General Comment No. 7

Indicator Set 9: Basic Material Needs

A recent study revealed that the lives of 200 million young children are being compromised because governments are not fulfilling their commitments under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which was created through state negotiation to ensure that every child reaches his or her full potential.

The statistics on child poverty and hunger are alarming. According to UNICEF:

  • 600 million children worldwide live in absolute poverty
  • 30,000 children die each day due to poverty
  • Over 300 million children go to bed hungry every day

One of the main reasons why State parties created the CRC was that children experience many things differently from adults. Childhood experiences that are negative and/or not supportive of the specific needs of young children, may hold back maximum developmental achievement. These children may experience problems throughout their lives that in turn could affect the development of countries themselves. States parties need to remember this very basic fact when they are making all legal and policy decisions.

Each and every legal and policy decision affects children's standards of living. Research shows that children experience a poor standard of living differently from adults. Poverty and deprivation of basic material needs have permanent effects on children. Even short periods of deprivation can impact children’s long-term development. According to UNICEF, “Children experience poverty as an environment that is damaging to their mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual development.” Therefore, as an umbrella right, the best interest of the child should guide all economic policies, such as fiscal, monetary, and exchange-rate policies (CRC article 3 along with articles 2, 6, 4, 5, 26 and 27). Governments should consider the interest of the child as early and as comprehensively as possible when setting economic policies. After all, the purpose of the economy is to improve people’s lives, including children’s lives. And children make up more than 37 per cent of the world’s population.

In discussing States’ obligations to meet basic material needs, the CRC offers a holistic approach to child and human development. The Convention considers development to include physical, mental, spiritual, moral and societal aspects. In articles 2, 6, 3, 4, 5, 26 and 27, the CRC underlines not only general access to opportunities through a family’s or community’s living standards, but also the importance of the individual child’s realisation of an adequate standard of living. Therefore, GC7 (article 26) refers to the CRC obligations under article 27.1, which asks State parties to ensure an adequate standard of living to promote child development. The primary responsibility for providing an adequate standard of living rests with the parents (CRC article 27.2). However, both GC7 (article 20) and the CRC (article 27.3) emphasise the obligation of States parties to provide appropriate information and material support for parents and caregivers in fulfilling their responsibilities.

Whereas the CRC and GC7 speak generally to social security and welfare provisions (CRC article 26), this indicator set aims to measure basic material needs. This indicator is intended to assess the capacity of families to provide basic material needs for children under their care. The indicator set also extends consideration of children in alternative care environments. We suggest here that a blanket, shoes and two sets of clothes may be priority needs. However, other priorities may make more sense in different countries (for example, sleeping mat, sheets, school books, soap, and so on). This indicator also emphasises that the issue of basic material needs is particularly relevant to those groups that require special protection measures, for example, refugees, children working or living on the streets, or groups defined by socio-economic status (CRC article 2).

Key Question: With respect to articles 26 and 27 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, what measures are in place to assess the basic material needs of young children? Further, what measures are in place to provide for those needs and to assess the effectiveness of these measures in meeting the needs of both the general population of young children and those in excluded or vulnerable categories?