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
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.
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.