A Global Stocktake of UNICEF's Programme Activities on Public Finance for Children

80 Pages Posted: 4 Mar 2015

Date Written: August 3, 2014


This global stocktake examines past trends and performance to ascertain achievements and identify how UNICEF can further strengthen its engagement in public finance for children (PF4C). The exercise includes a desk review and targeted survey that captures information on PF4C activities in 116 country offices during 2009-13.

PF4C describes UNICEF’s efforts to influence the transparency, efficiency, equity and adequacy of public investments in children. By undertaking this work, UNICEF is better able to address gaps in public funding, which particularly disadvantage the poorest and most marginalised children. Key goals of PF4C include influencing government decisions about spending on children and social services, reducing spending disparities among different population groups, and applying value for money approaches so that children benefit optimally from the resources available to enhance their wellbeing. As a programme stream, PF4C brings together sector-based and cross-cutting initiatives to influence budgetary frameworks (how the budget is put together) and public financial management (PFM) processes (how funds are transformed into public goods and services) for the benefit of children.

The stocktake finds that UNICEF’s PF4C work takes many shapes and forms, involving diverse interventions, sectors and partners. Activities at the national level are increasingly complemented by engagement at subnational levels and being carried out across all country typologies, from extreme poor and fragile situations to high-income countries, including ones with UNICEF National Committees.

UNICEF’s efforts in PF4C have achieved positive outcomes for children, demonstrating the potential to do even more. More than half of the country offices reviewed succeeded in removing public finance-related bottlenecks, paving the way to ensuring results for children. A greater equity focus is also emerging, including interventions to address revenue side concerns, influence intergovernmental transfers, and support local government capacity in budget planning and management. At the same time, it is clear that longer-term planning that links sector-based and cross-cutting opportunities and actions coupled with more robust budget monitoring and tracking can help to maximize the impact of PF4C efforts.

Looking forward, more systematic management of good practices and knowledge around PF4C is a pre-requisite for taking results to scale. While many country offices have positioned their PF4C work well, the current lack of articulation of PF4C innovations and lessons learned limits their potential application in other contexts. To synergize and systemize the equity focus of engagement in PF4C, UNICEF Headquarters and regional offices are developing a Strategic Guidance on PF4C, complemented by ongoing capacity development activities, which include a Community of Practice, a webinar series, ‘how to’ manuals and a new global learning programme. These products will strengthen UNICEF’s ability to identify the most appropriate approaches for specific country contexts and further channel the existing momentum around PF4C into greater results for children.

Keywords: public finance for children (PF4C), child responsive budgeting, social budgeting, child budget analysis, costing, cost-benefit analysis, cost of inaction, investment case, financial impact analysis of scaling up, fiscal space, MTEF, budget cycle, PER, PETS, budget monitoring, fiscal observatory

Suggested Citation

Cummins, Matthew and Chai, Jingqing, A Global Stocktake of UNICEF's Programme Activities on Public Finance for Children (August 3, 2014). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2573257 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2573257

Matthew Cummins (Contact Author)

UNICEF ( email )

PO Box 44145
Nairobi, Nairobi 00100

Jingqing Chai

UNICEF ( email )

P. O. Box 4884
New York, NY
United States

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