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Evaluation database

Evaluation report

2014 Afghanistan: UNICEF's Upstream Work in Basic Education and Gender Equality 2003-2012: AFGHANISTAN Country Case Study

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, labelled as ‘Part 2’ of the report.


This report presents one of four country case studies for the evaluation of UNICEF’s upstream engagement in education, commissioned by the UNICEF Evaluation Office, and undertaken by Mokoro Limited. The report provides a brief description of the global evaluation as a whole, describes the Afghanistan country context, and provides an overview of UNICEF’s upstream education portfolio as illustrated in the three country programme documents (CPDs) which span the period 2003–2012.


The purpose of the evaluation was to examine UNICEF’s upstream work in education and assess the extent to which UNICEF has engaged strategically in education sector policy articulation and advocacy. It also assessed how far upstream engagement efforts have supported better policy and practice in the education sector and helped to strengthen systems across the sector.


The overall evaluation occurred in three phases as follows: (i) a desk-based a review of UNICEF upstream engagement was undertaken in 14 countries across the seven UNICEF administrative regions, as well as at UNICEF headquarters to understand education upstream work from a global perspective; (ii) field-based data collection was undertaken in Afghanistan, Brazil, Cambodia and Zimbabwe, in UNICEF ROSA, and UNICEF, New York; (iii) a survey of UNICEF Country Office staff, key global partners and professionals responsible for education programmes.

Data collection in case study countries at the field level was built around the selection of two to three mini-case studies per country, utilizing document reviews, semi-structured interviews, focus groups and harvesting of quantitative data from secondary sources. The application of these instruments was country-specific. Afghanistan was selected as a country case study from a larger pool of 14 desk review countries, based on the nature of its portfolio as a country  that is transitioning out of the humanitarian mode, as its work with the Global Partnership for Education (GPE). Section 1.2 of the report provides additional details on the methodology.

Findings and Conclusions:

Chapter 3 presents findings on the relevance of UNICEF’s upstream work; effectiveness of upstream work by examining results of three mini-case studies, namely “building back better”, UNICEF’s role as Supervising Entity in the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) as compared with its earlier donor coordination role, and the role of UNICEF ROSA in support of upstream work.

For UNICEF Afghanistan, the need to strike a balance between immediate service delivery and upstream work around policy influence, advocacy and system strengthening was present from early on. For instance, ‘back-to-school’ which featured advocacy and service delivery was soon married to evidence-gathering for policy development, such as incentivizing of female teachers and the ‘accelerated learning’ initiative for girls. The evaluation found, however, that UNICEF no longer seems able to exercise the same level of influence in policy analysis and system strengthening.


A number of recommendations emerge from this case study of Afghanistan, some of which may have broader significance for UNICEF’s policies in upstream work in basic education and gender equality.
1. Given the transitional, post-conflict status of Afghanistan, UNICEF Education should consider investing the expertise and time of ROSA and HQ-based advisors to have them contribute to ongoing strategic analysis of the education sector and other upstream work.
2. UNICEF Headquarters should craft clear, contextualised policies for Afghanistan’s engagement with GPE that marry global with in-country knowledge and can offer guidance to the country office.
3. Elaborate capacity development policies for Afghanistan, detailing UNICEF’s expectations, accountability structures and exit strategies. Such policies would benefit from guidance by UNICEF Headquarters on approaches to capacity development.
4. Upgrade the hiring of new staff and capacity development of current staff in P4 and higher positions in the Afghanistan CO, to include social, economic and political policy analysis.
5. UNICEF Afghanistan leadership should detail outputs and targets against which to report upstream performance, in order to highlight priorities for upstream work and to be able to assign commensurate responsibilities for staff. Such an exercise would benefit from guidance from Headquarters on how results in upstream work should be measured.
6. Invest UNICEF office time and capacity to dialogue with key development partners -- such as the World Bank which is a key UN but not UNDAF member -- in order to ensure better alignment behind UNICEF upstream priorities and more coherent upstream work. This could contribute to better implementation of policy commitments made by government to which UNICEF contributed.

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