2002 Global: Capacity Building for UNICEF Humanitarian Response in Review
Author: Alley, K.; UNICEF NYHQ
In September 1998, UNICEF held an internal meeting with field, regional and headquarters staff to examine how to strengthen the organization's analysis of and response to the needs and rights of children and women caught in situations of political instability. UNICEF submitted a proposal for additional funding to DfID in May 1999 to pursue specific capacity-building strategies and activities that could not be covered in current budgets. The funds received for enhancing UNICEF capacity - L 9 million - covered three projects: (1) to put in practice a strategy for reducing the impact of armed conflict on children, (2) to strengthen UNICEF's humanitarian response in crisis situations within an inter-agency framework, and (3) to put in practice a strategy for diminsihing the impact of landmines on children and women.
Purpose / Objective
The purpose of this review is to assess the results and draw lessons from a UNICEF-DfID programme of cooperation to strengthen UNICEF humanitarian response, 2000 to March 2002, and to feed this analysis into the planning of a second phase for this capacity-building effort.
The review process was designed to address the three key evaluation questions:
- Are we doing the right thing?
- Are we doing it right?
- What have been the actual results in terms of changes in UNICEF performance?
The review was based on self-assessments carried out by regional offices (ROs) and headquarter divisions involved in Phase I, as well as follow-up interviews and discussiosn at a meeting of focal points involved in the capacity-building process. A desk review of the progress reports and review meetings in 2000 and 2001 was also conducted.
Key Findings and Conclusions
Shift in organisational culture -- There is a growing cadre of staff well-versed in and committed to our mandate vis-à-vis children affected by armed conflict (CAAC) and the Core Corporate Commitments (CCCs). There is also an increasing understanding by UNICEF headquarters and field staff of the ethical and legal standards that underpin the work of UNICEF in humanitarian action and response. This group extends well beyond those staff directly involved in the emergency capacity-building projects, including increasingly senior management and staff in headquarters and regions.
Systematic policy guidance -- A body of case-specific interpretations of policy related to CAAC has been built up, feeding into an increasingly systematic advisory service from headquarters and ROs to Country Offices (COs) on options for advocacy and programme response to difficult issues. (A recent organisational restructuring has led to the further consolidation of this technical focal point function in the Humanitarian Policy Unit in EMOPS.)
Coherence and consistency in advocacy -- There is an increasing connection between high-level political advocacy on CAAC, in the Security Council and other intergovernmental bodies, and field office positioning and advocacy work with national partners. This has been observed in relation to country specific issues that have come before the Security Council as well as on implementation of SC Resolutions 1261 and 1314, on the humanitarian impact of small arms on children and landmines action, among others.
Preparedness planning process widely introduced -- Over 60 country offices have undertaken an initial Emergency Preparedness and Response Planning (EPRP) exercises. "Mainstreaming" of the preparedness planning has been advanced both in the Programme Policy and Procedures Manual (PPPM) and in regional office practice.
Information and communications hub established -- The Operations Centre (OPSCEN) services have significantly expanded and it is now established as a reliable 24-hour information and communications hub for the field, as well as a mechanism for monitoring security situations.
Organisation-wide core training -- Training packages on humanitarian principles/human rights-based approach to programming, and on emergency preparedness and response (the latter being finalised) have been established as part of UNICEF's core learning strategy.
Physical installations upgraded -- Sixty-five field sites are connected to the UNICEF Global Wide Area Network through SITA. Forty-five other country sites have ordered VSAT.
Defining scope of capacity-building -- As capacity-building with partner organisations is such a core part of the UNICEF mandate, it can become unclear where the boundary lies between internal capacity-building and ongoing business. Defining the scope loosely seems to lead to dispersion of efforts and slower results in terms of organisational performance.
Attention to internal strategy development -- The process of formulating an internal capacity-building strategy can be as critical to the results as the actual validity of the strategy itself. Time must be taken to bring key actors on board, building ownership, with careful attention to the different levels of the organisation.
Highlight definition of roles as part of process -- In developing a large organisation-wide capacity-building process, it may be difficult to define roles and responsibilities at the outset. For example, until a concept on preparedness planning was clear, it was not possible to define the details on eventual headquarters and RO roles. However, the work of defining which actors are involved in which roles should be a clearly identified milestone early in the capacity-building process.
The results and recommendations from this review have already fed into the 2002 planning and the overall development of the Phase II proposal, now accepted by DfID.
Integration vs. parallel process -- Phase I has to some extent created parallel planning and/or work processes, for example, around emergency telecommunications and CAAC policy development. Parallel approaches could be argued as necessary in the early stages of capacity-building but now have become a threat to sustainability. The focus for 2002 should be on integrating issues on CAAC and humanitarian response into the 'mainstream'. Entry points for integration include: the Medium Term Strategic Plan (MTSP) operational guidelines; the Division of Human Resources visioning and strategy development process; RO/HQ technical networks (e.g. HR, IT, child protection, planning, M&E as well as sectoral networks such as education, health etc.); oversight mechanisms (including annual reports, CO audits, Regional Management Teams mechanisms).
Building RO support and oversight role -- On all fronts -- CAAC, preparedness planning, security, telecommunications, human resources -- the pace and sustainability of strengthening country office capacity will be limited unless regional support and oversight is strengthened. Emphasis needs to be placed on clarifying accountabilities and translating advances in headquarters policy and broad programme guidance into practical tools for RO support to COs.
Consolidate Emergency Preparedness and Response Planning -- Without clear definition of what is expected in emergency preparedness and response planning, CO accountabilities will be unclear and capacity-building support to COs will be dispersed. Key elements of a single common UNICEF approach need to be defined, and tools need to be refined and integrated into the PPPM 'tool-kit'. A finalised EPRP integrated into the programme process could be pivotal in focusing capacity building on advocacy, programme and operations facets of humanitarian response.
Coordination of data collection and lessons learned -- Regional Offices have carried out data collection and studies on CAAC in a number of countries. UNICEF has also built up a body of programme experience on approaches to mitigate the effects of armed conflict on children. But these two lines of activities have not been consolidated either into guidance on information gaps/methodologies for data collection, or into concrete guidance on psychosocial programmes or programming vis-à-vis child soldiers. Work in both areas needs to be more tightly coordinated at least and accelerated if possible.
Strategies for transition from DfID-funded posts -- Posts have been absorbed into support budgets in both headquarters and regions. However, many key posts remain unsupported by core funding. An analysis and strategy is urgently needed to address the future of the posts that are now supported by DfID -- options include the integration of some posts into support budgets or setting horizons for winding up activities and absorbing ongoing responsibilities. This transition strategy will, to a large extent, determine the strategies for supporting and strengthening COs capacity in relation to each goal under Phase II.
Strengthening oversight -- Global oversight of the capacity-building process has not succeeded in bringing attention to and resolving problem areas. Accountabilities of HQ divisions and ROs for outputs and process need to be clarified. Regional offices and divisions must of course continue to be responsible for activity-level monitoring as well as for sharing progress updates, either through the Crisis Preparedness Working Group and/or the global network of capacity-building focal points. However, monitoring of the overall project needs to be strengthened, focusing in on priority intermediate results and points where RO and division outputs converge, to trigger managers' attention to bottlenecks and problem areas. This points to the need for both a strong coordination/monitoring role and leadership from the Inter-Divisional Standing Committee on Children in Unstable Situations (IDSC) and Global Management Team (GMT) to periodically review progress and shortcomings and enforce HQ division/RO performance.
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