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									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)


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

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

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
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

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,

“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.

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