2017 Armenia: Final Evaluation of Mitigating Social Consequences of the Labour Migration and Maximising the Migrants’ Involvement in Local Development Project
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Migration has been one of the key problems faced by Armenia since independence due to poverty and unemployment. While labour migration (primarily to Russia) has been long considered a coping mechanism that allows families overcome economic challenges posed by unemployment, its rather serious social consequences have become more apparently visible throughout the years. Those include weakened family ties and increased rate of divorces, lack of adequate parental care and subsequent psychological problems, threat of sexually transmitted diseases and several others that affect the overall family in general, and children in particular.
From December 2012 to September 2016, UNICEF in Armenia has been implementing the European Union-funded “Mitigating Social Consequences of Labour Migration and Maximizing Migrants’ Involvement in Local Development” project (hereinafter the Project) in four target marzes (regions) of Armenia - Lori, Tavush, Shirak and Gagharkunik. The purpose of the project was reducing the social vulnerability of labour migrants' families and communities through provision of tailored social services and best use of migrants’ resources in the development of their communities of origin/return.
The project was designed as a three year intervention with 5 interrelated components and a budget of 1,103,160 Euros (80% of which was contributed by the EU, while the rest was covered through UNICEF contribution). Five key components of the project included Case management, Territorial/Local Social Planning, Institution Cooperation, Parental Care, and Diaspora Engagement. The first three project components built up on UNICEF in Armenia’s previous efforts to support policy setting and reform agenda with respect to case management, local social planning and institutional cooperation, and as such were designed to ensure “the practical application of the ongoing reform of Integrated Social Services (ISS) in the context of migrants’ families”.
The purpose of this evaluation was to assess “the relevance, effectiveness, efficiency, impact and sustainability of interventions under the EU-funded “Mitigating Social Consequences of Labour Migration and Maximising Migrants’ Involvement in Local Development Project”. The special focus of the evaluation, due to the design of the project, was on social services responding to the needs of socially vulnerable and migrant families in Armenia.
The specific objectives of the Evaluation included:
Assessing whether the Project has successfully achieved its key outputs and outcomes (established in its Action Plan and the Log Frame) with respect to their coherence and suitability to addressing the social costs of migration;
Assessing the level of project sustainability with respect to changes in policies and practice, and
Assessing project achievements for migrant families within the overall ISS reform and UNICEF’s work in this regard as well as migration and development nexus.
The evaluation report was prepared based on the analysis and triangulation of data collected through mixed method approach. This included: identification and mapping of key stakeholders; mapping of situation and contextual analysis; in-depth document review and structured desk analysis; analysis of policy documents; review of Project implementation documents, including the logical framework; as well as initial meetings with key stakeholders including the Project Expert Group.
The data collection approach is summarized below.
in depth interviews and focus group interviews with over 90 key informants and stakeholders including 50 case managers involved in the Project, national, regional and local level decision makers, Project partners, experts and staff and others. In total, 55 key informants were reached out through 9 Focus groups, 9 key informants were reached out through 3 group interviews, and 26 key informants were reached out through individual interviews
survey of 294 Project beneficiaries, i.e. labour migrants’ family members, which was a representative sample selected from the database of around 2500 beneficiaries.
Observations in 2 project sites were utilized as an additional tool to observe the utilization rate and nature of the service offered, the type of the beneficiaries accessing the service, the quality of service (where possible).
The feedback, opinions and positions of respondents and key informants were analysed and triangulated with the information received from the desk review of materials to feed into the findings, conclusions and recommendations by applying the standard evaluation criteria analysis in combination with Human Rights-Based Approach and Results-Based |Management. Thus, the evaluation was conducted in three phases: inception phase which included the review of key documentation and development of data collection and evaluation tools; data review and collection phase from key stakeholders and synthesis phase.
Findings and Conclusions:
Through the Project, UNICEF in Armenia directed its ongoing efforts in support of social protection services reform in Armenia to addressing the social consequences of migration for the families of labour migrants. Results of the evaluation provide sufficient evidence to claim that labour migrants’ families are one of the most vulnerable social groups in Armenia. Thus, Project interventions were aligned with the individual and collective needs of this beneficiary group. They also targeted capacity building of case managers, social service providers and governmental/community officials, while contributing to the Government’s reform agenda with respect to reforming the existing social protection system.
The Project has effectively met most of its targeted results, including: training of 50 case managers, processing of around 2500 social cases of labour migrants’ families through case management, developing four Local Social Plans for the target regions as well as implementing 10 local social projects, training 370 members of labour migrants on HIV/AIDs awareness and prevention, creating the online Together4Armenia platform and others. However, the achievement of numeric results translated into longer term systemic or institutionalized changes to a varying degree due to a number of factors.
The Project investment of around 1,103,160 EUR has been effective in terms of reaching its key outputs.
One of the inherent strengths of the Project was inclusion of integral sustainability mechanisms such as intensive capacity building of project beneficiaries, partners and stakeholders, continued efforts to promote legislative reforms, requirement for co-funding for the implementation of the local social projects, creation of the web platform for Diaspora engagement, and others.
The Project has made considerable contributions to the overall social protection system with longer lasting ramifications for vulnerable social groups generally and migrant families specifically.
Both the EU and UNICEF in Armenia should continue their efforts in support of families of labour migrants with a focus on providing social response to the negative consequences of labour migration. While UNICEF could do this through continuous targeting of migrant families as a vulnerable group through its work with ISS/case managers and local social planning, the EU could incorporate migrant family issues in its different calls/funding opportunities, especially those that target local economic development.
UNICEF in Armenia should continue its support to social services reforms in Armenia based on the following considerations:
1) Labour migrants’ families are one of the most socially vulnerable groups in Armenia that require multi-faceted support in terms of social services on top of provision of cash benefits.
2) Migrant-dominated communities in Armenia are suffering from gaps in service provision locally and implementation of local social projects will help alleviate their problems, alongside other vulnerable groups;
3) Enhanced legislative framework in support of social services reform through the new Law on Social Assistance has created the needed foundation for enforcing case management, LSP and IC concepts, while the Project implementation has provided the needed practical application.
- Sustainability of the Diaspora Engagement component generally and the Toghether4Armenia platform specifically should emphasize its demand/supply model and capitalize on relevant experiences and capabilities of potential partners.
- The interventions built around the Together4Armenia platform should roll out to the other regions of Armenia through exploring partnership opportunities with locally based NGOs and other stakeholders.
- In implementing Projects of this scope and complexity, UNICEF in Armenia should build and implement stronger cross-sectoral linkages and coordination between the project components.
Utilization of external donor funding in support of UNICEF Armenia’s ongoing reforms could be a good strategy to leverage financial resources and continue supporting both policy reform and its practical application. However, this should be done carefully so as to ensure both continuity of efforts and ownership at different levels by local authorities.
Addressing migration is directly linked to creation of job opportunities in the minds of both socially vulnerable groups affected by migration, their communities and the larger public. In the future, similar projects should include a stronger awareness building component about the benefits and importance of the social protection system for target beneficiaries in the context of overall economic growth, job-creation and poverty reduction.
While effective execution of such a multi-component and complex Project can be ensured only through involvement of various implementing entities/partners, additional efforts and coordination are needed to ensure stronger inter-linkages between components.
Introduction of an innovative component such as Diaspora Engagement required more time and effort because it was a new and uncertain ground for UNICEF Armenia. Its inclusion in the Project alongside with traditional areas should have been designed to yield closer synergies with other Project components, resulting in better planning and sustainability of those due to professional capacity of involved experts.
Sustainability guarantees should be built into the design of the Project and should be firmly adhered to. While capacity building, legal reforms and use of technology to ensure sustainability of key project outcomes are critical inputs for sustainability, financial incentives are equally important.
A more thought through approach to the Baseline Survey and the end of Project beneficiary Survey could have resulted in more precise estimates about the impact of the Project.
Full report in PDF
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