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Civil society partnerships

Framework for Partnerships

© © UNICEF/NYHQ2011-0355/Olivier Asselin
UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake (Centre, in blue cap) chats with a staff member from the NGO Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), a UNICEF partner, during a UNICEF-supported distribution at a water point in Tulia Village in North Kivu Province, Democratic Republlic of Congo

Partnerships between UNICEF and Civil Society Organizations (CSO) are critical to achieving results for children in both development and humanitarian action contexts. Sometimes they are organized through a formal agreement between organizations and sometimes they are carried out informally. The UNICEF-CSO partnership framework is flexible, so the specific form of the partnership can change over time as dictated by evolving circumstances.

What is a partnership and when is it used?

Partnerships can encompass many different forms of collaboration. Partnerships are defined as “voluntary and collaborative relationships between various parties in which all participants agree to work together to achieve a common purpose or undertake a specific task”.  All of the partnerships between UNICEF and CSOs are considered to be strategic partnerships, since their goal is to achieve results for children based on the UNICEF strategic priorities.

Partnership is used when there is a comparative advantage for UNICEF and the CSO to jointly deliver the desired result and the CSO brings resources (financial, intellectual or in-kind) to contribute to the delivery of results. When the partnership modality is used, the CSO is expected to contribute with its own expertise and staff/resources to the achievement of jointly defined results. Partnership is also used when the primary purpose of the relationship is to build capacity of CSO(s) to deliver results for children.

Partnerships between UNICEF and CSOs have the following characteristics:

  • They can be formal or informal agreements;
  • They involve joint ownership and shared risks, responsibilities and benefits;
  • They may or may not involve the transfer of financial resources;
  • They are guided by the UNICEF Principles of Partnership;
  • They are formed primarily with UNICEF country offices, as well as at global level;
  • They can be focused on both development and humanitarian action contexts;
  • They can be created to carry out diverse joint activities, including advocacy, programming, service delivery, awareness-raising, knowledge-sharing, emergency response, research, prevention activities, capacity development and fundraising.
  • Joint ownership is a defining feature of partnerships. Through an initial and ongoing consultative process, both parties agree on the objectives and results to be achieved, including the implementation strategies and resources that each partner will contribute.

Formal partnership tools and agreements

Formal partnerships which do not entail any transfer of resources from UNICEF to achieve results for children are regulated by a memorandum of understanding (MoU). An MoU is used to formalize an agreement between UNICEF and one or more CSO partners to pursue common objectives at the global, regional or country levels. Each party pursues the joint objectives using its own resources. MoUs are typically used to define strategic alliances between UNICEF and a CSO or civil society network and declare agreement on intent, areas of common interest, spheres of cooperation and operational engagements.

Formal partnerships which entail a transfer of resources from UNICEF to achieve results for children are regulated by:

  • A Programme Cooperation Agreement (PCA). A PCA is the legal (umbrella) agreement used to establish the partnership framework with a CSO covering the duration of the country programme. The PCA defines the rights and obligations of UNICEF and the CSO and the general terms and conditions of the partnership and is operationalized through one or more programme documents. Multiple programme documents, with shorter or the same duration of the PCA can be signed under a PCA. A PCA is used when there is a cumulative transfer of UNICEF resources over $50,000 to the CSO.
  • A Small Scale Funding Agreement (SSFA). An SSFA is the legal agreement that defines the expected results and related resource requirements as well as rights and obligations of UNICEF and the CSO where the transfer of UNICEF resources to the CSO does not exceed $50,000 in the twelve month period. In humanitarian response, the SSFA can also be used for the quick transfer of up to three months of programme supplies required to meet UNICEF's Core Commitment to Children.

Informal partnerships

Informal partnerships are oriented towards achieving results for children and are used when the collaboration does not require a formal agreement. An informal partnership might be used, for example, when organizations are working together to identify child rights issues to address at the country level, performing joint advocacy or sharing knowledge.

Guiding principles of partnerships

UNICEF partnerships with CSOs are guided by a set of principles that address important considerations such as:

  • Mutual focus and commitment to the core values of the Convention on the Rights of the Child;
  • Mutual accountability and contributions among all partners, with a focus on delivering results for children and women;
  • Integrity, independence and equality of all partners;
  • Transparency in all decision-making;
  • Capacity development of national partners.
  • Throughout the course of the joint work, the partners should communicate regularly to ensure that the principles of partnership are being upheld.

Click here for a complete list and description of the guiding principles.



Partnership Agreements

 For more information on partnership agreements, please click here.

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