UNICEF Releases New Guidance on Child Protection — Reflections vis-a-vis Responsible Data for Children
Posted on 13th of September 2021 by Michele Vespe
Child protection, as defined by UNICEF, is the prevention of, and response to, exploitation, abuse, neglect, harmful practices and violence against children. To support their mission for a world free of harm against children, UNICEF recently published the second edition of its Child Protection Strategy 2021 – 2030 (CPS), setting the agency’s approach to child protection for the new decade.
In this edition of the CPS, UNICEF continues tackling global issues ranging from conflict and migration to poverty and inequality. It pays special attention to emerging challenges such as climate change, political polarization, and the COVID-19 pandemic. The CPS also discusses the Fourth Industrial Revolution, associated data-related challenges, and approaches that can improve child protection and advance responsible data for children. By including these measures in their long term strategy, UNICEF reinforces its commitment to responsible data practices.
The CPS begins this discussion by reviewing new challenges to children’s welfare posed by recent technological developments like biometric technology, artificial intelligence and digital connectivity. These challenges include increased surveillance, data misuse, online abuse and bullying. The CPS suggests some ways to mitigate these problems through innovative information management systems, inter-agency tools and rights- and results-based accountability systems.
Beyond deploying technological resources to improve the quality of data, the CPS programme also aims to strengthen community engagement with caregivers, children and adolescents, reflecting the Participatory RD4C Principle to strengthen data collection efforts. Engaging with such important groups can empower those using the CPS to identify metrics of concern and effectively acquire and process data to make stronger inferences, especially as they pertain to the conditions of disadvantaged groups in society.
In addition to providing innovative technologies and community engagement strategies, the CPS programme also seeks to strengthen the RD4C Principles of Professionally Accountable and the Prevention of Harms across the Data Life Cycle through the use of audits and progress reviews. This move helps improve data governance and build more robust accountability systems. The CPS’s work is governed by a set of technical guidelines, which outline how to evaluate and effectively use different types of data in the context of children’s issues, as well as how to responsibly finance data and research work.
By including measures to counteract the negative impacts on children of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and the increased handling of potentially sensitive data for and about children, UNICEF’s Child Protection Strategy institutionalizes responsible data practices when it comes to the welfare and safety of children. Given the CPS often informs different countries’ child protection laws, the hope is that the addition of responsible data practices to the CPS will motivate countries around the world to follow in suit and adopt similar policies and practices in the future to advance responsible data for children around the world.