2008 WCARO: Evaluation of the trafficking and child protection programme in West Africa
The Swedish International Cooperation Development Agency (Sida) supported a child protection/child trafficking program in West Africa between 2003 and 2006. The program was executed by the UNICEF Regional Office for West and Central Africa and UNICEFs Country Offices in Burkina Faso, Mali and Nigeria. UNICEF and Sida committed to undertake an external evaluation by the end of the program period (2007), with a particular thematic focus on the issues of community-based prevention and reintegration of child victims.
The following programs are evaluated in this paper: In Nigeria the overall objectives of the program were to ‘reduce the underlying causes of child trafficking, exploitation and abuse, youth violence and prevalence of HIV/AIDS among youth’. This was done through the establishment of two ‘Model Youth Resource Learning Centres’ that provided health services, vocational training and life skills training for young people in the community. In Burkina Faso the objectives of the program were to contribute to the legal and socio-economic protection of the most vulnerable children and women. The main focus was on children who were victims of trafficking and those involved in the worst forms of child labor. The means for reaching the target group was advocacy, capacity building, service delivery and communication related to behavioural change. In Mali the general objectives of the program were “protection against all forms of violence, abuse and exploitation”. The aim was to ensure an adequate legal framework for and to reduce the number of children victims of abuse, violence and exploitation through the promotion of a legal environment and an implementing mechanism, as well as prevention through a social mechanism.
The three country programs supported by the Sida grant were different in design and scope. The program in Nigeria was mainly preventive, while in some cases also supporting the reintegration of previous trafficking victims. The Burkina Faso program approached the trafficking challenge from many angles: laws and legal practice, public awareness, knowledge management, capacity building as well as interception, return and reintegration of children. The Mali program did not have an integration component, but was generally similar to the Burkina Faso program. A main difference was a stronger focus also on several other groups of vulnerable children in need of special protection.
In addition to an evaluation of the three country programs, the evaluation assesses the added value of the regional approach.
The evaluation objectives in the original Terms of Reference (ToR) were regrouped and rephrased as follows:
To identify and evaluate actual outcomes and outputs against those planned, as well as whether they correspond with the stated program objectives (using stated indicators as much as possible and using the five key evaluation criteria).
To analyze the strategies and actions implemented and make recommendations for improving the strategies and activities (in terms of child protection, the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and other key human rights conventions but also in terms of coherence and consistency where appropriate, as well as the links between the local, district, provincial, national and regional levels).
To analyze the preparation, planning and implementation process of the program and activities, including the level of synergetic actions among all the components.
To evaluate the potential added value of UNICEF’s regional engagement and of UNICEF’s partnerships in the fight against child trafficking and worst forms of child labor.
This study uses both UNICEF’s evaluation standards and the key criteria for evaluating development assistance of the OECD DAC, namely: relevance; impact; effectiveness; sustainability; and efficiency. However, the efficiency criteria was only examined anecdotally as efficiency analyses such as cost-benefit, cost-effectiveness and cost-minimization are not part of the scope of this evaluation. The evaluation criteria underpin the study but are not always explicitly referred to in the document.
Each country study involved an initial desk study to review the literature and familiarize the researchers with each individual program. The UNICEF offices were to provide the evaluators with access to various documents before the field mission and to key informants, other partners, agencies and staff during these visits. The UNICEF country offices generally took on the role of arranging a program which was very helpful, as well as organizing the field visits.
On the basis of the document review, evaluation questions were developed to guide and structure data collection in each country. With the regional initiatives component, the researchers in the three countries also probed key informants about the roles and contributions of the Regional Office. This data collection strategy was complemented by conducting telephone interviews with key informants. The evaluation sought as much as possible to locate and understand the protection program activities within UNICEFs Regional Strategy for Child Protection and/or within the specific protection program framework for each country. The following section locates the Sida-funded program within this broader protection context in UNICEF.
Findings and Conclusions
This evaluation found the role of UNICEFs Western and Central Africa Regional Office, WCARO, to be indispensable. Some of the most important conditions for child protection involve complex macro-policy issues, and it would not make sense to expect country offices to develop their own hubs of expertise in such fields. In addition to leading regional initiatives on core child protection issues, WCARO supports vital processes like (i) the promotion of a rights-based framework for child protection, (ii) the translation of that normative framework into national laws and legal practice, (iii) the securing of predictable, stable funding through lobbying vis-à-vis national PRSP processes, and (iv) technical support to relevant policy and program design. The evaluation emphasizes the importance of the regional child protection strategy as a shift away from projects and programmes focusing on specific categories of vulnerability, towards a more comprehensive strategy focusing on the creation of protective environments for all children.
The report points out that while the program’s guidance on trafficking may not have been as clear and constructive as one could have hoped at the outset, during the course of the program (2004-2007), a number of important corrective measures was gradually introduced (including amongst others the Guidelines on Dealing with Child Victims of Trafficking). Laws and law enforcement have certainly been improved, as for instance expressed by the many arrests and convictions of traffickers in Burkina Faso. Also in Burkina, child protection issues are effectively integrated throughout the 2006 PRSP report, signalling success in ensuring child protection issues are on the agenda in national budgeting processes. Stakeholders throughout the region assured the evaluators that the technical training and supervision from WCARO had also indeed been well received and appreciated.
The findings suggest that interception and return, as practiced in the Burkina Faso and Mali programmes, are not always effective, and highlight the need for a stronger reintegration component. The evaluation was not able to measure the impact of the programme on trafficking victims, since there was no appropriate follow-up.
Program design requires making economic priorities, and many dilemmas arise when choices have to be made. The Burkina Faso and Mali programs may have been reluctant to make some of those choices, and have, in the opinion of this evaluation, ended up spreading scarce resources in too many areas. While the Nigeria program is congratulated for choosing a generally preventive approach, the Mali and Burkina Faso programs have spent resources on costly, but not very efficient, return and reintegration components. The Nigeria program has chosen to train vulnerable youths through a center based model instead of collaborating with the informal apprenticeship structures of the local skills markets. In addition to being costly, this approach has prevented the integration of the participants in the local labor markets, and limited their opportunities to build valuable social networks needed to obtain employment or create a future client base.
UNICEF’s vision of promoting children’s rights and creating a protective environment for all children is in fact a multifaceted program strategy with many practical implications for implementation – be it for the normative and legislative environment, for service delivery or at the community level. All the country programs (to a lesser degree the Nigerian one) have encountered challenges in implementing their activities with a rights based perspective and with the best interest of each child as a core concern. Despite these challenges, the evaluation finds the current UNICEF program strategy to be an important and necessary requirement for efficient child protection in the region, and encourages the organization to strengthen capacity building and training related to the regional protection strategy with all stakeholders.
Finally, the evaluation suggests that a number of studies would help improve current programs and provide essential learning for future child protection activities. The most important ones include (i) a study of the markets for non-traditional skills and services that can help inform future vocational training and micro-credit/grant components, (ii) a study into the determinants for child relocation in order to better target children at risk and define more appropriate reinsertion/retention components, (iii) an assessment of where collected data could most effectively come to strengthen child protection efforts in order to prevent massive data collection efforts being wasted, (iv) a tracing study of children and youth who have participated in the program to determine its effectiveness in preventing trafficking, re-trafficking, exposure to violence and HIV/AIDS infection, and (v) a study into the unintended side effects of the program, with particular focus on the ‘criminalization’, interception and return of children the way it was practiced in Mali and Burkina Faso. The last study may be painful reading, but would nevertheless provide valuable information that could help prevent future programs from unintentionally harming the children they were set to help.
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