2011 Pacific Islands: External Evaluation of the UN Pacific Region's Advocac to Protect Children and the Most Vulnerable during the Global Economic Crisis
Author: Andrew Jones
“With the aim to continuously improve transparency and use of evaluation, UNICEF Evaluation Office manages the "Global Evaluation Reports Oversight System". Within this system, an external independent company reviews and rates all evaluation reports. Please ensure that you check the quality of this evaluation report, whether it is “Outstanding”, “Good”, “Almost Satisfactory” or “Unsatisfactory” before using it. You will find the link to the quality rating below, labelled as ‘Part 2’ of the report.”
In response to the Global Economic Crisis (GEC), the UN developed and implemented an advocacy campaign to focus attention on the impact of the crisis on children and the most vulnerable.
Thecornerstone of the campaign was the Pacific Conference on The Human Face of the Global Economic Crisis hosted by the Government of Vanuatu in February 2010. The conference was spearheaded by the UN and sponsored by Asia Development Bank, the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), the University of the South Pacific (USP) and Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS). The conference was one of the largest UN joint events held in the Pacific and brought together more than 200 high level delegates from 16 Pacific Island Countries (PICs). Prior to the main conference, a Youth Pre-Conference was organized to ensure that youth perspectives were reflected into the discussions at the main conference. This attracted wide media coverage.
The conference and related outreach aimed to (1) strengthen understanding of the impact of the crisis on children and the most vulnerable, (2) identify country-specific action points to mitigate the crisis and build sustained resilience, and (3) enhance national capacities to consider and implement policy options to respond to crises, through strengthened social protection mechanisms, effective social budgeting, improved capacity for monitoring for the vulnerable and other measures.
Given the continued impacts of the GEC and food price increase on the most vulnerable in the Pacific, it is critically important to follow up the national action points identified at the conference and to assess the impacts, effectiveness and relevance of the GEC advocacy efforts for informing the on-going advocacy work. In addition, this is a rare and prime opportunity to draw lessons on a large scale advocacy work because the UN in the Pacific has little experience in as large an advocacy work as the GEC advocacy and this was one of the largest joint UN events in the Pacific.
Taking these into account, this evaluation was conducted in collaboration with other UN agencies and Asian Development Bank as a reference group.
The objectives are as follows.
• To assess the impacts, effectiveness and relevance of the GEC advocacy (including the involvement of youth) and make recommendations to inform the on-going and future advocacy strategy
• To produce recommendations for the equity-focused advocacy as the GEC advocacy focused on the impacts and policy options for the most vulnerable
• To draw lessons on a large scale advocacy work involving multiple UN agencies
The evaluation was also expected to
• Serve as a part of post-conference advocacy work by re-emphasizing the advocacy points to partners and counterparts during the process of evaluation, and
• Enhance transparency and accountability of UN agencies involved in the GEC conference.
• Provide evidence on social policies and budgets of PICs (where available) to inform Social Policy work of UN agencies in the Pacific
Metodologies used include
- Literature Review
- Media Tracking
- Key Informant Interviews (including Bellwether)
- Case summaries
- Focus Group Discussion
Findings and Conclusions:
1. The United Nations’ lead role in conceiving and rolling out The Human Face Campaign was well received by stakeholders in the Pacific region. There is no question that the topic was relevant and a highly appropriate and legitimate one for the United Nations to spotlight and urge governments, supported by the international community, to tackle. Appropriateness and legitimacy derive from the United Nations’ human rights foundation and central commitment to human dignity and equality of treatment and opportunity for all.
2. While the UN and its partners in the Pacific were working formally and explicitly together in the period leading up to The Human Face Conference, the campaign yielded significant outcomes in the direction of achieving the ultimate policy goals. Stakeholder understanding of the social impact of the economic crisis was strengthened with real gains made in understanding a) the impact of the GEC on vulnerable groups and b) potential policy response options. Interviews and media tracking indicate that this was a substantial and sustained shift with stakeholders continuing to frame the impact of the crisis in terms of its impact on vulnerable children and families a year on. The campaign also contributed to improved monitoring of the impacts of the crisis, and elevated social protection on the policy agenda in various PICs. The evidence, taken as a whole, also suggests that the campaign contributed to the preservation if not growth of governments’ social sector budgets.
3. Yet, after the conference, the joint campaign lost steam, and failure by the UN and partners to follow up has impeded more robust, across-the-board implementation of commitments made at the conference. Partners should have planned, collectively, for the period beyond the conference itself. As part of that, all should have agreed on coordinated action steps post February 2010 and a shared system for monitoring and ensuring accountability for following through on commitments made in Vanuatu.
4. Without an agreed plan and system for monitoring and accountability, no reporting ever occurred on progress in implementing priority actions at country level. Many champions of the Human Face cause have done their part to advance the agenda, but typically in isolated pockets and without any contact with others. Relevant government officials have not had opportunities to take stock, share with and learn from neighboring countries in similar circumstances. Without intentionality, the reality is that the importance of the social dimension of policy responses to economic shocks can get lost.
5. The Human Face Campaign entailed a major investment of UN and partner resources, the vast majority of which were expended on conference costs to the relative neglect of follow-up investments in country-led policy development and implementation. Where the UN and partners have invested in follow-up activities at the country level, national governments and other stakeholders are appreciative, particularly where the programs and investments being made are contributing to stronger leadership, capabilities and systems in line with country ownership. Evidence-based policy dialogue and development is particularly appreciated, along with in-depth, ongoing technical support relationships.
6. The youth engagement around the conference was valued, though it mainly took place on the periphery, underscoring the fact that many citizens have little voice relative to governments and their development partners when it comes to government decision-making processes in Pacific Island Countries. There is a sense that civil society in general, especially the voices that represent marginalized, highly vulnerable groups, are on the sidelines and that, without strengthening their contributions to governance, there will be little demand from within for governments to address the human impacts of external shocks meaningfully and robustly.
1. Design an explicit, clear strategy and plan for Human Face advocacy going forward
- With the persistence of the GEC and the unfinished business of strengthening evidence-based policy development and implementation in response, a next phase of Human Face advocacy makes good sense. For this next phase, UNICEF and fellow UN agencies in the Pacific should come together to design an explicit strategy and plan with key partners and allies, one that draws on the findings, conclusions and lessons from this evaluation and reflects a well-considered theory of change (the logic model presented in the Introduction may be a useful reference point). It is appropriate for UNICEF to take the lead, given its lead role in organizing and directing the evaluation, joined by UNDP given its strong co-leadership role in the first phase of the campaign and its wider representation role in the UN resident coordinator system. Other campaign partners with mandates in poverty reduction, employment and sustainable development should also continue as partners. (To the extent a formal campaign partnership is desired, the evaluator’s normative standard for assessing campaign coordination and collaboration, found in Annex 3, may be a helpful reference point.)
- As part of this next phase of the campaign, the UN Pacific should consider seizing the opportunity that the February 2012 two-year anniversary of The Human Face Conference presents.This would be an ideal time for national governments and their development partners to report on progress relative to commitments made there. Perhaps this could be done in conjunction with the ADB’s February 2012 Economic Monitor, which will revisit the Human Face theme (two years after doing so in their February 2010 edition).
2. Promote the supply and demand sides of governance dedicated to mitigating the human impacts of external shocks
- Agencies partnering in this next phase of Human Face advocacy should invest even more heavily in assisting PIC Governments and their in-country partners to put in place routine and sustainable systems for monitoring the conditions of those most vulnerable to external shocks and for translating the datainto timely, appropriate policy responses. The design of such surveillance systems should ensure, in line with the UN-supported SSM Initiative to date, that gender-related and, more broadly, human rights-related discrimination, exclusion and abuse – and resulting vulnerability and hardship – are deliberately taken into account.
- Partner agencies should invest not only in supply-side capacities and systems but also in the demand side. In other words, careful consideration should be given toworking with youth and women leaders, selected CSOs (especially those representing marginalized and vulnerable communities and groups), and local media to a) raise further awareness of vulnerability to external shocks and resulting hardships, b) mobilize broader and broader constituencies for keeping the human impacts high on the policy agenda, and c) support advocacy for policies, programs and budgets that are responsive to people’s rights and needs. As one national government respondent said, “[Follow-through on government commitments] has to be driven from within; this, in turn, requires more demand-side push and supply-side commitment, compassion and ownership.”
3. Plan jointly for coordinated action, monitoring and reporting of Human Face advocacy at national and regional levels
- Regional and international partners should agree a plan for monitoring region-wide implementation of the advocacy strategy as well as a process for keeping the Human Face theme alive in the Pacific region over time. Re-launching the web site established for the Vanuatu Conference could be one (cost-effective) way to foster regional sharing and learning over time. Such cross-fertilization would be greatly appreciated by many of the country delegates interviewed as part of this evaluation.
- Likewise, at the national level, UN and partner agencies operational in individual PICs should come together to coordinate planning and collaborate around technical and financial support to relevant government ministries and national-level civil society partners involved in moving the Human Face agenda forward. At the same time, mechanisms such as sector or thematic working groups should be leveraged to bring the full spectrum of national government, civil society, private sector and development partners together to advance shared Human Face-related priorities.
Lessons Learned (Optional):
1. The United Nations is uniquely situated to provide leadership on international advocacy defending the rights of those who are vulnerable and marginalized. When UN agencies come together at multiple levels and mobilize like-minded allies to join them, promoting a common message and acting in unison, it can yield major results.
2. One UN advocacy campaigns should be deliberately planned and monitored, with clear objectives and an explicit theory of change that should be consciously tested and refined over time. Campaign partner and staff roles and responsibilities in campaign implementation should be clearly defined as part of agreed plans. Absent these foundations, campaigns will not achieve their full potential.
3. While international advocacy can have significant outcomes, if final policy goals are at the national level, the principle of country ownership demands balancing investments at higher levels with in-country investments to strengthen government policies and practices and also to nurture citizen demand (especially from vulnerable and marginalized groups) for more responsive governance. This reality brings home the imperative of at least linking if not integrating UN programming, communications, and policy advocacy, which, when brought together and coordinated with other actors, maximizes impact.
Full report in PDF
PDF files require Acrobat Reader.