We’re building a new UNICEF.org.
As we swap out old for new, pages will be in transition. Thanks for your patience – please keep coming back to see the improvements.

Evaluation database

Evaluation report

2012 Global: Global Evaluation of the Application of the Human Rights-Based Approach to UNICEF Programming (HRBAP)

Author: UNICEF and Universalia Management Group

Executive summary

"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, Best Practice", "Highly Satisfactory", "Mostly Satisfactory" or "Unsatisfactory" before using it. You will find the link to the quality rating below, labeled as 'Part 5' of the report."


As part of its commitment under the Medium Term Strategic Plan, UNICEF commissioned a Global Evaluation of the Application of a Human Rights Based Approach to UNICEF Programming in 2011. The goal of the assignment was to evaluate UNICEF’s experience in understanding and implementing a Human Rights Based Approach to Programming, with a particular emphasis on the period from 2007 to the present. It was to do so by examining whether there is adequate understanding of, and commitment to, HRBAP throughout the organization, by elucidating strengths and weaknesses related to the approach, and by identifying good practices and lessons learned in HRBAP to help UNICEF to improve future programming.

The evaluation was overseen by a reference group and was managed by UNICEF’s evaluation office. Under their guidance, the evaluation team developed its independent conceptual framework to assess HRBAP application by focusing on the programme level and the corporate/institutional level, and by using a cross-cutting lens aimed at understanding the effects of country context (with particular attention given to humanitarian environments), Focus Area, and programming phase. It also articulated, in concert with UNICEF and an HRBAP expert, the five core principles that subsequently guided the evaluation: normativity, participation, non-discrimination, accountability and transparency.

The evaluation drew upon both qualitative data (collected from interviews, focus groups and existing survey data) as well as quantitative data gleaned from extensive document reviews and field observations by evaluation team members. More particularly, the data gathering phase consisted of six Country 

Office missions to countries deemed representative in terms of their contexts: 
Senegal, Kenya, Haiti, Serbia, Cambodia and Chile, as well as four Regional Office missions. Information was also gathered on the situation in 38 Country Offices, including the six offices in which missions were carried out, through document reviews and telephone interviews. The enabling environment was evaluated through key informant interviews with stakeholders inside and outside of UNICEF, and with review and analysis of relevant documents. Finally, data from the Harding Survey that focused on capacity development and leadership on HRBAP for UNICEF staff (see section 2.1.5 for more details on the survey) was used as a basis for data on knowledge and understanding of HRBAP.

Findings and Conclusions:

The evaluation found that UNICEF staff’s understanding of HRBAP varies considerably. It also found that there is coherence across UNICEF and UN policies and strategies regarding HRBAP, including good integration within sectoral strategies. The emergence of the aid effectiveness agenda, coherence across the UN system and new ways of engaging in humanitarian situations have created new opportunities and challenges for the integration of HRBAP, and UNICEF has taken some positive steps to lead in the thinking around these issues. Also of critical importance is the lack of clear harmonization between UNICEF’s focus on equity and HRBAP, leading to some confusion amongst staff and human rights experts alike. The evaluation found that HRBAP and equity are reconcilable but that additional efforts need to be made to clarify remaining issues. And while HRBAP and results-based management are compatible, there are obstacles to their being concurrently applied. 


Flowing from the findings detailed above, a series of recommendations were developed that aimed to address the various challenges and opportunities facing UNICEF in terms of better applying a HRBAP.

It was recommended that UNICEF develop a HRBAP policy to replace the 1998 Executive Directive, one that reflects the evolving context and that expresses a clear conceptualization of the approach for the whole organization. UNICEF should also develop a strategy for coordinating the mainstreaming of foundational strategies, of which HRBAP is one. Another recommendation was that staff be given guidance on linking HRBAP with results-based management, particularly in terms of a greater use of indicators to measure the extent of the application of the approach’s principles. The linkages between HRBAP and the equity approach should also be clarified, particularly regarding the term “equity”, and how “rights holders” and “duty bearers” fit into the equity focus.

Regarding the global application of HRBAP, UNICEF should continue to lead and engage both internally and externally so as to promote, clarify and bring coherence to HRBAP. Importantly, UNICEF GRU Geneva should take a more systematic approach in applying the approach globally.

At the country level, UNICEF should ensure that HRBAP principles are applied equally strongly throughout its programming and at all programme stages. It should also ensure that staff have access to and are aware of appropriate tools and guidelines for interpreting and operationalising HRBAP in each Focus Area. 

Relatedly, staff should be given guidance in applying HRBAP in difficult country contexts. Another recommendation was that UNICEF EMOPS and GRU take the lead in preparing guidelines for applying HRBAP in humanitarian situations.

In terms of the enabling environment, UNICEF should strengthen the ability of its staff to implement HRBAP by considering different organisational staffing options – such as having dedicated staff for coaching and oversight on HRBAP, and developing a roster of HRBAP advisors – as well as including HRBAP in job responsibilities. The organization should also make an effort to build up CO Representatives and Regional Directors as champions of HRBAP, since individuals in these positions can play a key role in promoting and guiding the implementation of the approach. Such an effort should be complemented with an improvement in the quality of UNICEF’s HRBAP training. Finally, UNICEF should increase accountability for HRBAP throughout the organization, and should track the resources that it dedicates to the approach.

Full report in PDF

PDF files require Acrobat Reader.



Report information

New enhanced search