Including Children with Disabilities During COVID-19

Written by Alexander Mentkowski

During global pandemics, the role of government is vital in protecting its citizens. Unfortunately, not all citizens are always included in government responses to emergencies, and the COVID-19 crisis is another example of this. One group of citizens that is often excluded are people/children with disabilities (P/CWDs).

In China, a teenager named Yan Cheng, with cerebral palsy, a neurological disorder which makes it difficult for a person to move and maintain their balance, suffered from neglect due in part to his disability. Yan Cheng stayed behind in his village of Wuhan while his father and brother left for Lunar New Year’s celebrations. His father contracted COVID-19 shortly after.

The father informed a Wuhan charity for disabled people about his son and told them that Yan needs to be fed and assisted with changing his clothes daily. Unfortunately, Yan was only fed twice between January 24th to January 28th and died on January 29th.  The exact cause of Yan Cheng’s death has not been determined, but this is just one example of the barriers that P/CWDs face during a global health crisis.

The Disability Community

The World Bank and World Health Organization (WHO) state that P/CWDs account for 15% of the world’s population and 80% of them live in developing countries.  World Health Survey data from 51 countries revealed that people with disabilities were more than twice as likely to report finding health care provider skills inadequate to meet their needs, four times more likely to be treated badly and nearly three times more likely to be denied needed health care.

This research also finds that 100 million children have a disability and UNICEF’ has emphasized the specific considerations needed for children with disabilities. For example, girls and boys with disabilities may be at risk of exclusion from education if remote/distance learning programs are not accessible or they do not have assistive devices to allow participation and accommodate learning needs.

The importance of having an inclusive response to coronavirus towards C/PWDs is supported by Article 11 of the United Nation’s Convention of Rights for People with Disabilities (CRPD). Article 11  establishes that states will ensure the protection and safety of persons with disabilities in the national response to humanitarian emergencies. In addition to the CRPD, Article 2 of UN Convention of Rights of the Child, states that signatory countries respect that children within their jurisdiction, including those with a disability, do not suffer discrimination. It also calls for measures to ensure protection against negative attitudes, isolation, and stigmatization that may arise in the midst of a crisis such as the coronavirus.

Including Children with Disabilities During COVID-19

A briefing published by UNICEF on the considerations for PWDs includes recommendations that have been written by many disability-centered organizations such as the European Disability Forum and the World Federation of the Deaf (WFD). Recommendations from the European Disability Forum include:

  • Disabled People Organizations (DPOs) are the best placed to advise authorities on the specific requirements and most appropriate solutions on policies providing accessible and inclusive services. Similarly, children with disabilities are best placed to speak to their specific barriers, and should be proactively consulted.
  • All COVID-19 containment and mitigation activities must be planned and implemented with the active participation of persons with disabilities and DPOs. Children should not be left out of this process, child-friendly information and mechanisms should be included as part of these activities.
  • Involving women and girls with disabilities in all stages of responses and decision-making is critical. Girls with disabilities are especially vulnerable and hard to reach, so special efforts must be made to insure they are not left behind.

The World Federation of the Deaf focuses on how to engage with the deaf community, but their recommendations can be also incorporated for the general disability community:

  • National governments should work with deaf people through their representative organization – the national associations of the deaf – to ensure the provision of adequate information and safeguarding access to health and education services.
  • National governments, in partnership with the national associations of the deaf, must implement accessible emergency services for deaf children who are victim of physical, psychological and sexual abuse. This service must be accessible, ideally via direct communication, but also through SMS texting and via remote interpreting through Video Relay Services.
  • Governments at all levels, must undertake all possible measures to ensure deaf children and youth are protected from physical, psychological and sexual abuse and violence during the confinement period.

Recommendations from UNICEF’s Considerations for Children and Adults with Disabilities include:

  • Considering information channels that will be accessed by persons with disabilities. For example, as many children with disabilities are out of school, any information campaigns delivered through schools may not reach children with disabilities.
  • Provide support to education actors to ensure that distance learning platforms are safe and accessible to children with disabilities; teachers are trained on supporting children with disabilities remotely; and that any special education programs are included in measures to ensure continuity of education.
  • Women and girls with disabilities who experience disruption of essential services, restricted movements and have primary responsibility for caring for their families are at increased risk of gender-based violence (GBV). Ensure that any programs to prevent and respond to GBV are inclusive of women and girls with disabilities (e.g. ensuring that information and reporting channels are available in multiple and accessible formats).

For governments to uphold protections for P/CWDs during COVID-19 they should familiarize themselves and follow the recommendations provided by the disability centered organizations. The aim of these recommendations is to reduce the bad practices that have occurred since the beginning of the pandemic. These recommendations are made in the spirit of the disability rights movement saying, “nothing about us without us.”

#GenerationEquality Starts in Childhood!

Photo credit: Save the Children

The year 2020 is a crucial opportunity to look back at international commitments to achieve girls’ rights, assess our progress and take concrete, forward-looking action. For girls, this has never been so urgent.

All over the world, too many girls remain in danger of being left behind on global progress, risking their futures, as well as the prospects of sustainable development, global peace and the achievement of girls’ universal human rights. However, today, girls risk falling through the gaps of a new global process intended to accelerate progress for gender equality over the critical next five years.

With this letter – 37 leading child rights and women’s rights organizations, including Save the Children, call for the Generation Equality Leads to ensure that girls’ rights are addressed through the Beijing +25 process with a standalone action coalition.

#GenerationEquality starts in childhood!

The International Community Must Ensure That No Girl Is Left Behind

Written by Carolyn Miles, Advisor, Gender Equality and Girls’ Empowerment at Save the Children

The world’s girls deserve an action coalition that is focused holistically on their lives and includes their participation. #GenerationEquality starts in childhood. Let’s work together with girls to ensure that no girl is left behind!

The year 2020 is a crucial opportunity to look back at international commitments to achieve girls’ rights, assess our progress and take concrete, forward-looking action. For girls, this has never been so urgent. All over the world, too many girls remain in danger of being left behind on global progress, risking their futures, as well as the prospects of sustainable development, global peace and the achievement of girls’ universal human rights. However, today, girls risk falling through the gaps of a new global process intended to accelerate progress for gender equality over the critical next five years.

Today, UN Women released its plans to rally the international community to accelerate progress for gender equality over the next five years by creating a set of “action coalitions” to drive concrete progress on gender equality.

Despite the fact that a 16-year-old girl was named Time magazine’s person of the year, the world’s girls continue to face rights violations. An estimated 12 million girls continue to be married each year,[ii] contributing to the leading cause of death for adolescent girls between the ages of 15 and 19: pregnancy and childbirth-related complications. The second most common cause is suicide.[iii] In countries where female genital mutilation is most concentrated, the majority of girls are cut by the time they are 14.[iv] If there was a time to bring about a step change in girls’ rights, then 2020 is the year. 

Twenty-five years ago, the international community came together and adopted what is considered to be the most progressive blueprint written on women’s and girls’ rights. The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, adopted in 1995 at the Fourth World Conference for Women, was endorsed by 189 countries and later adopted unanimously by the United Nations General Assembly.

Crucially, the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action was the first global document that recognized girls as a distinct group, facing specific rights violations and needs due to the intersection of age and gender. It dedicated a standalone section to addressing the specific rights violations that girls experience – affirming their rights not only to health and education, but also to have a voice in shaping the decisions that impact their lives.

Yet despite comprehensive commitments to girls, 25 years later, girls continue to fall through programmatic and policy gap, and girls’ voices – their hopes and dreams for the futures – too often go unheard.

A failure to systematically and consistently include girls’ voices and perspectives in policy making and accountability processes compounds the issue. As governments, UN agencies, civil society and other actors come together on the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, we must seize this opportunity. This is a watershed moment for girls, and the international community must not fail them.

I recently met a girl named Khadra while visiting a Somali refugee camp. After her husband, to whom she was married at age 13, left her behind to marry another girl in the village, Khadra was struggling to support her two small children on her own. Though Khadra told me she had done well in her studies and was ready to go on to secondary school, the decision to get married at age 13 and to stop her education was not her own.

Tackling issues such as child marriage are complex. They often reflect compounding forms of discrimination and require holistic investment – in education, health care as well as in voice and agency. At the national level, many countries are developing integrated costed national action plans to accelerate progress for girls; a global system that mirrors and supports that ambition is critical.

Photo credit: Save the Children
Anxhela, Cecelia and Keren hold signs supporting girls’ rights during Save the Children’s Bridge the Gap for Girls event in Brooklyn, New York on International Day of the Girl. “That day, I felt more energetic, optimistic and motivated to continue my fight for girls’ rights, said 16-year old Anxhela, “and empowerment that can lead them to a better life and future.”Photo credit: Save the Children, 2019.

All over the world, when given the slightest opportunity or encouragement, we see girls demanding their own seat at the table. Just this past October, three girls, Anxhela from North-East Albania, Cecelia from Malawi and Keren from Peru, joined me in leading Save the Children’s Bridge the Gap for Girls walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. They also participated in a panel discussion at the U.S. Senate, where they spoke about the importance of girls’ voices and the meaningful participation of girls in policy spaces. Anxhela, Cecelia and Keren, along with so many other girl champions, are making their voices heard and their communities stronger and healthier, taking on some of the toughest challenges of their societies.

As the international community, we must stand with girls like these across the globe and ensure that they have a strong platform to use to shape their future – and that we are accountable to them. The best opportunity for this to happen is for there to be an action coalition focused on adolescent girls that looks holistically at their lives and that includes their participation throughout the process.

We know from experience that girls face distinct rights violations, and they need a concrete action plan tailored to address their specific gender- and age-driven needs.

#GenerationEquality starts in childhood. Let’s work together with girls to ensure that they are not left behind!

 

[i] UNESCO UNESCO; UNICEF, Save the Children, Many Faces of Exclusion

[ii] Girls Not Brides

[iii] WHO

[iv] UNICEF

 

 

 

 

Anxhela, a 16-year old from North-East Albania, is a student in 12 grade, a storyteller, a painter and an advocate for children and specifically girls’ rights. Photo credit: Save the Children

Diary of a Girl Champion: Advocating for Girls’ Education and Empowerment

This blog was originally published on Save the Children’s UK blog, Voices for Change

I’m Anxhela, 16 years old from North-East Albania, one of the poorest areas where poverty and unemployment dominate. I’m a student in 12 grade, a storyteller, a painter and an advocate for children and specifically girls’ rights. 

In my country children make up over 35% of the population and over 20% of them live in absolute poverty. Poverty is a widespread and rising phenomenon that affects children’s success and progress in school. As per the ‘Young Voice’ Albania 2017 report, 83.3% of children consider poverty, exclusion, and disability as areas of particular concern.

Violence against children is widespread and is used as a way of disciplining children. Children lack opportunities to participate in decision making processes and their interests are frequently disregarded in school and community. Many girls are victims of violence, discrimination and are enforced or convinced to get married at early age, due to tradition and lack of support to follow education.

I think that the most important thing for girls to overcome barriers is to get educated, equip with knowledge and skills and empower to speak up for the realization of their rights. When girls overcome barriers and empower, they are able to lead, influence and inspire the world for a better life for all.

These were some of my views and messages I shared and conveyed through my participation and remarks held during the International Day of Girl events in New York and Washington DC. I was invited by Save the Children to bring the voice of girls from Albania and around the world and advocate for their rights and wellbeing.

For more than a week, I had the opportunity to meet with girls and young women, listened to their life stories and empowerment journey. I was impressed how many things we have in common as regards barriers and struggles as well as the will and commitment to bring about a change and make the world better for all.

Photo credit: Save the Children

My visit in U.S. was the first one for me abroad and most impressive and inspiring ever. I felt happy, important, supported, motivated and very responsible to do my best for promoting girls’ voice and rights.

A special part of my advocacy mission in US, was also meeting with two other wonderful girls – Cecilia from Malawi and Keren from Peru. Being together, sharing feelings and experiences, going around and taking photos as well, I felt better and stronger. I have so much to talk about my U.S. visit – it was an experience of my life that I will never forget.

The two main events I went to were – ‘Girls Speak Out’ event at UN Assembly and “Bridge the Gap for Girls” in NY. ‘Bridge the gap for Girls’ was one of the big events by Save the Children where I had the opportunity to meet a lot of amazing people including Gina Torres, a famous actor.  On that day I raised my voice and bridged the gaps for girls’ protection. That day, Cecilia, Keren and I led the walk across the Brooklyn Bridge and hundreds of people joined us in that walk. It was such an empowerment and wonderful feeling. That day, I felt more energetic, optimistic and motivated to continue my fight for girls’ rights and empowerment that can lead them to a better life and future.

In Washington DC, I had some other important meetings with members of Congress and had the opportunity to speak with influential women and men who are vocal and supportive to girls’ rights.

The last event I attended and spoke at was hosted by the World Bank Group – “Learning Poverty”. I participated in a Facebook Live interview on the importance of leadership by girls and children at school and community levels. In the meeting I was a special speaker invitee and was part of a very important panel with Word Bank Group President David Malpass, Save the Children UK CEO Kevin Watkins, Vice President of Human Development of WBG Annette Dixon, Ghana Senior Minister, Morocco Minister of Economy and Mayor of Sobral, Brasil and the moderator Kaya Henderson, former Chancellor of DC schools.

At the beginning of my speech, I felt a bit nervous but soon after I was able to control my emotions and gave my remarks that received a lot of applause. Through my remarks I highlighted that: “Children and youth are the future. When we are educated, we are the ones who can make change and make the world better”.

Now I can say that as a girl and child activist, I am happy to have had the opportunity to raise my voice and advocate for girls and children rights globally. This trip was a new experience for me. I learned new knowledge and gained new skills. Now I feel much more empowered, confident and motivated to go on with my advocacy and inspire my peers to follow education and speak out for their issues and realization of their rights.

 

To learn more about Save the Children’s work, visit our website

Diary of a Girl Champion: Bringing the Stories of Malawi’s Girls to the U.S.

Written by Cecelia, age 16

This blog was originally published on Save the Children’s UK blog, Voices for Change

Introduction
I am Cecelia, 16, from Malawi and a champion for girls rights on health and education. I believe that girls deserve opportunities to reach their fullest potential. I talk to leaders in my community and my peers about girls needs and rights. I want girls to stay in school and complete their education and to see harmful cultural practices that lead to early marriage and teenage pregnancy to end. I desire to become a doctor to serve and inspire young girls.

I was selected by Save the Children to represent girls from Malawi and the region in New York and Washington DC to talk about our lives and advocate for them.

October 8, 2019
The long-awaited trip to the United States finally arrived. I was so excited and looked forward to my first experience on the plane and to explain to them [immigration officers] about my mission in New York.

After landing in New York, we checked in and went on a small tour around New York City. I saw Times Square and Central Park and they are really beautiful! Back at the hotel, I met Anxhela, another girl champion from Albania.

October 10, 2019
That night I kept waking up not believing I was actually here. I prepared for the day and went to the Save the Children offices to meet Anxhela and others.

We got a briefing on the Child Safeguarding Policy and the UN and then we went to UNICEF offices for a panel discussion on Preventing Families from Separation and Protecting the Rights of Children Without Parental Care. A young girl panelist impressed me for ably expressing herself. I rehearsed more to do the same the next day.

October 11, 2019 
Today I have my first big task here in New York, I was going to speak at the annual Girls Speak Out at the UN headquarters. We walked to the UN building and went through security checks. We each got a t-shirt for the event and we rushed to the washroom to change.

As guests arrive I felt a little nervous. I scan the crowd trying to locate my chaperone, Alinafe, who I spot smiling at me and I happily wave my hand to her.

The program starts and girls narrate their country stories that affect them such as trafficking, teenage pregnancies, early marriages among others. My turn came to tell the Malawi story: Everyone is listening attentively as I tell them what to be a girl in my country means, issues affecting my fellow girls and I ask for support from government, policy makers and my peers to work together in order to bring change in the lives of many girls. I also spoke about the work I do in my community to promote girls’ health, particularly girls’ sexual and reproductive health needs, so that they are able to stay in school.

October 12, 2019
Today’s event is “Bridge the Gap for Girls” and we are at Brooklyn Bridge. Everything is colorful here. Cameras are everywhere and it seems everyone wants to take pictures of me, Anxhela and Karen-another girl champion from Peru.

Save the Children US CEO, Carolyn Miles officially opens the meeting and she invites us to the stage. Karen goes first to give her remarks and I am next then Anxhela. I talk about girl’s health, and emphasize that if girls are given opportunities they can reach their full potential. Next, we cut the ribbon to mark the beginning of the bridge walk. We all walk across the Brooklyn Bridge which is very long and beautiful.

October 14, 2019
Monday morning we reach Washington DC and more activities are lined up. I am excited and I look forward to going to Capitol Hill and meet many important people.

October 15, 2019

Today I am part of an all-girl panel discussion at the Senate House with Anxhela, as well as Fatima and Vishwa, two other girl champions supported by Plan International. Somehow, I am nervous yet confident that I will deliver. I spoke about the importance of girls’ voices and the meaningful participation of girls in policy spaces. I got good feedback after my speech.

I met some members of the Congress and my message to them was that most girls don’t get to finish school due to teenage pregnancies and child marriage and this is a situation that needs to change.

 

My advocacy journey here is almost reaching the finale but not until Anxhela and I have participated in a breakfast round table discussion with the women caucus at the Capitol Hill office. What a rare chance to meet and interact with women leaders. I was excited to receive any pieces of advice they would give to a young girl like me. I feel very happy after the meeting as I have learnt a lot from this encounter.

Finally, we meet Congresswoman, Lois Frankel in her office. Talking to her directly about my work and then asking for support for my fellow girls back home and across the region makes me feel like I am doing real advocacy. Mission well accomplished.

 

To learn more about Save the Children’s work, visit our website

Data Snapshot: How Do Donors Support Citizen Engagement in Tax Policy?

Written by Andrew Wainer, Director, Policy Research

This summer’s Addis Tax Initiative (ATI) conference in Berlin demonstrated that the ATI is increasingly open to civil society participation. It was a forum where donors and revenue authorities discussed how to better harness tax for development, but local and global NGOs also asserted the importance of accountability and equity in tax policy and administration.

The elevated voice of civil society on tax follows an increase in donor domestic resource mobilization (DRM) assistance to civil society, according to our analysis of OECD data[i].  For example, among ATI donors, the percentage of DRM assistance to civil society rose from 4% ($6 million) in 2015 to 10% ($21 million) in 2017 – an increase of 252%, the largest increase of any category of assistance (see Table 1).

Table 1: Percent Change DRM Disbursements Channel, 2015 to 2017

Channel Change (%)
Public Sector -20
NGOs & Civil Society 252
Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) 186
Multilateral Organizations 42
Teaching Institutions, Research Institutions, Think-Tanks 61
Private Sector Institutions 77*
Other -86

 * OECD CRS values reported only for years 2016 and 2017. Percent change calculated from these two years.

Nevertheless, donor investment in civil society on tax issues remains small within the bigger picture of DRM funding.  And even as the role of civil society in tax policy and administration increases, much more needs to be learned about the impacts of civil society participation

Norway Provides Half Its DRM Assistance to Civil Society
Analysis of the OECD’s Creditor Reporting System data reveals that, for 2017, the top five ATI DRM donors to civil society (by amount of US dollars) provided 95% of total DRM assistance to civil society among all ATI donors (see Table 2 below).

The UK provided the largest amount of funding for civil society – $9 million, or about a quarter of its total $37 million DRM budget for 2017. And the US – while providing the largest total amount of DRM assistance – provided the second largest amount to civil society – $5 million. But Norway is particularly notable for providing fully half of its total DRM budget to civil society – a far larger percentage than any of the other top 5 donors.

Table 2: Top 5 ATI Donors Providing DRM Assistance Channeled Through Civil Society, 2017

ATI Donor Country DRM Assistance to Civil Society (millions of USD)* Total DRM Assistance (millions of USD)* % of Total DRM Assistance Channeled through Civil Society
United Kingdom 9 37 24
United States 5 49 10
Norway 4 8 50
Denmark 1 5 20
EU Institutions 1 14 4

*USD Figures are rounded to the nearest million

 

Assistance Split Between Local and International NGOs
ATI assistance to civil society is clustered among five major donors, but what type of civil society organizations receive this assistance?

As Table 3 demonstrates, it’s split: In 2017, 40% of all ATI DRM assistance to civil society went to developing country-based NGOs, defined as: “An NGO organized at the national level, based and operated in a developing [country].”

While developing country NGOs received a substantial minority of the assistance, the same amount was disbursed to NGOs based in donor countries. These are defined as national-level NGOs based and operated in donor counties. Such organizations would include, for example, Oxfam America and Save the Children USA.

 Finally, almost 20% of this assistance to civil society was delivered to international NGOs, defined as, “an NGO organized on the international level. Some INGOs may act as umbrella organisations with affiliations in several donor and/or recipient countries.” Examples in this category include Doctors Without Borders and the Society for International Development.

Table 3: DRM Civil Society Assistance Delivery Channel, 2017

Delivery Channel Amount (millions of USD)* % of Civil Society DRM Assistance Received Through this Channel
International NGOs 4 19
Donor-county based NGOs 9 40
Developing-country based NGOs 9 40

*USD figures are rounded to the nearest million

 

Africa Receives More Than Half of All DRM Assistance to Civil Society
What part of the world is this donor assistance going to? In 2017, more than half ($11 million) went to Africa (See Table 4). Western Hemisphere nations were the second largest recipients – receiving almost a quarter ($5 million) of all ATI DRM civil society assistance. Asia, Europe, and  Oceana received very small percentages of this type of assistance totaling a combined 6% of all assistance to civil for tax work.

Table 4: DRM Civil Society Assistance to Recipient Regions, 2017

Recipient Region Amount (millions of USD)* % of Civil Society DRM Assistance Received by Region
Africa 11 53
Americas 5 23
Developing Countries, Unspecified 4 18
Europe 1 4
Asia <1 2
Oceania <1 0

 

How is DRM Assistance to Civil Society Used?
As Table 5 demonstrates, almost half of all assistance is directed toward capacity building. Tax advocacy is a complex and contested space, so civil society organizations often need help building the capacity to credibly engage on fiscal issues – particularly at the national level – so this large allocation makes sense. 

Table 5: Civil Society Uses for DRM Assistance, 2017

Function Amount (millions of USD)* % of Total Civil Society ATI DRM Assistance Spent on Function
Transparency 3 14
Technical Assistance and Support 2 10
Research 1 5
Capacity Building 9 43
Other 1 5
Unspecified 5 24

*USD Figures are rounded to the nearest million

 

Taxation and Gender Equity
Ensuring that tax policy and administration is gender-responsive is also an important component of ensuring tax equity. The OECD “tags” foreign assistance for gender equality by assigning activities as ones where gender equality is a “principal objective”, a “significant objective”, or where gender equality is not an objective. As illustrated in Table 6, according to the OECD data, only 13% of civil society DRM assistance in 2017 contained a gender equality component – activities where gender equality were either a principal or significant objective.

Table 6: Support for Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment for Tax, 2017

DAC Gender Marker Score Amount (millions of USD)* % of Total Civil Society ATI DRM Assistance Dedicated to Gender Equality
(Gender is the principal objective) 0.6 3%
(Gender is a significant objective) 2 10%
Total:   13%

*USD Figures are rounded to the nearest million

 

Based on this analysis of the OECD data, we have a clearer – but still incomplete – picture of how ATI’s increasing DRM assistance to civil society is being used. We have little understanding of the impact of these funds.   

We need to continue to assess the impact of civil society in making tax policy and administration more accountable, participatory, and transparent. Data is key – donors and the OECD must ensure that data on donor assistance to civil society for DRM is reported and labeled accurately and that data is disaggregated, especially by age and sex. The analysis in this blog is a first step to outline the trends and contours of donor assistance for civil society engaging in DRM.  

As the Addis Tax Initiative develops its vision for 2020 and beyond, Save the Children continues to emphasize the role of local citizens in shaping tax policy and administration.  

In coming years, we hope that donor agencies will improve investments in country-based NGOs to strengthen local self-reliance, promote fairer tax allocations, and finance pro-development public expenditure. 

[i] Because the OECD continually updates the historical data in the CRS and these analysis were carried out over a period of months, calculations may vary. Like all large datasets, the CRS may also contain labeling and reporting errors that impact accuracy. Our analysis is based on an analysis of the OECD data as presented.

 

Photo credit: Susan Warner / Save the Children

Taxation with Representation: Citizens as Drivers of Accountable Tax Policy

Written by Andrew Wainer, Director, Policy Research  and Sadie Marsman, Research Assistant
Photography credit: Susan Warner / Save the Children

Protests by citizens against their government’s tax systems have not just occurred across cultures and centuries, but have led to revolutions.

In 18th century America, for example, the British crown’s assertion of its right to tax colonists without consent led to the Boston Tea Party and, eventually, the American Revolution. “No taxation without representation” is perhaps that revolution’s most famous slogan. Since then, it’s been played out in countless other parts of the globe.

Throughout history, taxation has been controversial and often dramatically contested. Yet today it is accepted as one of the primary ways for governments to increase domestic revenue in order to better meet the basic needs of citizens.

Save the Children’s new report, Taxation with Representation: Citizens as Drivers of Accountable Tax Policy, analyzes the evidence on citizen tax advocacy in developing countries in order to garner insights, and identify trends, on how civil society organizations (CSOs) contribute to accountable and progressive tax policies within the framework of equitably financing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The report, being launched this week in Berlin at a meeting of the Addis Tax Initiative, is intended to:

  • Provide additional guidance to policymakers seeking to support pro-development and accountable DRM in developing countries, and
  • Contribute to the growing evidence base on the role of CSOs in tax policy

A Tax and Governance Virtuous Circle?
Tax policy isn’t just about tallying revenue collection numbers and tax-to-GDP ratios. It’s also about ensuring revenue collection is pro-development, and contributes to enhanced governance. A broad representation of citizens’ voices must be included in that tax policy’s development and execution including marginalized and vulnerable groups.   

To create a tax system that is representative of broad societal goals, factors such as gender, ethnicity, geography and language must all be considered. While technical experts should, and will, continue to play a central role in tax policymaking, domestic resource mobilization (DRM) will fail to achieve its potential as a key source of finance to achieve development goals if it’s pursued without citizen input, and without prioritizing equity.

With this in mind, the report analyzes a series of cases in the research and policy literature on civil society engagement in tax policy at the national and subnational levels. The goals of our analysis are to illustrate what has worked and what is needed to support citizen engagement for more accountable tax policies.

 Citizen Engagement at the Subnational Level: Burundi
A 2014 World Bank study in Rutegama, Burundi, found that fostering partnerships between civil society and local administrators was necessary for successful citizen engagement, given the low levels of civil society capacity and state administrative capacity in fragile contexts.

Capacity building had to happen with citizens and the state, together.

World Bank researchers found that, “Within the Burundi context [it]…must be done in tandem with encouraging state developmental responsiveness.” In Burundi, as in other instances analyzed in the report, international donors–in this case primarily the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and the German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ) – facilitated the decentralization process, encouraging engagement between CSOs and local fiscal officials.

In Rutegama, the municipal administrator created a partnership with local civil society, in which they were involved in discussions on budget and tax collection. Burundian law facilitated more equitable participation of women because gender balance is enshrined in law at both the local and national levels.

For example, communes in Burundi are governed by a council of 15 members that must also reflect a degree of gender balance (by law, at least 30% must be women).

For its part, matching the local government commitment, civil society raised awareness among taxpayers on the links of taxation to public expenditure. At the time, the public already had access to budget expenditures, but many citizens were unable to read the documents in French or make sense of the budget’s complicated format, so additional taxpayer education was conducted.

Due to the government’s commitment to transparency and social accountability, and gender equality, citizens placed more trust in their government and were more willing to pay taxes. After the program was implemented in 2010, Rutegama experienced increasingly larger revenue collections each year for the next three years.

Recommendations
Based on the analysis of the country cases, the report presents recommendations on how to support citizen engagement in DRM including:

  • Support subnational-to-national links through donor DRM programming. Donors can build national-level civil society tax advocacy through supporting more developed subnational work. Local level civil society advocacy can be foundational for building broader national campaigns and serve as the training ground for tax policy advocacy.
  • Support government and civil society co-design of tax policy. Engaging civil society and governments together – particularly at the local level – has a track record of success. The citizen-state compact can be strengthened when capacity needs are addressed together, rather than only building the capacity of government.  Confrontations between citizens and government tend to occur when there is no platform to engage on tax issues.
  • Engage in the full budget cycle. Over the last decade, civil society organizations across the world have advocated for effective and equitable provisions of services through the budgeting process. In so doing, they have gained expertise as well as become agents of change able to influence budget allocations at all levels of government. Combining tax advocacy, with budget advocacy, civil society can be more effective in advocating for accountable and equitable revenue collection and spending on public services

To ensure that a tax policy is pro-development, and contributes to enhanced governance and social inclusion, a broad representation of citizens’ voices must be included.  Otherwise, DRM will fail to achieve its potential as a key source of finance for development around the world. We look forward to presenting that case to our ATI partners this week in Berlin.

 

 

Investing in Maternal and Child Health: Development Impact Bonds

Written by Andrew Wainer, Director, Policy Research and Jill Carney, Associate Director Global Health and Development

The global decrease in child and maternal deaths is one of the great achievements in international development in recent decades. Child mortality rates have fallen by more than half, from 12.7 million under-5 deaths in 1990, to 5.6 million in 2016. American leadership and foreign assistance played instrumental roles in this achievement, saving the lives of millions of children around the world

Nevertheless, preventable maternal and child deaths are still too high. Globally, 15,000 children continue to die each day from causes that are often preventable, such as pneumonia, diarrhea, and malaria.

The global health community knows how to reduce maternal, newborn, and child deaths, but a persistent financing gap impedes more progress. Current levels of international development assistance are not enough to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 3 target of ending preventable child deaths by 2030. According to the World Bank, achieving SDG 3 will require an additional $33 billion annually. To close this gap, development actors are increasingly exploring innovative financing tools that engage the private sector – and unlock new resources.

A new mother cradles her newborn baby in the neonatal ward at Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Malawi. She was being taught the KMC (Kangaroo Mother Care) method to use on her baby. Photo credit: Jonas Gratzer/Save the Children, Feb 2016

Due in part to the SDG financing gap, over the last few years, Save the Children has complemented its policy and advocacy work on bilateral assistance with a focus on identifying alternate ways to close the financing gap for poverty-focused development and humanitarian programs, including maternal, newborn and child survival.

Supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation as part of our commitment to researching and advocating for innovative financing tools for child survival, Save the Children produced a report on development impact bonds (DIBs) for maternal and child health that was launched during the 2018 United Nations General Assembly.

This report is part of Save the Children’s focus on ensuring that governments are providing funding for vital services to give children a chance at a bright future – such as health, education and nutrition.  This includes policy and advocacy work to increase domestic resource mobilization at the country level, especially increased public financing for health and education.

DIBs are one financing mechanism through which we can attract private capital to social projects, and for private investors to earn a profit if the development outcome is achieved. By offering a potential profit to investors, plus guaranteeing the security of impact for outcome, DIBs have the long-term potential to attract additional public and private stakeholders to international development. They are analyzed at length in our report, which focuses on two DIBs intended to improve maternal and child health:

Fine-Tuning a new Development Finance Tool
More DIBs are set to be launched in coming years, providing stakeholders with additional cases to observe and gather evidence. In the wake of the launch of the Save the Children report at UNGA73, discussion on the potential and challenges of DIBs has escalated in the United States and globally.

Through our continuing discussions with DIB stakeholders and development finance experts, we’ve continued to hone in on how to make DIBs more efficient and effective. The following are some of the key learnings we’ve gathered though discussions with our DIB research and analysis partners:

Building a DIB is Challenging
Given its complex legal and financial structure, DIBs require more effort design and stand up in comparison with traditional grant-based assistance. Organizations interested in participating in DIBs must be “DIBs ready” – prepared for the patience and flexibility needed to craft a DIB with multiple partners over months and years. Building a DIB is a complex undertaking and service providers need to ensure that their systems and structure are appropriate before embarking on one. It’s also important that stakeholders use the DIB tool because it’s the most appropriate for the development problem being addressed rather than bypassing that analysis and diving into the DIB structure without assessing its appropriateness to addressing the problem.

More Evidence
There are still few completed DIBs and very limited evidence with which to judge them, thereby leaving DIBs as an “open case” as to whether it can help reduce the financing gap for maternal and child survival. More evidence is needed for potential DIB stakeholders to adequately assess risks and benefits. Multiple DIB experts have discussed the need for more transparency and sharing of evaluation data and other learnings. 

More Education
More evidence is a tool for additional education. In spite of growing buzz around the DIBs model, there are still relatively few investors and outcome funders involved in DIBs, in part due to a lack of understanding needed to determine potential risk and reward. Part of the solution is streamlining the DIBs process, where the costs and benefits are explicitly stated to potential future stakeholders. To achieve this, more stakeholders need to be educated on DIBs and results-based performance tools generally. In addition to identifying more outcome funders and investors, explicitly sharing the model’s risks and the incentives in these roles could facilitate broader interest and participation. 

Financing the SDGs
The private sector has the potential to make major contributions to achieving the SDGs, with some estimates that that there is $85 trillion, “parked in long-term investment vehicles, including sovereign wealth funds, pension funds, and insurance funds” that could be harnessed toward development goals.

DIBs are a tool to do just that, but Save the Children’s research on DIBs and our consultation with experts reveals that channeling that private sector funding into development is not easy or quick. The movement from rhetoric on “billions to trillions” to the actual sustained investment of private dollars into development will require new and sometimes uncomfortable partnerships and new ways of analyzing and thinking about development finance.

And it is important to keep in mind that DIBs are one tool among many to finance development. While their introduction has facilitated important conversations on development finance, Save the Children is exploring multiple channels for financing child survival. We’ve conducted research on development impact bonds – a new and mostly untested financing tool—as an example to illustrate the use of alternate sources of financing.

Save the Children is grateful to our DIB research and advocacy partners for lending their hard-earned expertise to us, helping make certain that our analysis and findings are grounded in the complex realities of forging innovative finance solutions to child survival.

Civil Society Surges as a Channel for DRM Assistance Among Addis Tax Initiative Members

Photo credit: Hadil Saleh /Save the Children, Aug 2018Written by Andrew Wainer, Director Policy Research and Nada Adibah, Intern, Policy Research

The percentage of DRM assistance disbursed through civil society and NGO channels surged among Addis Tax Initiative (ATI) members in recent years. In 2015, 4% (6 million) of ATI DRM assistance was channeled through civil society, but in 2017 that increased to 10% (21 million). Furthermore, the amount of DRM disbursed through NGOs and civil society, grew 252%, the most among all channels (see Table 1).  

While seven of the 20 ATI donors contributed to this increase, it was primarily driven by three donors: Norway, the United Kingdom, and the United States which had large increases in the amount of DRM assistance channeled through civil society between 2015 and 2017.

 

 Table 1: Percent Change DRM Disbursements Channel, 2015 to 2017

Channel Change (%)
Public Sector -20
NGOs & Civil Society 252
Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) 186
Multilateral Organizations 42
Teaching Institutions, Research Institutions, Think-Tanks 61
Private Sector Institutions 77*
Other -86

 * OECD CRS values reported only for years 2016 and 2017. Percent change calculated from these two years.

 

This assistance channeled through civil society ranged from grants from the United Kingdom to research institutions to study tax policy in Ghana and Ethiopia to assistance from Norway to support media oversight of the petroleum industry in Tanzania and Uganda.

But even as ATI members increasingly use civil society to disburse DRM assistance, a review of the 2017 OECD Creditor Reporting System data reveals an increase in overall DRM assistance from ATI donors of only 14% from 2015 to 2017 (the latest year available). The total amount of DRM assistance from ATI donors increased from $168 million in 2015 to $192 million in 2017.

The increase in the use of civil society as a channel for DRM assistance is welcome, but as donors, civil society, and developing nation revenue authorities prepare to gather in Berlin in July to review progress on the ATI, the latest OECD data reveal that, while ATI DRM assistance is growing, it is not on pace to reach ATI commitment #1: A collective doubling of donor DRM assistance. Increasing donor support to civil society for engagement in tax policy can foster enhanced governance while also contributing to ATI donors’ goal of doubling DRM assistance by 2020.

US DRM Assistance
The latest OECD data also reveals that US DRM foreign assistance is increasing at a faster rate than the overall rate for ATI members. In 2017, the United States disbursed $48 million for DRM support. This is a 26% increase since 2015, when the US provided $38 million.

Also aligned with the overall ATI trend of increasing percentages of DRM aid being channeled through NGOs and civil society, US DRM foreign assistance was increasingly channeled in this way – at a rate similar to ATI donors overall. Of the $48 million in DRM disbursed by the United States in 2017, 10% (4.8 million) was funneled to civil society, larger than the overall donor rate of disbursing 7% through this channel. This amount is a major increase in using civil society and NGOs for US DRM assistance when compared with 2016 when the US recorded channeling $192,000 – a tiny percentage of its total DRM assistance – through civil society.

DRM Assistance from the Perspective of Recipient Countries
Of the $192 million in DRM assistance ATI donors provided to the developing world in 2017, Africa received the most among any region with $91 million going to DRM – 47% of all ATI DRM assistance. Asia received second largest amount of DRM assistance with $37 million – 19% of all DRM assistance in 2017. Latin America, Europe, and Oceania received much small percentages of DRM assistance (see Table 2).

Table 2: DRM Assistance Provided to the Developing World in 2017

Region Amount Received (in millions USD) Percent of Total DRM Assistance
Europe 9 5%
Africa 91 47%
America 16 8%
Asia 37 19%
Oceania 5 2%
Developing country, unspecified 35 18%

 Save the Children has supported civil society engagement in DRM in Wajir and Bungoma counties, Kenya since early 2017. In recent years Kenya has experienced a surge in DRM funding. In 2017 Kenya received $8.8 million in DRM assistance, an increase of more than 105% compared to 2015 when it received $4.3 million. The large majority of DRM assistance to Kenya is also being channeled through civil society and NGOs. In 2017 $6.5 million of DRM assistance to Kenya – 74% – was provide through this channel.

Solidifying Progress
ATI is moving slowly toward its collective goal of doubling DRM assistance by 2020, but we are encouraged by the increasing role that civil society is playing in DRM– enabling citizens to engage on tax policy and, ideally, hold policymakers accountable for good fiscal governance. Ensuring that developing country ministries of finance and revenue authorities are also meeting their commitments and opening up to citizen input on tax policy will be key to the ATI’s long term success. We also welcome the creation of the ATI database, currently under construction, which will allow for new ways of analyzing and measuring DRM foreign assistance.

In future posts, we will delve into the details and nuances of DRM assistance going through civil society channels in order to better understand where this surge of funding is going, who it’s coming from, and the reason for its rapid increase. 

 

From Bungoma to Paris: Local Citizen Engagement Through the Addis Tax Initiative

Written by Andrew Wainer, Director, Policy Research at Save the Children

The Addis Tax Initiative (ATI) was launched in 2015 in Ethiopia with developing nations as key signatories, but – like other global agreements – it faces challenges translating global dialogue in Berlin, New York and Paris to better tax policy in Nairobi, Monrovia and Tbilisi.

This challenge to operationalize the ATI is daunting, but national-level tax policy and administration is only part of the solution for transforming tax into an engine for financing well-being in developing countries. 

Services including health and education are delivered to citizens at the local level and tax and spending at the sub-national level is where most citizens are impacted by fiscal policy that is either fair or regressive.

To ground its commitment of increased, transparent, and accountable DRM, the ATI is monitoring how developing country governments are increasing domestic revenue for inclusive development. But, so far, analysis of sub-national level domestic resource mobilization (DRM) is largely absent from this analysis. 

The role of sub-national tax authorities is certainly difficult to track, but, to be relevant to the citizens’ ground truth, the should ATI integrate local tax policy and administration.

Bungoma County, Kenya

Even at the national level in Kenya, and other signatory counties, the ATI requires further understanding and integration – it’s not yet well-understood by many fiscal policymakers and implementers. There is a need for increased ownership at the national level.

But Save the Children, working with civil society, small business groups, and county assemblies on DRM in Bungoma County, Kenya, has found that citizens are best able to educate and influence policymakers – using the Addis Tax Initiative banner – at the local level.

Revenue generation capacity at the county level in Kenya remains low, with some reports that it is actually decreasing, even after the country’s 2010 devolution law. But in Bungoma County, motivated citizen groups are filling the gap, helping shape tax policy where local government capacity is low.

Civil society can be helpful intermediaries on local level DRM to both increase tax compliance and contribute to tax policy accountability, transparency, and inclusiveness.

Specifically, Save the Children is working with the Bungoma County Child Rights Network (BCCRN), small and micro-entrepreneurs (including women-owned businesses) and the local country assembly to improve local tax collection, making it more transparent, accountable, and pro-poor. It’s already paying dividends in increased tax compliance.

In Bungoma, the main sources of local revenue include business permits and market fees. The BCCRN started with these existing tax laws, working to increase revenue activities through analysis, advocacy, and stakeholder education, including on the Addis Tax Initiative.

The result is lower market fees, creating rates that are less onerous for small-business owners with slim profit margins, and, at the same time, expanding tax compliance among these groups as taxes are reduced to rates they are better able to pay. Because taxpayers are involved in the policy discussions they are also more bought-in to the policies and apt to comply with tax regulations they played a part in shaping.

This was accompanied with increasing rates on local supermarkets, who enjoyed large profit margins and were undertaxed, according to local citizen analysis. These civil society proposals were taken up by the local county assembly.

The ATI and Progress on DRM in Kenya

Civil society in Bungoma County is just getting started with tax policy advocacy, but Kenya, at all levels, is showing signs of progress. Further training could help civil society to partner with local government to enhance property taxes – another source of local revenue that is badly underutilized in Kenya.

And while civil society can support local tax authorities “from below” there is also a need for assistance from and alignment with national tax bodies “from above” such as the Kenya Revenue Authority. County level tax officials need national guidance on revenue generation strategies and medium- and long-term tax policy plans.

To maintain progress, the Kenya government and other ATI stakeholders should make advancements in two areas:

  • Support local civil society. Civil society groups are crucial intermediaries between local government and citizens. Trusted local organizations can build trust and participation between local tax collection authorities and tax payers, improving tax compliance, fairness, and accountability.
  • Support for sub-national DRM. Most citizens encounter the impacts of taxing and spending at the local level. Increasing domestic revenues at this level can enhance budgets for local public service delivery. ATI should include sub-national domestic resource mobilization into its mandate, analysis and goals.

Civil society is already making a difference for tax policy and administration. The ATI would be wise to tap into this local source of change to ensure that its global discussions make a difference at the community level.