Friday, 27 April 2012

Week in review

Hello, glad you could join us for the Wikiprogress week in review - a handful of headlines that have caught our eyes over the last week. You can find all news articles and blog posts on the progress community in the Wikiprogress Community Portal.

On gender equality
The Sex Issue (Foreign Policy Magazine April 2012)
This month’s edition of FP is dedicated to the exploration of how and why sex, in all the various meanings of the word, matters in shaping the world’s politics. Articles include: Mona Eltahawy on Why Do They Hate Us, Christina Larson on The Startling Plight of China’s Leftover Ladies,  Melanne Verveer on Why Women Are a Foreign Policy Issue and many more.
See more media highlights in the Wikigender Community Portal

On growth
Growth isn’t going to last forever (Huffington Post 26.04.2012)
The pursuit of endless GDP growth is a dangerous and common ideal, according to Andrew Winston. The threat that further “growth” poses to the environment is huge; if growth at the current rate is continued, in 1400 years, we will be consuming all of the energy that the sun produces (in just 400 years, it would be all of the solar energy hitting the earth).
See more and contribute to the Wikiprogress article on Green Growth

Index launched
Oxfam launches Humankind Index to measure wellbeing (The Guardian 23.04.2012)
Oxfam have launched a new measure of well-being in Scotland that incorporates health, transport, family life and employment. The Humankind Index estimates a 43% fall in people's financial security, a 26% fall in the number of people who felt they had secure and suitable jobs and a 24% decline in those who felt they had enough to live on.
See more and contribute to the Wikiprogress article on progress in the UK

On the MDGs
High Food Prices Halt Progress for Many of the World’s Poor (Vancouver Sun 22.04.2012)
Two of the Millennium Development Goals have been met ahead of the looming 2015 deadline; however volatile food prices are undermining the overall progress and trapping millions in cycles of poverty.
See more and contribute to the Wikiprogress article on the MDGs

On child well-being
UNICEF Executive Director announces new global immunization strategy (UNICEF 25.04.2012)
This week, UNICEF and the Measles and Rubella Initiative jointly launched a new global strategy aimed at reducing measles deaths and congenital rubella syndrome to zero. The announcement coincided with the first-ever World Immunization Week, and was accompanied by new data showing that accelerated efforts have resulted in a 74 per cent reduction in global measles mortality, from an estimated 535,000 deaths in 2000 to 139,000 in 2010.
See more and contribute to the Wikichild article on Child well-being measurement

We hope you will tune in the same time next week. In the meantime, if anything interesting passes your desk that you would like to see in the next Wikiprogress week in review, please tweet it to us @Wikiprogress or post it on our Facebook page.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Triple H – Health, Harmony and Happiness

There is a big wave running over our planet, advocating we all must be happy. Numerous articles in as many papers promote happiness as the ultimate goal to achieve.

This month the United Nations have placed happiness on the global agenda: April 2nd, 2012, the UN launched the first World Happiness Report. Furthermore the UN implemented a resolution which was adopted unanimously by the General Assembly already in July 2011. One has to read carefully to learn that it is not only about happiness, but also about Human Wellbeing. Nevertheless, happiness plays a dominant role; a too dominant role, in my opinion.

I certainly support the idea of being happy, for myself, for my family and for all of you, wherever you live. It is generally accepted that achieving a certain level of wellbeing is a precondition for happiness. This means good health, enough to eat and to drink, proper housing etc. Many of us in the affluent Western countries have reached this stage and can afford ourselves next to everything we want. And now we start focusing on happiness, which we may, or maybe not, have achieved thanks to our high level of welfare. However, we should not forget that more than billion people on our planet are lacking even Basic Needs, let alone that they could start thinking on this fata morgana of happiness. I find it unacceptable that we – again the affluent minority – start spending time and energy on this newfound hobby when so much needs to be done for so many people before they will reach even a minimum level of welfare.

Remember that we have committed ourselves to a number of universal agreements, like
  • Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), promising human rights, including basic needs for all of us.
  • Six core human rights treaties, among these the Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989)
  • United Nations Millennium Declaration (2000), which promised a better world with less poverty, hunger and disease. The declaration established eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which are to be achieved in 2015.
So we have committed ourselves to solidarity with all our brothers and sisters. We are responsible for them and even liable if we fail in our duties.

We are blinded by the Triple A ratings, which stood very much in the spotlights over the last few years. We grow nervous and anxious when the economic growth of our country is stumbling a bit. While we focused on the Triple A ratings we have neglected the damage caused by the lack of  basic needs: personal damage, which is by far the most dramatic aspect, but also economic damage. This is quite stupid. To give just two examples:
  • A very rough estimate of already some ten years ago by the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) suggests that the direct costs attributed to child and maternal undernourishment in developing countries add up to around US$30 billion per year.
  • The World Bank's Water and Sanitation Programme (WSP) this month released a report which highlights that in African countries approximately US$5.5 billion is lost annually due to inadequate sanitation.
So why do we wait to solve these problems? It is a bloody shame to put so much effort in enhancing our happiness and in the meantime neglecting those who are even lacking their basic needs and can only dream of happiness.

Instead of spending time and energy on our happiness, our first and main challenge should be to ensure that all human beings, in this as well as in future generations can meet their needs: first of all the basic needs like food, water, shelter, sanitation, education, renewable energy supply, decent income etc.
I suggest that from now on, we forget the Triple A ratings and focus on the Triple H ratings for all people: Health, Harmony and Happiness. In that order. Or Harmony, Health and Happiness, should you prefer so.

Realising good health and harmony will enormously contribute to happiness for all of us. Happiness doesn’t need special attention. It is a gift as soon as we have achieved Health and Harmony for all.
Now you could argue: ‘That is all very well, but it will ruin our planet. It will mean more consumption, more production, more pollution, more depletion of resources.’ Sure, it will lead to more production and consumption. But it doesn’t necessarily mean more pollution and more depletion of resources. We can very well live within the limits of our one and only planet. To be able to do so requires only one thing: The Will To Do So.

Geurt van de Kerk
Sustainable Society Foundation

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

April update from Wellbeing Wales

‘Happiness, happiness, the greatest gift that I posses’. Ah, who could forget the chirpy chimes of Ken Dodd’s 1964 single, Happiness. But it would seam that Ken Dodd’s ditty may contain a message many of us could benefit from. This month, the UN held a landmark conference. Entitled ‘Happiness and Well-being: Defining a New Economic Paradigm’, the conference brought together hundreds of representatives from governments, religious organizations, academia and civil society to discuss the issue. Ban Ki-moon, Secretary- General of the UN, explained how ‘we need a new economic paradigm that recognizes the parity between the three pillars of sustainable development. Social, economic and environmental well-being are indivisible. Together they define gross global happiness’. Now the value of wellbeing has been recognised by world leaders there remains the task of channeling human desire for growth away from financial drive and into measures intended to improve wellbeing. As the Guardian expresses, Wellbeing should not be viewed as ‘anti-growth’ but an integral means of ensuring stronger, more sustainable growth in all areas, be they social, economic or environmental.

For those still unconvinced by the notion of wellbeing being used as a new economic paradigm, then the recent Gallup statistics make for interesting reading. Out of the five countries currently experiencing economic growth- Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa- only in Brazil and China do majorities believe their standard of living is improving. The survey notes how in ‘India, Russia, and South Africa the rich and poor feel more pessimistic about their future prospects, and sentiment varies greatly by income level’. The implications of such results would indicate that economic growth does not necessarily correlate with a greater sense of wellbeing: something those familiar with the Easterlin paradox will be well aware of. Economic growth should not be completely dismissed, but governments must be careful to ensure the wellbeing of their population always remains central to their long-term visions and policies.

Now, for something a little more light-hearted. Light, fluffy and delicious if you’re good at it. What are we talking about? Why, Baking, of course! It appears this age-old tradition is receiving a bit of a revival at the moment. But it’s not all cupcakes and crème patisserie. Far from it. BBC’s Food Programme recently reported on the therapeutic benefits of baking. The shows host, Sheila Dillon, talked to a group of refugees who have experienced torture and are using baking in their recovery. Victims of starvation torture, they are now learning to work through their problems through the medium of baking. There is without doubt a strong correlation between diet and wellbeing but the benefits of really engaging with food have often been over looked. Imagining, crafting, creating, sharing and consuming food really allows people to reengage with what’s on their plates and utilise their creative minds at the same time. Now, where did I put that rolling pin…

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Good news on progress in child well-being and why it is necessary to invest further

Two reports released this month put forward evidence as to why it makes sense to invest in children, not only because reducing child deprivation is a moral obligation for all countries, but because such a strategy can have long term, social and economic benefits.

The child population of a country, are its future and whether they develop into productive, contributing members of society can have a profound influence on, among others, factors of social cohesion, economic growth, a country’s welfare burden, their capacity to reap gains from a demographic dividend and their human capital. Both reports agree that failure to address issues which impact on child well-being, including poverty and inequality, can result in failure to break cycles of intergenerational poverty.

As stated in UNICEF’s report ‘Child poverty and inequality: New perspectives’, children experience poverty differently to adults in terms of causes and the long term effects that even short periods of deprivation can have on them. While an adult may experience poverty for a period, the impacts on a child of disruption to education, poor nutrition and limited access to health services caused by poverty can do permanent damage as ‘rarely does a child get a second chance at education or a healthy start in life’ (UNICEF, 2012). Alternatively, good quality infant and child nutrition leads to approximately 2-3% growth annually in developing country economic wealth and addressing malnutrition in the early years of life can increase lifetime earnings by 20% (ODI, Save the Children, UNICEF, 2012).

The good news, as reported by the ODI, Save the Children and UNICEF in ‘Progress in Child Well-Being: Building on what works’, is that significant progress has been achieved in the last two decades in the areas of health, nutrition, water and sanitation, education and child protection. Rates of child marriage and child labour reduced in many countries, levels of child stunting have dropped in developing countries, more children have and continue to be registered at birth, lower levels of HIV transmission to children are reported, more children are enrolled in primary school and under five child mortality has declined.

So what is the bad news? As a whole the world is not on track to meet most of the child-related MDGs. Approximately 50% of children and youth are below the $2 a day international poverty line (UNICEF, 2012), 7.6 million children under five died in 2010, progress on lowering malnutrition has been slow (ODI, Save the Children, UNICEF, 2012), children continue to be disproportionately affected by disasters (see Children and Sustainable Development) and roughly 2.5 billion people are without adequate sanitation (ODI, Save the Children, UNICEF, 2012) resulting in approximately 1.8 million children dying every year from diarrhoea and other diseases (see Freshwater).

What was that about good news? As shown by Progress in Child Well-Being: Building on what works, development assistance and investing in children does work and as documented by ‘Child Poverty and Inequality: New Perspectives’, measurement strategies, policy and interventions that recognise the differences between child and adult poverty and which address its multidimensionality are more likely to be successful in improving child well-being and advancing child rights.

Hannah Chadwick
Wikichild Consultant

UNICEF, 2012, Child Poverty and Inequality: New Perspectives, Isablel Ortiz, Louise Moreira Daniels, Solrun Engilbertsdottir (eds), UNICEF, New York, Available at:

Overseas Development Institute, 2012, Progress in Child well-being: Building on what works, commissioned by Save the Children and UNICEF, Save the Children, London, Available at:

Friday, 20 April 2012

Week in review

Hello, glad you could join us for the Wikiprogress week in review - a handful of headlines that have caught our eyes over the last week. You can find all news articles and blog posts on the progress community in the Wikiprogress Community Portal.

On the MDGs
MDGs Further and Faster (All Africa 16.04.2012)
While many countries in Africa have registered significant progress towards the Millennium Development Goals deadline of 2015 over the last decade, overall the continent is predicted to miss the target by a wide margin. Recent data shows that the share of Africans living on less than $1.25 a day has fallen, however that still leaves 386 million living in extreme poverty.

Spotlight: the Internet and Growth
An average of 13% of adults worldwide rated their lives as “suffering” on the Gallup well-being survey. Suffering increased the most in El Salvador, climbing to 33% in 2011 from 9% in 2010. Suffering declined the most in Macedonia, falling 25 percentage points last year from 38% in 2010.
See more and contribute to the Wikiprogress article on human well-being

On the Net
The Internet Matters (McKinsey Institute May 2012)
Research produced by McKinsey looks at the Internet’s impact on growth, jobs and prosperity. The study found, on average, the Internet contributes 3-4 percent to GDP in the 13 countries covered by the research; an amount the size of Spain or Canada in terms of GDP and growing at the rate of Brazil .
See more and contribute to the Wikiprogress article on access to the Internet

On child well-being
Since 2009 there have been many positive improvements in child well-being; four million more children a year are living beyond their fifth birthday and 56 million more children worldwide were going to school than previously.
See more and contribute to the Wikichild article on early childhood

On gender equality
War on Terror Traumatises Pakistani Women (IPS News Wire 16.04.2012)
Damaged called by the ’war on terror’ has led to extended psychological trauma sustained by thousands of women in bordering Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). Last year the World Health Organisation (WHO) said there were about 451,377 people, including 345,899 women, suffering from psychological problems in the FATA. 

See more and contribute to the Wikigender article on gender equality in Pakistan
We hope you will tune in the same time next week. In the meantime, if anything interesting passes your desk that you would like to see in the next Wikiprogress week in review, please tweet it to us @Wikiprogress or post it on our Facebook page.

Yours in Progress,

Philippa Lysaght

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Measuring progress on child well-being in Africa: tracking government commitment

Children make up a significant proportion of Africa’s population, constituting approximately 48% of the overall population. As the future of the region, the assurance of their well-being is vital to the continent’s sustainable development and to the achievement of poverty alleviation, peaceful societies and economic growth. Increasingly governments in the region are acknowledging the importance of child well-being and some instruments are used across the continent to measure progress in this area.

The indicators of the MDGs have been applied throughout the continent, enabling the tracking of progress in some fundamental areas of child well-being. Their ongoing application has revealed positive advancements in some areas over the last decade. In Angola, Cape Verde, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Niger and South Africa immunisation coverage increased from 40 to 75% between 2005-2008. Under five mortality rates reduced by one third between 1990-2009, especially in countries recovering from conflict and infant mortality rates reduced by between 40-70 points in Botswana, Sierra Leone, Namibia, Swaziland and Liberia.

Nevertheless, progress made is not enough to ensure the continent meets the MDG targets by 2015, and there is some discrepancy in overall outcomes. For example, whilst increasing primary school enrolment rates have not been matched by a proportionate rise in school completion rates and whilst gender parity has improved at secondary and tertiary education levels, in some countries the trend is now adversely biased towards boys.

In the context of a post 2015 agenda, it has been stated that the consolidation of progress made and the assurance of its sustainability is a priority and one that requires commitment from governments. The African Child Policy Forum (ACPF) is a leading organisation in this area and has produced two key indexes, the ‘Child Friendliness Index’ and the’ Performance Index for Budgeting for Children’ which measure and compare governments’ commitment to the advancement of child rights and well-being throughout the continent.

The Child Friendliness Index is a composite index which quantitatively scores and ranks the performance of governments in regard to the realisation of child rights and child well-being. Emanating from the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACRWC), the term child-friendliness is based on three central pillars of child rights and child well-being: protection, provision and participation, and summarises governments’ obligations to ‘respect, protect and fulfil children’s rights’.

These three pillars are translated into three areas of government responsibility and action: the legal and policy frameworks implemented, government budgetary commitments and the efforts made to assure the participation of children in the making of decisions that affect their well-being. Due to the complexity of these three pillars, the measurement of child-friendliness takes a multidimensional approach.

The Performance Index for Budgeting for Children is also composite index which uses national budgets as an indication of true government commitment to the improvement of child rights and well-being and analyses spending on health, education, early childhood development and social protection in 52 African countries up until 2008.

Results have been published in the 2008 and 2011 reports titled The African Report on Child Wellbeing 2008: How child-friendly are African governments? and, The African Report on Child Wellbeing 2011: Budgeting for Children.

The African Child Policy Forum (2011), The African Report on Child Well-Being – Budgeting for Children, Available at:

The African Child Policy Forum (2008), The African Report on Child Well-Being – How Friendly are African Governments?, Available at:

Hannah Chadwick
Wikichild Consultant

Friday, 13 April 2012

Week in review

Hello, glad you could join us for the Wikiprogress week in review - a handful of headlines that have caught our eyes over the last week. You can find all news articles and blog posts on the progress community in the Wikiprogress Community Portal.    

World Bank Finds Vietnam Faces Future Urban Woes (Voice of America 09.04.2012)
The Vietnam Urbanization Report, released this week by the World Bank, warns that the rapid urbanization of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City could make home ownership increasingly unattainable for residents and cause transportation gridlock.
See more and contribute to the Wikiprogress article on progress in Vietnam

On Google
What People Google May Hint at Socio-Economic Well-Being (UCL News 05.04.2012)
A study conducted by scientists from the University College of London has uncovered a link between what people search for on Google and high per capita gross domestic product. People living in economically prosperous countries are more likely to search about the future than the past.
See more and contribute to the Wikiprogress article on GDP

On openness
Openness for whom, openness for what? (World Bank Blog 09.04.2012)
The emerging concept of ‘open development’ incorporates the use of open data to enhance transparency and accountability. It has become a topic of much interest to civil society, policy makers and development practitioners however the World Bank questions who and this openness is for.
Tweet to us and tell us your thoughts on ‘open development’ @Wikiprogress

On governance
Parliaments Still Vital to the Quest for Democracy (UN NEws Centre 02.04.2012)
The inaugural Global Parliamentary Report was released by the UNDP early this week. The report calls for parliaments to address issues of trust and to ensure a greater engagement with civil society.
See more and download the Global Parliamentary Report

On gender equality
Pakistan’s Women Remain Voiceless Amid All the Talk of War and Terrorism (Guardian 10.04.2012)
47% of Pakistan’s estimated population of 190million are women. According to the recently published State of Huaman Rights 2011, women are at risk with an estimated 120,000 pregnant women that were left without adequate nourishment and sanitary conditions following the 2010 floods.
See more and contribute to the Wikigender article on gender equality in Pakistan

We hope you will tune in the same time next week. In the meantime, if anything interesting passes your desk that you would like to see in the next Wikiprogress week in review, please tweet it to us @Wikiprogress or post it on our Facebook page.

Yours in Progress,

Child malnutrition: the need for sustainable long-term solutions

In March of this year the head of the Food and Agricultural Organisation warned that in order to avoid a repetition of the crisis seen in the Horn of Africa in the West African Sahel region, there were two to three months left to act. At present more than one million children are at risk of severe malnutrition due to poor rainfall and a 25% decline in food production across the region, reduced flows of remittances from neighbouring countries and rising food prices (Barber R, 2012).

According to the World Heath Organisation, 7.6 million children under the age of 5 die each year, over one third of these deaths are linked to child malnutrition and approximately 40% of all deaths take place during the neonatal period (WHO, 2012). For those children who survive, the Save the Children 2012 report ‘A Life Free from Hunger’, states that iodine deficiency, a type of malnutrition is associated with a loss of 10-15 IQ points and that stunted children are predicted to earn an average of 20% less as adults than non stunted children (Save the Children, 2012).
These facts, in the context of the current crisis in Africa have severe implications for the region’s future development and reiterate the call made by officials of the Food and Agricultural Organisation in 2011 of the need for longer term solutions to famine in the region (the Guardian, 2011). Food security is a long-term issue directly linked to sustainability. The President of the African Development Bank, Donald Kaberuka, stated in 2011 “Africa is no longer a continent battling with large macroeconomic imbalances but rather micro economic issues” and that progress largely relies on sustainable development which addresses ‘inclusive growth, adaptation to climate change, management of natural resources, political management and infrastructure deficit’ (Kaberuka D, 2011).
As with any disaster, children are being disproportionately affected by famine and food insecurity and in consideration of the threats to their immediate and long-term well-being, as stated by UNICEF West and Central Africa Regional Director David Gressly, quick and decisive action is required (UNICEF, 2012).
Barber R, 2012, Decisive action is needed to avoid another famine crisis, Sydney Morning Herald, 09 April 2012, Available at:
The Guardian, 2011, ‘Food experts seek long-term solutions on Somalia famine, [Accessed: 09.04.2012], Available at:
Kaberuka D, 2011, ‘Africa and the Brave New World’, President of the African Development Bank, Statement at the Society for International Development Conference, Available at:
Save the Children, 2012, A Life Free from Hunger: Tackling Child Malnutrition,
UNICEF, 2012, ‘UNICEF races to prevent a major food crisis in the Sahel’, February 24 2012 Available at:
World Health Organisation (WHO), 2012, Children: Reducing Mortality, Fact Sheet No. 178, February 2012,

Hannah Chadwick, Wikichild

Friday, 6 April 2012

Involvement of civil society in choosing complementary indicators

A recent submission to Wikiprogress includes a document from the The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) on the importance of civil society in choosing complimentary indicators (to GDP) of well-being.

The opinion document was presented at its 479th plenary session, held on 28 and 29 March 2012 (meeting of 29 March), the European Economic and Social Committee adopted the following opinion by 172 votes to 5 with 12 abstentions. It is intended to be in an input for upcoming events RIO+20 and the 4th OECD World Forum.

The document provides a series of recommendations/conclusions to further involve civil society including:

  • The EESC would argue that the complex path leading to a new definition of well-being and the progress of societies – beyond economic growth alone – cannot be separated from concurrent European policies to tackle the renewed impact of the economic and financial crisis.
  • The gap between economic policies at both national and European level and policies for well-being and social progress has widened considerably. However, given the now widespread adoption of indicators complementary to GDP by official national statistical services, the possibility of narrowing this gap is linked to the capacity to process the large quantities of information available in terms of public knowledge and awareness. 
  •  The EESC emphasises its willingness to act as a meeting place between organised civil society and official European bodies as part of a participatory decision-making process to identify and design indicators of progress for the European Union. 

Also contained in the document is an outline of: 

  • the complex path from economic growth to progress of societies, 
  • ways to make the progress of societies the new benchmark, 
  • the gaps in information, consultation and participation in the process of preparing progress indicators, the barriers and ways to overcome them.
Access the full document here.

6 April 2012 Week in Review

Spotlight: UN High Level Meeting on Happiness and Wellbeing

On Monday, the United Nations hosted a High level meeting on Happiness and Well Being Defining a New Economic Paradigm and put happiness on the global agenda.
Speaking at the meeting, Bhutan’s Prime Minister Jigmi Y. Thinley  said:"The GDP-lead development model that compels boundless growth on a planet with limited resources no longer makes economic sense. It is the cause of our irresponsible, immoral and self-destructive actions. The purpose of development must be to create enabling conditions through public policy for the pursuit of the ultimate goal of happiness by all citizens."
See more and contribute to the Wikiprogress article on Happiness

Where Art, Sport and Development Meet (All Africa 03.04.2012)
Rwanda has seen phenomenal growth over the last 18 years according to a variety of indicators. An interesting measure, not normally considered in this blog, is the growth of music and sport. According to this article, there have been more musical compositions created over the last ten years than in all the previous forty.
See more and contribute to the Wikiprogress article on progress in Rwanda

On human development
In Singapore, taxi diver earns $3000 a month (The Nation 03.04.2012)
Singapore gained independence around the same time as Nigeria, however the two countries are poles apart on the Human Development Index. This article details the many different ways in which Singapore has progressed and questions has the country developed with equality.
See more and contribute to the Wikiprogress article on progress in Singapore

On different kinds of progress in Aceh
A return to Aceh admits hope for peace and prosperity (World Bank Blog 02.04.2012)
Aceh is recognised internationally for the devastating Tsunami that tragically swept through the town leaving a behind a path of destruction. This article looks at the violence and poverty that plagued Aceh long before the Tsunami and the positive developments over the last five years.
See more and contribute to the Wikiprogres article on progress in Indonesia

On gender equality
Two thirds Young Arab Women remain Out of Workforce (Gallup 03.04.2012)
There is a consistent gender gap across the 22 Arab countries and territories, according to Gallup’s labour force participation data. About 1 in 3 young Arab Women between the ages of 23 and 29 participate in their national labor force compared to 8 in 10 young Arab men.
Contribute to the topic by creating a new article in Wikigender on Women's Access to Employment in the MENA Region

Thursday, 5 April 2012

The Arab Knowledge Report 2010/2011: Why focusing on Arab children and youth is necessary for the future of the region

The Arab Knowledge Report 2010/2011, carries on from the 2009 report of the same name and calls for the building of a knowledge society. The report emphasises the need to invest in the region’s youth, starting from early childhood, to enable them to build capacity, confront challenges and to contribute to the achievement of sustainable development throughout the region.

Children aged 15 years or less constitute 45% of the total population of the Arab region whilst young people aged 15-24 years, account for approximately 21%. In line with relevant literature, these figures indicate the potential for a future demographic dividend for the region which if capitalised upon, will further assist economic growth due to the improved ratio of productive workers to child dependents in the population (Ross J, 2004). Nevertheless, in order for a demographic dividend to materialize, the well-being of today’s children, tomorrow’s adults’ needs to be ensured. To become productive members of society individuals need a good start in life which includes, but is not limited to, effective social, emotional, mental and physical development, as well as access to education.

As documented by the report, not all of the necessary components required to achieve this end are present within the region resulting in the following issues for children and youth:

- The illiteracy rate amongst the Arab population aged 15 years and above was 29% in 2007 compared to 16% globally, 20% in developing countries, 9% in Latin America and 7% in East Asia.

- Coverage of children aged 0-6 in early childhood public childcare centres was an estimated 19% in 2010 compared to 41% globally.

- Child well-being, health status and child mortality indicators for the Arab region are far below developed country levels.

- The primary education enrolment rate was 84% in 2007, having increased from 78% in 1999, however net rates reduced in Jordan, Lebanon and Oman during the same period.

- Approximately 67% of young people are enrolled in secondary education in the region with females lagging males by an estimated 5%.
Source: Arab Knowledge Report 2010/2011

The Arab youth were key actors in the Arab Spring, the wave of popular protests that took place in 2010-2011 across the region, calling for change, political reform, social justice and an end to corruption. Their activism revealed deep frustrations as well as the power of this group and contributed to end the reign of long standing leaders in certain countries throughout the region.

In his address to the Global Colloquium of University Presidents at Columbia University, New York City (April 2, 2012), the United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon stated, ‘When we talk about youth, we have to look beyond demographics to why young people are so powerful. Youth are often the first to stand against injustice. Youth is a time of idealism. Young people are a force for transformation’ (United Nations Secretary General, 2012).

The strategy proposed by the report of starting ‘from the ground up’ by building a new base of knowledge for children and youth and, creating foundations for the renewal of society’s knowledge base clearly acknowledges the force of the Arab youth for transformation and articulates the role they should play in the future of the region. In doing so it sets the region in good stead to convert its young demographic into a demographic dividend.

Additionally, it provides a strong guide for how the region may progress as well as a comprehensive methodology for measuring progress in the area of child well-being.

Hannah Chadwick
Wikichild Consultant

Ross J, 2004, Understanding the Demographic Dividend,
United Nations Secretary General, New York, 2 April 2012 - UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's keynote address to the Global Colloquium of University Presidents at Columbia University [as prepared for delivery]