Webinar Series on Child Development: Understanding and strengthening Parliament’s role and contribution to promoting and ensuring full child development

As part of a series of knowledge-sharing, capacity-building initiatives, Parliament and UNICEF South Africa have partnered to develop a programme focussing on Child Rights Governance, relevant to the work of Members of Parliament.

The first of the webinars was held on 15 November and provided an opportunity to discuss what progress has been made in advancing the equal and optimal development, protection and well-being of children. The purpose of the webinar series is to understand Parliament’s current role, and how it may be strengthened to contribute to increasing the proportion of children who, not only survive, but develop to their full potential to build South Africa’s human capital foundations.

The event was opened and closed by the Speaker of the National Assembly, Honourable Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, and the Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces, Honourable Amos Masondo, respectively. Informative and interesting inputs and presentations were made by participants, including an overview of Parliament’s role in advancing child development by the Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Social Development, and a status report on the rights of children by Professor Nic Spaull. Inputs by Statistics South Africa, the Children’s Institute and the Department of Social Development highlighted that, while much has been done since 1994, progress has been slow in reducing the proportion of children at risk of poor development. Approximately 60% of children, notably those falling into historically marginalised groups, experience multiple, co-occurring deprivations - they do not access the required combinations of services – health, nutrition, and education – to secure their development.

The second of the webinars was on Monday, 22 November and focused on how the current system can be strengthened through improved compliance with Government’s treaty and development responsibilities to realise children’s rights to develop to their full potential through the adoption of a national child rights governance system. Within this context, we reflected on the role of Parliament in strengthening the child rights system through improved implementation of the country’s treaty and development responsibilities across the national governance continuum. Inputs and presentations were made by, among others, the Chairperson of the Select Committee on Health and Social Services, Honourable Maurencia Gillion, the Department of International Relations and Cooperation, the Office of the High Commission for Human Rights (OHCHR), Professor Ann Skelton, the Center for Child Law and the South African Civil Society Coalition for Children’s Rights.