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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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Silo Fighters Blog

Five ways the UN is experimenting together in 2018

BY Maria Blanco Lora | May 3, 2018

Here at silo-fighting HQ, for a fourth year in a row, we are trying to incentivize the UN to innovate together. This is our annual moment to listen to how UN country teams plan to go beyond business as usual and model next generation practices to meet the demands of Agenda 2030. We love this time of year, as the proposals themselves are great intelligence on the front line, and we get to know the problems teams want to solve and what tools they have at their disposal to solve them. We were looking for joint efforts across UN agencies to innovate in the areas of data, behavioural insights, finance, collective intelligence and foresight. With thanks to our donors, these are investments in innovations which can either be scaled from one agency to the rest of the system efforts, from one sector or field to another, from one country to another, or from one geographic area to country-wide applicability. We are also funding UN teams that want to break new ground and test hypotheses for more proof-of-concept type innovations. The competition among country teams for the funding was tough, but thanks to our review team, after 100 proposals, we finally decided on 34 experiments and scaling efforts that we are thrilled to present in this blog. Data for preparedness, prevention and prediction Innovations in data was the most popular area in the proposals this year. A good chunk of winning pitches focus on new ways of gathering and analysing data to allow countries better prepare and respond to natural disasters along with citizen-generated data for predictive analytics.   In the Pacific, the UN country team in Samoa, will use new technologies to analyse households preparedness to cyclones, while Fiji will be scaling VAMPIRE to measure the impact of cyclones through data mining and build predictive analytics. In Viet Nam, the UN team will develop digital tools to link baseline data on vulnerability and resilience to preparedness to long-term planning disaster recovery planning. To prevent food insecurity, the UN in Malawi will be using geospatial information to assist farmers and, in Ghana, the team will use remote sensing and drones to provide the government with timely data to respond to food security threats. In Iraq, crop productivity mapping through the use of mobile data collection and satellite imagery will explore new ways of measuring poverty beyond traditional surveys.  Sudan, PNG and Jordan will use participatory methodologies, based on mobile phone data, to test water and sanitation projects in camps for internally displaced persons to predict development investments and to look for future development trends.    The UN team in Dominican Republic will build on their previous experience to develop a national SDG data lab to integrate sustainable development into the development planning in the country. Also, Serbia will be developing an algorithm to assess the alignment of the national development plan and sectoral strategies to the SDGs. Last but not least, Uzbekistan will be using blockchain to improve public services testing whether this will reduce transaction costs and increase transparency. Ramping up participatory programming with collective Intelligence Lots of UN teams are trying to tap into the best collective minds in the countries they serve, with an increase in the use of  new methods and technologies to engage the general public in policy development, budget allocation and monitoring. Based on what we got for our call for proposals, UN country teams feel comfortable using mobile tech to tap into collective intelligence to triangulate data or test their hypothesis while undertaking planning processes. Albania and Mexico are using mobile technologies and social media to gather perceptions on the progress towards the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. Digital tools, such as Rapid Pro, will be used by Trinidad and Tobago, Suriname and Somalia to enhance the dialogue with local authorities and, in the case of T&T and Suriname, to engage young people in policy monitoring and development. Colombia, through automatic speech recognition, and Lesotho, through open challenges, will also use collective intelligence for participatory planning and accountable governance respectively. In Senegal, the UN country team will be supporting community health workers with a real-time monitoring tool, SMS-based, to prevent health emergencies. Monitoring will be also the scope of the project in Honduras, where women will be able to share and identify safe zones in the city of Choloma through crowdsourced audits facilitated by a real-time data collection app. The UN country team in Iraq will engage youth IT developers and activists to harness the power of new technologies to oversee public investments in the documentation, conservation, rehabilitation and reconstruction of the country's cultural heritage. In China, the UN team will link up farmers with tech companies to find solutions to connectivity gaps among poor farmers and decision makers using mobile technologies, e-platforms and drones. The Pulse Lab Kampala in Uganda will advance their machine learning driven radio tools to develop an open software platform for the UN country team to enable open access to existing software applications developed by the Lab that will allow programme colleagues harness collective intelligence for their work.  The UN team in Moldova will be on a quest to experiment, test and fine-tune a platform-based organizational model to explore if this type of platform would be feasible in the case of the UN global mandate. Behavioural insights to meet people where they are 2018 was the first year we opened up to proposals in the area of Behavioural Insights. We will be funding initiatives to prevent sexual exploitation and abuse (Nigeria), to learn from devients to halt male violent behaviour towards women (Palestine) and to eliminate female genital mutilation/cutting (Mauritania). In Costa Rica, the UN country team will use behavioural insights to understand and tackle structural development gaps among the most excluded communities. Popular technologies in these proposals are social media, SMS polling, big data and the use of radio. Innovative finance to channel private funds to development UN teams in three countries will be experimenting with new forms of financing in 2018: Colombia, Somalia, and Armenia. Team Colombia will develop innovative blending finance solutions to support enterprises with peacebuilding impact in remote locations in the country. The UN in Somalia will set up open innovation challenges and crowdfunding platforms and the UN and the government in Armenia will be leveraging private finance for SDG-related objectives through social impact bonds as part of their SDG innovation Lab. Imagining possible futures and seeing the future that is already here To begin to use the future as a tool for development work today. Two UN teams will be using foresight and alternative futures as part of their sustainable development work. In Egypt, the idea is to build scenarios to encourage foresight dialogues as a tool to increase civic engagement to define Egypt's future. The team will make use of forecasting tools such as Three Horizon Framework and Verge Foresight Framework. In the same region, Lebanon will apply a participatory approach to foresight, asking citizens to contribute to a foresight exercise using a mapping tool.    Pinky swear: we promise to work out loud…. This work will be led by a growing community of innovators within the UN. We are proud to have colleagues from almost every agency working in the field leading these innovations and we are aware that there are many more out there. The idea is to connect and learn from each other, so we are looking for mentors to help us (data scientists, human-centered design, machine-learning among others. Webinars and our One UN Knowledge Exchange group will be our main channels to support our innovators. We will also tap into the UN Innovation Network. This was just a taste of the innovations that are coming up this year, for more, keep showing up to our Silo Fighters Blog. The UN innovators will be sharing their own stories in this space. And while you are at it, follow us on Twitter.     Photo: Trevor Samson / World Bank

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). Interactive visuals on WFP food price data 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.