As India develops its first five-year development plan of the 21st century, its position as one of the ten fastest growing economies in the world undoubtedly puts it in an advantageous situation vis-à-vis previous plans, not only in terms of resources but also in terms of openness to new ideas. To ensure that children’s rights are adequately reflected – and resourced – in the 11th Plan, UNICEF has been working with the national and state governments in ensuring that children are given due priority. In that spirit, the Department of Women Development and Child Welfare (DWDCW) of Andhra Pradesh collaborated with the UNICEF Hyderabad Field Office to hold a consultation on “Prioritising Children in the 11th Five Year Plan” on the 19th and 20th of July.
The tone of the consultation was set by the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, Dr. Y. S. Rajasekhar Reddy, who clearly stated that the AP govt. has neither the dearth of money nor the will to take the children’s issues head on. With this thought at the back of their minds, 115 participants from government, civil society and academia poured all their energies into discussing issues to be considered for the 11th Plan. Responding to the overall call for the need to manage for “results and outcomes” instead of “plans and outlays” the group came up with over 100 detailed recommendations clustered around four key themes: public investment, management, awareness, monitoring and evaluation. The participants also overwhelmingly proposed for the establishment of a State Commission for Children to take these issues forward.
During the closing session, the paradoxes of today’s India were clearly highlighted: increased prosperity without a corresponding improvement in child welfare; evidence-based policies in place which are held back by poor implementation; and high outlays without desired outcomes. It is anticipated that the recommendations developed during the workshop will redress these concerns, as long as they are taken to heart by the government, as promised by the DWDCW. Ultimately, it is hoped that the 11th Five Year Plan will not simply be, in the words of one of the speakers, “the second edition of the 10th Plan”.