Conference on child protection system strengthening in Sub-Saharan Africa
Keeping Children Safe is attending the first ever conference on child protection systems strengthening in Sub-Saharan Africa in Dakar, Senegal from 7 - 9 May. The goal of the conference is to reinforce, support and sustain national efforts to improve child protection systems' impact on children through cross-country exchange, dialogue and learning on effective systems strengthening approaches and practices.
There are five inter-related objectives:
- To take stock of current efforts and experiences to build stronger child protection systems in Sub-Saharan Africa;
- To share promising practices in strategy development, programming, monitoring and evaluation, and resourcing national child protection systems and to provide participants with the most up to date resources on systems building;
- To review, discuss and improve current system strengthening frameworks and emerging guidance ;
- To provide opportunities for networking with an aim to build regional and country level partnerships committed to strengthening systems; and
- To explore the establishment of a regional mechanism(s) to foster on-going learning and exchange on systems work in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Over the past several years, significant progress has been made in Sub-Saharan Africa to shift child protection programming away from traditional, issue-based projects towards a more ambitious systems building approach. Dozens of countries have engaged in child protection systems mapping exercises, broad-based policy reviews and human resource gap analyses. Many are now translating new evidence into action, including drafting national strategies for systems building, launching national capacity building programmes, developing national service standards, and piloting new decentralized service delivery models to better link disparate actors and sectors. Donors are also increasingly supporting systems work, particularly in East and Southern Africa. OVC donors, such as PEPFAR and Global Fund, are embracing longer-term investments in strengthening the social welfare workforce and community actors, two key components of a functional child protection system.
Recent progress in systems building on the continent is paired with a growing demand for more evidence on promising practices, potential entry points and technical guidance on how best to strengthen national protection systems. Concrete documentation and guidance, however, remains thin. This is directly related to the newness of the field, as well as the existing learning gap on systems work. To date, the majority of learning on systems has been isolated, often limited to national exchange or within individual agencies. There are few opportunities for exchange across countries, organizations and communities in Sub-Saharan Africa. Possibilities for individual learning are also limited, as regional resource hubs or communities of practice do not yet exist. Francophone and lusophone countries face additional learning challenges, as most global knowledge on systems strengthening remains in English.
Collecting, documenting and consolidating learning and knowledge on what is working and not working in child protection systems strengthening is the first step to developing much needed guidance and support for countries engaged in such work. It is therefore timely to bring together national actors to take stock of what we know now about systems strengthening in Sub-Saharan Africa, share promising practices and to begin to identify viable entry points and strategies for systems change. This will provide countries with immediate access to innovative work underway in the region, foster new networks among national leaders, and act as the foundation for the development of new learning communities and much needed technical guidance in the future.