Millions of children with disabilities around the globe continue to be left behind, despite near-universal ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the call for action embedded in the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and the clear mandate set by the Sustainable Development Goals. Often, this neglect is the result of limited data. When absent from official statistics, children and adults with disabilities remain politically and socially ‘invisible’, increasing their marginalization and exposure to rights violations.
Historically, attempts to protect the rights of children with disabilities have been hampered by this lack of data. More recent times have seen a renewed focus on generating reliable and internationally comparable data on such children, prompting the development of new tools for data collection. These include the Child Functioning Module, released by UNICEF and the Washington Group on Disability Statistics in 2016. It has also resulted in a substantial increase in the availability of data on children with disabilities over the last five years, fostering data analysis and contributing to increased knowledge generation.
To capitalize on the current momentum, UNICEF has launched the Centre of Excellence on Data for Children with Disabilities. The Centre will help fill data gaps and meet the growing need for coordination, quality oversight and technical expertise in the field. It will support a broad range of activities to build the capacity of data producers and data users, facilitate the development of new methods and tools, and support data collection, data analysis, data interpretation and use, and knowledge generation.
The mission of the Centre is to enhance the ability of stakeholders to make timely and data-driven decisions affecting children with disabilities. To achieve this mission, it will engage in a wide variety of activities, drawing on the principles of partnership, innovation and inclusivity. The Centre is guided by a Strategic Advisory Group composed of key stakeholders, who advise on its activities and provide overall direction.
The Centre of Excellence on Data for Children with Disabilities is currently in its inception phase, which will last from 2021 through 2022. During this period, it is seeking to support new and innovative projects to foster utilization of data on children with disabilities.