Significant economic growth in Latin America and the Caribbean helped bring tens of millions of people out of poverty over the past decade. In recent years, this economic growth has been decelerating overall, though unevenly, throughout the region. Forecasts by major financial institutions, such as the International Monetary Fund and other experts, anticipate that this slowdown will continue to affect many Latin America countries over the coming years due to falling commodity prices, unfavorable interest rates, capital flight and other slowing economies worldwide, such as China.
Within this regional context, the social investments which have helped fuel important improvements in core services for children, such as education and health, will be under threat. Protecting these gains, and seeking to include the millions still excluded from these, through ensuring adequate resourcing for child rights, will require concerted and strategic efforts. Within the region, Peru stands out as a good example for the efforts it is making in this regard.
Only last year, Peru celebrated a great achievement in developing a taxonomy to measure public investment in children. The taxonomy was designed by a technical group that included the Ministries of Economy and Finance, Development and Social Inclusion, and Women and Vulnerable Populations, as well as Peru’s Roundtable on Poverty Reduction, UNICEF and various public sector and civil society organizations. This methodology was adopted by the national government as the official tool to track budget allocations related to the National Plan of Action for Children and Adolescent.
Just last month, November 2015, this achievement for child rights in Peru reached a new zenith with the approval of a law that declared of national interest and of preferential attention the assignation of public resources, regardless of the level of tax collection or the economic slowdown, to guarantee the fulfilment of the National Plan of Action for Children and Adolescents 2012-2021 (PNAIA-Acronym in Spanish).
This new legislation recognizes the government’s budgetary investment in this National Plan for children as a strategic priority for human and national development. The law safeguards the budget assigned to the implementation of the plan from being affected by a decline in government income or by an economic downturn.
How has Peru been able to achieve such a strong level of Government commitment to investing in public policies to ensure children’s rights? Three key factors are amongst those that have made this possible:
- Establishment of a direct link between planning and budgeting: Often the linkages that exist between the planning and budgeting processes at the government level are weak. The taxonomy developed for measuring investment in children in Peru is directly linked to the PNAIA. The tool links each of the four objectives and 25 goals of the plan with specific budget allocations and budget lines. The tool also links the budget to three of the five pillars of the National Development Strategy “Include to Grow” (related to infants, children and adolescents) and to the fulfillment of children’s rights to development, survival, protection and participation.
- Multi-sector involvement and buy in: Engagement from the various Ministries involved in the development of the Taxonomy was secured both at the technical and political levels through the Roundtable on Poverty Reduction. Civil society also contributed extensively in this process and recognized regional experts contributed important guidance.
- Transparency, participation and accountability: A formalized multi-sectoral commission was established for the application and monitoring of the taxonomy methodology. Along with the relevant national ministries, a diverse group of civil society organizations also form part of this group. Allocations and expenditures are tracked at all levels of government: national, regional, municipal and local. With the Taxonomy, the budget monitoring exercise is easily replicable on an annual basis. In addition, the sectors that are involved in the multisectorial commission of the PNAIA continuously monitor the budget allocated to children with regard to the implementation of the PNAIA.
The taxonomy was developed during a time of significant economic growth for Peru. Nevertheless, the first results of this measurement in 2014 demonstrated that the country invests a relatively small percentage of its GDP in children: 4% of GDP in Peru compared, for example, to Nicaragua with 5.3% and Costa Rica at 9.5%. Last week’s legal feat in safeguarding the budget committed to child centered public policies should hopefully help in ensuring the gradual improvement of these percentages in Peru despite a less that rosy economic forecast for the region in the coming years.
Joaquin Gonzalez-Aleman and Monica Darer, Social Policy Adviser and Specialist respectively at the UNICEF Latin America and Caribbean Regional Office, together with the UNICEF Peru Social Policy team.