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Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers: Children first!

A case study on PRSP processes in Ethiopia, Kenya and Zambia from a Child Rights Perspective

Klaus Heidel

Kindernothilfe (KNH)

September 2005

SARPN acknowledges Kindernothilfe in Germany as the source of this document.
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Executive summary

Poverty reduction should begin with child poverty

Children and young people comprise at least half of the population in Ethiopia, Kenya and Zambia. Their poverty is on the increase. The number of street children is growing. More and more children have to work. In light of these facts, eliminating child poverty should be a central aim of poverty reduction strategies.

Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers: poor from a child rights perspective

The observances collected in this case study demonstrate clear country-specific differences in the evaluation of PRSPs by child rights organisations. On the other hand they suggest that, from a child rights perspective, all three Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers display common shortcomings.

Firstly, the PRSPs for all three countries almost completely lack an explicit child rights approach.

Secondly, the child and youth poverty analysis is insufficient, especially in the Ethiopian and Kenyan strategy papers where important aspects are missing. Child rights and some youth organisations accuse all strategy papers of practically ignoring the situation of young people and of not analysing the causes of youth unemployment. None of the PRSPs include a coherent analysis of the causes of child poverty.

Thirdly, child rights organisations question the basic economic orientation of the strategy papers. They doubt that the aspired economic growth alone will contribute to overcoming child poverty. They refer to the dominance of the informal sector, the development of which is crucial for the elimination of child poverty. However, in each country they draw different conclusions. In Ethiopia organisations demand the strengthening of private enterprise structures in rural areas. In Kenya concentrating on the private sector is rejected. In Zambia further liberalisation is considered to be damaging. In all three countries they are critical of the economic focus on the development of physical infrastructure.

Fourthly, child rights organisations in Ethiopia and Kenya miss coherent social and educational programmes that are specifically designed to eliminate child poverty and that treat children as rights holders. In all three countries they complain about the absence of a ”children’s budget” in the PRSP.

In view of these shortcomings, child rights organisations doubt that the PRSPs can make a significant contribution to overcoming child poverty.

Criticism of PRSP processes

The PRSP development and implementation processes failed to meet child rights demands in all three countries. This is criticised by child rights organisations. However, the differences between the countries are more predominant as regards the PRSP processes than the content of the PRSPs. Therefore, the child rights organisations’ criticism of the PRSP processes differs in each country.

In Ethiopia the participation of child rights organisations in the PRSP process was weak and children and young people hardly participated at all. They were not successful in getting child rights recommendations anchored in the PRSP. Up to now, no structured cooperation between the government and child rights organisations has taken place during PRSP implementation and monitoring; children have not been an issue and have not played a part as subjects.

In Kenya, during the first PRSP process, child rights organisations did have good opportunities to get involved in the development of the PRSP. Children and young people were at least partly given the opportunity to participate. Yet the child rights organisations were only partly successful in their efforts to influence the content of the first paper. Child rights organisations, children and young people as well as child and youth organisations were largely excluded from the second PRSP process. Without success child rights organisations demanded that the situation of children and young people should be a key issue in the Economic Recovery Strategy. The Investment Programme developed to implement the Economic Recovery Strategy did deal with child labour and youth unemployment in relative detail. In this way some demands of child rights organisations were met, although there were not involved in the development of the Investment Programme. No child rights organisations, let alone children and young people themselves, are participating in the implementation – this includes monitoring - of the current strategy paper.

In Zambia, child rights organisations were able to get very involved in the PRSP process both in the development and implementation of the strategy paper – much more so than in the other two countries. In Zambia, child rights recommendations found their way into the strategy paper itself – again, more so than in the other two countries. Nevertheless, children and young people are not a priority of the PRSP implementation.

These observations underline the need to pay attention to country-specific distinctions and to avoid rash generalisations when assessing PRSP processes.

Qualifying PRSP processes from a child rights perspective: prerequisites, possibilities and limits

To qualify PRSP processes from a child rights perspective requires willingness on the part of child rights organisations to participate in PRSP processes. The chances of this are difficult to estimate: in Zambia child rights organisations tend to be prepared to cooperate in PRSP processes; in Ethiopia and Kenya scepticism and rejection prevail. However, the scepticism and negative attitude towards the PRSP processes in Ethiopia and Kenya is at least partly explained by the fundamental criticism towards their governments. For this reason it remains open whether or not child rights organisations, who in February 2005 expressed no interest in future cooperation, would change their position if, in their opinion, political conditions improved.

As a result, it is not possible to assess chances of success for child rights qualifying PRSP processes, independent of political conditions. For bilateral and multilateral development cooperation this means that these general conditions govern whether and to what extent development cooperation can be carried out within the scope of PRSPs. This applies to development aid in particular. In addition, depending on the country, it is necessary to combine support for a child (and other) rights qualifying of PRSP processes with encouraging the government to practise ”good governance” and to have an active human rights policy which includes a lasting implementation of the rights of the child.

Furthermore, the chances for child rights qualifying PRSP processes also depends on whether it is possible to link PRSP process to other policy planning processes, sector papers and proposed laws which are important for the realisation of the rights of the child and the eradication of child poverty and youth unemployment. Failing that, it is necessary to closely examine whether development cooperation should attach such outstanding importance on PRSP processes – as instructed by the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.

Finally, it should be taken into consideration that in order to qualify PRSP processes from a child rights perspective, it is essential to support child rights organisations and especially child and youth led organisations so that they are in a better position to seize the opportunities of civil society participation in PSRP processes. This involves, improving their financial and human resources, strengthening efficient cooperation structures and prioritising support for political human and child rights work in general.


The observations collected in this case study lead to demands in order to qualify PRSP processes in a child rights perspective. These demands are only briefly indicated here; please consult the full list of demands in chapter seven, pages 52 to 54.

PRSP content

  • Poverty reduction strategies must prioritise the reduction of child poverty. They must investigate the impacts of macro-economic strategies and policies on children and young people. It is essential that PRSPs also contribute to supporting the informal sector.
  • PRSPs should present a ”children’s budget”.
Participation of children, young people and child rights organisations

  • The extensive participation of children and young people and their organisations in the development, implementation and monitoring of PRSPs must be guaranteed.
Coherence political planning processes

  • PRSP processes will only contribute to realisation of the rights of the child when they are linked to other relevant political planning processes and legislative projects.
World Bank and IMF guidelines

  • World Bank and IMF guidelines on the development and implementation of PRSPs and assessment of PRSP processes should be amended to serve qualifying PRSP processes from a child rights perspective.
Bilateral and multilateral development cooperation

  • Development cooperation and development funding may only be fully linked to PRSP processes if they contribute to the realisation of human rights. Whether this is the case depends on the conditions in each country.
Child rights organisations and aid agencies in the North

  • Child rights organisations and aid agencies in industrial countries should intensify lobby activities towards their government and parliaments, the European Parliament and European Commission as well as the IMF and the World Bank in order to get through child rights standards for PRPS processes. They should cooperate internationally and with the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child for this purpose.
  • Child rights organisations and aid agencies in industrial countries should urge the World Bank and IMF to consider more than previously the experiences and evaluation of child rights organisations and child and youth led organisations in countries with a PRSP when reviewing PRSP processes.
  • It is necessary to intensify the support for lobby and advocacy activities of child rights organisations and of child and youth led organisations in countries with a PRSP.
  • Child rights organisations and children’s organisations should be supported in ”experience sharing” both nationally and across borders.

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