2008 ECU: Country Programme Evaluation UNICEF-Ecuador Cooperation Programme 2004-2008
Background and Methodology
The evaluation of the Ecuador-UNICEF Cooperation Programme (2004-2008). The Programme involves national and local governmental counterparts, NGOs as well as means and mechanisms of citizen participation. The evaluation was performed by the Facultad Latinoamericana de Ciencias Sociales (FLACSO - Ecuador) and coordinated by UNICEF along with the Ecuadorian Institute for International Cooperation (INECI). A reference group made up of representatives from governmental organizations, NGOs, civil society, and representatives of indigenous people and nationalities and Afro-descendants is also part of the Programme.
The evaluation analyzed: 1) the relevance of the Programme with regards to the situation of children and adolescents in Ecuador; 2) the extent to which rights-based, gender and intercultural approaches have been mainstreamed, as well as the extent to which the Programme adopted a Results Based Management Approach; 3) the value that the Program has added to public policies related to children and adolescents at the national and local levels; 4) its contribution to reinforce coordination mechanisms among local, national and international actors for advocating children and adolescents rights; and 5) the sustainability of the Programme’s results for supporting the country's decentralization strategies, on the national and local levels.
The evaluation focused on four main aspects: a) contributions to the formulation and implementation of policies aimed at protecting the rights of children; b) the degree to which national actors internalized concepts and practices related to a rights-based, gender, and intercultural approaches; c) the scope of the actions carried out by duty bearers in support to the right holders at the national and local levels; and d) progress made towards the integration of the lines of work applied, and with regards to the levels of coordination maintained with local, national and international actors.
The evaluation used three cases at the national level and three at the local level as reference points. The selection of cases was approved by UNICEF Ecuador, The Americas and Caribbean Regional Office of UNICEF (TACRO) and by UNICEF’s Evaluation Office. An evaluation framework was developed including the variables subject of the evaluation, the Programme strategies, and the results pursued by the Programme. A questionnaire was used for establishing dialogues with the selected actors. . Reports and publications issued by UNICEF, the United Nations System and by relevant partners were reviewed.
The evaluation of the Cooperation Programme concluded that the approach and strategies adopted by UNICEF in Ecuador are relevant, given the weak institutional and management capacities of the government in matters concerning public policies and given the low level of adoption, showed by the country, on the rights of children and adolescents.
The evaluation determined that the entrepreneur, academic, technical and political sectors that are connected to the Programme, value UNICEF's contribution. They also recognize that the Programme has been able to establish a bridge between governmental and local institutions. The national counterparts have also added value to the Programme and made possible its operationalization. The evaluation also found the Programme has been able to synergize UNICEF’s contributions, with those proceeding from the central and local governments and from the NGOs. As a result, resources in favor of children and adolescents have been successfully mobilized despite national budgetary restrictions and institutional weaknesses. Examples of such include the passage and implementation of the Ecuadorian Code for Children and Adolescents, the Law for the Provision of Free Maternity and Pediatric Care in Ecuador, the 10-year National Plan of Action for Comprehensive Protection of Children and Adolescents, the 10-year National Education Action Plan, the Indigenous Children Agenda, and local plans to benefit children.
Between 1999 and 2007, a period in which the Programme supported the national dialogue and the monitoring of social investment, social investment increased fivefold. The social budgets for some of the cantonal and provincial governments of the territories where the Programme had a presence also increased, and these governments became further involved in matters related to children and adolescents. Contributing factors to the previously mentioned results were the scrutiny of the social components of the national budget and the dissemination of information in a transparent and friendly way at the national and local levels. Technical assistance provided by UNICEF to the Ministry of Economics and Finance and to the National Congress for the formulation of the budgetary pro forma for the ministers of social departments and agencies, helped transform the social arena into a top priority for these politico-governmental spheres. The same result was obtained by the Programme through the support provided for the improvement of budgetary and executive management in the cantons and provinces where the Programme operates.
The Programme has succeeded in introducing a rights-based approach in Ecuador through several initiatives such as the monitoring of social investment, the creation of a rights index and a periodical report on the status of the rights of children and adolescents; advocacy and technical assistance for the universalization of basic education; the mainstreaming of an intercultural approach in health issues and the improvement of the managerial capabilities of municipalities and governors. With this groundwork, better conditions have been created for the government and citizens to protect the rights of boys, girls and adolescents. Through the UNICEF-supported citizen observatory groups, key topics have been introduced such as that of the universalization of basic education. In addition, information has been distributed on the protection of educational rights. Welfare and social assistance institutions have been supported for the design and implementation of plans aimed at protecting children, while local and provincial governments have been supported for the adoption of agendas aimed at promoting children’s rights and at developing children oriented Programmes. Organizations such as the Confederation of the Quechan People of Ecuador (ECUARUNARI) have also been trained for the formulation of a proposal benefiting indigenous children.
Currently, more boys and girls are enrolling in the first year of elementary school and in the Bilingual Intercultural Education Programme. Some families are combating chronic malnutrition through their own indigenous dietary habits, which is improving the nutrition in their diet; and indigenous women of the Amazon have benefited from the introduction of vertical birth delivery into to local health service Programmes. The latter is undoubtedly a result of the application of an intercultural approach.
The ethical and technical quality of the assistance provided by the Programme has contributed to the adoption of a public policy approach by national counterparts and cooperating partners. By the same token, this has helped initiate a social management proposal among local governments, aimed at guaranteeing the rights of girls, boys and adolescents. Furthermore, it has enabled citizens to demand universal coverage from the Programmes of the Ministries of Education, Health and Social Inclusion.
The Programme has intervened in heterogeneous niches in the national as well as the local sphere. However, its work does not show a good level of coordination within UNICEF Office’s divisions and with its network of counterparts. The insufficient coordination has decreased the Programme management efficacy, efficiency and potential value added. This can be explained by the fact that governmental institutions and international cooperation do not operate in an articulated way with NGOs and the private sector especially with those pursuing identical objectives. This holds true especially at the local level.
One aspect that the UNICEF Cooperation Programme must overcome is its perception of local governments as being part of civil society, when they are rather part of the state. The Programme also needs to review its approach toward supporting the National Council for Children and Adolescents. It should promote the creation by the National Council for Children and Adolescents, of councils aimed at protecting rights, with resources and decision making power, at the cantonal level. The aim would be to avoid overlapping actions with other groups or social sectors.
The sustainability level of policies and strategies promoted by the Programme has clearly been greater on the national level than on the local level. In the future, UNICEF must work to strengthen the capacities of all actors and partners involved in the Programme so that to ensure that the rights-based approach will be mainstreamed more operationally and coherently. It must also increase: i) effectiveness in the transfer of methodologies and approaches; ii) continuity and systematic approach of technical assistance. The Programme should also develop exit strategies and define deadlines for its interventions. In Esmeraldas, for example, even though cooperation has been in place for more than 10 years, results and impact have tended to be diluted.
Some other barriers that the Programme must overcome are: 1) the still prevailing relief and paternalistic approaches on counterparts and partners as well as on some donors; and 2) the rigidity of organizations, particularly governmental bodies, 3) local patronage systems. For ensuring sustainability, the Programme but especially UNICEF must strengthen its managerial capacities and delve further into the structural problems if it is to achieve greater and better benefits and services for right holders.
The evaluation also concluded that the time has come for the Programme to move from a discourse on promoting children’s and adolescents’ rights to a more operational public policy approach that will guarantee the viability of the provision of services to citizens and that the rights of children and adolescents will be put in practice by rights advocates.
The Programme learned that successful results in the adoption of public policies can be achieved through 1) an enhancement of advocacy, promotion and mobilization, 2) an increase in the level of technical involvement in the implementation of rights-based public policies and services
The main challenge for UNICEF, in that sense, is to ensure that the Programme will move from an approach geared toward encouraging change to one that will promote actual change; from one aimed at designing and creating policies to one that will facilitate the operationalization of services related to such policies; from one centered on encouraging and strengthening members and organizations of civil society and the public sector to one aimed at ensuring that citizens will provide their own responses to problems.
With regard to citizen oversight, one positive impact of the Programme has been its ability to advocate to the government for more financing to ensure that the rights of children and adolescents are upheld and that the priorities in public policy that benefit this segment of society are defined. By producing and distributing focused information, the Programme has also succeeded in mobilizing citizens around children’s rights to more and better education and health care. However, it is necessary to reinforce this approach by involving the observatories in the design and implementation of strategies of public policies aimed at reducing inequalities still affecting children and adolescents.
It was learned that social dialogue as well as agreements with broad sectors of Ecuadorian society is what most effectively optimizes the work the Programme does with national counterparts. It was also concluded that a high degree of ownership by national counterparts is crucial for influencing public policies. National counterparts’ commitment must be made visible through the resources institutions are able to assign and through their capacities for strengthening the implementation, management and monitoring of public actions.
UNICEF conceives Ecuadorian society as a network and this conception underpins its work with central entities. The network concept implies that all social actors, whether they are private or public, national or local, assume shared, successive and alternative roles for acting as interpellators of the state.
Another lesson is that the Programme should more systematically engage people while working directly in the territories in a way to ensure more sustainability of local actions. UNICEF must redouble its efforts so that its work in the local sphere contributes toward building an integrative national vision, with a view of contributing to strengthen national public policy. However, it must avoid the temptation to take the “one-size-fits-all" approach and apply standard formulas that will fail to respect local and regional specifities. It must also avoid limiting its partnerships to public agencies exclusively when there are countless local, national and international actors working to achieve similar goals in the same areas.
Also, UNICEF learned that Ecuadorian society’s view of public policy has been shaped by a paternalist, charity-based management. This is a long-standing problem: there are local political traditions, patrimonialism, and cults of leadership or "caudillismo” which have created an authoritarian, traditionalist and dominant culture. UNICEF must maintain its strategic focus on supporting the organized management of a civil society that does not seek the corporatization of the state or governmental authoritarianism.
As per the evaluation, the Programme should continue to apply and enhance the public policy approach and support advocacy and citizen monitoring. The Programme should also continue to update the legal and normative frameworks aimed at improving the human and financial resources management of the public sector.
The Programme should reinforce a strategy of national development in which social, economic and production policies are integrated using regional and territorial approaches based on equity and quality of life.
The evaluation suggests that the Programme strengthen its working ties with other agencies whose work is directly related to the promotion of productive activities - for example, the generation of jobs and income for a significant portion of the Ecuadorian population, especially women and young parents, and the support of boys, girls and adolescents living in Ecuador who are the sons and daughters of emigrants.
To improve the impact of the Programme, partnerships which maximize the influence on public policy need to be strengthened. The evaluation suggests the adoption of a more long-term approach to avoid responding strictly to short-term issues and to actors with political power. It is also recommended that the Programme take a more proactive and reflexive role, always within the framework of its agreements with Ecuador, and a sound communication strategy with local donors, through which concrete and immediate results will emerge so that the scope of this approach and the advantages of its results and outputs can be internalized.
The analysis of the budget should entail an equal-opportunity approach that will help encourage an inter-agency discussion of gender and intercultural aspects. Other social capacities that benefit children and adolescents will thus be mobilized. In the case of inter-cultural, the multi-ethnic, multi-cultural character of Ecuador should be strengthened, and the differences between individual rights and the collective values and ways of life defended by indigenous and Afro-Ecuadorian cultures should be taken into account. Also, the Programme should promote inter-agency dialogues and discussions aimed at promoting a greater sense of ownership.
UNICEF should establish closer ties between its work for children and adolescents and women's rights so that substantial changes in gender relations are brought about. A policy should be developed that will guide institutional work in this area and reach out to actors concerned with defending gender equality.
With regard to citizen mobilization, the evaluation recommends that the movements and organizations that are a part of the Programme reflect on their governance, representation and coverage. It would also be advisable for them to adopt democratic mechanisms to integrate new members and elect their boards. It is additionally recommended that they pursue influence beyond the scope of the central government.
The Social Contract for Education should make explicit the meaning of some of its principles such as the universalization of basic education and the concept of "Texts for all," which are too general to have an influence on the educational structure. Also, consensus should be fostered on the meaning of quality education. Besides, goals and indicators for monitoring should be defined.
The Programme should: i) preserve its power to convene the private sector; ii) maintain its interest in supporting UNICEF and iii) seek to increase the contributions from enterprises, trade unions and participants. The mechanism suggested consists of keeping them informed and motivated, and periodically submitting financial reports on activities in progress and the results achieved by the Programme.
UNICEF should work in a more sustained, hands-on fashion with other development partners, mainly the agencies of the UN System involved in the United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF). The purpose will be to achieve concerted action focused on protecting the rights of Ecuador's girls, boys and adolescents.
Based on the experiences of the two sub-regional Programmes ProAndes and Amazonía, UNICEF should further coordinate its local activities with those of national Programmes and strengthen it’s focus on public policy in the local sphere. UNICEF should unify local and national Programmes but without disregarding the peculiarities of each territory and community.
UNICEF should concentrate its activities in territories that offer the greatest possibilities for providing feedback on and complementing the work done in the national networks. Also, it should choose areas that will display the greatest demonstrable effects that will motivate other communities and territories to adopt policies that benefit children and adolescents.
The organigram of the UNICEF Office should be modified to better reflect the approaches and new forms of management that have been adopted. Therefore, it would be necessary to: 1) review the manner in which the thematic, operational and geographic components have been organized; and 2) strengthen the conceptual and methodological aspects that will guide teamwork and enable the Programme to offer an integrated, comprehensive vision of children and adolescents.
Other recommendations are to: 1) incorporate adolescents in the next Cooperation Programme, since they are largely absent from the current Programme; 2) strengthen the Programme's comprehensive vision of childhood development; and 3) promote interventions related to the family and surrounding community.
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