BY Annika Östman | 24 April 2018
There is no way around it. Development financing has entered a new era; with the cost of solving the world’s most critical problems running into the trillions, traditional development aid is simply no longer enough and those active in this space are faced with the choice of readjusting or becoming irrelevant. This includes the United Nations. “We can play a crucial role in redirecting capital towards the Sustainable Development Goals, but for the UN to be successful it needs to partner outside the organisation,” said Richard Bailey, Policy Specialist at UN DOCO, during a workshop organised by the UN and the Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation in Uppsala earlier this month. The seminar brought together UN practitioners and external financing experts already forging ahead on the path towards a new financing approach, and it gave them an opportunity to share their experiences in unlocking innovative financing for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Some UN country teams have already come quite a bit along the way. Early adopters Armenia is one country that, with proactive support from the UN, is actively pursuing innovative financing solutions to mobilise capital for national development priorities. One such solution is impact investing, in which the Government and partners invest in companies, organisations and funds to generate positive social and environmental impact alongside a financial return. “Our job is to grow the impact ventures that contribute to SDGs, connect them to investors and to find ways to scale them,” explained Dimitri Mariassin, Deputy Resident Representative of UNDP in Armenia. To achieve this the UN team in country has set up an accelerator to strengthen impact ventures and is creating an impact fund with an existing fund manager in Armenia to leverage funds for larger investments. In Indonesia, the UN Country Team is also partnering effectively with government and the private sector in experimenting with new forms of finance to support the SDGs. This includes UNDP Indonesia’s innovative work in exploring the potential of Islamic finance for SDGs, launching crowd funding campaigns for environment projects, supporting the establishment of a first sovereign wealth fund in Indonesia and setting up an Innovative Financing Lab. “We are trying to bridge and connect investors with the communities and issues that need investment,” said Francine Pickup, Deputy Country Director of UNDP Indonesia. “Our belief is that by coming up with innovative finance instruments we can attract capital to where it is most needed.” Defining the UN’s role The work of these early adopters has shown that there is a role for the UN in the space of innovative financing for the SDGs. In fact, there are many different roles the UN can play ranging from convening, brokering, de-risking, to impact reporting and monitoring. “We are the ecosystem player, trying to play that honest broker role and we ensure everything we do is built on needs and is demand-driven,” explained Arif Neky, Advisor UN Strategic Partnerships and Coordinator of the new SDG Partnership Platform in Kenya. This platform will help drive public-private investments into the SDGs with an initial focus on health and wellbeing. The UN is playing a key coordination role; a function that many outside the UN see as crucial. “Now that there is interest from the private sector in financing SDGs, there is a fundamental role for the UN to spell out what it means to drive financing to the SDGs,” explained Andrea Armeni, Executive Director of Transform Finance. “More capital is not sufficient, it has to be the right kind of the capital, it needs to be aligned and coordinated and that is a role only the UN can play.” For the UN to realise its full potential in this space though it is evident that its roles need to be unpacked and there a number of challenges inherent to the UN system that need to be addressed. Workshop participants cited slow internal bureaucratic procedures and inflexible rules and regulations as limiting UN country teams’ ability to test new things and take risks. The need to sharpen and retain in-house skills, particularly in regards to speaking and understanding the language of investors and the private sector was also identified as a key challenge. What next? The workshop will feed into a broader scope of work the Foundation is pursuing together with the UN Development Operations Coordination Office (UN DOCO). Specifically, the discussions will enrich a series of three case studies about Armenia, Indonesia and Kenya that will be published soon, as well as a joint comprehensive report based on findings of the different case studies. The case studies will identify and analyse the best practices and needs from these UN country teams, and the expectation is that other countries looking to follow these early adopters can build on their experiences and avoid potential pitfalls. The reports also aim to further identify the key challenges and bottlenecks in adopting new approaches, so that, where possible, they can be addressed centrally at the UN. This corporate response will be critical for the experience in these countries shows that if these new funding methods are to work and be adopted by UN agencies in different countries a change in mindsets across the organsation is required. Innovative financing must be integrated into the core strategies and operations of the whole UN and not only be the work of a few brave outliers. Cross-posted from the Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation blog. Photo: UN in Liberia
BY Stine Heiselberg | 19 April 2018
Who are Nepal's most vulnerable groups, and how is their vulnerability similar or different from other countries? This wasn't a rhetorical question for the Inter-Agency Common Feedback Project (CFP), an inter-agency initiative of the UN in Nepal, but a must-know in order to properly structure their priorities for the 2018-2022 UN Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF). Key in answering this question, was to get in touch directly with those vulnerable groups and to listen to their experiences. To target the areas where there's a clear gap, we designed a community perception survey that would allow us to fully grasp why certain populations are falling behind in development progress, and most importantly, to help them catch up. We spoke with members of the UNDAF thematic groups from various UN agencies to develop a questionnaire that would also help us amplify existing data sources for future programming efforts. As a next step, we selected districts by aggregating the Human Development Index (HDI) at the provincial level and identified the provinces with the lowest HDI. Then, we identified districts within those provinces and pulled the data that would reflect as many UNDAF-related areas as possible. In October last year, we mobilized 30 enumerators across nine districts (Kailali, Achham, Bajura, Muhu, Dailekh, Rukum, Mahottari, Sarlahi, and Rautahat) over the course of two weeks. A total of 1,800 respondents completed the survey. To get our hands on qualitative data, we also held 12 focus group discussions in targeted communities facilitated by team members of the Common Feedback Project. This helped to contextualize quantitative findings and provide greater insight into the survey results. Making sense of all the data Once we collected the data, we put on our investigator hats to analyse results and disaggregate overall findings by district, age, gender, ethnicity and occupation. We did this to drill down and pinpoint factors that may influence how people in different regions are experiencing development. By far, the most effective surveys were the ones administered and analysed without pre-existing bias or predictions, which is what we strived for. The final product was a 39-page infographic style report that breaks down the responses based on focus areas, including detailed analysis of the survey feedback. Some UN agencies are already focusing more in detail on the results that impact their mandate which could guide their future work. Debunking cultural misconceptions One of the things that came up during the surveys is the practice of chhaupadi, through which women are banned from their homes, public areas, temples, and schools during their menstrual periods. According to our findings, this still remains a regular practice even though it was outlawed in 2017. To contextualize these findings, we held focus group discussions to in Dailekh, a district where only half of the population is literate, and the Human Development Indicators are extremely low. From the focus group discussions, we learned that school teachers often ask female students to stay at home for four days during their periods. This is a problem because school girls miss up to one fifth of the school year. Beyond this impact on education, the practice of chhaupadi has far reaching implications. A number of women die annually from animal bites, infections, and smoke inhalation as they stay in unsafe and unsanitary shacks during their period. The good news is that some communities are beginning to understand that this ostracizing practice is damaging and unnecessary. And with collective efforts to raise awareness, this practice can be eliminated. In the western district of Mugu, chaupaddi is now considered a thing of the past, in part, due to the investments at the community level to teach people about the biological aspects of the menstrual cycle and the impacts of excluding women and girls from their communities. In several districts in Nepal, UNFPA and UNICEF are providing life skills education to girls and boys, both in and outside of school. A programme called Rupantaran (which means "transformation") empowers and enables adolescents to become change agents in their communities. What's next We are committed to giving communities a voice at the table from the very beginning of our planning efforts. The Common Feedback Project team will continue to support the UN team to integrate feedback from communities into their development plans. As part of this effort, we are currently designing a new community perceptions survey to better understand the dynamics of harmful traditional practices such as chaupaddi. The data collected will inform UN joint programmes to eradicate these practices. We will keep you posted on our findings. Check back with us in the next few months!