The Legal and Human Rights Case for Universal Child Benefits

Often, decisions regarding the design and implementation of social protection programmes do not include comprehensive assessments of the compatibility of the programme design or implementation features with human rights norms and standards which are included in diverse legal frameworks. This is a major shortcoming. These legal frameworks are designed to ensure the protection of rights. While human rights obligations do not provide precise policy recommendations, they do limit the discretion of policy-makers. Not complying with these legal standards not only violates rights but can also impact the effectiveness of social protection programmes and may open the possibility for legal challenges at the domestic level or before an international human rights monitoring body.

In order to assess whether Universal Child Benefits are better positioned than other policy intervention to ensure compliance with children’s rights, the paper compares the ways in which several cash transfers programmes comply with four principles which are essential for the protection of children: i. The principle of equality and non-discrimination; ii. The principle of “best interests of the child”; iii. Respect for dignity and avoidance of stigma; iv. Compliance with other children’s rights and avoidance of adverse impact on the exercise of those rights.