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Statements and speeches Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

Inclusive social protection essential for child rights, says Deputy High Commissioner

14 March 2024

Delivered by

Nada Al-Nashif United Nations Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights


Annual full-day meeting on the rights of the child - Opening of the Panel Discussion on the Rights of the Child and Inclusive Social Protection, 55th session of the Human Rights Council



Thank you Madame Vice-President of the Council,
Good morning everyone,
Your Excellencies,
Distinguished panellists,
Dear children on the panel, and in the audience,

It’s a pleasure to have you with us today, and I am especially pleased to welcome Sheyla, Marie-Reine, and all the other children who are here to share with us their experiences and, more importantly perhaps, their recommendations and their insights on how we can improve their social protection and their well-being.

The contributions and perspectives of some 600 children were taken into account when preparing the report on inclusive social protection last year. This report was accompanied by the first-ever child-friendly report[1] to be mandated by the Human Rights Council.

Inclusive social protection is essential to ensure that children’s rights are respected, protected and fulfilled for all, everywhere. It allows them to live in dignity, to survive, but, more importantly to thrive and to realize their full potential. It also supports progress towards the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, lifting children out of poverty in a context of intersecting, compounding crises and widening inequalities.

However, that remains a distant reality: according to a 2023 report of the International Labour Organization and UNICEF, over 1.77 of the 2.4 billion children worldwide have no access to social protection, with significant regional disparities.

The absence of social protection in childhood has a lifelong impact on children’s well-being, their development, their health and educational outcomes. It affects children’s enjoyment of their human rights, including the rights to life, to education, health, an adequate standard of living, and the right to play.

International law is clear – children are entitled to the financial and material support they need to live a fair, happy, and healthy life. Under the Convention of the Rights of the Child and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, all children everywhere have a right to social security and to social protection measures that must be available, adequate, and accessible.

Yet, children around the world continue to face barriers to inclusive social protection. To name a few: the lack of identity documentation, the lack of universal child benefits, of complementary interventions and in-kind benefits, such as free school meals. Social protection laws, policies and systems are not always well-designed, nor adequately implemented or financed.

Furthermore, where parents and caregivers lack sufficient income, or decent work, or job security or the knowledge, skills, and resources to raise their children, children cannot fully enjoy their rights.

Some children are affected more than others, for example, those with disabilities, those in alternative care, those in child labour, or affected by armed conflict, those seeking asylum, migrant and refugee children, children in street situations and other marginalized children. A comprehensive child rights-based approach to social protection must consider the additional and intersecting barriers that these children face.

Ladies and gentlemen, inclusive social protection is attainable. 

Positive models of child rights-compliant social protection have emerged in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and to armed conflict. States have extended their national child benefit systems to protect migrant and forcibly displaced children, in Germany and Latvia for example, where support is provided to Ukrainian families. 

In response to our report, a number of countries shared promising practices of investments in social protection. Argentina has developed a universal child allowance for children in alternative care; Paraguay’s “Go!” social protection system integrates services including a focus on early childhood; and Trinidad and Tobago provides a school supplies grant to assist primary and secondary children whose books and uniforms have been destroyed by disasters. Slovakia has developed a national action plan to implement the European Child Guarantee, comprising core social protection actions, including free, quality health care and education and adequate housing and nutrition. And Zambia has introduced unconditional implementation of the social cash transfer to respond to increasing vulnerability and persistently high poverty levels, including of children.

We are encouraged by these initiatives. The framework, guidance and resources all exist to achieve inclusive social protection for all children, anchored in such rights-based approaches. It requires a legislative and policy shift, international solidarity and cooperation, and, of course, the political will to make the right choice along with bold budgetary decisions that will lead to more equitable outcomes for all.

As we look to a future built on trust, inclusion and participation, States have a critical role in delivering a social contract that realizes children’s rights so that they can reach their potential and participate in society.

I call today on all stakeholders to actively listen to children’s voices to understand their lived experiences and consider their recommendations, as I said at the outset, on how to lift barriers and trigger concrete steps for the truly transformative change that we are all aiming for.

And now, to kick off the panel, let me start by asking Sheyla: tell us about the robust social protection measures that are helping to ensure access to inclusive education in your country, Peru?

[1] There are also accessible and easy-read versions.