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Within UNDAFs, the United Nations employs six mutually reinforcing programming approaches to deliver on the unifying principle of leaving no one behind and the other four integrated programming principles. These programming approaches, described on the following pages, apply to UNDAFs in all country contexts.

Results Focused Programming

The SDGs and their translation at country level constitute the frame of reference for the formulation of UNDAF strategic priorities, outcomes, the theory of change, and related indicators and targets. Using results-based management, the UN system ensures that resources are directed towards improving conditions for identified populations, particularly those left behind. Results-focused programming is an approach where the allocation of energies and resources is based on clearly articulated and measurable intended results, rather than on planned activities.

A results-focused approach also requires the identification of critical assumptions about the programming environment, and a consideration of relevant risks and management measures. Indicators to monitor progress and measure the achievement of outcomes are identified, with attention given to data, evidence generation, and support for national statistical and information systems. Accountabilities are clearly defined and backed by strong reporting mechanisms.
In line with the UNDG RBM Handbook, UNDAF outcomes represent changes in institutional and behavioural capacities for development. A results-focused programme is oriented by the CCA, which outlines changes required in a country context, and articulated based on the theory of change and the UNDAF results framework (see Part 2). The focus on results should be maintained throughout the entire UNDAF process, including during monitoring and evaluation.

Capacity Development

The UNDG defines capacity as the ability of people, organizations and society as a whole to manage their affairs successfully. Capacity development is the process of unleashing, strengthening, creating, adapting and maintaining capacity over time. It is a core function of the UNDS and is critical to implement the 2030 Agenda and sustain progress. The 2030 Agenda and the unifying principle of leaving no one behind demands an enhanced approach to capacity development of government and relevant stakeholders, including civil society and nongovernmental organizations.

Capacity development support by the United Nations seeks to maximize national ownership and leadership and address capacity at the levels of individuals, organizations and the enabling environment. Individual capacity support focuses on improving individual skills, knowledge and performance through training, experiences, motivation and incentives. Organizational capacity support aims at improving organizational performance through strategies, plans, rules and regulations, partnerships, leadership, organizational politics and power structures. Capacity support for an enabling environment seeks to strengthen policies while ensuring policy coherence to address economic, environmental and social factors such as labour markets, the policy and legislative environment, class structure and cultural aspects.

The CCA includes an assessment and analysis of the capacities of government and relevant stakeholders. It articulates the root causes of the lack of capacity, and explores broad approaches to developing capacities such as through South-South and triangular cooperation. The UNDAF strategic prioritization process enables the United Nations to identify those areas of capacity development where it can have a maximum impact in supporting the achievement of the SDGs. The paths to capacity development (that is, the explanations of why certain results and activities are believed to lead to increased capacity) are articulated in the theory of change, while the goals of capacity development actions (that is, measurable changes in capacity) are laid out in the UNDAF results framework (see Part 2). The companion guidance on capacity development provides more information on the application of this principle.

Risk-informed Programming

Investing in risk-informed programming entails effective management of risk at every step of the UNDAF process. Risk is viewed from a common UN system-wide perspective, rather than an organization-specific one. Importantly, risk-informed development takes into account “risks to” programming as well as “risks from” programming. While assessing risks to programming, the focus is on those that might impact or facilitate the achievement of the development objectives. The “do no harm” principle addresses risks from programming.

Risk-informed development programming entails a multidimensional approach to managing disaster risks and climate impacts, and to protecting development gains. While applying the principle of “do no harm,” it seeks to secure wider social, economic and environmental co-benefits. It recognizes that the achievement of the SDGs will be contingent on nations’ and communities’ abilities to build resilience to risks of multiple threats, including those related to natural hazards, climate change, conflict, food and water crises, pandemics, displacement, migration and economic shocks, among others. The Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, the SDGs and the Paris Agreement provide an impetus for countries to reverse current risk trends and emission levels, and graduate towards low-carbon, risk-informed development.

Conflict analysis is particularly significant for risk-informed programming in countries prone to natural disasters, experiencing complex emergencies or in conflict or post-conflict situations. This analysis supports responses that address development, humanitarian and peacebuilding challenges. It provides a platform to engage with donors and other development, humanitarian and peacebuilding actors, and can help promote the United Nations as a valued collaborator.
The sustainability of public and private investment depends on sound risk management. UNDAFs should aim to fully embed risk management into development, and systematically encourage public and private investments to be underpinned by an adequate understanding of risks and the connections among them. The application of risk indices (for example, INFORM) can help identify risks and vulnerabilities in humanitarian and disaster settings, and promote resilience building (see: www.inform-index.org).

CCAs reflect the multiple risks that countries face, such as market shocks, natural hazards, social unrest, climate change, epidemics and pandemics, and the risk of conflict or serious human rights violations. Such risks are challenges in themselves, but can also trigger further risks, such as economic loss and political tensions, undermining and reversing progress towards the SDGs. Risk-informed programming also feeds into the consideration of long-term risks in the UN Vision 2030 exercise. It facilitates the determination of an UNDAF’s strategic priorities, the development of the theory of change, the definition of outcomes and the creation of joint work plans. UNDAFs should seek to manage risks by avoiding harm, building resilience, and improving national and local preparedness, and position the United Nations to respond when risks materialize.

Development, Humanitarian and Peacebuilding Linkages*

The 2030 Agenda, the pursuit of the SDGs, the commitment to leave no one behind, and the need to support recovery and durable solutions in situations of conflict or fragility require that UNDAFs demonstrate coherence across development, humanitarian and peacebuilding agendas, underpinned by human rights as the common purpose of the United Nations Charter. CCAs, UNDAFs and related processes should be more connected to humanitarian action and when appropriate to UN peacekeeping operations or special political missions, collectively contributing to longer term development gains.[9]

The United Nations General Assembly and Security Council resolutions in 2016 on sustaining peace [10] emphasized the importance of joint analysis and effective strategic planning across the UN system. These resolutions seek to increase the focus of the UN system on preventing conflicts, so that not only the symptoms, but also the root causes of conflicts are addressed. They call on the United Nations to do more context specific joint multidimensional conflict and risk analysis. In line with this, the CCA considers multi hazard risks, human rights, and humanitarian and peacebuilding dimensions in a holistic way. It should examine existing coping and response capacities, and resilience systems. The UNDG-endorsed Conflict and Development Analysis tool should assist with analyses in conflict-affected countries. The Humanitarian Needs Overview should also be considered a source of information on people’s vulnerability for the CCA in crisis contexts.

A coherent response across the development, humanitarian and peacebuilding efforts in crisis and post-crisis settings requires a shared vision and articulation of collective outcomes by a wide range of partners, including UN and non-UN actors, based on their comparative advantages and over multiple years. Coherent planning and programming is context specific. UN entities strategically plan together activities, interventions and programmes, and who does what, where, how and when, within their mandates and with their comparatives advantages, with the process directly aimed at contributing to reduced needs, vulnerability and risk, thus contributing to achieving sustainable development, including sustainable peace.

At the country level, the United Nations should explore different coherence arrangements based on a range of options depending on the country context, with joint analysis and planning reflected in a common planning framework on one end of the spectrum, and separate planning instruments when operationally necessary on the other end of the spectrum. While humanitarian action may contribute to sustainable development and sustainable peace, the main purpose of humanitarian action will remain to address life-saving needs and alleviate suffering in accordance with humanitarian principles. Analysis and planning should include humanitarian inputs to ensure coherence and complementarity.

In some protracted crises, while respecting the continued need for the neutrality, impartiality and independence of humanitarian action, the United Nations may bring together development and humanitarian support in the UNDAF through the articulation of collective outcomes based on joint analysis and multiyear planning. This approach should also be applied in situations where a humanitarian response is drawing down, and the Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP) and other humanitarian programmes are being or have been phased out, with residual humanitarian needs addressed in the UNDAF. In situations of protracted displacement, the needs of displaced people will usually be a core element of the planning process in order to support durable solutions.

There are various scenarios where UNDAFs and HRPs will exist side-by-side. For example, in high-intensity conflict situations, where there is a need to guarantee a separate humanitarian space, humanitarian support should not be part of the UNDAF, and the HRP and/or Refugee Response Plan (RRP) should remain separate, albeit well aligned. In these contexts, direct links between the UNDAF and HRP/RRP should be made to ensure complementarity, sequencing of development and humanitarian activities, and compatibility of results frameworks. This can enable, when appropriate, the targeting of the same geographical areas and people affected by crisis and fragility, with a vision and plan for integration over the longer term. It builds on the strength of the UNDAF to achieve long-term results with a view to reducing and mitigating risks; addressing the structural and underlying drivers of inequality, deprivation and fragility, including in areas affected by humanitarian crises; and helping vulnerable and crisis-affected people become self-reliant and resilient.

In settings where there is an integrated UN presence, whether it is a peacekeeping operation or a special political mission, the mission and the UNCT are required to develop an Integrated Strategic Framework (ISF). This promotes collaboration by reflecting shared objectives and means through which the United Nations will promote peace consolidation. UNDAFs can be designed to serve as the ISF or vice versa. Having both an ISF and UNDAF is not required if one framework can meet the minimum requirements of both. As per the United Nations Policy on Integrated Assessment and Planning, this decision is made by senior UN leadership at the country level. Implementation is facilitated through joint work plans that detail the division of labour between the mission and UN agencies.

Coherent Policy Support

The 2030 Agenda demands policy coherence and more integrated approaches, where different actors work together across sectors to deliver sustainable development.[14]

The United Nations combines its diverse and complimentary mandates, expertise and technical contributions so that the policy support it provides to national partners is comprehensible, comprehensive and coherent.[15] As identified in the principles of the United Nations Chief Executives Board for Coordination(CEB), it is the UN system’s ambition to “work in unity while preserving diversity.” The system’s diversity and vast range of specialized expertise is a source of great strength and an invaluable asset when leveraged in a coordinated, coherent manner.

Policy coherence ensures consistency across national policy and programmatic frameworks, the legal obligations of States under international law, and their alignment in support of development efforts. It is about making sure that what is done in one area makes sense alongside what is done in other areas. Policy coherence is crucial for achievement of the SDGs, given their interlinked nature and the constituent elements involved: social, economic and environmental, together with peace, security, human rights and equality. In order to achieve policy coherence across the work of the United Nations at country level, UNDAFs:

● Align to national priorities and plans, national SDG strategies and targets, and internationally agreed policy frameworks defining integrated approaches to sustainable development as well as norms and standards. This provides “vertical policy coherence” between frameworks at different levels, including at national and subnational levels. It requires constant assessment of the national development and policy landscape, and regular engagement with stakeholders and development partners, including the World Bank and other international financial institutions.

● Enhance synergies between intervention areas (horizontal coherence) and their alignment with national development goals. “Horizontal coherence” is promoted through approaches that include Results Groups, joint work plans and pooled funding instruments. These approaches enhance collaboration towards collective outcomes. UNDAFs leverage both specialized sectoral technical assistance and cross sectoral work.

● Strengthen coherence among development, humanitarian and peacebuilding efforts and human rights mechanisms for the realization and sustainability of peace and development gains.

Partnerships

The 2030 Agenda underlines the importance of partnerships for results. Inclusive, strategic and mutually beneficial partnerships at global, regional, national and local levels are a prerequisite to achieving the SDGs. The transformative ambitions of the 2030 Agenda imply a shift in roles and responsibilities, and a corresponding shift in the way partnership is understood, facilitated and developed.

The achievement of the SDGs requires the broad engagement of all development and humanitarian actors, including people at large in a given country and other stakeholders. The UNDAF process and its implementation provide a platform for the UN system to leverage its global comparative strengths to convene a wide range of stakeholders. UNDAFs can also lay out ways in which the United Nations can develop innovative approaches to multistakeholder partnerships, and foster new collaborations in line with UN principles, norms and standards. In brokering South-South and triangular cooperation and public-private partnerships, the focus should be on promoting the leadership and full participation of these actors in attaining national goals informed by the SDGs.

Multistakeholder partnerships bring diverse views, rich experiences, and a broad range of capacities and resources to bear, including in conflict-affected states and states in protracted crisis, as well as among displaced populations. Through convening and leveraging different partners throughout the UNDAF process, the United Nations can promote leadership of initiatives by the best-placed partner(s). Advocacy and normative work can advance new and innovative partnerships to leverage resources from a wide range of partners.

Partnerships with non-governmental actors are essential to an efficient and effective UN response, based on the principles of equality, transparency, a results-oriented approach, responsibility and complementarity. This approach to partnership offers tailored solutions that address actual needs rather than “one-size-fits-all” approaches. The United Nations is committed to making and encouraging greater efforts to support and enable national and local actors to provide expertise and good practices, and add capacity and capability. This includes emergency preparedness and response, as referenced, inter alia, by the World Humanitarian Summit.

At the same time, the United Nations approaches partnerships with due care and diligence to uphold and protect its values. A new and expanded approach to partnerships requires a risk informed approach. Working with partners who do not uphold the values of the United Nations presents reputational, fiduciary and other risks. UN partnership strategies should include risk management measures, including safeguards and due diligence processes.[16]


[*] The term nexus and linkage are used interchangeably.
[9] See: General Assembly resolution 71/243, paragraph 24(a)
[10] See: General Assembly resolution 70/262 and Security Council resolution 2282 (2016)
[11] See: General Assembly resolution 46/182.
[12] See: the Inter-Agency Standing Committee’s “Introduction to Humanitarian Action: A brief guide for Resident Coordinators,” 2015, available at: http://reliefweb.int/report/world/introduction-humanitarian-action-brief-guide-resident-coordinators; and UNHCR’s “Note on the Mandate of the High Commissioner for Refugees and His Office,” 2013, available at: www.unhcr.org/526a22cb6.html.
[13] An UN Integrated Presence means that there is a multidimensional peacekeeping operation or field-based special political mission deployed alongside an UNCT.
[14] See: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Addis Ababa Action Agenda and the Quadrennial Comprehensive Policy Review.
[15] See: the UNDG repository of tools for upstream policy support by the SDGs and their targets.
[16] For risk analysis involving the United Nations working with security forces, see the Human Rights Due Diligence Policy on United Nations Support to non United Nations Security Forces (A/67/775-S/2013/110).

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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. 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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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