Evaluation of UNICEF's Sida-funded child protection/ trafficking program in West Africa
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The Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) has supported child protection/trafficking program in West Africa at the regional and national levels throughout the region, and separate child protection programs in Nigeria, Burkina Faso and Mali.
The evaluation underlines that some of the most important conditions for child protection involve complex macro-policy issues, and that it would not make sense to expect country offices to develop their own hubs of expertise in such fields. In this context, the role of UNICEFs Western and Central Africa Regional Office (WCARO) is found indispensable.
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 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).
The concluding chapter of this evaluation report lists the main comments and recommendations that emerged from this study. Program design requires making economic priorities, and many dilemmas arise when choices have to be made.
Despite 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.