Early childhood development
The first 1,000 days of life are instrumental to a child’s life-long development, capabilities and behaviour. Yet worldwide, 250 million children survive but do not reach their full potential owing to inadequate healthcare, nutrition, education, care and protection. Early childhood care and development interventions improve health, increase future earning potential and reduce inequality within society.
We believe that for the countries where we work, with large young populations, investing in early childhood builds human capital and achieves child rights.
We draw on research and experience to promote holistic and multi-sectoral early childhood development (ECD) interventions. Our work in this sector is rapidly expanding. In Oman we are advising UNICEF and the Ministry of Social Development on the reopening of ECD centres in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. In Burundi we are developing a cost-benefit analysis and investment case for boosting early childhood development for UNICEF. We promote ECD investments as essential for female empowerment and labour market participation, and also for childhood growth and long-term development.
Ensuring that value for money and the financial sustainability of social-sector interventions are critical in realising child rights and the development of human capital. In a constrained fiscal space as a result of the pandemic and the diminution of donor funding, we provide tools to ensure that policy-makers are equipped to achieve maximum impact.
One such tool is costing, which allows policy-makers to recognise what is possible with the finances available. We help them decide which costing methods are most appropriate, whether it’s a programme-experience approach or an ingredients-based approach. Costing exercises also provide the backbone of other economic analyses that we offer, such as cost-benefit and cost-effectiveness analyses, providing a basis on which value for money and return on investment can be considered.
We always consider the context in which the decision-makers use our interdisciplinary understanding to ensure the costing is fit for purpose, not just fit for the tool. With this in mind, we have successfully conducted costings for interventions on nutrition in Uganda and Lesotho, early childhood education in Morocco, and children with disabilities in Oman.
Youth opportunity and demographic transition
The current generation of young people makes up a quarter of the world’s population. If provided with adequate support, this group can play a leading role in driving progress. However, investments in young people regularly fall short of their aspirations. Seventeen per cent of 15-24-year-olds are not in education, employment or training (NEET. Of those who are employed, 40 per cent are in vulnerable employment and 77 per cent are in informal employment. More than 200 million adolescents of secondary-school age are out of school and young people too often lack opportunities to participate in meaningful decision-making in their homes, schools, places of work and broader communities. These challenges prevent young people from fulfilling their potential and becoming productive and engaged members of society.
We believe that urgent action is needed to build human capital, prepare young people to live engaged and productive lives, and to realise adolescent rights.
We combine our multi-sectoral expertise with technical rigour and work with public and private organisations to: 1) diagnose and understand the multifaceted and context-specific challenges faced by youth; 2) improve the coverage, effectiveness, impact and ROI of youth-related policies, strategies and programmes; and 3) develop innovative, context-specific solutions to youth challenges that will improve youth outcomes.
Fiscal space analyses
COVID-19 will tighten fiscal space for years to come. The impact of the 2020 economic crisis on a national public budget is the result of the interplay between the structure and openness of the economy, pre-COVID macrofiscal performance and access to emergency balance of payment support. Decision-makers in Africa and the Middle East face difficult fiscal policy choices. We carry out fiscal-space analyses using financial-programming frameworks to forecast fiscal revenues and expenditure levels. Our analyses are based on data mutually agreed between ministries of finance and the IMF, and provide decision-makers with new insights in the relationship between today’s policy options and future levels of public expenditure for health, education and social protection.