Abstract: Measuring Political Commitment in Improving Child-Wellbeing: Case of Six Post-Soviet Countries (Society for Social Work and Research 25th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Social Change)

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Measuring Political Commitment in Improving Child-Wellbeing: Case of Six Post-Soviet Countries

Wednesday, January 20, 2021
* noted as presenting author
Aytakin Huseynli, MSW, Phd Candidate, Washington University in St. Louis, St. Louis, MO

Background and Purpose: After the collapse of the Soviet Union, all former Soviet Union Republics (FSURs) started reforming child wellbeing systems. Economic growth since the late 1990s, has brought some improvements in child well-being on average, but it has also made inequality more visible among countries. Some of them are ahead of the reform and some countries still struggle. Among reasons for the lack of progress in FSURs, in addition to limited knowledge on the part of officials and a lack of viable alternative services, the lack of financial resources has been identified as a major obstacle. However, the resource-poor republics such as Republic of Georgia, Moldova, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania have shown significant improvement in reforming their child well-being systems compared to resource-rich countries such as Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Russia, Ukraine and Uzbekistan. The literature claims that political will and commitment was behind the success in the countries which had success stories. The purpose of this study was to find out what contributes to existence of political will and commitment to reform child wellbeing.

Methods: The study used cross-sectional, descriptive and qualitative research design. In-depth interviews were conducted with 65 key informants in six FSURs such as Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia and Azerbaijan. Interview guide with 18 questions were developed based on surveys which used to measure political will and commitment in health care and food security systems. The data collection took place from October 2019 to January 2020. Data was analyzed in NVivo based on framework analyses approach.

Results: The following themes were emerged supporting possible explanation for political will and commitment in reforming child wellbeing: 1) existence of strong civil society, 2) high awareness on child rights among policy makers and citizens, 3) civic activism, 4) evidences about returns of investments in children; and 5) activism among children. Findings revealed that without political will and commitment to improve children’s life, reforms are either slow or never take place even though countries have all kinds of wealth and abundance.

Conclusions and Implications: Evidence claims that many countries of FSURs lack political will to improve child wellbeing. This study found this lack is based on the absence of strong alternative voices in societies such as strong civil society, and politically active citizens. Findings also show that knowing and valuing rights of children by political, and economic elites, representatives of civil society organizations, families and children themselves is important to keep child wellbeing in the agenda of politicians. Policy and practice implications of this study are to understand the importance of strong civil societies and civic activism in reforms especially in FSURs. Civil society organizations of these countries need all kinds of support to become stronger and more efficient to play a central role to lobby for children’s wellbeing and to raise awareness in child rights. As their capacity and resources improve, their strength would also enable them to monitor the implementation of promises to children by political and economic elites of these countries.