2013 Mali: Real-Time Evaluation of UNICEF’s response to the Mali crisis
Author: Enrico Leonardi and Ricardo Solé Arqués
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Mali, one of the poorest countries in the world, already affected by the Sahel nutritional crisis, went through a destabilization process in 2012 when armed rebel groups took control of wide areas of the North and triggered a political crisis in the capital. Subsequently, an armed intervention by French troops in January 2013 restored control and access to the North. A cease-fire was established in June and the deployment of a 12,600 strong UN peace-keeping force (MINUSMA) was planned for July. The situation should be further stabilised by the celebration of elections in July and the consolidation of a peace accord with rebel groups.
This Real Time Evaluation is carried out in order to provide recommendations to enhance the scale-up of UNICEF planning and response for the Mali humanitarian crisis. The criteria of effectiveness and coverage, efficiency, appropriateness, relevance, adequacy and coordination are addressed in the framework of the RTE. The scope of the exercise covers the period from January to May 2013. It aims at assessing response in the entire territory of Mali and focuses on both programme and operations’ areas of UNICEF’s intervention.
The methodological approach has been straightforward and participative, utilising a number of qualitative and quantitative techniques and tools. The different processes employed included an extensive desk review, quantitative analysis of available hard data, Key Informant Interviews (KII), field visits, observations and group discussions, as well as a simple survey. The evaluation mission took place between the 2 and 23 of June 2013.
Findings and Conclusions:
The humanitarian response to the crisis started slowly in 2012. All organisations (UN and NGOs) faced a challenging shift of gear from development to emergency, and many are still struggling. The roll out of Cluster system started in April 2012 and the CAP was launched by mid-year. Access to beneficiaries (IDPs and population of the North) remains challenging. The level of poverty of the Mali population (50% under poverty level) makes it difficult to single out specific needs for crisis-affected people: IOM reports that 80% of IDPs have been contacted to assess their needs, but up to 60% have not received any specific support4.
The humanitarian crisis is ongoing and its magnitude is quite consistent, with 353,455 IDPs (the majority of whom living with host families) and 174,3945 refugees mainly in Mauritania, Niger and Burkina Faso. These add to the approximately 660,000 children affected by the nutritional crisis. As described in this report, UNICEF has been overall successful in the immediate response to the crisis in 2012, and specifically, donors and other actors have been praising UNICEF’s capacities for humanitarian policy and advocacy, in a moment where other organisations were still focused on development issues.
There is a strong feeling among actors interviewed in Mali that a positive scenario is likely, and that chances for stabilisation and return of the majority of IDPs and refugees are concrete6, in light of MINUSMA’s deployment and especially if the elections planned for July will be peaceful. Nonetheless, important work on worse case scenarios is ongoing, and it is essential for UNICEF to maintain strong capacities to respond to new crises and to keep playing a key role as advocate for humanitarian principles and approaches, especially in the interactions with the protection and military branches of MINUSMA7.
More findings on page 25 in the attached report.
Notwithstanding the limitations described (paragraphs 38-41), the RTE has been able to raise some critical issues of relevance to UNICEF. Building from the findings of the exercise, we propose some overarching conclusions, followed by comprehensive recommendations.
The consultants have been able to verify the complex process of change that the MCO has been through since 2012, and that will culminate, hopefully by the end of this year, with the completion of the new organizational chart, the filling up of additional key positions with staff on TA contracts, and new, stronger Field Offices with more responsibilities and decentralized supervision lines. This is coherent with the challenges the MCO has experienced since the beginning of the nutritional crisis at end of 2011, followed by the events of 2012 and 2013. More challenges and opportunities lie ahead, as described in the report; these will require adequate capacity and strategic approaches by MCO.
Proactivity of the senior management in addressing this change process has to be praised. However, the process seems to go ahead with limited engagement of part of the staff, and it is likely going to raise occasional resistances. The consultants did not see a properly formulated change plan, aiming at involving all and sharing vision and goals to motivate team spirit. Some interesting elements of team building have been noted, as the "stand up meeting" format, but we believe this should be inscribed within a broader type of measures to engage all into a new Mali CO model. Change plans are challenging processes in complex organizations, and require specific attention.
We noted as well the good reputation gained by UNICEF vis-à-vis humanitarian partners thanks to the professional participation in the initial phases of the humanitarian response in 2012. The important role played by the Deputy Representative and the emergency team was acknowledged by partners and other organisations, as their capacity to raise awareness on humanitarian challenges and principles. The RTE had the impression that due to the macroscopic change the MCO is going through, this high level leadership for humanitarian issues has been recently partially sidelined. In light of the still existing humanitarian challenges, the possibility of worse case scenarios and the deployment of MINUSMA, the RTE believes that there is a need to address the issue of high profiling UNICEF within the emergency context again.
More conclusions on page 68 in the attached report.
A consolidation of the Recommendations developed in the text of the report is proposed here with the explanation of the finding behind them and the related number/s of paragraph/s in the text. Additional comments – whenever suitable – are included, as well as the consultants’ perspective on Importance and Urgency. Numeric scoring from 1 to 5 (1 = very low; 5 = very high) – and the average between the two consultants – is proposed for each Recommendation’s Importance and Urgency. Not having a sufficient knowledge of UNICEF systems and capacity of the involved offices, the team did not attempt to score Feasibility. The scoring of these Recommendations offers the basis for the scoring and prioritization of the clustered recommendations presented in the Executive Summary.
See page 71 in the attached report.
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