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2002 CBD: Report on the Qualitative Assessment of Community Action for Child Rights (Seth Koma) Programme and an Assessment of the Collaboration between Seth Koma and Seila



Executive summary

Background:
Seth Koma (a Khmer term meaning child rights) is the continuation of the Community Action for Social Development Programme, a five-year cooperation plan (1996-2000) between UNICEF and the Royal Government of Cambodia. Specific activities undertaken by Seth Koma: building capacity for improved community social development; various initiatives in community education; projects supporting water, sanitation, food and environment; projects supporting health, hygiene, nutrition and caring practices; creation of income/economic opportunities; awareness and protection of vulnerable groups; enhancing collaboration with government institutions, the Seila programme and others; and enabling programme ownership among key stakeholders.

Since 1997, Seth Koma has been working closely with the Seila Programme in selected communes. Seila provides a standard framework for decentralised planning and financing of local development to the commune level, particularly in areas of physical infrastructure such as roads and irrigation canals, while Seth Koma brings community participation into the process, and focuses mainly on social sector development including health, nutrition, education, literacy, and sanitation. In 2001, UNICEF decided to revise its planning process so the village plans they develop are presented in such a way that they can fit into the Seila commune planning process supported by Local Development Funds. This cooperation between the two programmes has steadily grown, from only two communes in 1997 to 30 communes in 2001. With the expansion of Seila in 2002, UNICEF and Seila now work together in five provinces: Odar Meanchey, Kampong Thom, Prey Veng, Kompong Speu and Svay Rieng.

Purpose/Objective:
The purpose of this report is two-fold: firstly, to provide a qualitative, consultative review of the implementation of the Seth Koma programme (Part I) and secondly, to assess the collaboration between Seth Koma and Seila, focusing on the extent to which Seth Koma enhances community participation in local planning and adds social sector activities to local development plans (Part II).

Methodology:
The provinces of Odar Meanchey, Prey Veng and Svay Rieng were chosen for the purposes of this assessment because of the varying lengths of association between Seth Koma and Seila in these provinces, in order to assess the different stages in their collaboration. In Odar Meanchey, both programmes started at the same time. In Prey Veng, Seth Koma has been working for a number of years while the Seila programme was only launched in 2000. In Svay Rieng, Seila programme activities have only just begun.

Existing documentation was reviewed. Government counterparts from the Ministry of Women’s and Veterans’ Affairs, the Ministry of Rural Development and the Ministry of Planning were nominated by Seth Koma to work alongside the assessment team. Stakeholder interviews were conducted in all three provinces using question guides developed by assessment team leaders under the supervision of the consultants. Interviews were carried out using focus group discussions and individual interviews with stakeholders including: villagers involved in the Seth Koma programme, VDC members, RGC staff at the national, provincial, district, commune and village level, staff from other UNICEF sector programmes (Health and Education) and Seila technical staff.

It should be noted that a number of factors hindered the research process, including: villagers not being available to speak with the assessment team due to work commitments; potential interviewees expressing concern as to how the information was to be used, and in Odar Meanchey, some areas were difficult to access due to poor road conditions as a result of the rainy season.

Findings and Conclusions:
The Seth Koma programme has successfully given communities a chance to drive their own development, emphasising the participation of women and children. Village Development Committees and Village Action Plans have proved to be important tools for the transfer of ownership to the village level and are considered to be two of the programme’s main strengths. Seth Koma has also begun to collaborate with other departments within UNICEF and other organisations to ensure that the programme forms part of an overall development context.
Village-based activities are important as they often influence how villagers perceive the programme. Overall, health-related activities have been particularly successful, notably education on birth spacing, and child weighing and measuring activities, and improvements in health have been noted almost across the board. Furthermore, some villagers suggested that this has been the result of training in agricultural methods and the provision of seeds, which has increased the nutritional status of those involved. Nevertheless, not all activities prompt the same level of enthusiasm and are not sufficiently tailored to the daily realities of village life. This is an important area to consider, as it will have a substantial impact on how the programme is perceived in the future.

It is worth noting that Seth Koma has been making concerted efforts to counter the lack of participation by the poor and vulnerable in the programme, including asking villagers to define and identify vulnerable groups and determine how they can be included in activities. Nevertheless, programme staff recognise that changing village-level attitudes towards the poor and most vulnerable is a slow process, but it is a first step in getting representatives of these groups to participate in decision-making bodies such as the VDCs. It is also worth noting that the programme is ongoing (very likely until at least 2005). This means that lessons can be learnt from what has happened so far and adjustments can be made to correct them and improve on the programme in the future.

Overall, collaboration between Seila and Seth Koma has so far produced positive results, with Seth Koma integrating village level needs and priorities into the commune level planning process and thus into Seila’s overall goal of decentralisation and deconcentration. Furthermore, this integration places Seth Koma within an overall development context rather than being a stand-alone project – the need for which has been identified by stakeholders at all levels. Nevertheless, there is a need for UNICEF to ensure that its planning schedule fits more neatly in the new decentralised planning framework, although at this stage, without formal regulations in place, this remains a difficult task. There is also a need to formalise dialogue between Seth Koma and Seila in order to ensure comprehensive coordination at all levels. This process has already started with the formal agreement made between the two programmes but requires further attention.

Finally, it is important to keep in mind that the Seth Koma programme is a unique, large-scale government operation, which is among the first of its kind in this country. Despite the fact that areas for improvement have been identified during this assessment, overall, the programme is making excellent progress towards its objectives and has shown itself able to incorporate lessons learnt during the process into its overall strategies.

Recommendations:
Nevertheless, more efforts are needed to keep the villagers informed, particularly in terms of the status of their VAP, in order to ensure continued and increased participation. Village-level ownership could also be increased by transferring more power to this level or providing further training, aimed notably at those with lower levels of education. It is also essential that UNICEF increases collaboration between its own departments in terms of planning and monitoring, not only so that it acts as an example to other smaller organisations and to the government, but also to streamline service delivery and community education.


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Report information

Date:
2002

Region:
EAPRO

Country:
Cambodia

Type:
Evaluation

Theme:
Child Rights

Partners:
Royal Government of Cambodia

PIDB:

Follow Up:

Language:
English

Sequence Number:
2002/011

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