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20111001 Children and Social Protection in the Middle East and North Africa UNICEF


20111001 Children and Social Protection in the Middle East and North Africa UNICEF
A mapping exercise

This paper was commissioned by the UN Children’s Fund’s (UNICEF’s) regional office in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). UNICEF’s rationale for engagement in social protection is grounded in its commitment to human rights, and recognition of the contribution social protection can make to realising the rights of all children, and particularly the most vulnerable and disadvantaged. This essentially desk-based exercise maps key social protection initiatives and stakeholders at national level in the MENA region, with a specific focus on child-sensitive social protection.
For this study, seven countries were selected for more detailed analysis1 and another twelve for the production of country factsheets.2
This report is based largely on an analysis of documentation available through desk review complemented by regional- and country-level interviews with development agencies and government and non-governmental organisation (NGO) staff for the detailed analysis. Much of the information is descriptive: few evaluations are available; in addition, government policy documents and provision on the ground often entail a significant disjuncture.
The MENA region has relatively low levels of absolute poverty but a significant proportion of the population lives close to the poverty line, indicating the importance of effective social protection programming. Falling oil prices, the recent global crisis, high water stress and high levels of food importation, vulnerability to climate change and explosive demographic pressures in some countries exacerbate this situation. There is an overall lack of formal employment opportunities for youth and levels of migration are high. The political context has also contributed to vulnerability in many countries, and patriarchal patterns of kinship, legalised discrimination, social subordination and ingrained male dominance leave women and girls in particular economically and socially vulnerable, in law, labour markets, decision making and education.