Silo Fighters Blog

The journey begins: Real-time information for maternal health in Mauritania

BY Jose Levy, Blandine Bihler | March 24, 2017

In Mauritania, 13 women die each week at the time of pregnancy, childbirth or post-birth. Although the maternal mortality curve is beginning to move in the right direction, reproductive health indicators remain a concern. The maternal mortality rate is 582 deaths per 100,000 live births - one of the highest in the region. Those most at-risk are the poor, illiterate women from rural areas with low access to maternal health services, subject to socio-cultural prejudices, adolescents and youth. We at the UN in Mauritania are committed to supporting the Mauritanian Government's efforts to drastically reduce maternal mortality. UN agencies (WHO, UNFPA, UNICEF) are supporting the Ministry of Health to better identify malfunctions in obstetric care and to improve the situation. They also support the ministry to supply health centers with life–saving products and medicines. Faster information…could it save lives? The Mauritanian government needs faster data to know why women are dying and to target resources to save lives.  They also want more up to date status on stocks of essential products and medicines in maternity hospitals, pediatric units and health center pharmacies to prevent stock outs and be able to respond quickly to breaks in critical supplies. In thinking of new ways to solve this issue, we looked at one critical asset: an over 90 percent mobile phone penetration rate in Mauritania.  So we assumed that a real time monitoring system might be able to help. For almost a year now, together with the Mauritanian Ministry of Health and Community Systems Foundation - CSF, we have been working to design a real time monitoring tool in three health centers in Nouakchott, which despite being the capital still constitutes 80 percent of the maternal deaths in Mauritania. We wanted healthcare providers to be able to report in real time (less than 24 hours) maternal deaths and drug inventory. We decided to use smart phones because they are less expensive than tablets and at least in Noakchott they are very common. We also couldn’t use basic phones because they couldn’t handle the volume of data we needed. Once data is recorded through a mobile survey using an open source tool, Ministry professionals can consult the information through key performance indicators on an inter-active dashboard. So we tested it out. Nurses, midwives and doctors loved it. The app also attracted considerable interest among the other players in the health structures tested. If you are considering a similar solution, let us save you a few steps! Its great to see things coming together, but it has been a long and winding road. First, we built up the demand for real time data – which might be more than the system can respond to! Along the way, we had some seriously doubts in our ability to develop the envisaged system. To anyone thinking of moving in this direction   let us share some words of advice: Narrow your data dreams. High expectations and a lot of data gaps meant that it was difficult to establish the scope of what data we really needed. We started too broad - ‘basic social services (health, education and protection of victims of violence)’ but this wide scope had led to practical implications, making the system too cumbersome and non-functional (too many issues covered and therefore too much data to be collected at high cost). Working across different sectoral experts and parts of the UN, we needed criteria to prioritize which data we really needed. We decided to consider a sector having an analysis of the situation with a clear identification of the bottlenecks and priority actions to be carried out, which could be monitored in real time. Back in the days of the Millennium Development Goals we had done a bottleneck analysis on how to accelerate progress in maternal health so this was a good factor in deciding in favor of a focus on this issue. Health experts and data teams on board from the beginning. We started this  real time monitoring journey within the UN’s Program Management Group which is responsible for monitoring the results of the UN’s work in Mauritania. It brings together management across the UN and the monitoring and evaluation officers. We made progress, but really it was only when the health technicians were brought on board that the blockages could be lifted and we got real commitment and momentum to work together on this. Once we had the health people in the room, the added value of the real-time monitoring system was immediately clear. Those struggling to reduce maternal deaths saw it as an action-research tool that allows them to adjust their response strategies. So, if you plan to embark on a similar adventure, bring in the content experts from the start. The mobilization of technical expertise: a challenge. Once the scope of the real time monitoring system was identified, the next challenge was to find a partner capable of supporting us in implementing it. After several unsuccessful attempts, we contacted CSF, based on the suggestion of our colleagues at UN DOCO, who already worked with the foundation in the framework of the UNDAF online monitoring tool. As CSF holds a long term agreement with UNFPA, we piggybacked on this and started our collaboration. After a first scoping mission in October 2016, CSF conducted a pre-piloting mission in Nouakchott this January to propose a mobile based solution to capture data at the health facility level. Plan for the recurring costs of data collection. When we started, we looked at several options for data collection, based particularly on UNICEF’s experience with a real-time monitoring system. We looked at  one model that would have regional planning units and regional offices of the national statistical office collect the data and others that thought volunteers from the UN Volunteers Programme could do on-site collection of health data. All of these options had cost implications. Once we considered what would build on the work of the Ministry of Health, we realized that a smart phone would be best so that health personnel can directly record data as they are the ones closest to the job. Within two or three months, we will expand the system to all health facilities in two regions of Mauritania and will provide real-time information on maternal deaths in these two areas and, ultimately, adequate response measures to prevent the occurrence of new deaths related to gaps in the health system. Mauritania’s maternal health real time data journey continues…stay tuned for our next installment and do get in touch if you have questions or ideas.

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Silo Fighters Blog

Beninese journalists take action for the Sustainable Development Goals

BY Marie Sandra Lennon, Aristide Djossou | October 18, 2016

If you are reading this blog chances are you work in development, so you might know something about the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). If you work for the United Nations, like we do, you might be able to identify a few of the 17 goals and maybe a few of their 169 targets. You might also be aware of the importance of the new agenda or, as the UN Secretary-General’s says - the SDGs are THE plan: there is no ‘Plan B’ because we do not have a ‘Planet B'! But, what about the rest of the World? Do they know? In Benin our answer to this question was “not… yet”, so we rolled-up our sleeves and started spreading the word! Journalists as allies We all know how important media are and, more how fundamental journalists are to generating a public debate, sharing information with the local population and making governments accountable keeping their promises. Journalists could be great allies and we at the UN in Benin decided to partner with them to spread the word.    The Union of Media Professionals of Benin was prompt to take on the Agenda 2030 challenge and we were thrilled to collaborate with them on a number of workshops in Cotonou, Grand Popo and Parakou guaranteeing the participation of all major community radios in Benin. More than one hundred journalists from different media establishments around the country participated in these workshops. We made sure to involve journalists from community radios, since they are often the most powerful channels to communicate with the most excluded and isolated populations, since they might not have other forms of communication, but they often have radios. Involving community radio journalists was our way of sticking to one of the (beautiful) agenda principles we maintained: to leave no one behind. A spontaneous translate-a-thon First we shared with journalists the goals of the 2030 Agenda, the development process of the Agenda and the principles behind it. Once achieved we moved to the important stuff: How are journalists in Benin going to engage and take action to mobilize support for the new agenda? The first step that the journalists took was a basic but essential one: “Let’s translate the goals into our local languages”. Using local languages is essential to ensure the full involvement of local authorities, civil society and population, among other many collectives. For a few hours our SDG orientation workshop was transformed into a translation space, where journalists helped the UN coming up with the translation of the SDGs into languages used in Benin Bariba, Dendi and Yoruba. Simple but smart. Moving forward We and the UN and the team of journalists see this collaboration as a first step on engaging and knowing more about the UN efforts in Benin to accompany the Government in the implementation of the agenda, sharing their enthusiasm for being agents of positive change in their society. During the workshop, they discussed with our programme colleagues on diverse development activities ongoing in their localities, including gender equity, education, and economic growth and how they relate to the SDGs. Such is the case of the towns of Banikoara and Bonou, where the Millennium Village Project is promoted by the journalists as one specific actions effectively linked to SDGs. Overall, they are enthusiastic on the contribution they could bring to achieve the SDGs and being agents of positive change in their society.   At the closure of one of the workshops, Isabelle Lemou, journalist from the Urban FM in Parakou, represented her peers and said “we very much need this type of capacity building as it will allow us to be armed to properly raise and advocate for SDGs issues”. She noted that collaboration between the UN and Beninese media should be reinforced in the future. We are already planning to identify clear and practical ways to follow up on this collaboration with radio communities. Thanks to UNICEF, the UN in Benin is soon organizing a ‘brainstorming’ day with the Ministry of Communication and community radios across the country to agree on the next steps. We will keep you posted!

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Silo Fighters Blog

The stories behind the numbers in Kivu

BY Mamadou Ndaw | June 10, 2016

Results, results, results. The age old monitoring and evaluation question: how do you [actually] draw a connection between transformational changes in the lives of people and the development projects that aim to help them? The hard part is that the traditional monitoring approach does not focus on measuring outcome indicators, a weakness corrected by a new monitoring method: SenseMaker Narrative Capture. This initiative focuses on transformational changes, and uses qualitative and quantitative methods and collects narratives shared by the beneficiary populations. As head of the Monitoring and Evaluation unit in the UNDP Democratic Republic of Congo country office, I led the implementation of this new monitoring and evaluation approach in South Kivu. Overall, the project was designed to to support the stabilization of the South Kivu region, which has been part of a conflict since 1994 among several actors looking to expand their territories in the Great Lakes Region. Overall we believe that strengthening community management of conflict resolution and social infrastructure will help reduce potential sources of tension, which will help displaced and refugee populations return and reintegration process. Monitoring change with a participatory approach Generally, we were interested to learn about the changes in the life of communities involved in this joint programme developed by UNDP, UNICEF and FAO and particularly, we wanted to capture people’s experiences and feelings around the Kivu conflict, peace-keeping efforts surrounding the conflict, and the reintegration experiences of displaced individuals. For this purpose, we approached different organizations and community leaders involved in the peace process following the conflict in the region. Our idea was to seek for their support designing monitoring tools and instruments we were planning to use and, because they took part in this first phase of the process, the tools obtained added value to the project. This participatory approach ensured that the content of the tools and questionnaires was well aligned with the reality in the field. This reality check empowered us to move to the most challenging part of the process, the data collection. Capturing the stories behind the data During the the data collection process, more than a thousand community members shared with us their story about the conflict, the stabilization and the peace process. On this process of capturing the stories, what mostly amazed us, beyond their content, was the storytellers’ feedback: “By sharing this story I realize how was my life before, during and after the conflict, I realize how bad a conflict can be, why it is important to live as a community, to bring our children up with a new mindset. I realize how the different actors: the local authority, the church, the national army, the self-defense groups were interacting to either maintain crisis situation or to improve the situation of the communities”. Some of the participants also shared their positive feedback on the way the data collection was done: “The way you designed the questionnaire without asking me to share my opinion but to tell my story was fantastic. I used to give my opinion for surveys conducted by other organizations but I was never able to look back on the conflict and all the horror, the death, the tears, the food insecurity that we had to face everyday.” Through this methodology, we realized that assessing the situation helps the storytellers focus not only on their opinion but also on their past experience. That is why we believe that Sense@Maker is an interesting and relevant addition to the M&E exercise as it is a realistic tool based on the commitment and strong participation from the beneficiaries and we plan to use it to influence future programme design and implementation. Among the findings, one pointed out that education is a top concern for the communities. According to the results, communities find education a key component to promote skills, knowledge and new employment opportunities. So we are currently studying how education can be used to achieve a deeper impact in shaping attitudes towards conflict resolution and expanding access to social services. We will keep you in the loop!

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Silo Fighters Blog

UN Liberia comes together to fill IT gap

BY Albert Dayyeah | May 19, 2016

Many people see the internet as the best means of communicating, reporting and sharing information while others see it as a link between people, offices, countries and the rest of the world. Media mogul Rupert Murdoch, founder, chairman and former CEO of the global media company News Corporation, said that “the Internet has been the most fundamental change during his lifetime and for hundreds of years.” Liberia is no exception to the information revolution referred by Murdoch. Recently, the UN in Liberia has embarked on an innovative project to provide fast internet connection to agencies in the field at a reduced cost following the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) transition and drawdown. The project, which is currently being implemented in three locations (Lofa and Grand Gedeh and Bong), will ensure UN agencies use the same internet connectivity for voice and data in these areas allowing a complete terrestrial network for both our operations and our partners. Thanks to this innovation, projects supporting refugees, rural women’s empowerment, school feeding and livelihoods will be able to keep running their operations smoothly. The challenges in the field Since the deployment of the UN Mission in the counties, UN agencies have heavily relied on it for basic support in running their field offices. The UN Mission provided office space, internet connectivity and fuel supply among other services. In most of the regions, the UN Mission building hosts UN agencies’ personnel. June 2016 is the date in which the UN Mission will finalize its security transition in Liberia. The UN Mission has reduced its foot print in the counties from 15 to 5 counties.The Mission planned transition will be finalized in 2017 or as mandated by the Security Council. When the timeline was announced, we all started getting prepared to guarantee that our programmes and projects will be affected minimally especially in the counties where the UN programmes had a more concentrated presence.From an information and communication technology (ICT) point of view, this meant to address challenges such as providing the technology to guarantee implementation, monitoring and reporting from the field to the central offices so that colleagues do not face challenges in communicating with each other or sharing communication with different stakeholders due to lack of internet connection. This will ensure that programmes are implemented in time and issues are addressed as they occur. Upon completion, the network will facilitate the operations of nine agencies (IOM, UNHCR, WFP, FAO, UNOPS, UNICEF, UNIDO, UNFPA and UNDP) with field presence in the three separate locations. It will also reduce the recurring monthly cost for these agencies by 50 percent. The implementation of this innovative ICT project will also decrease the call costs by agencies based in Monrovia to the ones in the field. The network also enables cheaper international calls helping agencies to reduce a 3,000 USD monthly phone bill plus a monthly charge of 600 USD for internet connectivity. In short, this project will also release more resources that agencies will be able to invest in other programme activities. After all the preparations, the project will be officially lunched this month. Stay tuned to read how it goes!

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Silo Fighters Blog

Texting the UN: Making connections in Benin

BY Marie Sandra Lennon, Aristide Djossou | February 15, 2016

Instant access Health workers across Benin are dealing with the current outbreak of Lassa fever, while UN agencies are responding with outreach and treatment. Luckily there is an innovative new mechanism available to everyone involved: you can communicate directly with the UN, no matter who you are. The UN is committed to accountability and transparency with government and development partners. It is also deeply committed to being open and accessible to the population. To further this, UN Benin launched an innovative project to engage with Beninese people. Anyone in Benin can now send an SMS for free. If someone has feedback or questions about any UN programme, he or she can send a text. The text will be directed to an online monitoring platform of the United Nations Development Action Framework (UNDAF) and, depending on the issue, communicated to the appropriate UN entity. What’s the point? The online platform aims to be an innovative response to the need for transparency and mutual accountability between partners, as well as with beneficiaries, two essential aspects of efficient cooperation and sustainable development. The UN in Benin develops its programming with the participation of its partners and beneficiaries. The online platform strives for real-time follow-up of UN interventions in Benin. We want to involve the population by the use of new technology. The platform’s goal is real-time monitoring of UN Benin achievements, monitoring UNDAF results indicators, disseminating information through email and SMS to the Beninese Government and development partners; and the involvement of the population in UN interventions through SMS. Spreading the word People will SMS only if they know about it, and understand its uses. UN Benin launched a communication campaign to reach people and show them why they would benefit from having their voices heard, and how to go about it. Community radio journalists were trained about UN interventions in Benin, the online monitoring platform, the toll free number, and the reason why population’s participation to the SMS’ consultation is important for the UN System. During the training, short radio broadcasts in different languages were produced. Now the partnerships with radio stations continues, as each regularly broadcasts news of UN activities and promotes the toll-free number – 132. A meaningful dialogue The online monitoring platform has exciting potential to make new connections among the UN in Benin, the Government, development partners, and the Beninese population. The UN can use the platform to report on its financial and physical achievements, and provide updates on different indicators agreed upon with the Government. All information reported on the platform is approved by both the Government and the UN. The Government and development partners can send and receive emails as well as SMS on the platform updates. Most important, the real beneficiaries – the people of Benin – can learn, suggest, communicate, complain…however they wish to have their voices heard, through the magic of cellular technology.

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Silo Fighters Blog

Zeroing in on Ebola

BY Sanaka Samarasinha | February 17, 2015

I am in Liberia, where shaking hands is taboo but washing hands and temperature checks are routine. Dark clouds hover above the wettest capital in the world as I land, but my Liberian colleague who greets me at the airport with a warm, welcoming smile says that they are finally beginning to see the light. It is early November 2014. Communities at the forefront A few days after I arrive, I join a team of UNDP consultants going to Banjor, one of the worst-hit communities, to talk about ways to fight stigma, help orphans and find food and income for affected families. We sit with survivors and their families and neighbours. We learn about innovative ways they are coping together. We learn that if early on they had information and some basic support, Ebola would not have claimed half the lives it did here. Once they got this help, they practically eradicated the disease from their community. I visit a house where 13 people died. In this small community outside Monrovia, Ebola killed 111 people in just over four months, 31 of them children. Survivors and orphans are singing to the water spirits, "Mamiwater (mermaid), take Ebola away to the sea." Despite the tragic circumstances, I cannot help being inspired by the courage and resilience of these kids as we sing and clap and smile in the rain. People's voices make the difference To say that I am not afraid to go to the slums and the villages where people are still in quarantine and dead bodies are being removed by people in masks and “moon suits” would be a lie. But, I learn that safe interaction with affected communities is not only possible, it is essential to an effective response. "People walk on the other side of the road when they pass our community,” says one local leader. “We are grateful that the UN team came to hear our stories instead of making them up at their computers." A few days later, I am with a young team of UNICEF volunteers in one of the largest slums in West Africa. An 80-year old pastor welcomes their presence. "Some people used to come here and drop off medicine boxes, but never told us how to use them. I am so happy that these youngsters come and talk to us and answer our questions," he says. Ebola is not only a health issue Ebola was unheard of in Liberia. People know Malaria, Cholera, Typhoid and Measles. Early symptoms of Ebola are not that different and so most people simply did not believe that they were infected or could infect others of a deadly disease they did not think existed. To stop the spread of the disease, people need to believe first and then consciously change their behaviour. Sometimes this means changing deep-rooted social and cultural norms. Sometimes it means asking people to stop doing the most natural and human of things like not holding a sick child or washing the body of a dead parent. A young local NGO worker tells me how you communicate counts. "Some people used to go in cars with loudspeakers saying Ebola is real. But it’s only when we started to take the risks and go house to house explaining, answering questions that people started to believe, to change," he says. A few days later, I am in West Point, the largest slum in West Africa, where more than 75,000 impoverished people live in squalid conditions, packed into a small peninsula that juts out into the Atlantic Ocean. The UN estimates there are only four public toilets here. The lack of clean water and sanitation has allowed cholera and tuberculosis among other diseases to run rampant for a long time. This year, Ebola joined the deadly list. A team in full protective gear is removing the body of a middle-aged man who died the night before while I try to comfort his distraught relatives outside his house. They don’t want the “safe burial team” to take the body away because according to existing protocols it will be cremated and according to their custom and religion this is a serious transgression. I am in West Point with young UNDP volunteers hired from the community. They go house to house looking for Ebola throughout the week, sometimes at great personal risk from both Ebola as well as the families who may be hiding their sick or dead relatives. Two months earlier armed soldiers surrounded the slums and tried to enforce a collective quarantine. Angry residents resisted and in the ensuing violence, a 16-year old boy was shot and killed. By the time I visit the number of Ebola cases has dropped dramatically because instead of enforcing mass quarantine, the response strategy has changed to engaging with the community one household at a time. When you hear the voices of those truly affected, you know Ebola is not only a health issue requiring a medical response from doctors and nurses. It is so much more than that and it starts with building trust between vulnerable populations and responders, between the governed and those who govern. No amount of top-down policy-making, distant messaging and law enforcement can substitute for human interaction and conversations based on mutual respect, trust and confidence. When people believe in change, they become agents of change The following week I am with a group of colleagues from the UN Population Fund and the UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response on the border of Sierra Leone. When we forget to wash our hands, the villagers remind us to use the chlorine water buckets that the UN gave them before they will even sit and talk to us. The message is clear: when people believe in change, not only is transformation possible, but they become agents of change. This is true even in the face of strong social, cultural and religious practices; even when it is heartbreaking, highly personal and acutely painful. In early December, a colleague declares, "If we can get one day without a single new infection before Christmas it would be a good day." We are eager to achieve a goal set by Liberia’s President: “Zero new cases by Christmas.” By December 19th, it happens. There are zero new confirmed cases of Ebola two days running in Liberia. Finally, the Christmas lights can be turned on. Staff from UN offices in Liberia, New York, Belarus and Turkey join hands to help bring a little Christmas joy to more than 2,400 children affected by Ebola in and around Monrovia. Some are survivors, some are orphans, and some are both. But, on Christmas day in Monrovia they are all just kids like anywhere else in the world - with the most infectious of smiles and the most contagious demonstration of courage and hope. Looking over the horizon – together Poverty, distrust and capacity deficits over time allowed a disease to turn into an epidemic. However, now the country is looking to the future. I am fortunate enough for a short time to be part of a coordination and decision-making body called the Incident Management System (IMS). While not perfect, I can see it works. Government leadership, collaborative support from the UN family and the international community, and responsive decision-making characterizes much of the work of the IMS. If we can turn this model into not just crisis response but into development cooperation, perhaps Liberia will not only succeed in zero new Ebola cases, but will begin to eradicate malaria and measles, malnutrition and illiteracy, gender-based violence and extreme poverty. As I write this, the Ebola virus has killed more than 8,500, many of those in Liberia. However, the number of new daily cases has dropped dramatically. The UN is instrumental in this success. We are seeing downward trends in other countries, too. But a single new case anywhere can ignite an outbreak everywhere. The challenge now is not only to bring it down to zero – but also to keep it there – everywhere! If we work together, we can. As Ban Ki Moon says, “Ebola will not be gone from any country, until it is gone from every country.”  

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Country Stories

Sierra Leone: Setting the stage for SDG progress in a crisis-affected country

November 9, 2016

National ownership Despite a devastating decade-long civil war (1991–2001), Sierra Leone made significant progress towards achieving the MDGs. However, in 2014–2015 the country was hit hard by the Ebola crisis as well as a coincidental collapse in international iron ore prices — a key source of fiscal revenues and foreign exchange — presenting a considerable challenge for the country’s Vision 2035 of becoming a middle-income country. Today the SDGs are being implemented against a backdrop of multiple recovery strategies, including the third Poverty Reduction Strategy (Agenda for Prosperity 2013–2018) and the National Ebola Recovery Strategy/Presidential Recovery Priorities (2015–2017). Both strategies are informed by the New Deal for Engagement in Fragile States. Progress is being made on implementing the SDGs, despite the circumstances of recent years, due to strong leadership from the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development (MOFED) and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation. In an impressive move, Sierra Leone’s 2016 national budget already reflects all 17 SDGs aligned with the eight pillars of the Agenda for Prosperity. The government also launched a popular version of the SDGs in the parliament during the national Budget Speech and distributed it to a cross-section of other stakeholders, including civil servants, NGOs and CSOs. With financial support from the New Deal facility,9MOFED provided a briefing to the Cabinet and held several radio talk shows to explain the SDGs to the general public. Adapting the SDGs to the national context The Government of Sierra Leone, in collaboration with the UNCT, held a technical retreat in December 2015 to review the SDGs against the landscape of existing strategies and plans, including the Agenda for Prosperity, and to draft an SDG Adaptation Report to be presented at the HLPF in 2016. This retreat included, among others, line ministries, departments and agencies, CSOs and UN agencies. Raising public awareness Public awareness-raising efforts also saw early progress in Sierra Leone. To lay the foundation, the UNCT prepared a novel SDG communications strategy which domesticated and simplified the messages of the SDGs. With the communications strategy in hand, the UNCT held two SDG photo and banner exhibitions in the capital city as well as a nationwide campaign at the Universities of Kenema, Bo, Makeni and Njala by engaging with mayors, university teachers and students. In addition, the government also held a national conference, with support from the UNCT, at the University of Makeni in March 2016, to discuss the ways to transition from the MDGs to the SDGs and the challenges facing the country in the SDG era. Another innovative move was the UN Communications Group’s special training to familiarize journalists with the SDGs and facilitate objective reporting of progress and challenges to implementation in light of the Ebola crisis. Due to these efforts, key stakeholders are well aware of the SDGs. In particular, SDG 16 on governance gained wide recognition as a critical goal for Sierra Leone as a post-conflict country and a founding member of the g7+, a voluntary association of countries that are or have been affected by conflict and are now in transition to the next stage of development. Assessing risks and fostering adaptability Lessons learned from the Ebola crisis and the collapse in international iron ore prices informed the development of the National Ebola Recovery Strategy/Presidential Recovery Priorities (2015–2017). The objective is to ensure that the country maintains zero cases of Ebola while ‘building back better’ national systems for resilience and national development, including preparedness to face future shocks and epidemics. The national strategy comprises seven presidential priority sectors: health, education, social protection, private sector development, water, energy and governance. Implementation of the first phase ended in March 2016, and the second phase started in April 2016. Discussions are under way for the presidential priorities to integrate the SDGs.

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Cabo Verde: Initiating the SDG implementation in a Small Island Developing State

October 4, 2016

National ownershipThe Government of Cabo Verde, in partnership with the UN, convened an international conference on the ‘Sustainable Development Goals in Middle-Income and Small Island Developing States (SIDS)’ in June 2015. In the run-up to the UN Sustainable Development Summit, the event contributed to the global discussions on the specific needs of SIDS in the context of the SDGs and the new universal agenda on sustainable development. The conference’s ‘Praia Declaration’ elaborated on the aspect of national ownership, noting that translating the SDGs into national action in Cabo Verde and other African SIDS will require greater investment in youth and employment, fighting inequalities with a focus on gender equality and women’s empowerment and overall human development. The conference and its declaration also underscored the importance of building the capacity of institutions to collect disaggregated data to inform policy choices and monitor progress across all sections of society. Following parliamentary elections in March 2016, the country’s new government sought support from the UN to develop a roadmap to place the SDGs at the centre of its national development planning process in the coming years — from design of the new national development plan through to follow-up and review. A very important step was made through a one-day retreat of the Cabinet convened by the Prime Minister to discuss the SDGs and how to translate them into concrete sustainable development results for all people in Cabo Verde. The retreat involved all Cabinet ministers, their close advisers and Cabinet directors — a total of 60 participants. This high-level event signalled the government’s strong ownership of the 2030 Agenda. The retreat closed with the government’s reaffirmed commitment to decentralize the agenda as a strategy to achieve sustainable development throughout the country, and to ensure coherence across national development aspirations, local development needs and the SDGs. It also committed to make the national development process inclusive of all parts of society, to leave no one behind. Inclusive participation Following the government retreat, Cabo Verde’s CSO platform, Plataforma de ONGs, invited government and UN representatives to discuss its role in implementing the SDGs and ways to strengthen its capacity to engage effectively to shape the national development agenda. A dialogue between the National Institute of Statistics and CSOs has reaffirmed the critical role that civil society plays in the SDG follow-up and review process, and the need to strengthen its capacity to contribute meaningfully to this process. Reviewing existing plans and adapting the SDGs to the national context Building on the international conference and the Praia Declaration, the Government of Cabo Verde held a national workshop on ‘Mainstreaming and Financing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in Cabo Verde’. The event helped officers of the Ministry of Finance and Planning and line ministries, as well as other stakeholders, to familiarize themselves with the SDGs. It emphasized the need to identify priority SDGs for Cabo Verde on the basis of the country’s long-term vision, and reiterated the importance of ensuring that this part of the process be underpinned by broad-based consultations, including representatives from government ministries, civil society and the private sector. In addition, with UN support, a Rapid Integrated Assessment was conducted over the country’s Growth and Poverty Reduction Strategy III (2012–2016) against the 116 SDG targets. For the preparatory work to establish the next national development plan, the outcome of the Rapid Integrated Assessment as well as a more detailed analysis of sectoral and subnational plans will be utilized to further identify gaps and priorities for implementation of the SDGs. Monitoring and reporting Cabo Verde has also been making a significant contribution to the global SDGs, by actively participating in the Inter-Agency Expert Group on SDGs and by providing support to the Praia Group on Governance Statistics, tasked with the methodological development of SDG 16 (peace, justice and strong institutions), which has no established or harmonized methodology. The first meeting of the Praia Group took place in the capital of Cabo Verde in June 2015, where it was officially created with the membership of important statistics institutions worldwide such as Paris 21, the World Bank, the African Development Bank, UNDP, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), UNFPA, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), UN Women and a number of Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and African Union countries. This first meeting decided on the construction of a roadmap for the harmonization of governance statistics. The roadmap will be discussed at the second meeting, scheduled for July 2016 in Paris. Budgeting for the future Having graduated from least developed country status, Cabo Verde faces a unique set of challenges, most notably linked to reduced access to a wide range of international support measures. To meet these challenges, through the national workshop, the government also examined financing instruments from other countries and discussed options to reorient existing public expenditures and make them more efficient, as well as options to mobilize new revenues from domestic and external, public and private sources.

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Country Stories

The stories behind the numbers in Kivu

June 10, 2016

Results, results, results. The age old monitoring and evaluation question: how do you [actually] draw a connection between transformational changes in the lives of people and the development projects that aim to help them? The hard part is that the traditional monitoring approach does not focus on measuring outcome indicators, a weakness corrected by a new monitoring method: SenseMaker Narrative Capture. This initiative focuses on transformational changes, and uses qualitative and quantitative methods and collects narratives shared by the beneficiary populations. As head of the Monitoring and Evaluation unit in the UNDP Democratic Republic of Congo country office, I led the implementation of this new monitoring and evaluation approach in South Kivu. Overall, the project was designed to to support the stabilization of the South Kivu region, which has been part of a conflict since 1994 among several actors looking to expand their territories in the Great Lakes Region. Overall we believe that strengthening community management of conflict resolution and social infrastructure will help reduce potential sources of tension, which will help displaced and refugee populations return and reintegration process. Monitoring change with a participatory approach Generally, we were interested to learn about the changes in the life of communities involved in this joint programme developed by UNDP, UNICEF and FAO and particularly, we wanted to capture people’s experiences and feelings around the Kivu conflict, peace-keeping efforts surrounding the conflict, and the reintegration experiences of displaced individuals. For this purpose, we approached different organizations and community leaders involved in the peace process following the conflict in the region. Our idea was to seek for their support designing monitoring tools and instruments we were planning to use and, because they took part in this first phase of the process, the tools obtained added value to the project. This participatory approach ensured that the content of the tools and questionnaires was well aligned with the reality in the field. This reality check empowered us to move to the most challenging part of the process, the data collection. Capturing the stories behind the data During the the data collection process, more than a thousand community members shared with us their story about the conflict, the stabilization and the peace process. On this process of capturing the stories, what mostly amazed us, beyond their content, was the storytellers’ feedback: “By sharing this story I realize how was my life before, during and after the conflict, I realize how bad a conflict can be, why it is important to live as a community, to bring our children up with a new mindset. I realize how the different actors: the local authority, the church, the national army, the self-defense groups were interacting to either maintain crisis situation or to improve the situation of the communities”. Some of the participants also shared their positive feedback on the way the data collection was done: “The way you designed the questionnaire without asking me to share my opinion but to tell my story was fantastic. I used to give my opinion for surveys conducted by other organizations but I was never able to look back on the conflict and all the horror, the death, the tears, the food insecurity that we had to face everyday.” Through this methodology, we realized that assessing the situation helps the storytellers focus not only on their opinion but also on their past experience. That is why we believe that Sense@Maker is an interesting and relevant addition to the M&E exercise as it is a realistic tool based on the commitment and strong participation from the beneficiaries and we plan to use it to influence future programme design and implementation. Among the findings, one pointed out that education is a top concern for the communities. According to the results, communities find education a key component to promote skills, knowledge and new employment opportunities. So we are currently studying how education can be used to achieve a deeper impact in shaping attitudes towards conflict resolution and expanding access to social services. We will keep you in the loop!

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