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Evaluation database

Evaluation report

2015 Bangladesh: Evaluation of UNICEF's Strategic Positioning in Bangladesh

Author: Goss Gilroy Inc

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.


UNICEF's Country Programme in Bangladesh represents UNICEF’s contribution to the Government of Bangladesh drive to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) with equity for children. Together with other UN agencies, UNICEF focuses its efforts in 20 UNDAF districts considered to be most vulnerable based on a number of socio-economic indicators.

Bangladesh has made remarkable progress on the MDG targets linked to gender parity in primary and secondary education, child mortality, the spread of malaria and tuberculosis and access to safe drinking water and sanitation. However, these encouraging developments are accompanied by increased inequality, between and within population groups with new vulnerabilities are emerging for children.  The Government of Bangladesh-UNICEF Country Programme contributes to the national priorities on primary education (MDG 2), gender equality (MDG 3), child health (MDG 4), maternal health (MDG 5), HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases (MDG 6), and water and sanitation (MDG 7).

The Mid-Term Review conducted with Government counterparts in 2014 confirmed the importance of the basic components of the Country Programme while also highlighting the need for increased involvement in upstream policy and advocacy work as well as reinforcing the CO’s work on cross-sectoral issues such as child marriage, gender, adolescents, social policy and urbanisation.

As UNICEF Bangladesh prepares its next Country Programme (to start in 2017) and given the rapidly changing country context, it was decided to conduct an evaluation of UNICEF’s strategic positioning as a key national player for the achievement of results for children. This evaluation was part of a series of knowledge products (including among other documents a revised Situation Analysis, urban programming strategy, an analytical paper on gender based on recent MICS data) with the aim of informing the preparation of the 2017-20 CPD.


The findings and recommendations of this evaluation – which comprised of both summative and formative elements - informed the development of the 2017-2021 UNICEF Country Programme preparation process, particularly the formulation of key strategies and approaches aimed at positioning UNICEF as one of the lead agencies in achieving results for children in Bangladesh.

The findings were shared with staff members who are involved in strategic discussions and who are expected to provide technical oversight and guidance to the Country Programme preparation processes, including the Country Management Team. The findings and recommendations were also shared with Government counterparts and other partners, to guide them in discussions in formulating the new Country Programme.


The evaluation was primarily qualitative in nature and depended on secondary data, gathered through a review of programme and project documents, such as logic models, performance measurement frameworks, the mid-term review (MTR), reports on outputs and outcomes, monitoring and evaluation reports, etc., and other relevant documents such as evaluations and studies.  The very comprehensive MTR, in particular, provided a wealth of information on many aspects of the evaluation and was a key source of documentary data.  The secondary data was complemented by primary data, collected chiefly through stakeholder interviews of UNICEF staff, key government representatives at national and subnational level, development partners including representing donors, UN agencies, as well as international and national NGOs.
To assess effectiveness, the evaluation team relied on the Programme's Results Summary Matrix and Country Office Annual Report (COAR) to validate progress against outputs and outcome targets; we adapted and integrated, when applicable, the project’s PMF indicators in the Evaluation Matrix (Annex C). These indicators allowed the team to evaluate the extent to which planned results have actually been achieved.

The data gathered was then analysed by triangulation, and was multi-pronged, including across data sources and data collection methods. The evaluation team sought to distil patterns in the data, be it consistencies or variations, including equity issues. A more detailed description of the methodology is available in Annex D of the evaluation report.

Findings and Conclusions:

UNICEF is strategically positioned to support the GoB in achieving its 2021 Vision and 6th Five-Year Plan for children, given its thematic focus, programming approach, technical strength, and the trust and credibility it wields with the GoB and development partners alike.

UNICEF has infused an equity focus in its approach to generate evidence to assist the GoB undertake evidence-based decision-making to address the unrealized rights of the most vulnerable Bangladeshi children. More remains to be done to ensure that equity concerns are addressed in the hard to reach and lowest quintile population.

UNICEF is engaged with the GoB and UN on disaster management in Education, WASH and Child Protection. This has not resulted into a comprehensive strategy for climate change adaptation, disaster prevention and to building resilience to reduce the impacts of climate on the most vulnerable children populations.

Ongoing decentralization of UNICEF to zone offices has helped deliver results for women and children, but efficiency and effectiveness have not been optimized due to confusion on roles and responsibilities between Dhaka based staff and zone offices, insufficient communication between the two levels and need for greater support from Dhaka-based staff on removing GoB bureaucratic barriers at lower levels. Remaining centralized decision-making is a key obstacle amidst signs of progress.

The GoB integrated or scaled up several UNICEF interventions and innovations initiated, particularly in health and water and sanitation, sometimes with UNICEF helping to leverage resources for replication. But the GoB capacity of assuming these costs raises the question as to whether UNICEF has sufficiently analysed the GoB capacity to replicate or scale up when deploying new interventions.


  1. UNICEF to conduct assessment of programme staff capacity to engage in upstream work at national and district levels. UNICEF to enhance staff capacity in advocacy, networking, facilitation of multi-stakeholder partnerships and communication skills to leverage UNICEF’s comparative advantage. New staff to have a good mix of subject matter technical knowledge, as well as monitoring and evaluation, and good communication and negotiation skills.
  2. Dhaka staff should focus on upstream work and policy support work at national level and programme implementation at the sub national level. The work between the two levels should be coordinated and mutually supportive. 
  3. UNICEF to explore exit strategies in direct support to service delivery in areas where the GoB has made a lot of progress, but continue to assist in leveraging the comparative advantage of UN agencies and NGOs/CSOs, particularly on gender, hard to reach and marginalized populations to optimize resources.
  4. UNICEF to ensure that government makes clear commitments, including budgetary to gradually take on costs of interventions. Cost sharing to be built into programme design, possibly in the form of an increasing share of the government on an annual basis. Finance and Planning Ministries to be involved to be involved from the outset to ensure that resources are allocated in government budgets.
  5. Focus on identifying and promoting evidence-based scalable cost-effective approaches, particularly for hard to reach populations. The focus should be on geographically isolated and poor populations in urban and rural areas.
  6. Review UNICEF's disaster risk reduction strategy to mainstream climate change and strengthen resilience for the most vulnerable populations. Review internal capacity to guide the process and coordinate with development partners to ensure that strategies take into account child rights. UNICEF should consider hiring a development and climate change specialist to guide the process.

Lessons Learned:

Lesson 1
As Bangladesh transitions towards the status of middle-income-country, there is a greater need for UN agencies to play an advocacy and technical assistance role rather than  supporting direct service delivery, as the latter does not promote ownership and sustainability. To play this advocacy role effectively requires strong subject matter expertise, good knowledge of the country and government systems. 

Lessons 2
Decentralised planning, implementation and monitoring can be more effective and efficient with adequate authorities, clear roles & responsibilities and a clear division of labour between central and zone offices. Coordination, knowledge sharing and mutual support between national & sub-national level is essential to optimise effectiveness and efficiency.     

Lesson 3
UNICEF is well placed to play a catalyst role in identifying & promoting innovations & best practices that can be replicated and scaled up. However, when it introduces innovations, UNICEF  should consider the local resource setting from the planning stage. Cost-effective replicable innovations should be costed from the outset and involve the Ministry of Planning and Finance.  

Lesson 4
UNICEF has a comparative advantage in terms of its relationship with and trust from the government. However, some NGOs have a very extensive reach across Bangladesh and can program at lower cost than UNICEF. It is more economical for the GoB and donors to work through NGOs than UN agencies in some cases. However, not all NGOs are able to interface directly with donors and some need an intermediary like UNICEF to facilitate collaboration. It is also more economical for the GoB when UN agencies and other development partners coordinate their activities among themselves and with the government and avoid duplication of effort.    

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