How can the World Bank improve child protection through its COVID-19 Social Protection response?

BIC launches new report assessing 55 COVID-19 social protection projects for child protection.

COVID-19 and its associated impacts have exacerbated global child protection risks, including violence against children (VAC), child sexual exploitation, abuse, and harassment (SEA/H), neglect, and child labor. The pandemic has put additional strain on already overburdened child protection systems in many countries, resulting in the  disruption of violence prevention and response services in over 104 countries. This combination of increased child protection risk and lack of systems capacity is incredibly concerning, as it can lead to detrimental and compounding impacts on the lives of millions of children and their futures around the world for generations to come. 

The World Bank responded swiftly to the COVID-19 crisis with an initial commitment of $157 billion that, to-date, has provided over $10 billion in financing via the Social Protection and Jobs Global Practice to support social safety-nets and other social protection projects. As child protection is a core facet of social protection, the Bank’s increased investment in social protection could significantly strengthen strained child protection systems to better respond to COVID-19 and future crises. 

Seeking to understand how the design of the Bank’s social protection projects incorporated elements of child protection and child protection systems strengthening, BIC completed a landscape analysis of 55 COVID-19 social protection projects that were approved as of March 31, 2021. Overall, the analysis revealed that while certain projects exhibited a number of promising practices, the Bank has not consistently integrated child protection into nor prioritized child protection systems strengthening in its COVID-19 social protection projects. 

Our assessment of the 55 projects focused on five broad categories of child protection: (1) service delivery; (2) multisectoral collaboration; (3) child-friendliness; (4) stakeholder engagement; and (5) data collection and disaggregation. Largely, the projects which scored well in each category do take a more focused approach to child protection, and most projects included some child protection measures. However, correlation was extremely weak when comparing criteria met for the different categories, meaning the Bank likely incorporated child protection components into the social protection projects in a piecemeal manner. Without a coordinated strategy and concerted approach to child protection systems strengthening, the Bank risks failing to include children in its COVID-19 social protection projects and can not adequately respond to the adverse impacts the pandemic has had on children.  

To strengthen project components around child protection in its COVID-19 social protection lending, BIC recommends the Bank: 

  1. Build on the promising practices identified in this research and seek to replicate these best practices in current and future projects, encouraging greater institutional learning.
  2. Develop a coordinated child protection strategy within social protection projects based on best practices and provide Bank staff with technical guidance on how to implement this child protection strategy.
  3. Recognize child protection as a core element of social protection so that social protection projects mainstream components to strengthen child protection systems. 
  4. Assess project design and implementation of child protection criteria, including (1) service delivery; (2) multisectoral collaboration; (3) child-friendliness; (4) stakeholder engagement; and (5) data collection and disaggregation.
  5. Where strong child protection components exist, deliver on them in implementation.

As the Bank strives to help countries build back better from the COVID-19 pandemic, efforts to strengthen social protection and safety nets need to place children at the center or risk leaving an entire generation behind. Future updates will provide more in-depth information on the findings and recommendations for each of the five categories used to assess the projects. 

We invite you to read the full report here.