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OECD Secretary-General

Launch of report Changing the Odds for Vulnerable Children: Building Opportunities and Resilience

 

Remarks by Angel Gurría

OECD Secretary-General

19 November 2019 - OECD, France

(As prepared for delivery) 

 

 


Votre Altesse Royale Princesse Laurentien des Pays-Bas, M. Satyarthi, Excellences, Mesdames et Messieurs,


C’est un grand plaisir pour moi de vous accueillir à l’OCDE en cette veille de la Journée Mondiale de l'Enfance dans le cadre de la conférence « Construire la Résilience chez les Enfants Vulnérables ». La date n’est pas anodine: nous sommes également à la veille du 30e anniversaire de la Convention des Nations Unies sur les Droits de l'Enfant. Aucune autre convention de l’ONU n’a été ratifiée par autant de pays, signe de l’importance suprême que toutes nos sociétés accordent à la cause des enfants.


Aujourd’hui, nous publions le rapport Changer les Chances des Enfants Vulnérables: Renforcer les Possibilités et la Résilience, qui met l'accent sur les conditions vie des enfants les plus démunis et sur les politiques qui permettent de les améliorer.


La plupart des enfants grandissent dans un foyer familial aimant et sécurisé, au sein d’une société qui les aide à s’épanouir. Malheureusement, de nombreux enfants de par le monde n’ont pas cette chance. En effet, des écarts persistent entre les enfants nés en bas de l’échelle sociale et ceux nés au sommet : en moyenne dans les pays de l'OCDE, il faudrait quatre à cinq générations à un enfant né dans une famille à faible revenu pour atteindre le niveau de revenu moyen.


Le rapport que nous lançons aujourd’hui met en évidence plusieurs sources majeures de vulnérabilité pour l’enfant et souligne également que les expériences formées durant l’enfance déterminent déjà en partie les conditions rencontrées à l’âge adulte. Il est donc primordial de fournir aux enfants, dès leurs premières années, le soutien dont ils ont besoin pour surmonter avec succès les désavantages auxquels ils peuvent être exposés. Permettez-moi de vous livrer quelques unes des idées-clés développées dans le rapport à ce sujet.

 

Deprivation has adverse impacts across the life cycle

Poverty concerns children more than anybody else. On average, in the OECD, one in seven children live in relative income poverty, compared to the overall OECD average of one in ten . Poverty goes well beyond income and poor nutrition; it affects the ability of children to dream and to aspire to a normal life: in the EU, one third of school-age children cannot afford any leisure activity.


Homelessness is an extreme form of material deprivation and has serious implications for child well-being, and later adult outcomes. The number of homeless families with children is growing by significant levels in some OECD countries.


Poverty and inequality contributes to pronounced differences in children’s mental health. Children from low socio-economic backgrounds are two to three times more likely to develop mental health difficulties than those from high socio-economic backgrounds. In addition, a child in a single parent family is three times more likely to be poor than a child in a two parent family.


Policy must ensure that children in all types of family living arrangements are adequately protected. Intimate partner violence in the home has a significant influence on child well-being and can have long-term consequences on social and emotional development contributing to childhood depression, conduct disorders, poorer school performance and higher drop-out rates. While we do not have OECD-wide data on how many children witness intimate partner violence; in countries where data exists, this ranges from 14% to 28%.

 

Vulnerable children in developing countries face particular challenges

Turning to another major concern. Child survival, hunger and stuntedness, access to protection, health, education and energy remain critical issues in developing countries. Poverty and lack of access to education contribute to large numbers of girls marrying before the age of 18.
Many children around the world are still being subjected to violations of their human rights through forced labour and exploitation. Our recent joint report with ILO, IOM and UNICEF, Ending child labour, forced labour and human trafficking in global supply chains, estimates that amongst the 152 million children engaged in child labour worldwide, a substantial proportion is engaged in activities linked to global supply chains, ranging from 9% in Northern Africa and Western Asia to 26% in Eastern and South-Eastern Asia.


Governments need to scale up efforts to address the needs of children and ensure that businesses respect human rights in their operations and across supply chains. This means leading by example in their own activities (public procurement, SOEs), leveraging their regulatory authorities to clarify expectations on business and strengthening grievance mechanisms.

 

Resilience should be built earlier on in life

Tackling these challenges and changing the prospects of vulnerable children is however achievable!


Evidence shows that it is possible to improve the well-being of vulnerable children by reducing risks and increasing the number of protective factors for children. Greater resilience is the culmination of stronger support systems, better opportunities, and adequate economic resources.
Resilience-building policies need to be designed with a view of reaching vulnerable children early in life, when it matters most. Vulnerable children need consistent, coherent and co-ordinated support throughout childhood.


Our report Changing the Odds for Vulnerable Children: Building Opportunities and Resilience calls on countries to take action by developing child well-being strategies that prioritise the needs of vulnerable children. It recommends six key policy actions that:

 

  • Empower vulnerable families, such as providing opportunities to gain parenting skills, knowledge and resources;

  • Strengthen children’s emotional and social well-being; such as early assessment and interventions to address mental health issues;

  • Strengthen child protection, for instance through more nuanced and accessible support services;

  • Improve children’s health, such as access to health insurance and family-planning services for key groups;

  • Reduce child income poverty, such as better quality jobs for parents; and,

  • Improve children’s educational outcomes, such as more affordable access to high-quality Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC).

 

Ladies and gentlemen,


Investing in vulnerable children is not only an investment in disadvantaged individuals, families and communities, it is an investment in more resilient societies and inclusive economies.


I am particularly encouraged that two ‘Alumni’ of our Coffees with the Secretary-General are present with us today. Princess Laurentien and Kailash Satyarthi – both working tirelessly to protect and empower children, and to create a better world for them, and for us!


I wish you a dynamic discussion today, only by working together can we design, develop and deliver better policies for better children’s lives.
I turn now to Gabriela, who is leading this work at the OECD and will kick-off the discussion with a presentation on how we can change the odds for vulnerable children. Thank you.

 

 

See also

OECD work on Inclusive Growth

 

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