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Based on evidence provided by the CCA, the UN system ensures the following elements are common to all UNDAF development processes.

  • Identification of a limited number of key UNDAF strategic priorities (sometimes called results, areas, pillars or clusters) that are issue-based and framed by the 2030 Agenda, rather than being sector-oriented, and in which the UN system has the capacity and comparative advantage to make an impact through results that can be taken to scale and achieve transformative change;
  • Development of an overall theory of change that identifies viable development pathways. The theory of change will be used to derive collective outcomes, outputs and indicators for measuring changes, and articulates the logic and assumptions behind the assertion that those will lead to results.

FORMULATING UNDAF STRATEGIC PRIORITIES AND THE RESULTS MATRIX

STRATEGIC PRIORITIZATION

The strategic priorities of the UNDAF should be primarily drawn from the CCA and the UN Vision 2030. Those selected are envisaged to generate the greatest impacts in contributing to the achievement of the SDGs, in line with national priorities and needs. The identification of strategic priorities and the theory of change associated with them (including UNDAF outcomes) occurs through a transparent and consultative process involving national stakeholders.

Strategic prioritization takes into account national priorities, and gaps in policies and legal frameworks as well as the capacities of state and non-state institutions. It also considers a possible geographic focus, and looks at what other bilateral and multilateral partners are doing, and how the United Nations will work with them to achieve national priorities. The strategic prioritization exercise should be based on a previously agreed and shared UN understanding of the priority areas in the country, including under humanitarian and peacekeeping agendas, where the UN system, based on its comparative advantage, will focus its contribution.

UNDAF Outcomes

In line with UNDG RBM Handbook, outcomes represent changes in the institutional and behavioural capacities for development. Outcomes should:

  • Make a substantive and measurable contribution to the achievement of the selected priorities of the national development framework and the 2030 Agenda;
  • Directly address key issues/development challenges identified by the country analysis;
  • Be specific, realistically achievable, sustainable and measurable, ensuring accountability and monitoring;
  • Include special measures to address gender inequalities and empower women based on the findings from the CCA; and
  • Reflect the contributions of one or more organizations, clearly highlighted in the UNDAF results matrix.

Outputs are changes in skills or the abilities and capacities of individuals or institutions, or the availability of new products and services that result from the completion of a development intervention. Outputs are reflected in annual, biennial or multiyear joint work plans. Results at output level are directly attributable to the UN system and contribute to outcomes. While outputs are not required for the UNDAF, the UN system may choose to develop outputs as part of the outcome theory of change, which underlies work plans.

PREPARING A THEORY OF CHANGE

UNDAFs are founded on a clearly articulated, evidence-based theory of change that describes everything that needs to happen for development change to occur. As such, the theory of change allows the UNCT to understand the ways in which the results of the UNDAF results framework relate to one another. It explains the causal relationship between different types and levels of results, and makes explicit both the risks and assumptions that define the relationship. By doing so, it allows the UNCT and its partners to interrogate those assumptions and risks when subsequently developing programmes and projects.

Developing a theory of change is crucial for shaping the strategy for change that underlies the UNDAF, and for making explicit the focus on groups left behind or at risk of being left behind. This exercise in collective thinking helps the UN system and its partners to devise programmes best suited to achieving the desired change based on evidence and learning. The theory of change enables: a better and more agile strategy; more effective communication of it; improved partnership decisions for delivering on the strategy; and broader, deeper and more substantial ownership of it.

UNDAFs have an overall theory of change that shows how it is assumed that UNDAF strategic priorities will support achievement of national priorities and the SDGs, as well as how the outcomes collectively support the achievement of chosen priorities while mutually reinforcing each other. UNCT Results Groups also prepare a theory of change for each UNDAF outcome.

An UNDAF theory of change:

  • Is based on analysis and data provided in the CCA;
  • Articulates the high-level change the UNCT intends to contribute to in the context of the 2030 Agenda;
  • Makes clear why the UNCT believes that lower level results will necessarily result in higher level results;
  • Lays out the risks and assumptions that define the relationships among different results;
  • Is developed through a consultative process, reflecting the understanding of all relevant stakeholders; and
  • Supports continuous learning and improvement from programme design to closure.

UNDAF RESULTS MATRIX

UNDAF strategic priorities and outcomes are articulated in the UNDAF results matrix (see Annex 3). The matrix includes indicators, baselines, targets, means of verification, a list of partners, the medium-term CBF, and, where relevant, links to other UN plans. It makes the division of labour clear within the UN system by identifying roles and responsibilities. To the extent possible, indicators, targets, baselines and means of verification are aligned with the relevant SDG indicators and targets, and are drawn from the data used in the CCA.

UNDAF outcomes can be adapted directly from SDG targets that are lagging behind in areas where the United Nations has a comparative advantage. They are tailored to the national context and drawn from national priorities. The results matrix becomes the basis for monitoring and evaluation of the UNDAF, serving as a key element for ensuring evaluability.

The multiyear CBF is discussed under financing the UNDAF.

REVIEW AND VALIDATION OF THE UNDAF

The UNDAF is prepared in a standard template (see Annex 4), which also contains a standard legal clause (Annex 5). Prior to finalization, the Resident Coordinator, on behalf of the UN system, shares a draft of the UNDAF, including the results matrix and CBF, with the regional Peer Support Group for review. The group has 15 working days to provide consolidated comments, assessing the UNDAF based on the quality criteria in Annex 1. For more details about quality assurance at the regional level, see Annex 6. The UNCT reviews and incorporates comments it considers appropriate into the final draft UNDAF, and provides an explanation to the Peer Support Group on those comments it chooses not to include. In countries with UN missions, the Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General/ Resident Coordinator shares the draft UNDAF with the inter-agency taskforce to receive feedback within the same timeframe. After incorporating feedback, the UN system provides a new draft to the government, and seeks feedback on it from key stakeholders and other development partners.

SIGNATURE AND LAUNCH OF THE UNDAF

Once the UNDAF is agreed upon, it is signed by the government and all UN entities. Launching the UNDAF simultaneously with the national development plan, where feasible, can increase its visibility. The Resident Coordinator sends the signed UNDAF to all partners and to the Chair of the UNDG. Completed UNDAFs are posted on the UNDG website.

ALIGNMENT OF UN ORGANIZATION PROGRAMME DOCUMENTS

All UN organizations participating in the UNDAF align their programming processes to the UNDAF process to the extent possible. UNDAF strategic priorities, outcomes and joint work plans provide a basis for individual organizational planning instruments. While preparation of such plans will often begin before the final signature of the UNDAF, the final versions of these plans should align with the UNDAF, reflect its specific strategic priorities and outcomes, and make explicit their relationship with the UNDAF.

REGIONAL APPROACHES TO  PROGRAMMING

In certain sub-regional contexts, such as those involving small island developing states, the possibility of applying a regional approach to programming may be considered, including through multicountry UNDAFs to ensure coherent, coordinated and, where appropriate, integrated support that reduces duplication and increases impact. This has been done successfully for the Pacific Region (2013-2017 United Nations Development Assistance Framework for the Pacific Sub-region), covering 14 countries, and for the Caribbean (2017-2021 UN Multi-country Sustainable Development Framework in the Caribbean), covering 18 countries.

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Preparing for the Future(s): Foresight, citizens’ insights and serious games

BY Ana Dautovic, Marija Novkovic | October 20, 2015

Most people feel that the future is linear: if you perform well in school, you’ll get a job; if you work hard, you’ll be promoted; if you save, you’ll be able to live well through your retirement age, et cetera, et cetera. There is a great level of comfort in the IF → THEN causal link because there are fewer variables, fewer elements that could go off the rails. There is more certainty and we feel more in control. However, through Futures Studies there are alternative futures (possible, probable, plausible, and preferred); consequently, there are multiple development pathways. Professor Jim Dator, the pioneer of modern futures studies once said that “the future cannot be predicted because the future does not exist.” Indeed, the last few years brought forward unfathomable changes with deep, far-reaching ramifications. The global financial crisis, earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, nuclear power plant disasters, the rise of extremism, and the ongoing global refugee crisis, to name just a few. The linear path from A (The Past) to B (The Now) to C (The Future) in these occurrences has been more challenging, if not impossible, to pin down. Because of the rapid pace of changes, development organizations are, in fact, asked to be more resilient and more agile so as to navigate uncertainties. We in the UN System in Montenegro were mindful of the fact that the realities of the present day and age require innovation at the highest point of impact – the five-year strategic plan of support to the country. We created a strategy that would infuse our long-term planning with foresight and civic engagement. It consists of three steps. 1. Serious games for empowering new voices in strategic planning Working in Montenegro over the last few years has brought us closer to the country's rising new voices -- a generation witnessing and creating unprecedented changes to the social fabric. Working across think-thanks, academia, statistical office and NGOs, they are disruptive innovators, digital champions and active youth. We engaged them through collaborative workshops, where they learned about foresight, and most importantly, created alternative futures for Montenegro. We are particularly proud to have used a serious game that was custom-made for Montenegro by John A. Sweeney, another member of the Hawaii Research Center for Futures Studies and deputy director of the Center for Postnormal Policy and Futures Studies. The game, beautifully designed to showcase elements of the national costume, served as an enhanced survey tool, prompting the players to ponder on values, challenges, opportunities, stakeholders and actions, which will likely shape the future of the country. 2. Digital engagement fit for the 21st century Civic engagement, particularly through social innovation and online platforms, has been high on UN Montenegro’s agenda. So far, we’ve engaged thousands of Montenegrins and garnered their insights through the massive post-2015 national consultations (12,000 people), the Youth Employment Solutions platform (10,700 people), and uncovered social change heroes through the Open Ideas and Be Responsible campaigns (over 7000 civic reports of informal economy leading to generating public revenue in excess of 1 million EUR). However, public consultations on the next five-year strategic plan of collaboration between the UN and the Government of Montenegro were the new peak we had to conquer. We turned to digital technologies, and moved our serious game into the online space, hoping for a wider outreach. We are both anxious and excited about receiving citizens’ insights into the future! 3. Innovating at the point of strategic prioritization While this summer seemed like one giant roller-coaster journey, we do have few more rides ahead of us! Moving away from traditional planning processes, we are bringing in foresight into strategic planning with the Government. Applying foresight should allow us to unlock a much broader scope of analysis.  We plan to use backcasting, i.e. a forward looking planning process where we start from future(s) scenarios to define programmes that will help make them a reality. This strategic meeting with the government will be as collaborative and hands-on as possible, to inspire everyone to engage more than they would by filling out a survey or validating pre-defined strategic priorities. It will enable considering new horizons of the five-year plan, the integrated nature of sustainable development and human rights, and creating a more resilient society. Thinking critically about preferred futures will lead the way towards creating a more fluid and agile structure so that when challenges arise, we can navigate them. This approach will ultimately promote proactive versus reactive attitudes. In our next blog post, we will share what we have learned so far. Stay tuned, check out the video feature, and join the ride!

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Now is the best time to embrace the futures: SDGs success depends on strategic foresight

BY Cat Tully | September 28, 2016

2016 is a unique, exciting time for the global development agenda. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are now underway and UN country teams face the huge task of implementing them. So, who will get the best outcomes by 2030? My money is on countries that use strategic foresight. This blog will explain why, and how. Foresight Foresight is a form of strategic planning that enables us to think about futures*. We will never have hard data about what might happen in years to come, but in a volatile and rapidly changing world foresight can provide us with principles for understanding complexity, building resilience and setting direction. Foresight is essential to achieving development goals because it enables us to implement policies based on a thorough and informed approach, as opposed to a set of assumptions. Foresight and the UN As the SDG agenda fires up, we embark on an entirely new policymaking approach, and UN country teams have the exciting opportunity to become leaders in the field of emergent strategic planning. This positions the UN in a unique, if not daunting role: to support communities and countries globally to implement strategic foresight. So how do we begin? Foresight is not something that can be added on top of existing structures; it can’t be thrown in as a tick-box exercise. If we want robust development policies, the UN must embed foresight within UNDAF processes. This requires gradual, structural change in order to be successful. First and foremost, decision makers must make sure processes are emergent. This means that they are participative, with governments acting as facilitators of other actors, as opposed to top-down controllers. In general, there are five key principles of emergent strategic planning that stand any organisation in good stead: Examine the strategic context. Analyse trends and drivers of possible futures contexts, along different time horizons, e.g. one year, five years and 15 years, so it can inform but not be captured by budget and operational planning decisions. Openly engage with a wide set of views. Seek the opinions of the public, especially vulnerable and extremely poor citizens (i.e. the key “beneficiaries” of development policy design). Look at a set of issues with multiple lenses. Diversity and alternative perspectives are important for understanding and identifying weak signals, as well as developing common knowledge and ownership. Identify possible futures and trends. This includes trends that are desired or otherwise, that can be highlighted either through complete pictures of scenarios or snapshots. Build on policy implications. Reviewing what genuine strategic alternatives look like, and enabling resilience as well as pushing for desired outcomes. Being emergent is vital. In our uncertain world where we face big, long-term threats like climate change, traditional policymaking and government structures fall short. The role of government is shifting and in order to effectively plan for the future in a strategic way, governments must move from being commanding controllers to “system stewards”.** The UN plays a key role in making this happen. System stewards facilitate a network of multiple actors with different perspectives: they guide an emergent, inclusive policy-planning process, which effectively plans for and responds to opportunities and risks. System stewardship is the only sustainable alternative to the traditional command-and-control government structure that currently fails to deliver for citizens. The role of the UN in transforming government The SDGs actually mandate the UN to transform the role of government in this way: SDG 16 demands “effective, accountable and inclusive institutions”. This is effectively describing a system stewardship model, but as you can imagine, this won’t happen automatically. Governments must first build the capacity to use strategic foresight to take the longer-term into account, and the UN is in the perfect position to help make this happen. If implemented properly, SDG 16 has the exciting potential to transform the role of government for the long-term. System stewardship will enable governments to navigate an increasingly complex world, whilst keeping citizens at the centre of processes and long-term plans that genuinely work. Ultimately, the success of the SDGs depends on our ability to start using foresight as soon as possible. The UN must seize this intervention point to strengthen governments as stewards, and ensure wider participation is integrated into strategic planning processes. Foresight resources Everything in this blog comes from a recent guide on how the UN Development Assistance Frameworks process can make better use of foresight. It was informed by consultations with development professionals (both within and outside the UN) and provides tools for improving processes and introducing strategic foresight into UNDAF. The guide also includes examples of foresight and other public sector innovations to improve multi-year strategic planning, as well as case studies from UN in-country teams (Laos, Montenegro and Rwanda) who have begun to apply foresight to their UNDAF planning process. To discover how to apply foresight, and to access a list of practical resources, download the guide here. *We speak of “futures” in the plural, because there are many different alternatives for where the world might be in the next five, ten or 50 years. **See Tully, C. Stewardship of the Future. Using Strategic Foresight in 21st Century Governance.  2015.

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