Author: Padimin, R. UNICEF NYHQ
UNICEF presence in Mauritius dates from the early 1970s. Since 1986, the co-operation has been structured in five-year Country Programme Cycles. The third Country Programme of Co-operation, which covered the period 1996-2000, is the subject of the present evaluation. The total approved budget amounted to US$ 4,250,000 (US$ 3,750,000 Regular Resources and US$ 500,000 Other Resources). The actual total funding level was US$ 3,397,700 (US$ 3,228,000 Regular Resources and US$ 169,700 Other Resources). The evaluation took place during the first half of a transitional Country Programme of a three-year-period (2001-2003).
Purpose / Objective
The accountability objectives of the evaluation of the Mauritius Country Programme of Co-operation 1996-2000 were fourfold:
- To assess the role and relevance of the Country Programme as to the situation of children and women in Mauritius
- To assess the realization of the Country Programme objectives as spelled out in the Master Plan of Operations (MPO) (June 1995) and the Revised MPO (December 1998) against the background of World Summit for Children (WSC) and National Plan for Action (NPA) goals
- To assess effectiveness, efficiency and impact of supported projects and programmes and analyse to what extent activities and results were sustainable and / or replicable
- To assess the approach to prepare for the transition process
Further it was expected that the evaluation would yield lessons learned that might guide the modification of UNICEF presence in Mauritius resulting from the withdrawal of Regular Resources at the end of the transition cycle 2001-2003. It would thus contribute to empowerment of national partners, support strategic decision-making and contribute to rights-based and results-based management at the country level.
The evaluation was also expected to contribute to the development of lessons learned that might be useful for UNICEF to formulate policies and strategies related to transition processes. It would thus also contribute to UNICEF's overall strategic governance.
The evaluation used a variety of methods such as desk reviews of relevant documentation, interviews of key informants, as well as field visits. The evaluation team also met with the Joint Steering Committee (JSC) composed of representatives of the government ministries that were involved in the Country Programme. The evaluation was an inter-active learning process involving the organisation of a participatory workshop with key stakeholders.
Key Findings and Conclusions
The total approved budget amounted to US$ 4,250,000 (US$ 3,750,000 Regular Resources and US$ 500,000 Other Resources). The actual total funding level was US$ 3,397,700 (US$ 3,228,000 Regular Resources and US$ 169,700 Other Resources). The actual Country Programme expenditure was about 85 percent of the planned level. This may be considered a good performance, as it reflects effective budget management.
In the original programme budget, the education sector commanded the largest share of budgetary allocations (42%), with the remainder divided equally between the health programme and the Social Policy Development, Advocacy and Monitoring (SPDM) Programme. Following the MTR, a new project, "Resource Mobilisation," was added in the Country Programme to mobilise funds locally from the private sector. Despite its initial success, the project did not generate significant amounts of funds.
The programme experienced a shortfall of Other Resources, which actually amounted to US$ 49,300 only, i.e. less than a tenth of what had originally been foreseen. This was made up by local resource mobilisation from Air Mauritius Change for Good programme. But opportunities to raise more Other Resources internally also proved to remain relatively fragile during the Country Programme. Additional amount of US$ 120,341 originated from local GCO sales and was also allocated to the Mauritius CP as Regular Resources through separate PBAs. Both amounts combined amounted to US$ 169,700, which represented only 5.0 percent of the total amount funded over the duration of the Country Programme. Keeping reliance on Other Resources to the strict minimum was a prudent strategy. It avoided drastic adjustments and assured continuity of the Programme in the face of erratic flows of Other Resources.
Design, role and relevance of the Country Programme:
Neither the original nor the revised Country Programme was designed in ways that were conducive to an evaluation. Country Programme and project objectives were often vague and confounded with national goals. In a general way, they were not SMART [S- specific, M- measurable, A- attainable, R- realistic, T- time bound]. Many programmes and projects had very high target numbers that were not possible to reach. Objectives did not clarify that results would involve long-term changes in attitudes and behaviour and failed to suggest any indicators to measure how progress could be measured within the Country Programme time period.
The original design of the Country Programme of 1995 was in line with government and UNICEF policies and strategies at that time and addressed major issues identified in a Situation Analysis carried in 1994. Main findings and conclusions of the evaluation concerning role and relevance of the original Country Programme are the following:
- The original Country Programme was relevant in the sense that it addressed NPA Goals. It did, however, narrow down the focus of the programme to only some of the health, nutrition and education related Goals. It omitted any reference to vulnerable children and the child protection goals in the WSC or the NPA and failed to target girls and women except through IEC and maternal health. The CPR justified this selectivity stating that the selected goals were the core of the country's commitment to its children. However, in being selective, the Country Programme failed to reflect adequately the NPA's wider concerns, as well as the country's CRC commitments. Even if limited programme funding demanded selectivity, the Country Programme should at least have included all NPA goals and all children and women's rights through identification of issues and advocacy to mobilise national resources in these areas.
- The sectoral programmes conformed to the broad policies of the government of the day while at the same time aiming at remedial or innovative strategies where needed. However, some policies went through so many changes that the Country Programme could not keep pace with them. The revised MPO was relevant to changes in government priorities and strategies while breaking new ground in the Education for Development project.
- The original Country Programme conformed to the three main strategies that UNICEF endorsed worldwide: capacity building, empowerment and service delivery. It gave a lower priority to the supply component in service delivery. The Country Programme's empowerment strategy was focused on IEC rather than on participatory processes. Capacity building mainly targeted the government and but to a lesser extent either NGOs or the public. The four main strategic considerations [partnerships, targeting, WID and inter-programme reinforcement] were in conformity with UNICEF strategies. WID was viewed in a very limited way.
- The Country Programme pioneered a holistic approach to emerging adolescent problems. However, opportunities to develop or build on other pilot initiatives were not seized. The Country Programme failed to carry forward the experiences of the previous Country Programme, e.g. to optimally utilise relevant experiences, e.g. the Rodriques Area Based Programme. In Mauritius Island, the programme failed to develop even a pilot initiative in the area of community-based health and education.
The revised Country Programme of 1998 was also generally found to be in line with government and UNICEF policies and strategies as well as with issues raised in the Situation Analysis of 1998. However, the evaluation concludes that some caveats apply to this general statement:
- The MPO of the revised Country Programme called for a shift in programme focus from achievement of the NPA goals to "placing children at the heart of the development process", i.e. the adoption of a holistic and child-centred approach in line with Rights-Based Programming (RBP) that had become mandatory in UNICEF in 1997. However, it may be stated that the vision developed in the MPO was partly based on a misunderstanding of the Rights-Based Programming (RBP), as the emphasis on the fulfilment of children's rights is by no means incompatible with the achievement of NPA Goals. Placing children at the heart of the development process had always been a firm UNICEF tenet. This focus only became more sharply articulated with RBP. The revised MPO thus viewed RBP in a very narrow and less productive way than was warranted.
- The programme structure did continue the work of the essential programmes in health and education, while infusing them with an inter-sectoral, rights-based approach. The strategy of evolution from a sectoral to an inter-sectoral structure was in tune with the holistic view of child rights embodied in CRC. It was also a useful conceptual and co-ordinating tool that was articulated as one of the main strategic considerations in the original MPO as inter-programme reinforcement. The use of CRC, CEDAW and other international instruments for both advocacy and policy and practice reforms was in tune with UNICEF policies.
- Here, again, the non-inclusion of specific gender concerns in the UNICEF supported project and in MCH services was a limitation of the application of UNICEF's mandate on WID. Similarly, the lack of attention to some of the important child protection problems was not in tune with its wider mandate that calls for some form of support in a Country Programme to all the rights violations.
- The programme strategies could have supported attainment of all the NPA goals by national efforts in the form of advocacy, IEC, monitoring and a special focus on children of deprived families and / or groups / areas rather than service delivery for routine programmes. The strategies correctly emphasised child rights programming framework, but did not mention the need to monitor the situation and the progress towards universal coverage of all rights.
Realization of the Country Programme effectiveness of the programme and sustainability of results:
The overall objectives of the 1995 MPO were only partially realized. This was partly because they were vague, or confounded, and partly since many were long-term objectives. The design did not distinguish clearly between outputs, different levels of intermediate and attributable outcomes and impact. The Country Programme's contribution to the achievement of the chosen NPA goals, the achievement of supporting objectives and the sustainability of supported activities cannot be measured precisely. It is nevertheless possible to make the following observations:
- Selected NPA Goals: The Country Programme contributed to the partial fulfilment of Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) and U5MR reduction goals through support to AnteNatal / Post Natal Care (ANC / PNC), improved monitoring of at risk pregnancies, training and research. Support to Mother and Child Health (MCH) strategies contributed to the reduction of the Maternal Mortality Rate (MMR). In 2000, the NPA target on IMR was not reached, but the U5MR goal was attained. There was progress on the MMR, but the NPA target was not achieved. Attempts to support the government on issues related to nutrition were not very successful. As far as basic education was concerned, the Country Programme launched some innovative programmes in selected low performing schools. Education sector reforms to remedy the overly competitive and elitist school system were not implemented. Although gross enrolment almost reached 100 per cent by 2000, there were persisting problems related to school retention and CPE pass rates.
- Capacity building and empowerment: Overall the Country Programme strategies and programme components played a complementary / facilitative / innovative role to national policies, strategies and activities. This role was compatible with the relatively high level of financial and administrative capacity existing in Mauritius. The Country Programme's flexibility made it possible to use relatively small financial inputs in a strategic manner. But replicability of innovative programmes or translation of approaches into policies and strategies could not always be ensured.
- National partners' reception of innovations and sustainability of results: NGOs were more receptive to innovations proposed by the Country Programme than many government agencies. A notable exception was the Rodrigues island administration. Some NGOs felt government was impeded by bureaucratic delays. Despite the free health and education services, the quality of these services needed improvements. They did not respond adequately to inherent drawbacks or to changes in lifestyles. IEC materials were developed to reach the public, but the institutionalisation of the process among national partners was but partially successful.
- Role of Supply Assistance: The supply component of the Country Programme was given a low priority, as the government had the financial capacity to cover equipment and materials costs. The government and UNICEF signed an agreement on (reimbursable) procurement services many years ago, but no government department ever availed of such services.
The revised objectives based on RBP contained in the MPO of 1998 were only partially achieved. The Country Programme's focus on child rights was implemented through various programmes and activities. The ultimate objective of making the child the first beneficiary of economic growth was not realized but obviously this was a long-term goal. Main achievements were the following:
- CRC: Attempts to harmonise national laws with CRC and to make full use of the umbrella function of the CRC were not fully successful. Children's rights were still considered primarily the responsibility of a single agency, the Ministry of Women, Child Rights and Family Welfare, and attempts to restructure and strengthen the National Children's Council (NCC) remained at a relatively low level.
- Basic health services: The Country Programme's inputs into reform moves, training and other capacity-building activities began to orient these services in a more equitable and effective direction.
- Child protection: Some key milestones included the setting up of a pilot Child Protection Unit, a study on child prostitution, a review of the juvenile justice system, and campaigns on various CRC issues. Several innovative steps were taken with good results especially in adolescent programmes.
- Education: As far as the Basic Education Project was concerned, it was noted that CPE pass rates did improve in most of the involved schools. The project did not affect the national level of performance or significantly reduce the gap between Mauritius and Rodrigues. Moreover, attempts to make the system less elitist were not compatible with targeted performance improvements in examinations.
- Children's greater access to quality care in ECD services: The first phase of the implementation of the new ECCD policy focused on policy development, training and quality assurance whereas the second phase targeted parenting education, training and quality assurance. The priority given to parenting education was justified. However, the finalisation and implementation of this policy needed to be accelerated.
- Provision of opportunities to adolescents for life-skills development: Several innovative steps were taken with good results, but a number of problems still existed, e.g. a too restrictive definition of "teen pregnancy" (ignoring pregnancies occurring at 15-19 years of age) and limited attention for the child's right to participate in decision-making.
Overall, the Country Programme had a reasonable degree of effectiveness, as far as the achievement of outputs and outcomes was concerned. Key informants were not always satisfied with the quality of the outputs in terms of timing, quantity and quality. To the extent that reliable information is available, it can be stated that a reasonable level of intermediate outcomes was achieved, e.g. in terms of new strategies on ECCD and child protection. The effectiveness of the Country Programme was less obvious in terms of follow-up to recommended approaches for community empowerment and involvement. Reasons for the limitations in attributable outcomes included lack of strategic decision-making in terms of policies and strategies by national partners.
It is generally difficult to establish a cause-effect relationship between programmes and projects and improvements in the situation of children, i.e. to gauge the impact of a given programme. One can only surmise that improvements noted during the period under review may be partly due to the Country Programme. The selected NPA goals were not fully achieved nor were children indeed placed "at the heart of the development process." Improvements in accessibility to health and education, coverage, utilisation, quality, etc. were still incomplete. Reduction of disparity and of social exclusion continued to be marginal.
Sustainability of Country Programme supported activities also varied. The Country Programme was not always perceived by all as a programme of co-operation, but as one of assistance. This endangered ownership, shared responsibility and balance. The exemplary take-over in Rodrigues of the Area Based Programmes at the end of the previous Country Programme was preceded by a careful assumption of ownership for all the management aspects by the local authorities and NGOs. This model needed to be emulated.
Preparation of the Transition Process:
UNICEF informed the various stakeholders about the transition at the time of the 1998 MTR, though the term "transition" was not used. The explicit reference to transition came later, i.e. at the beginning of the planning exercise for the 2001-2003 Country Programme as embedded in the Regional Director's letter dated 18 May 1999 addressed to the then Minister of Economic Development.
In 1998, the Country Office began to make deliberate attempts to support the national institutions to prepare for the transition through creation of awareness and assistance to diversify sources of funding by attempting to raise local Other Resources. However, due to the late start of the transition process, the major brunt of the preparatory work was left to the Country Programme of 2001-2003. Little time was allowed for the Country Programme partners to lay the groundwork for a smooth transition process in the forthcoming Country Programme.
Unfortunately, support from the UNICEF Regional Office in Nairobi and the Area Office in Antananarivo was very limited. This was probably due to the perceived wealth of Mauritius and assumed well being of its children as compared with other countries of the region. It could also be understood as a tribute to the management of the Country Office and good relations with the government and other partners.
There was good co-ordination under the leadership of the United Nations Resident Co-ordinator. In a period where all UN agencies were facing scarcity of funds, they were looking for opportunities to coordinate their activities. The UNDAF assistance objectives and strategies included the protection of child rights and related issues. However, it must be noted that the social development section of the Common Country Assessment (CCA) document had no reference to children, health or education. There were no specific inter-agency initiatives to tackle issues arising from the transition process.
Along with a strong economic base and sustained economic growth, Mauritius has a firm democratic tradition, a welfare system and the appropriate legislative and policy framework for the protection and promotion of child rights. Its expenditure in the social sectors has consistently increased over the past decade, indicating the potential to achieve a well-functioning welfare system that can adequately cater to the needs of the population. In financial terms, absorption of programme expenditures so far supported by UNICEF should not pose any problem for the government.
On the other hand, the optimal realization of child rights, and even the attainment of certain goals of the last decade, still need to be addressed. Many policies in favor of children largely exist on paper only. There is a need to set in motion the formulation of policies and strategies that will truly make CRC the instrument, which rules actions for and attitudes towards children. There has been little decentralisation in planning. People's and especially children's participation is low. It is essential to have some continuity in social policies and programmes to avoid reversing progress.
The process of institution building must be taken up quickly and objectively with the best interests of children in mind. The government and, to some extent, the NGO sector, need to consider some steps towards becoming wholly responsible for safeguarding the rights of children in Mauritius.
The lack of a central focal institution for children and child rights has hindered the many good, but uncoordinated efforts by various parties:
- A restructured National Children's Council (NCC - or an alternative body) may seem crucial and urgent. The body should, however, not be primarily concerned with protection rights in the narrow sense, but rather with the advancement of all rights. It should also not seek to implement programmes or projects, but primarily be an advocacy, co-ordinating and monitoring body that helps to hold accountable those with an obligation to address the problems. It should be positioned more strategically, i.e. not under the tutelage of a single technical ministry.
- The private sector would rather see an autonomous body as a co-ordinator for civil society ventures and private sector funding than the current set-up of NCC as the focal point. Its preconditions for collaborating with UNICEF or a national focal body seem to be the freedom to choose what it will support, transparency and non-duplication of efforts or institutions, and accountability.
- The government has recently set up some funds for vulnerable groups, but these do not target children specifically or are limited to one sector only. A National Economic and Social Council was mooted to help achieve 'consensus for social integration to keep pace with economic development,' but has yet to take shape.
- Other options are creation of a budget line for whichever organisation is the focal point for children's issues and a 'glass box' fund for children, managed by a national organisation for children, for which contributions would come from government and the public and private sectors.
All stakeholders expressed the view that neither a national body (nor another UN agency) could, at least in the short run, be a substitute for UNICEF's unique mandate, advocacy role and skills, and programming flexibility. However, the role of UNICEF in a transition and post-transition phase is to help national partners increasingly assume responsibility for these key functions so that they can deal with existing and potential problems threatening child rights on their own more meaningfully.
During the remainder of the current transition Programme (2001-2003) and thereafter, a number of complementary options to strengthen the institutional child rights framework in the medium term could be considered: (i) the strengthening of national institutions as mentioned above; (ii) the creation of a Mauritius National Committee for UNICEF [NATCOM]; (iii) the involvement of another UN agency; (iv) a modified UNICEF presence, e.g. at least a trimmed-down office with allocation of only a support budget and / or a strengthened role of the UNICEF Area Office in Antananarivo.
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