2005 Global: Country Programme Evaluation in an Era of Change
Author: Ted Freeman
For some time, and definitely since the 2001 Report of the Secretary General on the Triennial Policy Review of Operational Activities of the United Nations, UNICEF along with other UN agencies has been engaged in an effort to study the potential role and utility of Country Programme Evaluation (CPE) as a tool for improving programme effectiveness. Commitment to CPE as an important approach to improving accountability can be found in UNICEF’s current Medium Term Strategic Plan (MTSP) and in Executive Board documents and decisions regarding the evaluation function at UNICEF.
UNICEF has a well-established and widely recognized commitment to a country programme approach for planning and implementing its activities at country level. As noted in UNICEF’s Programme Policy and Procedure Manual:
The CP is more than just the sum of UNICEF assisted activities. It brings together, conceptually and operationally, all programmes as comprehensive, mutually supporting measures involving different sectors, partners and communities, and often different levels of government.” p.19
In order to strengthen CPE practice and provide better guidance to programme managers, the Evaluation Office at UNICEF has embarked on a project for Country Programme Evaluation Methodology and Guidance Development with the support of the Department for International Development of the Government of the United Kingdom (DFID).
This paper attempts to examine to what extent Country Programme Evaluation when integrated with a Human Rights Based Approach to Programming (HRBAP) at UNICEF can serve to strengthen the country programme approach and form part of an effective strategy for dealing with global changes. It does not specifically address challenges that exist for the evaluation of humanitarian action in unstable contexts, as this will be the subject of a separate paper. It builds on work undertaken by the Evaluation Office, in particular, through a survey of Country Programme Evaluation as practiced among UN agencies and pilot CPEs in a number of UNICEF country programmes.
3. Signpost events in the era of change
Critical changes in the nature of international development cooperation have accelerated over the past decade. A partial listing of the most important events influencing the pace and direction of change would include:
- Shaping the 21st Century: The Contribution of Development Cooperation produced by the Development Assistance Committee of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (1996)
- The World Bank’s publication of a study by David Dollar and Lant Pritchett entitled Assessing Aid: What Works, What Doesn’t, and Why? (1998) The Millennium Declaration and wide-spread acceptance of the Millennium Development Goals. (2000)
- The International Conference on Financing for Development and the Monterrey Consensus. (2002
- Evolution of the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP)
- Rise of the Human Security Agenda (People Centred Security)
- Rise of the Human Rights Based Approach to Programming
- Continuing increase in the use of Programme Based Approaches
- Rome Declaration on Harmonization (2003)
In some ways, each of these events represents recognition of failings and problems in established paradigms for international cooperation. The prescriptions and declarations they produced all pointed to different ways of planning, funding, organizing and implementing international cooperation programmes in order to improve their effectiveness.
Nonetheless, these different strands in the process of change can be seen as contributing to a strong movement for change in the ways bilateral and multilateral organizations and national governments cooperate. The movement involves a much stronger commitment to a development process that is largely owned by the countries and people who are the focus of development cooperation activities. It also encompasses a recognition that development cooperation must help to realize the human rights of people and communities and must focus on the poorest and most marginalized members of society. Finally, the movement for change in development cooperation places a very strong emphasis on the need for ensuring that external assistance is coordinated, coherent and harmonized with national priorities, plans and procedures.
3. Findings and Conlusions
Country Programme Evaluation and the Programme Planning process
UNICEF’s experience with CPEs indicate that where Country Programmes of Cooperation (CPCs) face radical changes in the context and situation of children and women, a well constructed Country Programme Evaluation can be used as the mechanism for carrying out UNICEF’s Mid-Term Review. Mores specifically the CPE is an effective means of meeting the programming and accountability requirements of the MTR, when a CPC faces:
- a dramatic change in the situation of children and women;
- a major change in national policy towards children;
- major new opportunities for increased resources (or a sudden falloff in resources);a special opportunity for organizational learning arising from a highly innovative Country Programme Strategy; or,
- demands for a CPE from government or external agencies providing support.
Advantages of the CPE as an HRBAP-linked strategic response to change at UNICEF
By being strongly linked to the HRBAP, the country programme evaluation can serve as one important element in UNICEF’s strategic response to the changing nature of international development cooperation. More specifically, the advantages of CPE include:
- Providing national scope and a broader focus than project evaluation in order to assess the strategic response of the Country Programme of Cooperation (CPC) to the challenge of HRBAP;
- Providing a broader scope, a strategic focus and more intensive and in-depth evaluative methods and resources for re-orienting CPCs faced with important changes in context;
- Improving the alignment of the CPC to national goals and strategic directions as set out in the PRSP;
- Improving the general quality and programmatic relevance of the evaluation function at UNICEF; and
- Strengthening UNICEF’s flexibility, technical expertise and capacity at regional and country office level to allow the agency to take part in increasingly frequent joint evaluations involving a wider set of external agencies and CPEs that are increasingly country-led.
In relation to UNICEF’s Human Rights Based Approach to Programming, CPEs have a distinct advantage over project and sub-programme evaluations in that they should be focused explicitly at the strategic level. They provide for a systematic assessment of how well UNICEF and its partners have developed and implemented strategies for advancing the rights of children and women at the national level. At the same time, by encompassing a review of key programme components with a community focus, CPEs can effectively examine the implications of community focused HRBAP in the broader context of their real or potential links to national policies and their replicability in other geographic locations.
The report is available in English, French and Spanish.
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