UNICEF works with CSOs, both formally and informally, in the context of country programmes, the primary vehicle through which UNICEF delivers on its mandate for children. The following section describes some of the key UNICEF programming stages that shape opportunities for partnerships.
A decentralized approach to children’s rights
The heart of UNICEF work is in the field. There, country offices carry out the organization’s mission through a programme of cooperation that is developed together with the host government. To ensure that the needs of children and women are met effectively, UNICEF has a decentralized structure in which country offices are the primary point of programming decision-making. These decentralized offices are supported by seven regional offices and UNICEF headquarters in New York, which provide technical support, guidance and coordination. UNICEF currently carries out programming in over 150 countries worldwide.
UNICEF country programmes
UNICEF country programmes are developed in the context of the United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF), prepared by UN agencies in cooperation with host governments and other partners. The UN country programming process is a collective effort aimed at achieving jointly identified priorities related to human rights and development. At country level UNICEF works in accordance with the UNDAF, providing its expertise on issues related to children and women.
While governments have primary responsibility for administration of national development processes and programmes, civil society also plays an essential role, particularly in implementation. CSOs are often responsible for providing basic services to children and raising awareness about gaps in policy, enforcement and practice on child rights issues. Through advocacy and dialogue, CSOs engage decision makers to ensure that children’s rights are a central component of development and humanitarian action processes.
The UNICEF country programming process involves three main phases: (1) situation analysis and preparation of the country programme; (2) implementation of the country programme; and (3) monitoring and evaluation of results (see figure below). A typical UNICEF country programme lasts for approximately five years. In unstable contexts such as during an emergency, the duration may be shorter.
Preparation and country analysis
Preparation of a new UNICEF country programme begins with an analysis of the situation in the country grounded in key human rights and development challenges. The situation analysis aims to clarify the causes of problems facing children and women and linkages between issues affecting their rights. It may include specific studies, surveys, reviews and evaluations. CSOs, including groups of children and adolescents, have played an important role in carrying out situation analyses.
The situation analysis concentrates on the focus areas in the UNICEF Medium Term Strategic Plan (MTSP). It uses an equity-based approach that concentrates on vulnerable and marginalized populations. It is supported by a mapping of partners, both CSOs and private sector partners, who could potentially contribute to UNICEF efforts. The situation analysis contributes to the UN Common Country Assessment (CCA), which forms the basis for preparation of the UNDAF. Programming planning is results-based, meaning that partners agree on a problem to be addressed, identify its root causes and then determine the strategic results to be achieved and the sequence of steps needed to achieve them. The UNDAF is based on the priority issues agreed on by the UN country team, host government and partners. These priority issues, strategies and allocated responsibilities are then reflected in the UNDAF results matrix.
The UNICEF role in the UNDAF emphasizes the needs of children and women. UNICEF contributes a child-rights perspective to the process. It formulates a child-focused country programme based on the UNDAF and its own mandate and the MTSP priorities. In some cases, partner CSOs are identified early in the preparation process and delegated responsibility in the UNDAF results matrix. The country programme preparation process also lays the groundwork for future collaboration between UNICEF and CSOs.
Implementation of the UNDAF
Once the preparation and analysis have been completed, the members of the UN country team, host government and partners begin to carry out their responsibilities as defined by the UNDAF. At this point, UNICEF and CSOs may form new partnerships, either formal or informal, to carry out work in support of the priority areas related to children.
Monitoring and evaluation of the UNICEF country programme
An important component of programming is monitoring the progress towards the desired results, by both UNICEF and its partners. This obligation carries over to CSOs that partner with UNICEF in the country programme. Monitoring and evaluation processes should provide opportunities for CSOs to give their input on the work carried out, including areas where greater attention is needed.