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What is a CCA?

The CCA is a required and essential element of every UNDAF process. It is the UN system’s independent and mandate-based articulation of the country context, opportunities and challenges, encompassing sustainable development, human rights, gender equality, peace and security, and humanitarian perspectives. It is underpinned by the promise of the 2030 Agenda to leave no one behind, and the other three programming principles.

The CCA is an objective, impartial assessment (a description of what is happening) and an analysis (a description of why it is happening) of the country situation. It strategically positions the UN system in the country and serves primarily as a programming tool. It also represents a powerful source of information to help the UN system engage with national stakeholders, including to advocate for policy changes and to support the drafting of the national development plan. The CCA provides the essential evidence base from which the UNDAF theory of change is drawn, and offers grounding and direction for a strategic UNDAF. It drives the identification of needed and achievable changes. While identifying sources for the indicators, targets and baselines of the UNDAF results framework, it also pinpoints gaps in data availability and national statistical capacity.

CCAs are forward looking. They define medium and longer term trends, based on a wide range of data sources, which provide the foundation of the UN Vision 2030 document. The UN Vision 2030 and the CCA are mutually reinforcing and should be developed in parallel. The longer term horizon of the UN Vision 2030 informs the orientation of the CCA, and the assessment and analysis of the CCA informs the trend analysis of the UN Vision 2030. Results Groups later use annual reviews to update the analysis related to their results areas so that joint work plans remain relevant for the planned implementation period.

CCAs help to identify areas for enhanced policy coherence, reflecting the interdependence of the SDGs and issues the country should address. Rather than addressing each issue in an individual way, within its own silo, CCAs combine multiple perspectives in a complementary and coherent manner. They identify national capacity gaps (e.g., analytical, institutional and/ or statistical) that can be addressed by coordinated UN support, towards enhanced policy coherence.

In developing the CCA, the UN system uses its convening power to consult and engage with the government and other stakeholders, including the most vulnerable and marginalized people and their organizations, in order to reflect different perspectives. This is considered to be objective UN analysis, and is not a document that requires formal endorsement. The purpose of the CCA is to add value to existing analyses, including that of the government. Preparation of the CCA is also an opportunity to build partnerships with key actors in a given country, which could include international financial institutions, civil society organisations and the private sector.

For countries with UN missions, UN system partners ensure that their assessment and analysis processes and tools employed are complementary, coherent and strategic. The Senior Leadership Forum at the country level is responsible for the coordination and identification of needed analyses.

Developing a CCA

Data collection

CCAs include a review of existing assessments, evaluations and analyses by the government, the UN system and other stakeholders. Existing flagship publications, specific assessments and analytical tools, in particular those contributing to the global monitoring of progress on the SDGs, may be useful sources of information. An overview of possible tools and instruments is available in the CCA companion guidance.

Wherever possible, UNCTs develop CCAs in a manner that contributes to strengthening national capacity for assessment and analyses, including through better data generation. Data and analysis from global SDG indicators can be used where available. Data should be disaggregated to the extent possible to show differences in circumstance according to sex, income, age and other factors, as appropriate. Where official data are not available or not adequately disaggregated, the CCA may draw on other sources of information, such as ad hoc surveys, while maintaining data reliability and ensuring key issues are not overlooked, such as the situation of marginalized groups. Gaps in data availability or quality identified during CCA preparation can guide later UN assistance in developing national statistical capacities.

Data can be gathered in partnership with governmental and nongovernmental actors, ensuring soundness of methodology and reliability. Since the CCA is updated on a continuous basis, data from future assessments are considered when available. Where the United Nations collects its own data, it acts in a manner consistent with:

  • National processes to collect baselines and targets to monitor progress against both nationally defined SDG targets and the global SDG monitoring framework;
  • Efforts supporting the longer term capacity of national data systems;
  • Use of a variety of data sources, including non-traditional ones such as big data, national surveys and participatory assessments;
  • Identification of needs for and investment in disaggregation of data;
  • Data protection policies;
  • Free and open access to data and documentation across the UN system; and
  • Consideration of what data already exist in the public domain, and what data should be publicly available to promote transparency and accountability.

Assessment and analysis

The assessment element of the CCA looks at all areas of the 2030 Agenda. It encompasses the material situation of people in a country, including non-nationals, and the political, policy and legislative environment for achieving the SDGs and other national commitments and obligations under international conventions ratified by the country. It assesses risks for different groups and geographic areas. It also identifies risks, challenges, opportunities, potential trade-offs, national capacities and capacity gaps, policy enablers and limitations, and considers these in the context of the UN system’s comparative advantage. Disaggregated data are fundamental to an assessment that presents an accurate picture of a national situation from the perspective of the principle of leaving no one behind. The assessment also examines the financial system in the country in terms of the achievement of the SDGs, focusing primarily on domestic finance.

The analysis element of the CCA identifies the immediate, underlying and root causes of multidimensional poverty, inequalities and discrimination, and the reasons why particular groups are left behind. It also examines gaps in the capacities of duty-bearers to fulfil their obligations and of rights-holders to make their claims. Special emphasis is paid to gender and geographical analysis at the macro-, meso- and micro- levels. [18] Where relevant, a conflict analysis should be undertaken, focusing on underlying and root causes, and identifying potential triggers as part of the early warning and conflict prevention roles of the United Nations.

The Secretary-General’s Human Rights Up Front Initiative supports the United Nations in identifying these risks. The Conflict and Development Analysis Tool plus its companion piece UN Conflict Analysis Practice-Note can also be used for this purpose.

Comparative Advantage

Within the CCA, comparative advantage analysis informs the strategic positioning of the UN system’s programmes in a country. It allows the identification of specific strengths that members of the UNCT bring individually and collectively in relation to other partners. The analysis considers capacity at the country, regional and headquarters levels.

Comparative advantage includes the mandate to act, the capacity to act and the positioning to act. Comparative advantage analysis does not articulate the status quo, but rather is a forward-looking projection of capacities and positioning at the country level. It is not necessarily based on those activities with which the UN system is most familiar and comfortable, focusing instead on those where the UN system can best add value. The main comparative advantages typically identified include:

  • Strengthening national capacities at all levels;
  • Supporting monitoring and implementation of international commitments, norms and standards, comprising the 2030 Agenda, the Paris Agreement, the Sendai Framework on Disaster Risk Reduction, multilateral environmental agreements, international/regional human rights treaties and agreed international instruments;
  • Assisting countries through normative support, as appropriate;
  • Acting as a convener of a wide range of national and international partners;
  • Providing high-quality technical expertise in specific areas;
  • Objective monitoring and evaluation of the national development framework;
  • Providing impartial policy advice, based on international experience, technical expertise and good practices; and/or
  • Providing a neutral space within which sensitive political issues can be addressed and resolved, including support to mediation or peace negotiations.

The assessment of comparative advantage is sometimes informed by internal and external perception surveys, and other innovative tools. See detailed guidance on preparing the CCA.


[18]  For a comparative summary of different gender analysis frameworks, see the UNDG Resource Book on Mainstreaming Gender in Common Programming at the Country Level (Table 1, p. 17).

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Unlocking Solutions Through Positive Deviance in Palestine

BY Hadeel Abdo | February 6, 2019

To accelerate joint learning through experimenting innovative methods into our work, several UN agencies, funds and programmes working in Palestine opened the Palestine Innovation Lab spearheaded by UN Women in the spring of 2018. Change leaders and facilitators from the Welfare Improvement Network supported us with the initial setting and operation of the lab. Five UN agencies quickly adopted the Positive Deviance approach to discover successful behaviours that individuals (‘positive deviants’) practice in their own community, often against the grain of harmful norms. Adopting the positive deviance approach requires a paradigm shift: define the problem and therein lies the solution. Picture a half-filled glass: if the problem is the empty half, the solution is the full half. This approach is challenging us to reimagine how change can come from within the community itself. Positive deviants: a solution from within The first step before identifying positive deviants is to recognize that there is an existing problem. Defining the problem may seem simple but it is not. With the positive deviance approach, you have to push deeper to understand the ‘hows’ and the ‘whys’ of a problem. Without defining a concrete problem, it is very difficult to unlock solutions. Experimenting with the positive deviance approach The Innovation Lab is currently applying positive deviance to existing projects from UN Women, UNDP, UNICEF, UN-Habitat and UNODC. This experiment is helping the organizations to unveil and implement sustainable solutions to complex problems in Palestine. Men championing gender equality In Palestine, UN Women is working with local community-based organizations to identify men who, contrary to common practice, support the right of women to inherit property, share household work and childcare with their wives. These men are both the solution to the problem and the solution provider, actively encouraging their peers to change their behaviour to advance gender equality. Their strategies are direct and personal: knocking on people’s doors, giving lectures, and drawing attention to  the importance of gender equality on social media. For example, Yousef Nassar, a radio-show host, is using his platform to talk about how men can promote gender equality at home and workplace. In the southern part of Gaza, an Imam from the local community uses the Friday prayers to encourage young people and their families to refrain from early marriage. As a result, a number of couples have decided to postpone marriage until the age of 18. UN Women is also raising awareness on women’s equal access to economic opportunities and decent work using the positive deviance approach – putting forward women entrepreneurs and business leaders. Fostering inclusive leaders As part of the ‘Al Fakhoora Dynamic Futures Programme’, UNDP identified 30 young post-secondary female and male students from underserved backgrounds as positive deviants. Through the initiative, the students will have a better chance to realize their full potential and overcome their socioeconomic, political and cultural limitations, while encouraging peers from their own community to adopt positive behaviours.     Together with PalVision, a local NGO with a focus on youth, UNICEF is working to reduce violence and harassment by male students at a local school in Bethany in East Jerusalem. In the town of Barta’a in Area C, West Bank, UN-Habitat is supporting the Palestinian local authorities to deliver planning functions to communities at risk of displacement in the Israeli Controlled Area C. UNODC is promoting youth crime prevention through sports, in partnership with the Higher Council for Youth and Sport, to identify sports coaches and teachers who demonstrated a strong sensitivity towards gender issues. The 'positive deviants', with the support of the community-based organizations, have begun to design strategies to amplify positive behaviours within their own community to promote gender equality. Our role in positive deviance approach To ensure that communities have a total ownership over the process, we should take on the role of observers, not as experts or implementers. That is the beauty, or challenge, of the positive deviance approach. We have to patiently wait for the positive deviants to bring the changes from within and themselves. What we learned through applying positive deviance in Palestine is that ‘positive deviants’ should be from the community itself. Listening to what neighbours have to say about changing certain behaviours resonates more than having outsiders say the same thing. This is the power of positive deviance. The “experts” or “outsiders” from international agencies and civil society organizations should simply be positioned observers of the process, and the community should take centre stage, becoming both the implementers and recipients of change. Have you used positive deviance approach to implement a project? If so, please share your experience with us!

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What we Learned About Testing a Platform-Based Business Model at the UN in Moldova

BY Dumitru Vasilescu | January 30, 2019

Earlier last year, we were on a quest to test whether a platform-based organizational model would fit the new generation of UN Country Teams. A platform-based business model creates value by facilitating exchanges between two or more interdependent groups. To make these exchanges happen, platforms create large scalable networks of users and resources that can be accessed on demand. If you think about it, we at the UN in Moldova have all the ingredients to apply this approach in our work. We have 11 agencies with permanent presence in Moldova. We also have seven agencies without an office in the country which contribute to national development— remotely or on an ad-hoc basis. While these programmes, funds, and specialized agencies have their own mandate, leadership, and funding, they do have one thing in common: they are seeking to drive progress in multiple development areas. So we thought, why not combine the UN’s diverse presence in the country to address multiple barriers to sustainable and accelerated achievement of the country’s development goals such as poverty reduction, reproductive health, gender equality and food security at the same time to help ensure a multi-faceted approach to development? This is our story so far. Lesson 1: Our current system is too fragmented and requires re-thinking One thing is clear. The UN aspires to support every country’s effort to achieve the 2030 Agenda. In Moldova, we believe that it’s important to redesign and rethink the way that people, ideas and resources intersect and interact to maximize the effectiveness of development assistance. At the core of our work is our own effort to adopt the Delivering As One approach, where we focus on our internal human resources and their ability and skill to innovate, measure impact of the programmatic work and identify new areas for collaborative intervention. What we did notice is that we’re very fragmented on several levels, including non-coordinated interventions, competition for scarce funding, difficulties to coordinate work of non-residential agencies, unclear boundaries of the agencies’ mandates, and the list could go on. There are areas where we’ve successfully managed to work together as a UN Country Team. One example of this is the Gender Thematic Group. Through this group, agencies that work on women’s empowerment and gender equality meet regularly, learn about each other’s plans and programmes, and try to achieve more consistency and alignment through their interventions. The Youth Thematic Group is another good example because it’s meant for designing interventions that support youth and involve coordinated inter-agency work. Lesson 2: It’s imperative to do a detailed analysis of the current situation using a systematic approach With the guidance of the Resident Coordinator Office, UN agencies did a complex analysis of the current situation to scope out areas of cooperation between agencies. We also did a complex foresight exercise and an organizational network analysis to understand the current and future areas where our functions can intertwine and where a platform-based model would make sense. After we did the foresight exercise, we discovered that there are several areas where it makes more sense for UN agencies and the UN Country Team to act together. These areas include migration and children, coordination of non-residential and residential agencies, collaborative interventions (joint work programmes and projects), leveraging existing partnerships and harmonizing business practices. Through this exercise, we were also able to see that as the UN, we could take three possible and plausible scenarios of development into consideration to achieve the 2030 Agenda in the country and beyond. These scenarios are: The Future is Near (business-as-usual), Virtuous and Vicious and a scenario titled 'Transformers, as the third one. Source: UN, Foresight exercise Lesson 3: Not everything can work on a platform-based model Taking a collaborative approach around specific interventions, functions or internal business processes requires adopting a new modus operandi. To ensure that these collaborative efforts are sustainable from both an operational and financial standpoint, it’s important to build strong relationships with the teams that you are going to collaborate with, have a solid value proposition for local partners and have the ability to meet a need of a specific target group. It’s not all about the technology, but the people. We are new to the concept of the ‘UN-as-a-platform’ and there are no previous or current business cases using this approach throughout the organization to guide us. What exactly can we put in platforms in the future? Can we build a platform-like collaborative ecosystem based on trust, mutual benefits for the UN agencies and partners on the ground? How do we build a strong value proposition to last for much longer that a usual programmatic cycle? These are some of the questions that we are currently trying to find answers to. Are you working on applying a platform-based model in the UN? If so, talk to us.