I have always been a grassroots person implementing programs on ground. Coming to U.S.A and working here opened a whole new domain of policy advocacy and how evidence from the programs can be used to advocate for implementing new policies or reviewing the one’s which are not working.
I serve at ChildFund International where we do policy advocacy for two critical issues – child protection and maternal health. We feel policy advocacy is essential for us to realize our vision. As per ChildFund, policy advocacy is the deliberate process of informing or influencing decision-makers in support of evidence-based policy change and policy implementation that contributes to ChildFund’s mission to value, protect and advance the worth and rights of children.
The United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of the Child states that children and youth have the specific, unassailable right to protection from harms including ‘all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation, including sexual abuse.’ (1990)
Since 1990, the global community has agreed to children’s “unassailable right to protection” which is enshrined in The Convention on the Rights of the Child, the most widely ratified treaty (All countries except the United States and Somalia have ratified it.) United Nations General Assembly. (1989; entered into force 1990) – Convention on the Rights of the Child, Article 19. It states that all forms of violence against children are preventable and all are unacceptable.
The extent of harms committed against children worldwide is massive. Violations to children’s right to protection are a grievous impediment to their individual development, and evidence suggests that persistent, unaddressed harms committed against children are eroding global gains in their collective well being. Yet, around the world and in every culture, violations of children’s fundamental right to protection are massive, under-recognized and under-reported as per UNICEF (2006) Child Protection Information Sheet: What is Child Protection?
This is the best time to do advocacy for rights of children. Out of the 17 sustainable development goals, 5 refer to protection of children.
After reading and comprehending about advocacy I feel that we all engage in advocacy at some level is it with parents or educators, religious groups to address issues. With programs being implemented by various organizations in various communities, there is a lot of evidence and valid statistics being generated which can be used to inform policy makers.
Since policy advocacy is new to my organization, knowledge of the same is not consistent with the various stakeholders such as legislators, policy makers, and organizational staff. For any international organization to start working towards policy advocacy, they need to make two distinct pillars very strong. Firstly support their national and regional advocacy work and gather relevant evidence as well as impact. They also need to strengthen the capacity of their country offices to undertake policy advocacy even if is at a very small level. Secondly, United States of America is where the headquarters of most organizations are situated, it is important to be visible advocate of your organizations issue at the hill. The USG remains the largest government donor of foreign assistance in the world (though it provides only a relatively low percentage of its GDP), and remains an influential donor to child- and youth-focused programing around the globe. It is also the largest shareholder in both the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund with permanent seats on the executive councils of both; a permanent member of the UN Security Council; and a significant influencer on the world stage, both in terms of both development assistance and diplomacy (e.g. G-8/G-7). USG was also a key player in the SDGs and their indicators. In recent years, the White House and Congress have demonstrated increased commitment to children, youth, and the impact of gender (e.g., adolescent girls strategy, Let Girls Learn, PEPFAR, Action Plan for Children in Adversity (APCA). Another important aspect of a strong advocacy is to build or be a part of a coalition. This helps organization to come together and bring a collective point forward.
While agreement on the child protection targets in the SDGs was a tremendous step towards eliminating all forms of harm against children, our work is far from over. The global community must take action to meet these targets for all children, everywhere. It is important to equip our members to advocate at the regional, national and local levels to implement Goal 16.2, and related goals and targets. We have more goals than number of years to complete it. Hence we should smartly advocate for it.