Blog: Children and young people hold key to success of Sustainable Development Goals

Mar 2016

This blog was written to accompany the publication of the report 'A Synthesis of evidence from the ESRC-DFID Joint Fund for Poverty Alleviation Research' and the ESRC-DFID response which are also avaialble from The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) website. The summary of the Children and Young People's synthesis, produced by the Impact Initiative, can be downloaded via this link to our resource guide.


Of the 17 goals and 169 targets that make up the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), 11 goals and 41 targets (half and a quarter respectively) are specifically relevant to children and young people (CYP). The SDGs address children and young people’s (CYP) issues in a way that their predecessors, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), with their limited focus on income poverty, education and health, did not. New insights from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and UK Department for International Development (DFID) Joint Fund for Poverty Alleviation Research (Joint Fund) suggest that to really accelerate progress against the SDGs and ensure that no child or young person is ‘left behind’, CYP must be more directly involved in defining, framing and addressing the issues that affect them most.

Involving children and young people in research and recognising their agency

The report - New knowledge on children and young people – A Synthesis of Evidence from the ESRC-DFID Joint Fund for Poverty Alleviation Research – which has been authored by the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) assesses the contribution of the Joint Fund scheme’s research since 2005 to the body of knowledge around CYP issues and ways in which their life chances can be improved. The report recommends that CYP should be more directly involved in future research and their insights used to frame research questions and findings and inform policy and practice.

It cites the rich insights into CYP’s experience of the matters they perceive as affecting them most that were gained through the 14 grants which did adopt a more participatory approach. One such example is Bryceson’s study of urban growth and poverty in mining in Africa which included participatory programmes designed to elicit the views of secondary school students on their lives in mining settlements.

How research is contributing to the improvement of young people’s wellbeing

In addition to this, the report also highlights the wealth of new insights into CYP’s wellbeing that the Joint Fund generated despite the fact it was a general fund rather specifically focused on CYP. The report outlines some fascinating examples of where research has not only contributed to the body of knowledge in these areas but also to practical ways in which CYP’s wellbeing could be improved.

A study in Zambia led by a multi-disciplinary team of academic researchers, media professionals and medical practitioners based in Zambia and the UK found that adolescent girls and young women were more likely to have unsafe abortions because they were unaware that abortion in hospitals is legal and free. The researchers are now working to improve awareness by developing a facebook page with information on abortion and series of drop-in events, and this has inspired similar activities led by a Zambian NGO to use project insights to inform awareness-raising initiatives about abortion rights and the law.

In another example, researchers in Mexico working as part of a bigger programme looking at the environment of poor families in Colombia, Mexico, Nepal and India led by Professor Orazio Attanasio, Director of the Centre for the Evaluation of Development Policies (EDePo) at UCL and IFS, examined the impacts of Opportunidades, a cash transfer programme designed to support children’s health, education and nutrition. They found that the pressure on secondary school children to leave school to take up work was high and this led to a pilot programme being introduced which tested the impacts of targeting transfers to households with secondary school age children.

The SDGs – lessons for policy makers and avoiding the mistakes of the MDGs

Looking to the future and accelerating progress around improving CYP’s wellbeing there are knowledge gaps that must be addressed. The report helpfully maps relevant insights to goals and targets in the SDG framework (see Table 1 on pg 62) and identifies where these knowledge and policy gaps remain, including around education, health, violence against children and child protection, the care economy and climate change. New knowledge, alongside stronger research, practice and policy impacts are key to improving CYP’s wellbeing. However, if the mistakes of the MDGs are to be avoided, increasing the participation of citizens and communities in the design, implementation and monitoring of the SDGs is essential, which others including the Participatory Research Group and CYP focused INGOs such as Restless Development have long argued. The direct involvement of CYP in this process will be key to the overall success of the global goals.

 

The reports

New Knowledge on Children and Young People Evidence Synthesis Research Award
Marcus, R., Stephenson, J., Walker, D., Overseas Development Institute 2015
A Synthesis of Evidence from the ESRC-DFID Joint Fund for Poverty Alleviation Research assesses the contribution of the Joint Fund scheme’s research since 2005 to the body of knowledge around Children and Young People issues and ways in which their life chances can be improved. PDF 19.9MB

New Knowledge on Children and Young People
Marcus, R., Stephenson, J., Walker, D., Overseas Development Institute 2015
Summary of the review and synthesis. PDF 468Kb

The Impact Initiative blog posts are either from individual researchers or from major research programmes. Some of the blog posts are original source and are written by researchers and experts connected to the two research programmes jointly funded by ESRC and DFID: the Joint Fund for Poverty Alleviation Research and the Raising Learning Outcomes in Education Systems Research Programme. Other blog posts are imported from related websites and programmes. 

The views expressed in these blogs reflect the opinions of each individual and may not represent the Institute of Development Studies, the University of Cambridge, ESRC or DFID.

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