What does the future hold for the next generation? What are the key trends shaping children’s lives in the next 15 years? These are important questions to ask, but especially so this year as UNICEF gears up for its next Strategic Plan. In search for answers, we often look at global trends and risks analysis produced by the World Economic Forum (WEF) and other prominent organizations. While external perspective is certainly valuable, UNICEF is made up of 11,000 people who think of child well-being issues day in and day out. It is only fair that we give an opportunity to all UNICEF staff to weigh in on the outlook for children.
To do that, we mobilized a diverse expert group across regions and sectors to help us design a survey in a very open ended way, using a Delphi methodology. The Global Risks and Opportunities for Children survey generated over 460 responses from over 130 UNICEF offices around the world. Through the Voices of Youth platform, we also captured the youth’s perspective. We are grateful to Tableau Public for helping us make sense of the rich data and presenting it in a thought provoking way. While recognizing the limitations of such attitudinal and perception surveys, the results provide useful insight.
Global risks for children in the next 15 years
So what are the key findings? Not surprisingly, climate change, rising inequality, and political instability and conflict stood out as the biggest risks for the world’s children over the next 15 years. At the same time, science and technology, the elimination of contemporary scourges (eradication of polio, elimination of HIV-related disease, and dramatic reduction in open defecation), and the potential of the children themselves are among the best hopes for improving their lives.
Global opportunities for children in the next 15 years
Interestingly, overall risks were ranked higher in likelihood and impact than opportunities. Colleagues also responded with more risks than opportunities to open questions. Is it easier to be pessimistic than optimistic? On average, female respondents tended to rank the impact and likelihood of risks higher than did males. That difference is even larger in rating opportunities. Younger staff members generally were more likely to rank the impact and likelihood of risks and opportunities higher than their older colleagues did.
It was surprising how low health- and education-related trends ranked among UNICEF staff. At the same time, education tops the opportunities list for youth but is much less prominent in the staff survey. “Are we taking these for granted?” one colleague reacted. The spread of communicable diseases makes the top 10 of the WEF’s 2016 global risks but not that of UNICEF. You can view the full report here. Do let us know what surprised you and what else UNICEF should be considering as we think of the future of a child in 2030 and plan ahead.