Silo Fighters Blog

In DRC, building bridges between peacekeeping and development

BY Per Bjälkander | May 4, 2017

Have you ever read an article about the failures of UN peacekeeping? And wondered why the UN invests significant money towards sending foreigners into war-torn countries, only to get caught up in stories of sex abuse and some peacekeepers hiding in their bases when the going gets tough? The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is not new to such stories. When President Mobutu was overthrown in 1997 after over 30 years of autocratic rule, the country tumbled into chaos with an increased number of armed groups. This led to internal and regional conflict involving many neighboring countries. Despite several peace agreements, the country is struggling to recover from this history of conflict. Old problems continue year after year. State building, where the international community tries to support the government in developing institutions, is still ongoing. Several presidential elections have been postponed. Armed conflict has escalated in new parts of the country such as the Kasai provinces, where we recently lost UN workers. There are currently approximately 2.1 million people who have been forced to leave their homes due to violent conflict. Collaborating for a cause We at the UN are asking ourselves: how do we help break this trend? UN civilian and military peacekeepers (MONUSCO) have been in the country 18 years and have tremendous capacity. The United Nations in the Democratic Republic of Congo includes over 20 other UN organizations that are also present in the DRC, and many work on similar issues as the peacekeeping forces. The problem is that there isn’t enough collaboration between the UN organizations and the peacekeepers. However, with the new global consensus as agreed in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, there is an understanding that development actors, peacekeepers and humanitarian workers need to work together. To sustain peace, we need functioning schools, social services and local councils just as much as we need “blue helmets.” The UN in the DRC wants to innovate by finding ways to take advantage of the peacekeepers’ presence to implement the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), focusing on promoting peace, justice and strong institutions. Peace keeping and development agencies working together  Our main objective is to ensure that MONUSCO and the UN country team have a joint strategy that builds on what each one does best. The UN Development Assistance Frameworks (UNDAFs) need to be in line with national priorities and capture the SDGs. Therefore, the UN decided to first support the government in adapting the SDGs to the Congolese context, in order to prepare a new National Development Plan. For SDG 16 which aims to promote peace, justice and strong institutions, the government prioritized reducing violence, fighting corruption and good governance. To build on this work, the UN also supports the Ministry of Planning in arranging a meeting with government officials, specifically on the topics of peace, justice, and strong institutions. With the help of MONUSCO, government officials presented and discussed baseline data for reducing violence, fighting corruption and good governance. It is critical to know where we stand in order to measure future impact. What’s next? The UNDAF has been postponed by one year due to significant political issues and delays in drafting a national development plan that the UN could align itself with. The year will provide extra time for a discussion between the UN and the government on strategic priorities. In the meantime, the UN is putting in place “joint task forces” on specific themes where MONUSCO and the UN country team have a common interest. Inspired by the call for new ways of working at the World Humanitarian Summit, we are working together on reintegration of ex-combatants, displacement, justice, gender and human rights. Stay tuned for more about this in future posts. In countries where violent conflict exists, let’s remember that teaching a young person a skill is peacekeeping, and getting a young combatant out of war is development. Photo: UNHCR/B.Sokol

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Designing for Fragility in Somalia

BY Marc Jacquand | April 12, 2017

In vulnerable districts of Somalia, we at the UN in Somalia and our partners have limited visibility of the situation on the ground. Due to security issues, we do not have a significant physical presence in districts  where violence continues. This brings us to dilemma: How can we plan our programs effectively if we are not aware of realities on the ground? This weakness undermines the impact of the resources we invest, while increasing the risk of doing harm through ill-designed programming and weak implementation. Unpacking fragility To plan and program, we need to understand what is happening in these vulnerable districts, particularly what we refer to as “fragility”: What triggers conflict and what are the avenues for reconciliation? What are the security, rule of law and justice arrangements? What is the capacity of the government? What socioeconomic activities are communities involved in? Standard situation analyses and needs assessments often do not provide a clear picture of fragility as they tend to be state or country-wide, and are too far removed from details at the district-level. If the UN’s strategic plan and joint programmes are designed based on sound fragility measurements, we hope they will not only be more accurate, but also increase impact for vulnerable areas and populations. We need to gain a better understanding of fragility to understand the vulnerability of districts, particularly if they relapse into conflict under the influence of armed groups.  The lack of district-level data and intelligence So why haven’t we been gathering this kind of data? There are three reasons: Until now, planning and programming in Somalia has been fragmented with little effort to share data, information and intelligence about what happens at the district level. This is true both within the UN and between UN and its partners. Until recently, the UN’s stabilization efforts had little focus on community-level realities and the multidimensional elements of fragility. Until not so long ago, many districts were inaccessible. Recent military gains, as fragile as they may be, offer an opportunity to know more and do more in these districts - if we have the analytical and risk management tools to do so. We want to improve our analytical capacity, at a time when we are designing a new strategic plan and supporting the government of Somalia with their national development plan. We are now focused on community recovery and the extension of state authority and accountability. What does this mean? Supporting Somali-owned and Somali-led processes remains central to our new approach, but it is based on a greater focus on locally-led recovery efforts in areas that have never felt a positive presence of the state. We are also focused on better analytics to understand conflict dynamics and respond accordingly. Stress testing and a one-stop shop We believe that robust risk management and greater investments in fragility measurements at the district level will increase the UN’s impact. Our new approach focuses on advances in risk management. For example, we applying stress testing methods, where a strategy or a programme is subjected to a series of assessments against potential risks and obstacles. This is to ensure that the strategy or programme contains all the necessary measures to address, prevent and respond to risk or obstacles. We also want to provide a coherent and consistent trend analysis of the situation in South Central Somalia. To measure fragility, our core analytical product is an open platform called the Fragility Index Maturity Model, which will be officially launch soon. This model puts together a basic operational picture of progress at the district level. It brings together internal UN resources as well as data from other partners already operating in Somalia, such as the Stability Fund and the US Office of Transitional Initiatives. The model will assess districts by tracking progress on security, policing and the rule of law; governance and reconciliation; and the quantity, quality and accessibility of education, health and other social services. We hope that this information will be useful for UN agencies and the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia, and other partners such as USAID, DFID and the federal and local government in Somalia.   Check back here for updates and do get in touch if you have advice or questions.

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Central African Republic: Participatory programming, even in times of crisis

BY Meïssa Dieng Cisse | October 27, 2016

The US election and the Syrian war are all over the news. The recent crisis in Central African Republic is not. Unfortunately, we don’t make it to the news, but now that I got your attention, here it is: There is a crisis in the Central African Republic. Over the past three years, the country has experienced a major political crisis which has resulted in a violent conflict affecting nearly the entire population and leaving some 2.3 million people, over half the population, in dire need of assistance. For a full report on the situation, you can check the OCHA Central African Republicwebsite. Adapting the UN to fit the needs of Central African Republic With all the challenges that a humanitarian situation of this nature brings, it was a must to adapt the response of the UN to the country according to these urgent needs. In principle, in 2015 we were supposed to start planning our new four-year strategic framework, which takes two years to plan, but due to the circumstances, we couldn’t afford that. Upon consultation with the transitional Government, the UN team in the country agreed to develop a temporary strategic plan to address the urgent issues in 2016 and 2017. In this strategic framework, the UN team in Central African Republic complements the work the peacekeeping and humanitarian efforts of the organization in the country. However, to better understand the future development priorities of the country, and therefore the ones for the UN, we left our offices and went “outside” to ask the people of the Central African Republic. Innovation in times of crisis Traditionally, the development of a UN strategic framework is always preceded by a situation analysis to outline the key development issues in any given country. This analysis will later inform the key priorities of the UN in the country. In this “standard” country assessment the Government, as the UN key counterpart, is always consulted. This analytical exercise also incorporates conventional data, that is helpful to predict potential scenarios for development. However, under the current circumstances, data in Central African Republic is obsolete and unfit for the purpose of a national exercise like this. So what to do? How could we supplement conventional data sources? We decided to go where the data is and consult the people, the ultimate beneficiaries of any development effort. You might be thinking “that this is not innovative approach…”.  Well, keep reading. It was an innovative approach: For the first time ever for the UN and for the Central African Republic, the population was directly consulted to get its opinion about the country’s political and socio-economic situation and the possible solutions. For this kind of analysis, traditionally the UN organizes meetings or workshops with the main counterparts of our programs and projects to design strategies, elaborate or validate draft documents. This time we consulted people directly, in their own environment. The Red Cross managed directly the consultation, where opinion leaders, local authorities and the local population were  interviewed separately which allowed all of them to speak freely. Reaching those who policy consultations miss For each prefecture, representatives of vulnerable populations (indigenous peoples, persons with disabilities, older persons, girls and boys up to 25 years old, people living with HIV and AIDS, refugees, internally displaced populations), disadvantaged groups (women’s organizations, informal sector workers, youth organizations), local authorities (prefects, mayors, heads of districts), opinion leaders (crowned heads, traditional leaders, teachers and religious groups), and civil society participated in the consultation. These public consultations gave a voice to non-traditional stakeholders, especially the most disadvantaged who are not formally organized. We ensured that necessary measures were in place to allow participants speak freely. Such was the case of women, who were interviewed separately so they could express their opinions openly. A total of 660 persons were interviewed covering Bangui and all the 16 prefectures of the country. In addition to the focus groups interviews, 176 local authorities (in the rural areas) and opinion leaders (in Bangui) met to discuss about the major issues that arose during the focus group interviews. This public consultation exercise allowed us to map the priorities in a more disaggregated level,  geographically as well as demographically. As a result, the focus groups and the local authorities identified the following areas as the maincauses of the recurrent conflict in the Central African Republic: Weak governance and lack of local leaders consultation and involvement in their communities projects Insecurity and lack of peace Weak national capacities Absence of basic social services (education, health, clean water and sanitation, etc.) Lack of social cohesion It was interesting to find out that even though the expressed needs of all groups participating  are similar, the priority of the needs varies depending on the group. For instance, the lack of food and education has been identified as the most important need by vulnerable groups, while for opinion leaders, NGO and women associations, the first need is security. This differentiation will need to be addressed when designing responses to the crisis in our programming. Making public consultations part of development planning The consultation was key in the development of the UN common country analysis which now relies on broad participatory consultations; an innovation that the UN country team decided to introduce instead of just following the classical methodological approach (data review, supplemental surveys) to develop the common country analysis. The findings of the public consultations exercise were vital to identify the priorities of the UN Interim Strategic Framework (2016-2017) which is the reference plan for the UN in the Central African Republic for the coming two years. And last, BUT NOT LEAST, the consultations are also helpful in validating the Government’s priorities in the Recovery and Peacebuilding Strategy.  We’re proud of this!

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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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What if we don’t have all the development answers…or even the questions?

BY Kristine Hauge Bjergstrøm | May 12, 2016

Lebanon has weathered many a storm, and is not easily shipwrecked. But five years and counting into the Syria Crisis, the country’s developmental trajectory and prospects are cause for serious alarm. Regional turmoil and insecurity have scared off investors, halted trade and reversed economic growth, and the presence of over 1 million Syrian refugees continue to place a tremendous burden on the country’s services and infrastructure. Many current challenges, of which Lebanon has no shortage, have been compounded by the crisis, leading to significant development losses, including deepened poverty and marginalization. At the same time, Lebanon is experiencing an almost complete paralysis of political decision-making, drifting without a president or a clear vision for the country’s future. For the UN system in Lebanon, 2016 presents a unique opportunity to support the development of such a vision. Not only is the UN developing a new strategy for cooperation (an UNDAF/ISF), but also 2016 is the year we launch the Sustainable Development Goals. Both of these initiatives open windows for a renewed, inclusive and ambitious conversation with – and among – different parts of Lebanese society on what a national development agenda could meaningfully look like. They also provide an opportunity to see how the SDGs can be used to contribute to the security, stability and growth of the country in the medium term, while laying the foundation for sustainable development over the long term. When development experts don’t come with pre-developed answers A prominently visible role for the UN influences the conversation.The UN has agenda-setting power. This realization has informed our design. We at the UN in Lebanon will try to take a back seat as much as possible by seeking strategic partnerships with local academic institutions to spearhead the debate and engage students from a wide range of subjects to drive the conversation. We will kick off the conversation, but we want to learn not to ask the questions or provide the answers. This is important for the design of our approach. Our thinking is that when we ask the students to research the development priorities and perspectives of the most marginalized communities, these activities not only generate better and less filtered information, but also lead to improved citizen-to-citizen interaction across very diverse parts of society. When we ask students to help us develop a modality for staying in touch with these communities for their continued feedback and to keep us accountable, our working hypothesis is that students are better placed to assess what is likely to motivate people to remain part of the conversation. In extending the conversation to a wider audience through film and radio, the students are insiders rather than outsiders, and much better placed to prompt debate on how the SDGs resonate in Lebanon. Bringing together the information gleaned from these activities, the students will provide a locally grounded, multi-disciplinary analysis of the key challenges and priorities for change, and what this means for development in Lebanon in the medium term. We think that this kind of knowledge is the key to tackling the twin challenge of connecting the SDGs to people’s local priorities and of creating an accountable United Nations Strategic Framework for Lebanon 2017-2020. In both cases, the aim is to promote a much more inclusive process. Turning a conversation into a response Once we hear from people, the challenge will be to turn this knowledge into genuine responsiveness on the part of the UN as we prioritize, design and implement programmes within the broad strategic framework. The UN in Lebanon will be challenged to take a step back and consider how its programme responds to the priorities that are emerging from the conversation within Lebanese society. In addition, we will be challenged along with the university partners to come up with concrete suggestions for how to adapt what the UN does in partnership with national counterparts to accommodate these insights. The challenge will be to connect the SDGs to people’s local priorities and support the setting of national targets. Here again, the UN will take a back seat and ask our university partners to relay their analysis directly to national decision makers, the private sector and civil society. These are just ideas – but ideas that we hope will have the potential to change the way we do business. At the very least, we can expect to come out of this with better knowledge of what society aspires to achieve during this time of crisis. It will be up to us to make the people’s voices count. We know we are not the first to try this kind of approach, and we imagine that there’s much to learn from others. Do you have any advice as we take this work forward?

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A story of many transitions: the UN in Haiti as it evolves in 2016

BY Mourad Wahba, Kanni Wignaraja | January 29, 2016

The UN has been in Haiti a long time. The most recent iteration of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) arrived 11 years ago. And it has been ‘shall we stay or shall we go’, for some years now. Maybe 2016 is the year where, finally, the decision to wrap up a full peace keeping mission does happen. For real. And for many, Haitians and UN colleagues alike, it is about time. There is much uncertainty in the air about elections. The complex electoral processes, the play of political parties and strong interest groups, the constitution as it is, the candidates; all contribute to an anxiety, a weariness, and a state of uncertainty. In the midst of this, the various parts of the UN have to come together, to try and think, plan and act as one. This is not a moment for individual entity or personal aggrandizement nor self-interest. It is time to step-up to the plate as a UN first, and take a hard look at our future roles and contribution to this country. To do this, we must first all see Haiti for what it can be in 10-15 years – a stable middle income country on a sustainable development path, leading to lasting peace and progress. Setting priorities with the people of Haiti Many of the UN Country Team and MINUSTAH mission colleagues get this, and have started more intensively working together to ensure a smooth transition, one that works for Haiti going forward. Some key areas for focus that came out of the initial visioning and planning exercises, include: Ensuring all Haitians have formal identity, with a national census and a civil registry; and following the missing data so no one is left behind; ‘Going (staying) local’ to build-back institutional and service delivery capacity, so local government can administer essential services and partner with local private sector to deliver; Addressing the rights and vulnerability gaps, which in most areas remain stark across gender lines, with women and girls as victims of violence, the least able to access land and credit, and with least choices available on education and jobs; If the Haitian people are open to it, some form of indepth dialogue to help bring about and keep a culture of peace. This would also include elements of rule of law, respect for human rights and education that integrates a socialization around a common culture and identity; and The need to keep open an emergency response/humanitarian window to address the spikes in cholera and malnutrition that still exists. This is a whole-of-UN system agenda to support. No entity can do any part of it alone. Nor can the mission, even if it is replaced by another UN Secretariat effort. It will take us all. A new global agenda, a new sustainable development framework This is the clear intention behind the team work underway: to develop a UN Sustainable Development Framework (UNSDF), an UNDAF-plus, that will support countries in their Agenda 2030 pathway. Haiti, we hope, will have a national census this year; the government and the UN also have access to multiple assessments and analytics it can draw from; the upcoming elections and establishment of a new government and parliament will provide the new set of national interlocutors to consult and plan with; and most importantly, it is a moment to take all of this to the Haitian people to understand better what they think and want from the UN in their country. This relationship must be refreshed with more public engagement, open dialogues and data transparency, access and reach that is community; and the UN being seen and heard together, with clear common voice on their vision for a young, growing, peaceful Haiti. Supporting together a transition process The transition is underway. We have learnt from others, including Timor-Leste and Sierra Leone. The common vision based on quality data and analytics are key. And a new UNSDF will be born, with not more than 5-6 strategic outcomes as defined and agreed with the key stakeholders. This must be followed by clear joint work streams leading to groups that will deliver together on joint work plans. A Business Operations Strategy (BOS) in a post mission setting is key, as the mission withdraws and with it the administrative services, such as fuel, which it provides to all. Ensuring UNSDF development, together with a BOS and mission transition plan, and having it all led by a common team and leadership, is therefore, the way to go. This is one island-two countries. Borders, biodiversity, epidemics, climate impact, trade are shared. People move across the borders every day. Bi-national it is called. Down the road, maybe more can be done together between the two UN country teams. There still remains too much that separates us – as UN missions and UN country teams serving in the same country. “Integrated missions” (which will bring together these two angles of the UN) will only really work if we truly integrate from the get-go and look at the design, substantive contributions, resource and capacity sharing, and common administration of a UN presence – One country, One UN. We are moving in this direction, but slowly, and not everyone is on the same page within. Our still parallel structures, separate administrations, separate teams - sometimes the mirror image of each other in the exact same areas - and separate visions of a country, attest to this. It is time to change, and Haiti is where we can show it can happen. This team is ready to demonstrate that it is possible.

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Restructuring aid for Syria and its neighbours

BY Jason Pronyk | December 7, 2015

The recent surge of hundreds of thousands of refugees travelling from Syria and elsewhere into Europe has prompted new debate about the international aid response to the crisis caused by the Syrian conflict. Should European and other countries do more to help refugees leaving Syria and its neighbours? Should they do more to help in Syria and its neighbours? Can more be done to bring about an end to the war? Amidst the debate, in September the EU pledged an extra US$1.1 billion in aid and the United States pledged an extra US$419m. These pledges come on top of the large sums these donors had already pledged and disbursed this year. They have been welcomed by aid organizations and the countries at the front of dealing with the consequences of the Syrian conflict. Nonetheless, the gaps are still large between the funding that aid organizations and their national partners have appealed for, and the funding that has been pledged or disbursed. The governments of Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey are still seeking more assistance with the costs of hosting between them more than four million refugees. And all the while Syrians continue to be displaced within Syria itself, and refugees continue to travel out of the region. Underfunding – and obstacles Underfunding in aid has consequences, direct and indirect. The World Food Programme has had to cut food aid for refugees. Local authorities have struggled to provide water and sanitation. National budgets have been unable to finance all the schools, teachers, health centres and healthworkers that are needed. And initiatives to generate jobs and livelihoods have gone underfunded – leaving people struggling to make a living. The task of helping those in need has also been hampered by the structures and systems of international aid. The greatest obstacle is the way aid is structured according to whether it is labelled humanitarian or development. Aid is then further compartmentalized, according to goals under each of these headings. In general, if money is labelled humanitarian it goes to short-term goals. If it is labelled development, it goes to longer-term goals. A further obstacle is the classification of Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey as middle income countries. This precludes them from receiving the types of grant aid from multilateral financial institutions that poorer countries receive. Little of this makes sense for helping the millions displaced in Syria and who have fled abroad, and the neighbouring countries that have taken in more than 4 million refugees, and which face their own budgetary pressures. A change – and more needed Put simply, the structure of international aid – its architecture – is not fit for the purpose of responding effectively to the consequences of the Syrian conflict. So what needs to change? One recent proposal has been to increase the access that Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey have to “concessional loans.” Under the proposed arrangement, the World Bank will provide new loans to Syria’s neighbours to help deal with the financial burden of the conflict, and wealthy donor countries will pay the interest on those loans. The proposed arrangement is welcome and overdue. But more needs to be done. More needs to be done to break down the barriers between humanitarian and development aid, and to create new and innovative mechanisms for financing the collective response to the Syria crisis. This is why the structure of the international aid response to the Syrian conflict was one of the topics discussed at the Resilience Development Forum held in Jordan on November 8th and 9th. The event brought together 500 participants in an unprecedented spectrum of stakeholders: senior representatives of Governments from Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey; 31 UN Agencies and IOs and IFIs; 23 donor countries; 50 international and local NGOs and research institutions; and private sector leaders exchanged their rich experiences and discussed innovative ideas. The Forum explored ways to better connect public finance and private finance, where they can work well together, and ways to remove unhelpful barriers between humanitarian and development aid. You can download the Dead Sea resilience Agenda here. Changes need to be made so that good projects can be designed and implemented, less constrained by needing to present themselves as short-term, immediate responses just in order to maximize their chances of being funded. Changes need to be made so that good projects do not go underfunded. And changes need to be made so that there is more international solidarity and burden sharing with the countries in the frontline of dealing with the consequences of the Syrian conflict. Investing in the resilience of these countries means strengthening their ability to cope with the millions of displaced and refugees who remain among them. It means striking a better balance between providing emergency assistance and investing in the kind of longer-term development that will enable the displaced and refugees to fulfill their ambitions and aspirations in Syria and in the neighbouring countries. And it means supporting these countries’ national response plans and the linked international plans. On December 7th, the Regional Refugee and Resilience Plan (‘3RP’) for 2015-16 and the Syria Response Plan will be part of the Global Humanitarian Appeal. The 3RP provides a framework to deliver on the results in the Dead Sea Resilience Agenda. Its elements will be the point of reference as we prepare for the pledging opportunities at the London Conference on 4 February 2016. What do you think? What more needs to be done to break down the barriers between humanitarian and development aid, and create new mechanisms for financing the collective response to the Syria crisis? 

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A better tool to understand, prepare for, and reduce risk

BY Patrick Gremillet, Andrew Thow | December 2, 2015

Will the next big tsunami occur in the Arabian Sea? Will ethnic strife erupt in the Horn of Africa? In this complicated world, it can seem hopelessly unrealistic to predict, prevent or ameliorate crises and disasters. We hope that INFORM will begin to change this. INFORM, the first global open-source tool to help make decisions on crisis and disaster prevention, preparedness and response, brings together the best rigorous and intellectual analysis to effectively measure risk. With INFORM, members of UN Country Teams with common goals now have a common language and a way of working truly collaboratively. It is a robust rubric to help understand, prepare for, and reduce risk. It simplifies complicated information and helps build a risk profile for each of 191 countries. INFORM is a partnership of many (currently 18) organizations. We came together when we realized we were all trying to solve the same problem - how to understand the risk of crises and disasters to help prioritize activities and allocate limited resources. Existing initiatives were organization specific and not widely shared. Other solutions were prohibitively expensive. So we decided to create a completely open-source tool that everyone could use. After a two year development process, we launched INFORM in 2014. INFORM can support global policy processes, including the Sustainable Development Goals. At the national level, it helps the UN and governmental partners achieve a common understanding of risks for country assessments, formulate better UN Development Assistance Frameworks (UNDAFs) and humanitarian strategic response plans (SRPs). Understanding why and where humanitarian crises and disasters are likely to occur is a fundamental step in saving lives and promoting sustainable, risk-informed development. Most crises can be predicted to some extent. And while they cannot always be prevented, the suffering they cause can often be greatly reduced. INFORM can be used to prioritise countries by risk and its components, decide how to prepare and reduce risk, and monitor risk trends. INFORM is a unique way to help you make decisions on crisis and disaster prevention, preparedness and response. It will allow users to plan better, coordinate and ultimately save lives. INFORM works by simplifying a lot of information about risk and its components into a simple risk profile for every country, which covers natural and human hazards, vulnerability and lack of coping capacity. It covers 191 countries. All the results and data used are freely available and the methodology is completely transparent. INFORM provides a common evidence base so all governments and organisations can work together better to reduce the risk of humanitarian crisis and disaster, build resilience and prepare for crises. Alongside the 2016 results, INFORM has also released its strategy for taking the same risk assessment process and methodology to regional and national level. From 2016, INFORM Subnational will support local partners to develop detailed risk models that are tailored to specific regions and countries. These will be developed and owned locally, but draw on global resources and expertise and will be validated according to global standards. For example, the UN Resident Coordinator's Office in Lebanon has led the development of an INFORM Subnational model for the country. This was created through a consultative process with the government, UN, NGOs and donors. It is being embedded in regional processes and coordination mechanisms to help all partners quantify and prioritise risks. The model provides a much more detailed, complete and comparable picture of risk than previous analyses. INFORM is a collaboration of the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) Task Team for Preparedness and Resilience and the European Commission. INFORM partners include: ACAPS, DFID, European Commission, FAO, GFDRR, IOM, OCHA, OECD, UNDP, UNEP, UNFPA, UNHCR, UNICEF, UNISDR, UNWOMEN, WFP, and WHO. While the world is unpredictable, this tool goes a long way towards understanding what you can predict, and planning accordingly. What do you think? Can this tool help you with your planning processes? What do you think we are missing?

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What I learned from Nepal and the Sahel

BY Robert Piper | October 13, 2015

In my 25 years at the United Nations I have had the fortune to sample a number of the silos for which our institution has become famous. The development. And the humanitarian. I’ve also worked at the intersections - on peacebuilding, on recovery from the tsunami, on the MDGs. From 2008 - 2013 I was both Resident Coordinator (RC) and Humanitarian Coordinator (HC) in Nepal. Shortly after arriving, I listened to the seismologists who helped me understand the history of plate movement in that part of the world. It was as clear as day that Nepal was due for a substantial earthquake. I visited MPs. I worked on a succession of six Prime Ministers. We brought Mayors from Christchurch, Generals from Pakistan, Marines from Okinawa. We created the Nepal Risk Reduction Consortium that brought together the Government, the Donors, the International Financial Institutions, the Red Cross movement, the NGOs, the UN - humanitarians and development alike - around a $150 million plan of action. We set about retrofitting schools. Assessing the main hospitals. We built a National Operations Centre. An earthquake proof blood bank. A logistics platform at the airport. We trained thousands of masons. It was good, but it fell far short of what was required, in the short time available. The death toll from last month’s earthquakes in Nepal is nearing 9,000 (Editor's note: this post was written in May 2015). 750,000 houses have been damaged or destroyed. When they go back to school tomorrow, 1 million students will be without a classroom. I have seen estimates of a $5 billion reconstruction bill. The Nepal risk reduction effort taught me a lot of things. That there is a crucial role for the UN to play in looking over the horizon at what may be approaching, well beyond the election cycle. That it IS possible to bring together Banks and Humanitarians, Government and Non Government - big coalitions to tackle big issues - if you are practical and clear about the task to be achieved together. The Nepal effort also taught me that disappearing into the stratosphere of UN jargon is the kiss of death. That risk reduction costs money. It’s important to raise awareness, it’s good to train masons, it’s important to have good policy. But then you have to retrofit thousands of schools. Rebuild dozens of hospitals. All that costs real money – a fraction of what it will cost in money and lives if you fail to do so but real money nonetheless. The link between a policy-savvy and technically-savvy UN and a deep-pocketed World Bank is critical therefore. And finally, that you can take nothing to scale unless you have a Government that decides this is a priority. Frankly, this remained elusive in the political instability that was post-conflict Nepal. Recently, I finished a stint in the Sahel, coordinating a $2 billion annual humanitarian operation across 9 countries that was responding to two kinds of crisis. One is familiar to us, tied to civil wars that lead to conflict and displacement. The so-called acute emergencies that make it into the news. The second, less familiar, were the chronic emergencies. Chronic emergencies in the Sahel take the form of 20 million food insecure people, 6 million acutely malnourished children, over 17 million people at risk of epidemics like meningitis and Yellow Fever. 600,000 children in the Sahel will die this year due to malnutrition-related causes. If that is not an emergency what is? Yet these numbers are annual, recurrent and tragically predictable. From food insecurity to malnutrition we return year after year to the same regions, to the same communities, even to the same households. The predictability of it challenges our understanding of what makes an emergency an emergency, what divides relief from development, and where to define the limits of humanitarian response. What is deeply troubling about this phenomenon in the Sahel is that the numbers are growing, inexorably, year by year, and independently of a major weather event. Why? Because the drivers are deeply entrenched and structural. Climate change. Demographic growth. Lack of access to basic health services and clean water. Governance neglect. Make no mistake: our Sahel humanitarian operation is saving thousands of lives every day. It is vital. But we have watched our appeals grow from $200 million a year to $2 billion a year in 10 years. And $8 billion in emergency aid to the Sahel over the last 10 years won’t get you a reduction in next year’s case load. It won’t reverse the highest fertility rates in the world. It won’t deliver climate-hardy seeds. The Security Council is engaged. The Inter Agency Standing Committee (IASC) is engaged. But where is the major development effort needed that will get to the real drivers of these numbers? What threshold do we need to cross in lives lost or humanitarian and peacekeeping expenditures before the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and the wider development community insist on a profound rethink of our development strategies? Backed by the resources needed to translate new ideas into results? Both my Nepal and Sahel experience contain a few important messages that I think are relevant as we talk about post 2015 and the positioning of the UN system. First, we desperately need to get serious about prevention. We are not today. You will be well aware that refugee numbers are now the highest since WWII. Globally, humanitarian budgets have soared in the last 10 years from $5 to $18 billion. We are watching countries fall over in slow motion – Mali, Nigeria, CAR - engulfed by insecurity. Nepal’s earthquake is no less the case - we saw it coming without a shadow of a doubt. A post-2015 UN that is ‘fit for purpose’ is in my mind a UN that has overcome its political and institutional shortcomings to put duty of care at the heart of its mandate. Second, that so many of today’s crises represent profound governance failures. I was often asked what I considered the greatest obstacle to Nepal getting ready for the earthquake? My answer? The absence of Mayors. 15 years without local elections meant 15 years without building code enforcement. 15 years of no one visiting the fire station. No one bothering about school safety. No one enforcing a land zoning plan. No one to be truly accountable at the local level. I was thrilled to see this and other key governance messages embedded in the SG’s MDG synthesis report.  Third, and finally, that ECOSOC matters. ECOSOC needs to ensure the important does not get crowded out by the urgent. Someone needs to keep their eye firmly on the structural issues that are generating so much fragility and suffering. I regularly attend seminars or retreats on conflict and fragility and the UN system. And invariably it is SRSGs, HCs, political or peacekeeping types sitting around the table. The development community is often completely absent from the room. Yet it is the development community that will have to do the heavy lifting on these issues. The World Bank’s 2011 WDR famously documented the time-frames required to establish rule of law or getting the military out of politics. 41 years, typically, to establish rule of law for example. At some point, briefly, during these prolonged periods of crisis and transition, the file may well be at the Security Council. At some point it may be at the Peacebuilding Commission. But for the vast majority of the time of this transition - for at least 30 of the 40 years it will take to establish rule of law - the file will be at ECOSOC under your oversight. The task will come down to the UN Development System. And the leadership on the ground will depend on a Resident Coordinator leading a UN team with the vision, tools and support you decide to give them. Nothing could be more important than getting this right. Editorial note: This post is based on a presentation made by the author in May 2015 during an ECOSOC Dialogue event in New York. 

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Silo Fighters Blog

Using mobile phone surveys to fight hunger

BY Marie Enlund, Jean-Martin Bauer | September 15, 2015

Surveys carried out over mobile phones are capturing timely data on food supply and access. The mVAM project of the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) is piloting mobile voice technology for household food security. Remote data collection on food security The mobile Vulnerability Analysis and Mapping (mVAM) project is collecting food security data through short mobile phone surveys, using text messages, live telephone interviews and ‘robocalls’ through an Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system. The mVAM project is the first project to use mobile phone surveys at scale in humanitarian settings, as shown in this video from a refugee camp in Goma, ‘WFP calling: What did you eat today?’ As readers of our blog know, the project has now been scaled up to 11 countries in Africa and in the Middle East. Advantages of monitoring with mobile technologies Mobile surveys provide a valuable complement to the face-to-face survey approaches that are commonly used. We use the data to help track changes in food security in near real-time, increasing our ability to understand needs more quickly and efficiently. mVAM provides information we can use to drill down on a specific theme, area or group. Turnaround is estimated at one to two weeks compared to six weeks for face-to-face surveys. Costs range from $3 to $9 per questionnaire compared to $20 to $40 for face-to-face surveys. mVAM enables data collection in hard-to-access, remote or dangerous locations without putting enumerators at risk. Mobile surveys are feasible and affordable In the past, advanced computer coding skills were needed to design and run a polling survey using text messaging or IVR (interactive voice response). Today, it can be done using a drag and drop interface – which is great news if you are less-technologically inclined. Advances in technology make real-time monitoring a feasible and affordable option for agencies. In particular, free and open source technologies offer user-friendly SMS and IVR packages. If you want to do mobile surveys at a large scale, private companies also offer SMS and IVR services at affordable rates. Lessons learned Before you take the plunge, do remember that real-time monitoring is no ‘silver bullet’: large analytical capacities are required to churn through the data and make it speak to decision makers. Determine exactly what questions to ask in your phone surveys, as you want to keep them as short as possible. How we avoided the ‘data silo’ trap From the start of the mVAM project, we have tried to ensure that our data is being made available outside the confines of WFP.  We think that the mVAM-HDX collaboration around Ebola data is a great example of how two UN agencies have helped each other out for the greater good: WFP and the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). [caption id="attachment_369" align="aligncenter" width="700"] Interactive visuals on WFP food price data[/caption] At the peak of the Ebola emergency last year, we teamed up with OCHA’s Humanitarian Data Exchange (HDX) in order to help share our data with the wider humanitarian community. When we put our data on HDX, we saw a surge in traffic on our website, a clear indication that having an open access policy was the best way to share our information.  Soon, we saw partner organizations – donors and NGOs – publish reports using the data that had been shared in this way. In addition, HDX has helped us develop cool visuals that we have embedded into our website. Interactive visuals on WFP food price data are already up and visuals of mVAM data are coming soon. Looking ahead WFP looks forward to expanding its partnership network and working with others on remote data collection. We see potential for collaboration with UNHCR in camp settings, for example. Working with community-based organizations at the grassroots level has promoted continued engagement of communities with our surveys, and we will continue doing this. We also plan to conduct a series of webinars this autumn, which you are invited join. More information For more information and updates on mVAM, please visit MVAM: THE BLOG and the VAM Resource Center, where we offer guidelines, training materials, sample survey forms and related articles and news.

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Silo Fighters Blog

Real-time data analysis during crises

BY Maximo Halty | June 11, 2015

When crisis strikes, data – normally provided by national counterparts – suddenly can be in short supply, or outright unavailable. Each organization scrambles to find, or produce, the basic data they need to function in the crisis, with little time to consider common data needs, common collection systems or data sharing. The result is often translated into disconnected or overlapping responses, or simply the lack of appropriate responses. Based on an initial experience in Sudan and South Sudan, and now currently in Lebanon and Jordan, addressing the Syria-related crisis, a new web-based data management and mapping tool has emerged that can help manage and display  data on both humanitarian and human development issues in a user-friendly and integrated manner. The Information Management and Analysis Support (IMAS) Toolkit supports information management, joint analysis, integrated programming and effective coordination. It also supports monitoring and evaluation (M&E) and reporting, and it does so, in one integrated, online, user-friendly platform. The rollout of IMAS in Lebanon is linked to the Lebanon Crisis Response Plan, a joint UN-Government strategic plan and appeal to manage the severe strains that the Syrian conflict has had the country’s economy, state institutions, hosting communities and its complex social fabric. Further, the demographic pressure of 1.2 million refugees now seeking asylum in small Lebanon challenges the coping capacity of the state, which faces a critical risk to its stability. Four years into the crisis, the UN family in Lebanon has now reoriented the humanitarian response within the context of Lebanon’s own stabilization into an integrated approach focused on strengthening the capacity of vulnerable people, systems and institutions to cope with these shocks. These tools build on the information management capacities established early in the response, but takes them much further, expanding their analytic breadth and capability and embedding them within national institutions.  The team that built them started small, drawing expertise through UNDP’s sub-regional facility based in Amman, cost-shared between UNDP regional and country offices and the Resident Coordinator's Office, and brought in technical experts from the private sector to design the tools according to our needs and reflecting models of best practice elsewhere. Managing information and enhancing data analysis The IMAS Toolkit is an online software package with a common mapping system. One of its strongest features is the way data is easily filtered in the database and then dynamically layered on the common mapping tool – allowing users to filter, select and display whichever data they want to compare and analyze. For example, a user could simply look at the status of their activities on the basic map. Or, a user could select the maps showing the density of refugees and pattern of deprivation, and overlay where livelihood projects that address these issues are being carried out by the UN and the government, and can help visualize if the targeting is correct, and where are the critical gaps (or overlaps) in livelihood programming. And the user can check, in the same tool, to see which donor has committed what funding, when and to whom, for Livelihoods programming. The IMAS Toolkit was developed with the initial support of the UNDP Sub-Regional Facility for the Syria crisis and the United Nations Resident Coordinator’s Office and the UNDP Country Office in Lebanon.  It was developed in-house at low cost, using license-free components. The toolkit is a new dimension in UN mapping because it connects humanitarian and development issues, while complementing existing resources. The scope is not only more comprehensive but also sets the stage for the post-crisis reconstruction and recovery efforts. How does it work? The IMAS Toolkit includes four components: Who, What, Where, When (4Ws) Municipal Risk and Problem Mapping Lebanon Aid Tracking System Country Digital Atlas COMPONENT 1: The 4Ws (Who, What, Where, When) This component addresses basic questions about the activities of United Nations agencies and partners taking place during a crisis situation: who, what, where and when? The 4Ws tool is an online project and activity tracking and mapping tool with a dynamically updated dashboard. The dashboard displays project and activity data in several ways, e.g. by donor, sector, area of intervention, status, implementer, activity Indicators, etc. Each activity can be geo-referenced on a satellite imagery map that zooms in to the selected location, e.g. school, community center, road, water station, etc. The user can also attach pictures and reports to each activity point, which will then be made available in the ‘map view’. Content can be exported and printed. The 4Ws tool also offers a search and mapping component that shows the work of other partners via ActivityInfo, an online humanitarian  reporting tool that helps humanitarian agencies  report and track delivery towards  crisis response indicators. COMPONENT 2: Municipal Risk and Problem Mapping The process of mapping municipal risks and problems is ideally a government-led process, both local and national. It can become a periodic exercise, e.g. annual, that is integrated into the national planning processes (as in practice in South Sudan, at the county level). This tool is part of the UNDP Municipal Risk and Resources Mapping process (MRR) first in Lebanon, and now in Jordan.   A multi-actor consultation process at the municipal level identifies, prioritizes, categorizes and geo-references the main risks and their associated problems. Once the data is input into the database management and mapping tool, results can be visualized and searched. The IMAS Toolkit works, as we said before, on a common map background. This is important because the user can select/filter any particular dataset of problems of the MRR; go to the 4Ws and see, filter and display all related interventions (ongoing or planned); and finally analyze how they relate to each other. COMPONENT 3: Lebanon Aid Tracking System In the IMAS Toolkit, this component is referred to as  Lebanon Aid. It is designed for reporting of all development funding by donors, and allows for cross-checking with Government and UN agencies and their partners. The tool also provides a direct  feed from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Financial Tracking Service (OCHA FTS),which records all reported aid contributions to the Lebanon Crisis Response Plan (LCRP). Dashboards display data in several ways, e.g. by donor, sector, recipient, project, date range, status of funding, etc. The OCHA FTS part of the tool is currently online and publicly accessible, and the full system will be set up by the Government soon. COMPONENT 4: Country Digital Atlas The Country Digital Atlas is the common mapping platform for analysis, planning, coordination and M&E. The Atlas is therefore a key starting point for data compilation and sharing. It is ideally a government-led exercise, supported by the UN and partners through the Information Management Working Group (IMWG), where these exist. Essentially, the Atlas is a GIS (geographic information systems) tool for compiling all geo-enabled datasets that are relevant for joint analysis, planning, coordination and M&E. A metadata sheet identifies all available datasets, their producers, their periodicity and the conditions for their sharing (i.e. public or restricted), and is ideally set up as an online map, with a dynamic display. See this example of the Lebanon Digital Atlas. Using the toolkit in Lebanon today Together with the Lebanon Digital Atlas, the IMAS Toolkit is being used to support a new platform for joint analysis and programming for the Lebanon Crisis Response Plan. The platform will address aid management, donor coordination, risk/gap analysis and prioritization, among other needs.  A complementary tool will be the Lebanon Risk Index and Model recently completed and soon to be published. Its development was launched by the Lebanon Joint Analysis Unit with support from the Index for Risk Management (InfoRM), which identifies countries at high risk of humanitarian crisis.  The aim is to replicate national-level risk indexing at the sub-national level, which will improve in-country risk tracking and trend analysis. Access to the IMAS Toolkit Now that it is functional in Lebanon, and since it requires no costly licenses and very limited tailoring to use in other countries, the IMAS Toolkit is currently being rolled-out in Jordan, and a number of other country offices in the region have expressed an interest in using it. The Lebanon Resident Coordinator's Office and the UNDP Country Office are happy to facilitate the transfer of the Toolkit, and discussions are on-going with the Regional Office and the Sub-regional Facility to set up a sustainable support system for a regional roll-out of the Toolkit. To contact the IMAS development team for further information or to test the tool yourself, please email: Maximo Halty: (maximo.halty (at) undp.org) or Wendy MacClinchy (macclinchy (at) un.org).

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Silo Fighters Blog

From crisis to resilience in Jordan  

BY Edward Kallon | May 26, 2015

During the Syria crisis years, the context in Jordan has changed significantly. The situation has evolved from an initial focus on life-saving humanitarian assistance to a time when assistance to refugees and host communities must be equally prioritized. It is all about turning challenges into opportunities. The conflict in Syria, now entering its fifth year, defies conventional conflict resolution approaches and challenges aid responses. This requires a shift in the way the United Nations does business. The Government of Jordan, the UN system and the international community have worked hard to address complex challenges. Over the years, however, it has become evident that there is further scope to improve the coordination between humanitarian action and development assistance. A shared vision Extensive consultations with the Government, UN and donors in early 2014 led to a shared vision setting out a clear and grounded roadmap. Since then the United Nations Country Team (UNCT) has supported the Government of Jordan in establishing a nationally-led coordination platform; at the same time, the UNCT has worked internally towards strengthening the coherence of its own interventions in response to the impact of the Syria crisis. Jordan UNCT applies the Standard Operating Procedures The complex context has emphasized the need for the UN to be ‘fit for purpose’. It has also provided an entry point for Delivering as One (DaO). The UNDG Standard Operating Procedures for countries adopting the DaO approach provided a flexible entry point for the Jordan UNCT, as the SOPs left sufficient space for customization. In Jordan, the principle leading this effort is that of resilience. This principle is serving as the glue to bridge humanitarian action and development assistance within one coherent framework. What is a resilience-based approach? The resilience-based approach is defined by UNDP as the ability of individuals, households, communities and societies to cope with the adverse impacts of shocks and stresses, to recover from them, and bring about transformational change that supports sustainable human development. The resilience-based approach represents a strategic shift away from a pure humanitarian response to the Syria crisis. More importantly, it provided the conceptual framework to craft both UN and national plans. The process of creating the UNAF 2015-2017 An initial revision exercise of the UNDAF 2013-2017 sharpened the focus on resilience, and strengthened the UNDAF’s alignment with the priorities set out in the Government of Jordan’s National Resilience Plan 2014-2016. In the second half of 2014, the UNCT worked to align the UNDAF with the Jordan Response Plan 2015, which consolidates the humanitarian and development response under one nationally-led framework. It also constitutes the Jordan chapter of the Regional Refugee & Resilience Plan (3RP). Through an extensive consultative process, the UNCT in Jordan developed the United Nations Assistance Framework (UNAF) 2015-2017, which supersedes the UNDAF 2013- The UNAF is a strategic rather than an operational document with a sharp focus on high level results, in line with the latest guidance on DaO. The UNAF, with the inclusion of the refugee component and additional emphasis on resilience programming, enables the UN system to provide a comprehensive, coherent and synergistic response to nationally identified needs and priorities. The UNAF is operationalized through Joint Annual Work Planning. The focus is on joint programmes and joint programming. It contains only the most vital and strategic activities of UNCT, which are intended to be implemented jointly or in a coordinated fashion in the year ahead. A ripple effect for Delivering as One The resilience process around the complex situation in Jordan has triggered progress in other aspects of Delivering as One. UNCT leadership and accountability were fostered by assigning the chairmanship of each of the six UNAF Results Groups to a Head of Agency. In addition, the UN Communication Group, Operations Management Team, Gender Theme Group and Post-2015 Focus Group (each chaired by a Head of Agency) were strengthened and coordinated in ways that could further support the priorities articulated in the UNAF. Resilience is also the underlying principle of the pool-funding mechanism, the Jordan Resilience Fund. The Fund was established with UN support to help finance the Jordan Response Plan. In addition to a national window, the Fund also includes a window through which funds can be channeled to UN activities addressing the impact of the Syria crisis on the country. We know where we want to go With the conceptual framework in place, the challenge now lies in its successful and effective implementation. Becoming the first Delivering as One country in the Middle East is not something that can happen overnight. It is a gradual process that requires a behavioural change within organizations and among staff. However, we know where we want to go, and it is our intention to get there by 2018, in line with the roll-out of the new UNDAF cycle 2018-2022.

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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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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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