HL Deb 05 February 2004 vol 656 cc112-4WA
Baroness Howe of Idlicote

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What action they are taking to implement the recommendations of the Department for International Development report, Breaking the Cycle of Child Poverty, in particular the implied commitment to "[empower] children to have a voice in decisions which affect them, rather than being the passive objects of choices made on their behalf (page 12); and overall what changes in policy have resulted from these recommendations [HL963]

Baroness Amos

The paper onBreaking the Cycle of Child Poverty is a discussion paper, published in May 2002, which sets out a range of options for tackling child poverty that could be taken forward by the development community. As part of our rights-based approach to development we are concerned that all groups, including children, are fully included in our work. DfID is currently reviewing its work that directly involves children to see how we may better integrate children's issues.

The Government are fully committed to working with others to achieve the millennium development goals (MDGs), the internationally agreed targets for eradicating poverty. Almost all the MDGs have direct relevance to child poverty. We are particularly active in the areas of reducing child mortality, improving maternal health, combating HIV/AIDS, malaria and other major diseases and promoting gender equality.

Our development assistance is provided in response to our partner countries' needs as driven by their poverty reduction strategy papers (PRSPs). We are working actively with partner governments to support production of PRSPs and we encourage them to ensure that as wide a range as possible of stakeholders participate in the consultation process, including groups representing children and young people.

We support the United Nations (UN) Children's Fund (UNICEF) through our core contribution of£19 million, together with our support for specific projects, which in 2003 totalled around £68 million. Much of what UNICEF does is about giving children a greater voice in their future. For example, children from around the world went to the UN Special Session on Children in 2002. UNICEF also has a global website "Voices of Youth" where young people can discuss, explore and take action on issues that affect them. We also support the Commonwealth Youth Programme, which promotes youth participation in development. Before the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting last December my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for International Development consulted civil society, including youth representatives, about what issues they considered were important for the meeting.

A number of DfID-funded programmes and projects have involved participation of children and research into children's participation. The following are some examples from DfID country programmes. Last year DfID supported a discussion between the Government of Brazil and representatives of the UK Youth Parliament (UKYP) on increasing the participation of young people in decisions on sustainable development in the Amazon region. The outcome was a proposal by the Government of Brazil and State Government of Amapa to set up their own Youth Parliament and we are supporting this through the European Youth Exchange Programme.

In Pakistan, DfID provided a secondee to work with the United Nations (UN) Children's Fund (UNICEF) office on integrating children's participation into particular initiatives, such as changing the approach to juvenile justice and developing new areas of research, and on ensuring that participation of the poorest and excluded children and women is fully integrated into the activities of UNICEF and local partner organisations.

In Malawi children are participating in the design and implementation of the Malawi Government's free primary education policy.

The Government are committed to designing policies and services around the needs of children and young people. DfID is in the process of developing an action plan, expected to be ready by late April, which will show how we are adopting these principles.