Richard Morgan of UNICEF shares his thoughts on the Post-2015 Agenda, Women and Children

Richard Morgan UNICEFRichard Morgan is the Senior Advisor to the Executive Director of The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) on the Post- 2015 Agenda. He is a member of the UN Secretary- General's Task Team on the Post- 2015 Agenda and has chaired various UN inter agency groups on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in the past. Prior to this, Mr Morgan served as UNICEF's Director of Policy, UNICEF in Africa and for the Government of Botswana during the 1970-1990s. His focus lies within the areas of how rights based, normative approaches can be effectively applied to international development1. Source2

 To what extent have governments increased commitment to child and gender sensitive policies after the establishment of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in 2000?

This is not easy to answer rigorously, and would depend on careful, comparative cross-country analysis of national policies between 2000 and 2012. Certainly there have been a number of individual advances in national child- and gender-sensitive policies, both across sectors and in specific areas such as juvenile justice reform and legislation designed to prevent violence against children and women. However, much more remains to be done in terms of policies, legislation, administrative measures, pro-child budgets and programmes.


If "increased government commitment" is assessed in terms of spending by developing countries on health and education, World Bank data suggests only slight increases in health and stagnant education sector spending since 2000. On the other hand, there have been important and continuing advances since 2000 in areas such as girls' and total primary school enrolment (MDGs 2 and 3), in clean water access (MDG 7) and child immunization coverage. Moving from coverage to outcomes, developing countries have achieved an accelerated rate of improvement (reduction) in child mortality rates since 2000. In the 1990s, under-five mortality rates fell by some 2.3% per year, and this speeded up to 3.1% in the decade after 2000. There was also success in reversing the tide of rising HIV prevalence among young people; although this, like reduced child and maternal deaths, still has a long way to go.

However partial it may be, there are encouraging signs of increased national commitment to – and perhaps increased effectiveness of – child-focused policies. However, this needs more detailed study and analysis, both in terms of the design of polices and related budgets and legislation - and of their implementation and actual impact.

What are some of the most prominent current issues faced by women and children in marginalised areas?

One of the major "lessons learned" from the MDGs is that their focus on global aggregates and national averages meant that troubling trends with regard to disparities (e.g. widening disparities or stagnating progress among certain groups, types of households or individuals) were often masked or overlooked. The lack of attention to disparities, and the dearth of data, research and analysis on the worst-off groups, helped to perpetuate their neglect by decision-makers in many countries. Attention to disparities is essential for placing equity at the center of development policies.

Today, the issues of equity and equality are near the top of the international agenda. More and more data and analysis underscore the massive and widening gaps between rich and poor among and within nations, and millions are still being left out of the gains in overall human development achieved since the 2000 Millennium Declaration and the advent of the MDGs. Progress towards the MDGs has often not brought about a narrowing of the gaps within countries, and is concealing widening social inequalities in key goals such as child and maternal survival, hunger and under- nutrition, and environmental health. A UNICEF 2011 data compendium analysed subnational trends in child survival in 26 countries and found that in 18 of these nations, the gap between the mortality rates of the richest and poorest quintiles had either grown or remained unchanged.

Despite many of the successes of the MDGs, they have not managed to integrate all principles outlined in the Millennium Declaration, including equality. Furthermore, the MDGs' focus on national and global averages and progress can mask much slower progress or even growing disparities at the sub-national level and among specific populations. To the extent that accelerating progress towards some targets is easier when resources are concentrated among the better off, the era of the MDGs may have inadvertently seen some channelling of resources away from the poorest population groups or from those that are already at a disadvantage because of the effects of discrimination based on their gender, ethnicity, disability or residence. At the very least – and with the exception of the MDG 3 target on girls' education -- they have not given a clear enough incentive for policy-makers to proactively address inequalities. Redressing such discrimination and inequalities will be essential, if global opportunities for progress are to be shared by those most in need of its benefits.

The availability of data disaggregated by wealth quintile, sex and residence provides ample evidence on how the combination of these factors has led to uneven progress towards achieving the MDGs. Young children in the poorest households are 2-3 times as likely to die3 or to be malnourished4 as those in the best-off strata. For example, in India 60% of children in households in the lowest wealth quintile are stunted in comparison to 25% of children belonging to the highest wealth quintile.5 Progress in reducing stunting in this and other countries has been fastest among better-off households.6 Stunting is the result of chronic nutritional deficiencies in the first 1000 days of life and can result in lifelong impaired physical and cognitive functionality.

Gender inequalities persist in many countries and contexts. In terms of what is measured by MDG targets and indicators, lower rates of secondary education enrolment (especially in Oceania, Southern Asia, sub-Saharan Africa and Western Asia), significant under-representation in national parliaments, wide gaps in access to decent employment, and the gendered nature of the HIV pandemic, all point to the urgency of addressing gender discrimination. There has been least progress on MDG 5 to reduce maternal mortality, the goal that most depends on achieving gender equality and realizing women's rights. Inequalities and discrimination7 based on income, location, disability and ethnicity intersect with gender and are often mutually reinforcing. For example, there are many countries where the likelihood of having skilled assistance at childbirth, a critical basic service for preventing maternal mortality and morbidity differs by more than 50 percentage points between wealthy, urban women and poor, rural women.8

Income inequality is also on the rise both within and across countries, developed and developing alike. Approximately two thirds of countries with available data experienced an increase in income inequality between 1990 and 2005, despite globally robust economic growth.9 A number of countries, both high and low income, have experienced jobless economic growth, with the result that those at the top end of the income distribution have benefited far more than those at the bottom.10

Since goals 1- 7 of the MDG framework pertain directly to issues faced by women and children, have the MDG's adequately represented their concerns? What issues previously lacking in the framework need to be prioritised in a new Post- 2015 Agenda?

For over a decade, the MDGs have inspired development efforts and advocacy –an unprecedented and admirable feat. Their simplicity and measurability, as well as their focus on human development, have helped to set global and national priorities, mobilize resources and focus actions that have benefited many millions of girls, boys and young adults. There has indeed been a strong focus on major aspects of human development.

But there is still an unfinished and ongoing agenda in terms of goals not yet achieved, people not yet reached, and major commitments in the Millennium Declaration, including to peace and security, not fulfilled. This calls for accelerated efforts between now and 2015, and this will need to continue well beyond 2015 in many countries and sub-national situations.

Additionally, there are missing elements and emerging issues of importance that must also now be addressed through both national policies and intensified global cooperation. These include: persistent and deepening inequalities and the many groups "left behind", a changing and unstable climate, environmental degradation, changing population dynamics, vulnerabilities to shocks, inadequate governance and accountability and multiple challenges to human security, including the protection of children, against violence and exploitation.

Bold and ambitious efforts continue to be needed on behalf of children and women, and should be clearly encapsulated in the new post-2015 development agenda. Examples of these include:

  • The need to "get to zero" in terms of preventable child and maternal deaths. This will complete the work of MDGs 4 and 5, and will need to sustain this achievement for all generations to come.
  • The accelerating drive for HIV-free future generations will be a further centerpiece of the effort to finish the work of the MDGs (MDG 6).
  • Child stunting, child hunger and child poverty are further major moral and developmental challenges that must be decisively resolved by all societies beyond 2015.

In addition, the Post-2015 world can only be considered "A World Fit for Children" if we collectively ensure that children everywhere are safe from violence, exploitation, abuse and neglect. The protection of children should be an integral parti of the Post-2015 Agenda – and will be central to just and sustainable future development.

Lastly, the new Agenda should make systematic provision for the much greater engagement of citizens in their own development, including by making available data on public sector operations and encouraging the use cost-effective information technologies. Citizen engagement should be sought and enabled through the setting and monitoring of local development targets, as well as in the process of local as well as national government budgeting and decision-making. Local service users should also be empowered to provide feedback on performance benchmarks and the status of key services in their areas – including, for example, at school, health facility and water point locations.

What is UNICEF's perspective on corporate partnerships for development and how have they enhanced the potential for new innovation that increases the quality of life for women and children?

UNICEF has over 60 years of experience in working with the private sector, academia and the philanthropic community in delivering a World Fit for Children. We strongly believe in the power of partnerships and collaborative efforts and are collaborating with more than 600 private companies and foundations across the globe. The business, philanthropic and academic communities have embraced many challenges and contributed directly to the eradication of polio and smallpox and to significant progress in the elimination of polio, maternal and neonatal tetanus, and the management of malaria, tuberculosis and AIDS.

It is important to stress that UNICEF has a set of rigorous criteria, clear organizational policies and due diligence processes in place for its engagement with the business sector. Corporate partners are identified and assessed with care, according to range of criteria. UNICEF applies zero tolerance on companies directly involved in the production or sale of armaments, weapons, tobacco, alcohol, pornography and infant formula producers violating the International Code for Marketing of Breastmilk substitutes. Business practices are also reviewed with respect to UNICEF's core values, particularly as they relate to human and children's rights, child labour, corruption and others. We seek to determine whether a business organization is an appropriate partner by assessing this information against the fundamental principles on which UNICEF is based, and against our mission, mandate and values. Collaboration with the corporate sector is a key part of our business and we recognize it brings risks and challenges - but it can make an important contribution to goals for children.

In general terms, business has huge potential to do good for children – every day, business interacts with and touches the lives of children. Children are not only consumers, they are family members of employees, young workers, future leaders and they share the communities and environment in which business operates.

Companies have been supporting our work through traditional approaches such as funding (10-15% of UNICEF's private sector fundraising comes from companies/foundations) and also through innovations in products (such as Sprinkles, Plumpy'nut, insecticide-treated bednets) and technology (rapidSMS, mHealth, innovation labs), expertise (logistics in humanitarian settings, design expertise), through corporate social responsibility (commitment to protect and support children's rights in the workplace, marketplace and community), with customers, peers and relationships with suppliers (child protection/child labour) and governments (policy advocacy), companies raise their voices for children to protect and promote their well-being. From ending malnutrition to promoting education and ending child labour, we have seen how partnerships with business can make important contributions to the rights of children.


1Arts Investment Forum, "Richard Morgan",
2UNICEF, "'Progress for Children' interview series",, 2010

3ChildInfo: Disparities in Child Survival; UNICEF. Accessed 25 April 2012:
4Interactive Site: Progress for Children: Achieving the MDGs with Equity; UNICEF. Accessed 25 April 2012:
5India: Nutrition Country Profile; UNICEF; website; Accessed 12 April 2012:
6Progress for Children: Achieving the MDGs with Equity; UNICEF; Number 9; September 2010.

7The Millennium Development Goals Report 2011; United Nations; June 2011.
8Gender Justice: Key to Achieving the Millennium Development Goals; UN Women; 2010.
9Ferreira, F.H.G. and Ravallion, M.; Global Poverty and Inequality: A review of the evidence; World Bank Policy Research Working Paper; Number 4623; May 2008.
10te Lintelo, D.; Inequality and Social Justice Roundtable Consultation; MDG Achievement Fund, Institute of Development Studies; September 2011.

iSee Realizing The Future We Want For All: Report to the Secretary General; UN System Task Team on the Post-2015 UN Development Agenda; June 2012. Child protection could be integrated as part of broader goals or aspirations to address all forms of violence and/or to ensure security for all at the personal level.