. How ever one of the key problems in doing research on “A Children’s Budget” has been the unavailability of, and lack of access to, reliable data on the situation of children and government expenditure. Poor data leads to poor research. This hampers any serious effort to advocate for more effective delivery of services to children. Therefore, an important outcome of the Children’s Budget is to call for the improvement of information systems that track the situation of children and monitor government spending on children. Producing Child Friendly budgets take time, commitment and resources. None the less, it is imperative that we look after the rights of the children today so that they can be effective contributors to society tomorrow. If you would like more information on child friendly budgets or how to analyse government expenditure through a “children’s” lens, please contact The Centre for Budget Advocacy, ISODEC. “Children are not only vulnerable and dependent members of society, they also embody the future productive potential of any society, as well as its future ability for reproduction, parenting, civic organisation and democratic participation” (Morgan, 1995) This document was produced through the joint efforts of Save the Children UK, Ghana Country Programme, the Institute for Democracy in South Africa (IDASA) and the Centre for Budget Advocacy, ISODEC.