2012 Bosnia and Herzegovina: Youth Employability and Retention Programme
Author: DIETMAR AIGNER
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Since January 2010 the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) as the leading agency and administrative agent, together with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the United Nations Volunteers (UNV) and the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) have been providing technical assistance to BiH through the UN Joint Programme Youth Employability and Retention. The Youth Employability and Retention Programme (YERP) aims to address the problems of high youth unemployment and irregular youth migration in BiH. The programme works closely with government authorities, the private sector and civil society to improve the employability of BiH youth while providing new entry points to the labour market. Furthermore, within the scope of YERP, internal and external migration support is being developed to optimise the potential of migration as an individual employment-seeking strategy that can alleviate local labour market pressures.
The joint programme (JP), financed by the Government of Spain through the Millennium Development Goals Achievement Fund (MDG-F) with a contribution of US$5.999 million, is being implemented in partnership with the Ministry of Civil Affairs (the main partner) along with the Ministry of Security, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Human Rights and Refugees. However, numerous partners at entity, cantonal and municipal levels are also deeply involved in the programme since implementation of policies and legislation is mostly attributed to these governmental and administrative levels.
As one of its Secretariat functions, the MDG-F has developed a Monitoring and Evaluation Strategy for the Fund which is gradually being implemented. This independent mid-term evaluation is conducted in line with the requirements defined by the Fund’s Monitoring and Evaluation Strategy.
The MDG-F Monitoring and Evaluation Strategy and the Implementation Guide for Joint Programmes stipulate that all JPs lasting longer than two years will be subject to a mid-term evaluation.
Mid-term evaluations are to be formative in nature and seek to generate knowledge, identifying best practices and lessons learned and improve implementation of the programmes during their remaining implementation. As a result, the conclusions and recommendations generated by this evaluation are addressed to its main users: the Programme Management Committee (PMC), the National Steering Committee and the Secretariat of the Fund (MDG-F Secretariat).
The MDG-F mid-term evaluation has the following specific objectives:
• To know about the quality of the design and the internal coherence of the joint programme (the needs it seeks to fulfil and the problems that intends to solve), the external coherence to the United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF) and National Development Strategies and up to what extent national ownership is present in the implementation of joint programmes according to the terms defined by the Paris Declaration and Accra Action Agenda.
• To know about the implementation of the joint programme, the efficiency of the management system with regards to planning, coordination, and use of the designated resources for its implementation. The evaluator should start by analyzing the processes and institutional mechanisms that allow identifying success factors and limitations of inter-agency work within the frame of One UN.
• To know about the degree of effectiveness of the programme in terms of; beneficiaries, contribution to the thematic window as well as to the Millennium Development Objectives at local level and/or in the country.
• Preliminary assessment of the sustainability context including the joint programme outcomes as well as barriers and counter-measures in order to ensure sustainability.
This mid-term evaluation focuses on the actual performance of the YERP, mainly on the outputs being produced. It assesses the efficacy and sustainability of these outputs. It also assesses the relevance and efficiency of the intervention taking into account United Nations Evaluation Group, international and EU standards as benchmarks where relevant.
Evaluation Questions, divided into sub-questions were established in the generic Terms of Reference (ToR) for the evaluation. Annex 1 provides a detailed evaluation matrix, linking evaluation issues and questions to evaluation criteria, indicators, sources of information and methods of data collection.
The methodology for preparing this evaluation report comprised initial data collection, document research and literature survey, and interviews (see Annex 4 and Annex 5). Following an initial desk analysis undertaken by the Evaluator, primary data has been gathered through structured and in-depth interviews with all the relevant stakeholders in BiH. The field visit to BiH enabled direct contact with implementing bodies, programme partners, stakeholders, beneficiaries and end-users and constitutes an important source of information.
This mid-term evaluation strictly adheres to the transparency norms and ethical principles set by the United Nations Evaluation Group.
Findings and Conclusions:
Overall, the YERP is highly relevant in its intervention approach and addresses crucial key issues in respect of BiH’s socio-economic development. The programme design is sound and logical in approach. Individual activities demonstrate some innovative character but are not over- ambitious in scope and coverage in relation to the regional context. Relative to its timeframe, implementation remains challenging due to the external situation within which the programme has to operate. Stakeholders at all levels confirm and appreciate that the programme took account of the prevailing governmental and administrative realities and the YERP is providing a pragmatic approach for securing ownership at entity, cantonal and municipal levels.
Targeting BiH young men and women, including those at risk of social exclusion and prime candidates for migration has been a success factor for this intervention. The programme focuses on developing some evidence-based policies on youth education, strengthening the capacity of BiH institutions to improve labour market services aligned with policy objectives, and on supporting public employment institutions in piloting innovative employability services for the youth. However, cooperation between employment services, the education sector, and employers could have been better addressed in the YERP design to strengthen partnerships.
Government partners’ commitment at state, entity, cantonal and municipal levels is good but the pro-active take up of programme outcomes varies and could have been more strongly demonstrated by partners. YERP has made good use of inter-ministerial working groups and has stimulated overall coordination mechanisms, which are worth maintaining for facilitating further reforms within the respective areas.
The YERP is expected to achieve most of its defined outcomes within the current timeframe for implementation but results and impacts could be stronger if the programme was given an extension.
The YERP Programme Management Committee should:
• take a favourable view on extending the programme lifetime and propose a no additional cost extension request, for a period up to six months.
• consider whether the remaining programme time, in particular if an extension is granted, should be utilised to incorporate additional elements of effective cooperation with employers into the remaining programme activities.
• agree on a sustainability plan, assisted by the Joint Programme Manager and in close cooperation of all beneficiaries concerned, indicating in detail for each output actions, timelines and responsibilities for making the respective output sustainable. UN agencies should monitor the sustainability plan wherever possible for at least a year after closure of the programme.
• consider whether the ownership and adoption of the “life skills and key competencies” part of the Education Component is fully clear and whether it needs to be explored and agreed by the respective Working Group.
• consider the possibility for the Migration Component of increasing the effect by developing a TLCM with Spain. Discussions with Embassy of the Kingdom of Spain should start immediately.
• should agree a final visibility event in order to promote YERP outcomes and to identify possible financial means for a continuation of certain activities. The purpose would be to present the achievements and the prospects for sustainability, as well as further activities needed for the immediate strengthening of impacts and sustainability. The donor community should be invited as a main target group of such an event, and ideas for funding certain programme results should be explored. The United Nations Country Team should consider assisting with sustainability by taking account of the YERP achievements when conducting the programming of future interventions in BiH.
The YERP represents a practical working model for joint programme implementation. The YERP operations are characterised by a true joint approach both in management and team work. Differences in planning cycles, operational procedures and reporting systems were mutually resolved and synergy effects in implementation, such as joint events, integrated planning and harmonized communication channels, contribute to a cost-effective operation.
The YERP and CISO have been well established as a brand in BiH. Both the programme and its flagship output have received remarkable recognition throughout the country. The visibility of the programme has been greatly enhanced through branding developed in accordance with the MDG-F standards in all communication and promotion materials. The establishment and operations of the CISO centres directly supports the overall reform process of Public Employment Service (PES), whose management have recognised the difference in service and approach which will contribute strongly to the restructuring and reorganisation of PES.
Non-formal education activities have been confirmed as a feasible work approach to develop capacities of young people. Whilst changes to the formal education system are often difficult to achieve due to the need for long-lasting multi-level political adoption processes, the quick and immediate benefits of tailored non-formal education activities are apparent. Besides financial benefits, the immediate encouragement of beneficiaries confirms the capacity building aspects of non-formal education projects.
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