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Evaluation report

2004 Global: UNICEF's Strengths and Weaknesses - A summary of key internal and external evaluations conducted from 1992-2004



Author: Evaluation Office, UNICEF NYHQ

Executive summary

This desk review aims to provide an overview of UNICEF’s strengths and weaknesses as described in key internal and external institutional reviews and evaluations conducted since 1992.  Taking the findings from the eighteen documents together, the following conclusions can be drawn about UNICEF’s strengths and weaknesses:

UNICEF’s continuing strengths include:

  • Long-term in-country presence
  • Programmes tailored to local situations
  • Pragmatic, action-oriented approach
  • Close working relations with governments
  • Still a leader in supporting immunisation programmes
  • Seen to be a leading agency for emergency and humanitarian action and playing a key role in inter-agency processes.
  • Effective fund-raising, with a growing total income from multiple sources of different type.
  • Multiple partnerships with governments, NGOs and civil society
  • Strong, trusted, world-wide brand image
  • Important opinion leader

Improvements made by UNICEF over the past decade include:

  • UNICEF has demonstrated that it can make significant changes in strategy and practice, albeit slowly.
  • UNICEF has become an authority on Girls Education, has growing competence in Child Protection and HIV/AIDS, and is an increasingly powerful advocate in these areas.
  • Programme policy and guidance has improved.
  • UNICEF has successfully made the shift from a needs-based, vertical sector programme to a rights-based approach rooted in the Convention on the Right of the Child, although greater clarity on the implementation of rights-based programming at country level is still required.
  • Emergency response is now widely accepted as a core part of the UNICEF mandate and preparedness and response planning has improved.
  • Gender sensitive programming has been strengthened, though still patchy.
  • External communications and advocacy have expanded and become more consistent across the organisation.
  • The MTP and the MTSP have sharpened and focused communications messages.
  • The role of regional offices has been clarified and their performance as a support function is improving.
  • Financial responsibilities have been clarified and accounting and control systems have improved, although they are still too laborious.
  • Internal Audit and Monitoring and Evaluation have been strengthened.
  • Business information systems and technology have improved.
  • Security standards have been introduced and security capacity and communications networks strengthened.
  • There has been a marked improvement in the supply function.

On-Going Concerns over UNICEF weaknesses include:

  • Self-Image.  UNICEF has become far more active in, and sometimes the leader of, inter-agency processes, in which UNICEF now sees itself as a key player.  Yet the image of UNICEF as an agency that ‘keeps its distance’ prevails. 

  • Partnership.  There has been a rapid diversification and expansion of partnerships with civil society.  At the same time, UNICEF priorities and strategies for partnerships are limiting the scope for partnership.

  • Criticising Government. While UNICEF’s close strong relationships with government departments is praised, UNICEF is perceived as reluctant to tackle government partners on their policy and practice with regard to children.

  • Bureaucracy and Complexity. UNICEF is seen, and sees itself, as overly bureaucratic.  Staff resources (i.e. time plus skill) are being wasted on overly complex internal processes and there seems to be no concerted organisational push to deal with this.

  • Results-based management.  Programming is becoming more results-oriented but this is far from ‘managing by results’. Management by inputs is still the dominant management model.

  • Reporting. Business information solutions have greatly improved but still do not focus adequately on results and are not easily aligned with donor reporting requirements.

  • Accountability is hampered by a weak performance management regime. Managers are not yet accountable for results or being rewarded for achieving them. UNICEF is not the only UN agency affected by a more general UN malaise with regard to management responsibility for results.

  • Human Resources. Human Resource Management was a cause of concern, including continuing problems with timely recruitment, gaps in technical competencies, and increasing occurrence of staff “burn-out”.  Weaknesses in RO support to country programme remain but are being addressed gradually.

  • Regular Resources. After a dip in the mid 90’s, total income has been growing since 1997.  However, RR has been flat from 1997-2003 in real terms[1]. It is now projected to grow from $1,441m for biennium 2002-3 to $1,584m for 2004-5. 



[1], if adjusted for US inflation of 31% for 1997-2003.  US inflation does not necessarily represent changes in UNICEF’s spending power globally



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Report information

Date:
2004

Region:
Global

Country:

Type:
Evaluation

Theme:

Partners:

PIDB:

Follow Up:

Language:
English

Sequence Number:
2004/803

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