New voices to build Costa Rica’s future

BY Alice H Shackelford | April 26, 2017

We at the UN in Costa Rica are designing our  next UN common plan for 2018-2022 to support the Government in its efforts to achieve the Global Goals by 2030. To do that, we are following the crowdsourcing spirit of the new development agenda. We are trying to adapt our decision making  so that our new UN Development Assistance Framework is developed with the full wisdom of the crowd. An outreach strategy to leave no one behind To transform the national and UN planning we worked  with a clear objective: engaging those who are often left out of  mainstream development and public policy discussions. In Costa Rica, these communities are often indigenous people, people with disabilities, people of African descent , youth, LGBTI population, migrants, refugees, women (domestic workers and migrants), and children and adolescents. Our intention was to get to know their needs and demands, to know more about their perceptions in terms of development, and, most importantly, to build on what they know to make them part of the solutions. For this participatory journey, we partnered with the University of Costa Rica, specifically the School of Communications, to find the best methods to build a consultation strategy. This partnership helped us identify some of the building blocks for our outreach strategy: People-centered: The way we engage people will be customized to each of the groups that we will approach, i.e., language, accessibility, etc. Action oriented: When we do consultations as the UN, we must have a purpose beyond collecting the demands, needs and solutions; it should invite to action and "engage" people on promoting the 2030 Agenda. Complementary methods: Combine quantitative and qualitative to tell the story behind the data. Expanding reach: We need to combine two types of consultation: virtual tools which can expand the consultation to many people and collect data in an innovative way, and other more traditional techniques to reach the most excluded communities. Less is more: The online platform should be concrete, with a minimalist design that will allow users to swiftly engage in the consultation process. Messages should be short, concise and clear. With these blocks in mind, we moved to develop and implement our strategy to involve those communities that are commonly left behind. And our journey begins As a start we invited people, mainly individuals who had not participated in this type of consultation, to participatory meetings, where they could discuss the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in a creative and interactive way. We consulted 400 women and me from traditionally excluded groups such as: people of African descent, indigenous peoples, LGTBI population, migrants, women (domestic workers and migrants),  young people, persons with disabilities, refugees, children and adolescents. We travelled to various regions in the country (San José, Caribbean South, Limón center and the indigenous area of Térraba) to reach these communities or otherwise they wouldn’t be able to engage in these dialogues. The kind of questions we ask are: What are your group’s demands regarding development? Do the Global Goals encompass your demands? Which SDG should be accelerated in the country and why? What are concrete actions that could be taken to achieve these SDGs? Who can we work with to achieve them? The people we talked to reflected on their experiences, shared their perspectives on SDGs and posed possible solutions to the identified problems. What did we learn? During the consultations, each group had their own specific priorities, but there was a common refrain: People in Costa Rica that we spoke to understand their rights and are ready to claim their fulfillment. Here are some great quotes from people we spoke to during these sessions acknowledging and demanding their rights: "Because of our geographical situation there is little access to specialized educational centers, barely a school, so in order to have an education we have to travel long distances or leave the community, and this is not always easy ... it is a lie that we have access [to education]." Young indigenous person from the Térraba territory. "The labour market leaves out a very vulnerable part of the population... us young people... We do not have work and we cannot find a job ... we end up taking whatever work we can get". Young person during our consultation. "I know many women who want to work, and are hardworking, but they either don’t get a job, they get paid scraps, or the salary is unfair for the job they do." Migrant person present at our consultation reflecting on SDG 1, No poverty. "Access to justice is not real... the stigma for being Afro still exists and when it comes to imparting justice there is a tendency to blame the Afro because of discrimination..." Afrodescendant from the southern Caribbean region. We hear these experiences and value them as important data. In order to gather more inputs during our consultation process, we also set up a web platform to share information about the 2030 Agenda and its goals, asking the people of Costa Rica to have their say in the priorities. We currently have collected more than 250 responses on the platform.   This crowd-sourcing process has impacted how we formed our development priorities. For the first time, the fulfillment of the rights of most excluded populations in Costa Rica, was made explicit in our UN strategic plan as one of the three objectives for the UN and partners to achieve in the next four years (2018-2022): Support to the Government of Costa Rica to implement the national agreement for the Sustainable Development Goals Strengthening Costa Rica’s public sector management Support most excluded populations towards the fulfillment of their rights To keep ourselves accountable, we are now thinking about how to share back with the communities the impact that their voices had on our planning process and how they will transform our future work for the country. Meanwhile we are already working on a monitoring framework for our plan. Towards public accountability The monitoring and evaluation framework is part of any UN strategic plan design phase. So, we decided to be in touch with these communities and other actors engaged in our programmes to check up on whether or not we are delivering on our promises. For that, we thought about upgrading our web platform and use it to monitor the UN programme in Costa Rica. When we shared our plans with the Ministry of National Planning and Economic Policy, their enthusiasm with the idea was such that they proposed to change the scope of the platform and use it as a tool to measure the Costa Rican government's accountability towards the achievement of the SDGs. Costa Rica is the first country in the world to sign a national pact with its people to deliver on the Global Goals in the 2030 Agenda.  And they are inviting people to have their say. Check it out.

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Designing for Fragility in Somalia

BY Marc Jacquand | April 12, 2017

In vulnerable districts of Somalia, we at the UN in Somalia and our partners have limited visibility of the situation on the ground. Due to security issues, we do not have a significant physical presence in districts  where violence continues. This brings us to dilemma: How can we plan our programs effectively if we are not aware of realities on the ground? This weakness undermines the impact of the resources we invest, while increasing the risk of doing harm through ill-designed programming and weak implementation. Unpacking fragility To plan and program, we need to understand what is happening in these vulnerable districts, particularly what we refer to as “fragility”: What triggers conflict and what are the avenues for reconciliation? What are the security, rule of law and justice arrangements? What is the capacity of the government? What socioeconomic activities are communities involved in? Standard situation analyses and needs assessments often do not provide a clear picture of fragility as they tend to be state or country-wide, and are too far removed from details at the district-level. If the UN’s strategic plan and joint programmes are designed based on sound fragility measurements, we hope they will not only be more accurate, but also increase impact for vulnerable areas and populations. We need to gain a better understanding of fragility to understand the vulnerability of districts, particularly if they relapse into conflict under the influence of armed groups.  The lack of district-level data and intelligence So why haven’t we been gathering this kind of data? There are three reasons: Until now, planning and programming in Somalia has been fragmented with little effort to share data, information and intelligence about what happens at the district level. This is true both within the UN and between UN and its partners. Until recently, the UN’s stabilization efforts had little focus on community-level realities and the multidimensional elements of fragility. Until not so long ago, many districts were inaccessible. Recent military gains, as fragile as they may be, offer an opportunity to know more and do more in these districts - if we have the analytical and risk management tools to do so. We want to improve our analytical capacity, at a time when we are designing a new strategic plan and supporting the government of Somalia with their national development plan. We are now focused on community recovery and the extension of state authority and accountability. What does this mean? Supporting Somali-owned and Somali-led processes remains central to our new approach, but it is based on a greater focus on locally-led recovery efforts in areas that have never felt a positive presence of the state. We are also focused on better analytics to understand conflict dynamics and respond accordingly. Stress testing and a one-stop shop We believe that robust risk management and greater investments in fragility measurements at the district level will increase the UN’s impact. Our new approach focuses on advances in risk management. For example, we applying stress testing methods, where a strategy or a programme is subjected to a series of assessments against potential risks and obstacles. This is to ensure that the strategy or programme contains all the necessary measures to address, prevent and respond to risk or obstacles. We also want to provide a coherent and consistent trend analysis of the situation in South Central Somalia. To measure fragility, our core analytical product is an open platform called the Fragility Index Maturity Model, which will be officially launch soon. This model puts together a basic operational picture of progress at the district level. It brings together internal UN resources as well as data from other partners already operating in Somalia, such as the Stability Fund and the US Office of Transitional Initiatives. The model will assess districts by tracking progress on security, policing and the rule of law; governance and reconciliation; and the quantity, quality and accessibility of education, health and other social services. We hope that this information will be useful for UN agencies and the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia, and other partners such as USAID, DFID and the federal and local government in Somalia.   Check back here for updates and do get in touch if you have advice or questions.

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Open data for a safer and child-friendly Albania

BY Bas Berends, Jorina Kadare | April 5, 2017

We need open data, especially about whether our cities are child-friendly and safe for women and children. Here at the UN in Albania, we wanted to fill this data gap in order to put issues of gender equality and sustainable cities higher up on the local government’s agenda. Our larger goal was to collect important data and make it available to both the municipality and the public. We planned our innovation on this hypothesis: if more data from administrative sources and surveys is collected and made publicly available, better informed and more efficient policies will be designed and implemented. We based our hypothesis on evidence, including the annual public opinion survey - Trust in Government, jointly funded by UNDP and the EU Delegation. When we kicked off our work in open data in Albaina, we gained the support of a local open data activist, Redon Skikuli, the founder of Open Labs Hackerspace in Tirana. “I'm really happy to see the UN push open data as a set of tools that empower citizens and make central and local governments more transparent, ” Skikuli said. Blending Data Are there spaces where children can be in contact with nature? Are there health check-ups in the community where children are sick? Is it safe for children to walk or cycle in their community? These are the questions we started asking citizens through surveys, which were divided in two parts. The first half focused on how children and their parents perceive their own cities. UNICEF, along with the Observatory for Children’s Rights, had already done some vital groundwork which we could build upon. The second half of the survey focused on safe cities, as part of UN Women’s “Safe Cities and Safe Public Spaces” initiative. It is a first-ever global programme that develops, implements, and evaluates tools, policies and comprehensive approaches on the prevention of and response to sexual harassment and other forms of sexual violence against women and girls across different settings. We plan to blend data and, in this way, create new insights. Data from these public surveys will be combined with administrative data from the police department, the tax office, the education system, and other government departments. It will then be made available as open data for citizens. That way we can triangulate information and get a fuller picture. As a next step, we also used data from the surveys about child-friendly and safe cities as a basis for conducting two  bootcamps; one on child-friendly cities in October and one on safe cities in November 2016. We identified problems and designed solutions with children, youth and women. In our experience, great ideas arise from such bootcamps, especially from our participants. Both events turned out to be highly interactive and  productive. More about these events in our next blog. Data to reengineer municipal services Tirana’s Municipality hosts nearly one third of Albania’s inhabitants, so the municipality has expanded to a much larger area. The territorial expansion of the Municipality created both challenges and opportunities, particularly when it comes to improving the delivery of services, supporting local economic development, and reducing inequalities between different local governments. In Tirana, public service reform is high on the political agenda and the Mayor’s office is busy modernizing and digitizing public services. The vision of the municipality is to transform Tirana from a city struggling to provide its citizens with basic services to a city that is desirable and accessible to residents and visitors. The reform effort has already resulted in an in-depth review and reengineering of 148 services, such as waste management, public kindergartens, public works and issuing of permits. In this backdrop, UNDP Albania and the Municipality organized the Tirana Smart City Conference 2016 – 2026. At the conference, focusing on 5 key themes - mobility, economy, living, society and rural life, participants spoke about how Tirana could become an efficient, economically viable, sustainable and more livable city. Open data and citizen engagement at the local level are particularly important, as they can lead to greater transparency and accountability. More importantly, they can lead to a more efficient local government, and better public service delivery and policy through evidence-based decision-making.  UNDP is currently supporting the Municipality of Tirana in making the data collection processes more effective and making the data visible through an open data portal. This isn’t an easy task! Lessons Learned Data is collected sporadically and there are concerns about sharing data between different departments, timeliness, validity and quality. The municipality officials see the data gathering and data entry process as additional work unrelated to their jobs. Currently, the municipality has 31(!) channels for citizen requests; varying between municipal units, public enterprises, phone lines and an app. Citizen requests could be anything from requests for construction on renovation projects to complaints about government services. Most of the data collected are in Excel format and bear little connection with each other, resulting in difficulties in analyses in the open data portal. In other words, some steps are still needed to make sure that Tirana benefits from a functioning open data portal that can incorporate data from different sources. We hope that the efforts by both UNDP and UNICEF strengthen the municipality’s ability to learn about public concerns and to make good use of innovative ideas among citizens. This will also help the UN in Albania to focus its future efforts when assisting the government to create safe and sustainable cities and communities. Next steps Moving forward, the municipality, assisted by UNDP, will continue to work on the smart city data infrastructure (including innovative financing mechanisms, user-centred research and innovation labs), so that high-value data sets can be posted in the open data portal. We’re also discussing a similar data infrastructure with the municipality of Korca in the south of Albania. Watch this space for more news about open data for a safer and more child-friendly Albania!

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The journey begins: Real-time information for maternal health in Mauritania

BY Jose Levy, Blandine Bihler | March 24, 2017

In Mauritania, 13 women die each week at the time of pregnancy, childbirth or post-birth. Although the maternal mortality curve is beginning to move in the right direction, reproductive health indicators remain a concern. The maternal mortality rate is 582 deaths per 100,000 live births - one of the highest in the region. Those most at-risk are the poor, illiterate women from rural areas with low access to maternal health services, subject to socio-cultural prejudices, adolescents and youth. We at the UN in Mauritania are committed to supporting the Mauritanian Government's efforts to drastically reduce maternal mortality. UN agencies (WHO, UNFPA, UNICEF) are supporting the Ministry of Health to better identify malfunctions in obstetric care and to improve the situation. They also support the ministry to supply health centers with life–saving products and medicines. Faster information…could it save lives? The Mauritanian government needs faster data to know why women are dying and to target resources to save lives.  They also want more up to date status on stocks of essential products and medicines in maternity hospitals, pediatric units and health center pharmacies to prevent stock outs and be able to respond quickly to breaks in critical supplies. In thinking of new ways to solve this issue, we looked at one critical asset: an over 90 percent mobile phone penetration rate in Mauritania.  So we assumed that a real time monitoring system might be able to help. For almost a year now, together with the Mauritanian Ministry of Health and Community Systems Foundation - CSF, we have been working to design a real time monitoring tool in three health centers in Nouakchott, which despite being the capital still constitutes 80 percent of the maternal deaths in Mauritania. We wanted healthcare providers to be able to report in real time (less than 24 hours) maternal deaths and drug inventory. We decided to use smart phones because they are less expensive than tablets and at least in Noakchott they are very common. We also couldn’t use basic phones because they couldn’t handle the volume of data we needed. Once data is recorded through a mobile survey using an open source tool, Ministry professionals can consult the information through key performance indicators on an inter-active dashboard. So we tested it out. Nurses, midwives and doctors loved it. The app also attracted considerable interest among the other players in the health structures tested. If you are considering a similar solution, let us save you a few steps! Its great to see things coming together, but it has been a long and winding road. First, we built up the demand for real time data – which might be more than the system can respond to! Along the way, we had some seriously doubts in our ability to develop the envisaged system. To anyone thinking of moving in this direction   let us share some words of advice: Narrow your data dreams. High expectations and a lot of data gaps meant that it was difficult to establish the scope of what data we really needed. We started too broad - ‘basic social services (health, education and protection of victims of violence)’ but this wide scope had led to practical implications, making the system too cumbersome and non-functional (too many issues covered and therefore too much data to be collected at high cost). Working across different sectoral experts and parts of the UN, we needed criteria to prioritize which data we really needed. We decided to consider a sector having an analysis of the situation with a clear identification of the bottlenecks and priority actions to be carried out, which could be monitored in real time. Back in the days of the Millennium Development Goals we had done a bottleneck analysis on how to accelerate progress in maternal health so this was a good factor in deciding in favor of a focus on this issue. Health experts and data teams on board from the beginning. We started this  real time monitoring journey within the UN’s Program Management Group which is responsible for monitoring the results of the UN’s work in Mauritania. It brings together management across the UN and the monitoring and evaluation officers. We made progress, but really it was only when the health technicians were brought on board that the blockages could be lifted and we got real commitment and momentum to work together on this. Once we had the health people in the room, the added value of the real-time monitoring system was immediately clear. Those struggling to reduce maternal deaths saw it as an action-research tool that allows them to adjust their response strategies. So, if you plan to embark on a similar adventure, bring in the content experts from the start. The mobilization of technical expertise: a challenge. Once the scope of the real time monitoring system was identified, the next challenge was to find a partner capable of supporting us in implementing it. After several unsuccessful attempts, we contacted CSF, based on the suggestion of our colleagues at UN DOCO, who already worked with the foundation in the framework of the UNDAF online monitoring tool. As CSF holds a long term agreement with UNFPA, we piggybacked on this and started our collaboration. After a first scoping mission in October 2016, CSF conducted a pre-piloting mission in Nouakchott this January to propose a mobile based solution to capture data at the health facility level. Plan for the recurring costs of data collection. When we started, we looked at several options for data collection, based particularly on UNICEF’s experience with a real-time monitoring system. We looked at  one model that would have regional planning units and regional offices of the national statistical office collect the data and others that thought volunteers from the UN Volunteers Programme could do on-site collection of health data. All of these options had cost implications. Once we considered what would build on the work of the Ministry of Health, we realized that a smart phone would be best so that health personnel can directly record data as they are the ones closest to the job. Within two or three months, we will expand the system to all health facilities in two regions of Mauritania and will provide real-time information on maternal deaths in these two areas and, ultimately, adequate response measures to prevent the occurrence of new deaths related to gaps in the health system. Mauritania’s maternal health real time data journey continues…stay tuned for our next installment and do get in touch if you have questions or ideas.

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Five steps forward for the UNDAF

BY Diana Torres | March 16, 2017

In the world of development, UNDAF is one acronym you must know if you are interested in the UN’s work. The UN Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF) provides a multi- year strategic plan for the UN’s work in a country. UNDAFs are critical for the UN at the country level to channel coherent support to governments and partners to achieve results for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Given the newness of Agenda 2030, the 2016 UNDAFs were one of a kind: they set the benchmark on new trends and practices to illustrate the role of the UN in supporting governments to achieve sustainable development goals. Last year, a small team in the UN Development Operations Coordination Office embarked on a review of 27 UNDAFs that will be implemented over the next 5 years to see what we could learn. What did our review reveal?   1. UNDAFs are slowly moving away from sectoral approaches towards more integrated and multidimensional results. One of the most significant paradigm shifts of the SDGs is the multifaceted and interdependent nature of the SDGs. Distinct from the sectoral approaches that marked the Millennium Development Goals, the SDGs require complex and multidimensional thinking. Our study showed early progress in this direction: 55 percent of the UNDAFs reflect integrated approaches and outcomes to tackle national development issues. This is a critical area that needs rapid improvement if we want to meet the expectations of member states. The UNDAFs of good examples of integrated approaches, where gender, environment and human rights underpin the strategic results. These UNDAFs outline a collaborative approach: there are detailed roles and contributions of different UN agencies in achieving results, linking the shared roles and expertise of the UN across the areas relevant to these cross-sectoral challenges. 2. There is an increased focus on strengthening data capacities at the country level, with room for improvement. One of the main demands of member states from the UN is supporting data-related capacity in countries. We found significant progress compared to previous years, but not all UNDAFs articulate a coherent approach towards strengthening the quality of data and national statistics in countries. Only 60 percent of the 2016 UNDAFs included strategies to support national statistics organizations, particularly supporting data relevant to the SDGs. Some examples of UNDAFs that incorporated strengthening data capacity include Georgia, Indonesia, Turkey, and El Salvador. 3. There is some progress on joint humanitarian and development approaches The challenges the world faces today require a coherent approach, one that brings together the humanitarian, development and peace communities to ensure long-lasting results for countries. Our review found that some of the UNDAF (particularly those from Central Asia) show progress in this direction. For example, five UNDAFs (Armenia, Syria, FYR Macedonia, and Uzbekistan) make reference to humanitarian response, in the context of refugee migration. Nine countries (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kosovo*, Syria, Tajikistan, FYR Macedonia, Turkey and Zambia) include indicators tracking support to refugees and/or internally displaced people, and linking development and humanitarian responses. This is an area where we hope to see more progress in coming years - it is essential to reengineer how we work together and provide preventive, rapid and long-lasting responses to the humanitarian and development challenges many countries are facing today. 4. Revitalizing global partnerships through south-south cooperation is top on the agenda. Around 80 percent of the 2016 UNDAFs that we looked at are from middle-income and/or high-income countries, with the rest from low-income countries. This reflects the reality of our operations across the world. A significant number of UNDAFs have a specific focus on partnerships at the regional and global levels. Eight of the 27 UNDAFs have a specific outcome related to south-south cooperation. Examples include the UNDAFs of China, Kazakhstan,  and Uruguay, among others. 5. UNDAFs are keeping track of UN contributions to the SDGs. Already in 2016, governments and UN country teams in most countries reflect a shared understanding of the linkages between the UNDAF results and support to partners on the  SDGs. In our review, up to 78 percent of UNDAFs link outcomes to the SDGs. In Argentina, for example, SDGs and recommendations from international human rights mechanisms were fully linked to each of the UNDAF outcomes. However, there are challenges. Some UNDAFs identified only one or two SDGs per outcome, when there are likely multiple relationships to other goals. Tracking contribution to multi-sectoral goals like the SDGs will be a challenge in coming years. We hope that the findings and recommendations from this analysis are useful for countries starting a new UNDAF process this year. Kudos those country teams that have raised the bar during this period of transition from the millennium development goals to the SDGs.   * (Administered by the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo in the context of UN Security Council Resolution 1244)

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Eating an elephant (in other words… foresight for the SDGs in Bosnia & Herzegovina)

BY Envesa Hodzic-Kovac | February 23, 2017

“How do you eat an elephant? One spoonful at a time.” This saying applies to any undertaking whose size and proportions are immense.  Where to start is daunting. For me, the Sustainable Development Goals — an ambitious set of goals agreed to by UN Members States that establishes milestones of growth & equality within the limits of the planet — are the elephant. No poverty. Zero hunger.  Reduced inequalities. Sustainable cities. Climate Action. Decent work. All by 2030. These are ambitious goals.  They demand that different entities of the UN work together in new ways. In order to tackle them, we need to have a plan. We need to know where to start. How do you prioritise different aspects of human development– all are important, and all are urgent, and all are long-term issues that cannot be solved with short-fixes. It is not just about the government doing their bit, it is really about all of us. We need individual action, communal action, citizen action. How to get people on board of complex agenda such as Sustainable Development Goals? And how to do it in a complex administrative set-up such as Bosnia and Herzegovina? Strategic foresight to approach the enormity of the SDGs In Bosnia and Herzegovina, the United Nations is using strategic foresight as part of its consultations process to build momentum for the Sustainable Development Goals. In order for us to start getting our heads around the 2030 Agenda, we needed  a participatory planning process that gets beyond past and present to look into the future to create the future… it is a forward-looking approach aimed at using the future to create change in the present…” Our work has built upon the work done in Montenegro, where UN colleagues have engaged with think-tanks, academia, statistical office and NGOs. They worked with disruptive innovators, digital champions and active youth to create alternative scenarios for Montenegro’s future. Don’t call it a game gamification We adapted the tool initially developed by the UN Montenegro for the post-2015 national consultations – they called it Enhanced Survey Tool – and it is exactly that, but with our adaptation it is also a collective problem solving tool.  The tool looks and feels like a board game (I still remember the odd looks we would get when we placed it, unopened, on the table in front of our stakeholders before explaining what it was!). We used our ‘game’ that we call SDG Consultations Tool with 600 people to gauge their positive and negative associations with the past and present, their visions for the future, the way they think about the future, what values, actions, structures and threats/opportunities they identify around specific SDG/Target and solutions/ideas how to address or accelerate achievement of the SDG/Target. Through this process, we collected over 80 ’bright ideas’ that we will present to at the high level SDG Conference with policy makers as accelerating solutions that people collectively envisaged to meet targets and SDGs in our country context. The game also generates demographic data so we can disaggregate the priorities, values actions and institutional suggestions from all who engaged in this participatory process. We also conducted a postcards from the future campaign in order to get people thinking in an imagined space of what futures could or should be. We now have over 200 tangible artifacts from the future that are personal to people in BiH. Check out  our facebook page for more on this. The future of the future At a minimum, everyone who has played the SDG game now knows what all of the SDGs are, and has a personal association with them.  This is no small accomplishment. Getting people to wrap their heads around 169 targets can result in a rote type exercise. This tool helped us get out of that limitation.   The  tool also helped us all see the incredible interconnectedness of the 2030 Agenda and the approaches that we need to take to achieve them. Sustainable development requires a future-orientation. This tool helped us get people in Bosnia & Herzegovina into a creative space. A lesson learned about introducing strategic foresight to others is to try to minimise explaining what it is. It works best when it is applied and used immediately. A ‘deep dive’ into strategic foresight works well since the approach we have used is very intuitive and people get it the moment they get immersed in it. Foresight helped us move beyond thinking that the future has to be an extension of the present. And beyond thinking that forecasting is exclusively based on quantitative data.  The next step would be us to support a shift among our partners in the government  institutions responsible for planning towards regularized human-centered, citizen derived data about the future, alongside data driven modelling which they may already be using. We found that foresight not only helps you think collectively about the future but also makes a dent in overcoming contexts where participatory planning is difficult.  We are all equals when it comes to the future – by design no one voice can dominate. And this is a good start to Agenda 2030 that vows to leave no one behind.

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Cameroon: Putting the people back into UN strategy planning

BY Olive Bonga | February 16, 2017

What does it take to carry out the UN Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF)? Many things. But one thing is certain – long gone are the days when this exercise was centered on a dialogue between the UN and the Government, leaving no room for the general public and specific groups  of people like youth and women to have their say. When the UN Country Team in Cameroon embarked on this exercise, the use of social media was key. What better way to reach and get young people’s voices heard? Using social media as part of UNDAF seemed only appropriate in the context of the SDGs and post-2015 development agenda, and in a world where the people we are working with are not only beneficiaries of development but a conduit and resource to development. So, how did we do it? We asked questions on Twitter and Facebook. Our hashtag? #UNCMR4U. That is: ‘the UN in Cameroon for you’. We wanted to hear from young people, women, refugees and other vulnerable groups. We wanted to know – what is their perception of our work and contributions to their country’s development? How do they see our role in improving the lives of the people of Cameroon – especially of youth, girls and women? Spreading the word People will participate in consultations, but they have to know about it first. And, so, we traveled across six of the 10 regions, targeting mainly universities, spreading the word on how everyone would benefit from having their voices heard, and how to go about it. We enlisted the media to amplify our messages, and people find out about consultations on their radios and TVs. A two-month conversation It all came down to: 40 questions (grouped under 10 key areas) shared over two months (between October and December 2015) via the UN in Cameroon’s Facebook and Twitter accounts; and 300 answers. Capturing rural voices We were mindful that people living in rural areas had limited access to internet. Here we rolled out good, old fashioned focus group discussions. We talked to women, men and youth groups in four regions (Central, East, Far North and South West) focusing on the same 40 questions that were shared online. Nearly 500 people – including civil servants, local government representatives, young people and farmers – participated in the face-to-face discussions. Long-lasting benefits Did the people of Cameroon engage in the online discussions? In brief: yes. Even after the discussions were closed, answers to our questions kept trickling in. People were connecting with one another. Our hashtag has been used by millions of Cameroonians and is has become part of our UN brand in the country. Common themes identified by participants were: equality between men and women, food security, confidence in the banking system, education and the job market and health care. Key findings of this exercise helped us set the priorities of our new UN strategic framework which now focuses in the following areas: development of decent job opportunities and social inclusion, health and nutrition, education and vocational training, resilience, food security and early recovery. The online discussions helped raise awareness about and got people interested in the UN’s work. We reached over 50,000 people, with over 400 people talking about the UNDAF exercise online, including UN social media influencers such as the chair of the UNDG – Helen Clark. The UN Cameroon’s social media accounts attracted a significant number of new followers; Facebook “likes” rose up to 3,600, and retweets to 600. We are excited about this new way of working and we are already working on how to build on this experience to spread the word of the 2030 Agenda in Cameroon!

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UN Zambia: from assistance to partnership

BY Rekha Shrestha | February 9, 2017

In 2016, the UN in Zambia launched the first Sustainable Development Partnership Framework (2016-2021), a strategic document to address some of the multi-dimensional development challenges faced by this emerging middle income country. I was proud to be part of a process that led us to a UN strategy that fully embraces the spirit of Agenda 2030, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the standard operating procedures for Delivering as One countries. First, and foremost: analysis of why poverty persists We started the planning process with an analysis to better understand the development dynamics of a country where over 50 per cent of its population is under 18, and 40 per cent live in extreme poverty while the country enjoys a high and stable economic growth. Zambia’s Gini Coefficient value of 0.65 was also a red flag. Our country analysis focused on people and the exclusions and vulnerabilities that could be both cause and result of Zambia’s development paradox. In this exercise we looked at the causes of multiple inter-linked vulnerabilities. Take for example, how a poor indigenous Batwa woman, in absence of national registration card (citizenship), faces multi-layered vulnerabilities and is marginalised. Pervasive inequalities have contributed to a situation where Zambian women often make up a disproportionate share of the poor due to their limited access to and control over land, livestock, credit and technology. Legal hurdles can exacerbate this problem.  A Batwa woman can neither access credit, nor purchase land or migrate safely for economic opportunities. This means that women are overrepresented in the informal sectors, where income is low and unreliable. All of these factors increase women’s vulnerabilities to poverty, poor health and discrimination. And this can mean that poverty in Zambia is transmitted across generations. Our analysis showed that addressing vulnerabilities emanating from deep rooted discrimination, marginalization, exclusion and inequalities, should be the role of the UN system to support the people of Zambia fully enjoying their rights. The complex inequality story becomes clear…now what? Our country analysis was the first step in developing our new partnerships framework. Once the understanding of the UN role was clear, we needed to figure out: What value could the UN system add to Zambia’s own efforts towards socio-economic transformation? And more importantly, where would the UN contribution make the biggest difference in an equation in which official development assistance contributes to only 1 per cent of the national spending? The UN as an integrator and innovator in Zambia After brainstorming with partners, including the private sector, we found out that our partners value us as a thought leader, an integrator and an innovator. They highlighted the fact that the United Nations is adept at ensuring an integrated approach, working across sectors, and providing specialised advice in addressing multi-sectoral development challenges like those that solidify poverty among women.  Our partners see the UN as an impartial broker, and value our ability to work in partnership with various stakeholders in Zambia. Given Zambia’s economy is based on the mining sector, teaming up with mining companies in Zambia presents opportunities to advance ‘business and human rights’. This new approach to our work is captured in the first Sustainable Development Partnership Framework (2016-2021), which differs to the traditional UNDAF approach: It is human rights based. It means that the UN’s response to Zambia’s development challenges and priorities has been articulated fully from a Human Rights perspective, putting people at the heart of development work to achieve the realization of their rights. It aims to promote participation and accountability by: enabling rights holders to demand and exercise their rights and building the capacity of duty bearers to understand and fulfill their obligations. Investments over delivery. Departing from sectoral interventions (education, health, agriculture etc) based on sectoral Common Country Assessment, Zambia’s Partnership Framework uses a multi-sectoral approach to development, which we think is necessary to contribute to the achievement of the SDGs, and to address the root causes of poverty, inequalities, vulnerabilities and on building resilience. The emphasis is on partnerships and smart investments (rather than the UN delivery), as well as on increasing the effectiveness and efficiency of the UN through a strengthened Delivering as One approach. It has eight strategic outcomes that ensure alignment and development effectiveness by fully reflecting the high ambition of the Sustainable Development Goals and by responding to Zambia’s development priorities. These outcomes are focused on the need to ‘leave no one behind’ and to reach the large number of people in Zambia who are marginalized and vulnerable through poverty, discrimination, ignorance or prejudice. The partnership framework is being implemented through 11 multi-sectoral results groups, chaired by UN heads of agencies and their Government counterparts, encouraging close coordination with partners. The partnership framework also establishes Zambia as an equal partner, driving national development priorities, as opposed to a country receiving assistance. Recognising Zambia as a country in the path to become a middle income nation, the  framework encourages domestic financing to address issues of common interest. For example, the UN Country Team and the Zambia’s Vice President’s Office partnered to document issues one of the indigenous Batwa communities in the course of preparing a joint Country Analysis. The findings not only informed the development of the Partnership Framework, but also influenced the Government decision to provide national registration cards (citizenship) to Batwa communities. Partnership as such promotes national ownership, shared responsibilities and a joined-up approach. The takeaways: We’ve come a long way! UN agencies have developed a strong commitment to operationalizing UN System support under the Delivering as One approach. Over the past four years of my tenure in Zambia, I have noticed the UN Country Team coming together more systematically. Delivering as One structure is fully operational and Joint Work Plans of Results Groups are in place to ensure coherent UN support. Political commitment is key. Also important is to implement joined-up approach where it makes sense. The Programme Team has been ahead of Business Operations Team in this process, and challenges remain cascading from HQ level that stand in the way of greater harmonization. Different operational modalities of agencies create difficulties to harmonise policy on issues even on seemingly straighforward issues, like deploying an intern to work at the UN. A strong skill set of strategic policy, programming, communications, human rights and gender in the UN Resident Coordinator’s Office was essential in facilitating an inclusive process. And this coordination cornerstone requires multi-year, predictable funding to draw down on expertise  across the UN System and from external organisations. From planners to transformers Our new strategic framework sees multi-stakeholder partnership as an essential ingredient to achieve sustainable development results that are people-centered. The inter-agency team that led in the planning stage is now the UN in Zambia Strategic Transformation Team of Advisers. They are coordinated by the UN Resident Coordinator Office to ensure the on-going quality and endurance of the partnership concept through the life of the partnership framework. These advisers support the RC/UNCT, preparing regular analysis, identifying flagship issues for UN policy advocacy and advancing inter-agency policy dialogue. As Mark Twain once said, “The secret to getting ahead is getting started”; we hope to make progress in the years to come, as with determination we started in 2016, our journey from development assistance to partnership for sustainable development!

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Data to drive better services for people with disabilities in FYR Macedonia

BY Sonja Stefanovska-Trajanoska, Suzana Ahmeti-Janjic | January 26, 2017

A young man in dark glasses holding an accordion shuffled on stage in Kumanovo during an event organized to celebrate the inclusion of persons with disabilities in the local community. “Mother, do you remember me?” he sang. The haunting song, of his own composition, told of his abandonment by his family solely because he was born blind. Stories like this are not unusual in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia . Although the country ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2011, its inclusive spirit is not yet reflected in policies, public services or social attitudes. Persons with disabilities routinely face exclusion from the labor market, public services and social life. Stigma for disabilities which in other countries would pose little obstacle to leading a “normal” life remain severe. One such example is visual impairment. Policy support relies largely on cash benefits that discourage inclusion. And refining policies is difficult given the complete lack of census (or other) data on persons with disabilities. Before we can design programs to fight exclusion, we need to understand the depth and breadth of the problem. The social inclusion of persons with disabilities is a shared priority goal for the UN in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and the creation of proxy indicators is a target in the UN Strategy for 2016-2020 which has recently been adopted by the Government. To address the challenge, UNDP, UNFPA and UNICEF have joined forces in an attempt to generate – for the first time – proxy data that will help understand the numbers, locations and situations of persons with disabilities and the prevalence of specific disabilities. Data to understand access to social services In cooperation with the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy, national institutions and civil society, we are carrying out face-to-face surveys to understand the challenges that persons with disabilities face in realizing their right to work and to enjoy life in society. This data will help us identify badly needed social services that are currently non-existing in local communities. In addition, it will help us assess the conditions and quality of services provided in all 81 foster families in the country, and come up with recommendations to help prevent and reverse institutionalization. In parallel with this, focus group discussions are currently being held with professionals working in three major institutions that provide care services to persons with disabilities, to help identify and open new opportunities for employees working on rehabilitation processes. We are also launching an innovative application for smartphones and the internet to crowdsource information on the physical barriers that persons with disabilities face, for example in entering municipal buildings or visiting the doctor (One example: there is not a single gynecologist office in the country that is equipped to accommodate wheelchairs). Proxy approaches  We are focusing our data collection in three regions of the country – Pelagonija, Strumica and Skopje. We are designing methods to assess the biggest challenges people with disabilities face during their integration to the society, including: Physical barriers (we plan to geo-tag them) Entering the labour market Accessing public services, including education and healthcare Finding suitable residential solutions in the community The principles in the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities will be followed in all planned activities – meaning that persons with disabilities will actively be engaged in every step of the way including design, collection and analysis of the results.  All questionnaires will be developed together with the representatives from the Associations and NGOs working with persons with disabilities . People living with disabilities will be involved in the face-face interviews as well as in the process of development of the new services they need. Approaches like user-journeys and positive deviance,  willl be used to identify and prioritize the barriers, needs and opportunities as experienced by people with disabilities. We are counting on this initiative to yield four key results: Sufficient proxy data on persons with disabilities in the country – to help make informed policies and decisions to dismantle the barriers to inclusion Engaging persons with disabilities in every step of the way – to ensure that they identify and prioritize their own needs Developing recommendations for future activities related to providing rehabilitation services for the labor market and for enabling people with disabilities to live in the community rather than in institutions Engaging municipalities and institutions to meet the priority needs identified by people with disabilities and their associations. Along the way, we aim to work together to stimulate a much-needed sea change in public attitudes, so that people like the young man with the accordion in Kumanovo are no longer shunned for their differences but rather cherished for their abilities. We’d love feedback if anyone out there has tried something similar!

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Collective Intelligence for Better Problem Solving in Lesotho

BY Asel Abdurahmanova | January 13, 2017

How can we as the UN tap into the ideas, information and possible solutions which are distributed among many partners, the private sector, and the two million people of Lesotho? This key question is being tackled under the exciting global partnership the United Nations Lesotho is undertaking with Nesta to apply collective intelligence methods to support the UN’s work (check out their latest report Governing with Collective Intelligence) . In Lesotho, a landlocked country surrounded on all sides by South Africa and classified as a lower middle income country, about 310,000 adults and children are living with HIV. The country has an unacceptably high maternal mortality ratio – 1,024 deaths per 100,000 live births (2014). High poverty rates, socio-cultural barriers, delayed health seeking behaviours, poor access to health services are among key reasons for weak health outcomes. These have been some of the key facts presented when we first started planning the Nestamission, last September. We identified key objectives: To support in grounding UN planning and accountability mechanisms in the voices of the people of Lesotho To identify opportunities to embed new tools into planning and strategies development Provide proposals for the UN Country Team to integrate citizen engagement and digital technology into its programmes, with a focus on improving service delivery in health and filling gaps in data availability and use What is a collective intelligence framework for sustainable development?  Our Nesta colleagues shared with our partners a framework for collective intelligence as a way to tap into the ideas and data that is dispersed throughout the country. The stages of the collective intelligence framework are iterative: Defining the exact problem Better understanding the facts, data and experiences Better development of options and ideas Better oversight and improvement of what is done As we continue to introduce this methodology we are taking up Nesta’s suggestion for a 100 days of innovations model to draw government and public attention to a focused effort and to maintain a momentum.  Here’s what we are working on: Listening to people’s voices through a mobile public perception survey Mobile surveys will be introduced as part of the longer term idea of public monitoring platform and feedback mechanisms. We will gather perceptions about the UN, what people know about the UN and think of our work, the outreach will also get people’s responses on the most pressing SDGs through continued Lesotho My World Survey. In partnership with our private sector partner – the mobile provider, we will be able to analyse the perception data distributed geographically and disaggregated by respondents’ profiles throughout Lesotho. Stimulating innovative solutions through an SDG Challenge Prize One of the most exciting crowdsourcing initiatives that we will bring forward – the SDGChallenge Prize as a powerful incentive for people to bring innovative solutions. The unique element is that people will design most pressing questions around: areas of SDGs; behaviours of young people and HIV and AIDS; and disconnect between education and employment. Population will be invited to develop innovative solutions and through providing monetary prizes and follow up entrepreneurship and project management skills packages to the most innovative solutions, we expect this will not only trigger innovative thinking but will also help to access new and alternative sources of data and ideas. Our key partners will be academia – the National University of Lesotho and the private sector. Can ‘Uber Ambulance’ be a big thing to improve access to health care services? The mountainous topography and harsh winters also present a challenge for access to basic services, including health care services. Where there is a limited transportation, no good roads, or women at late pregnancy stages not being able to access health clinics – there is a room for innovation and is being already explored globally! We plan to develop a taxi app – ‘uber ambulance’ to move into the healthcare sector. The move could allow Basotho to get to health services though sms based platforms or their smartphones directly in partnership with local IT companies and taxi service providers. By generating more inclusive, participatory ways of tackling problems and simultaneously creating solutions coming directly from the people of Lesotho we hope to bring value added and to contribute to leave no one behind agenda.

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Taking pilots to standards: Marking 10 years of ‘Delivering as One’

BY Alexander Freese, Gerald Daly, Helene Remling | November 2, 2016

Alexander Freese, Gerald Daly, and Helene Remling We’ve all felt the touch of coordination. Whether for a hiking trip, a wedding or a picnic in the park: planning together who does what, working on more challenging treats in a team (that barbecue, photo book or treasure hunt!) leads to better results than anyone could have achieved alone –  and it is always more creative and fun too! When it comes to complexity, organizing the activities of 32 UN entities with development operations in 165 countries and territories and a total budget nearing 17 billion US Dollars can hardly be compared to a picnic in the park. But still, coordination in either scenario is essentially about common sense, pooling ideas and resources. Underlying is  the conviction, that one needs to go together instead of alone to achieve common goals. In November 2016, the UN has perhaps a less known anniversary to celebrate. Ten years ago a process was initiated that put the common sense of coordination for better development results on center stage for the UN development system: ‘Delivering as One’ was born.  Aimed at supporting the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, this initiative was launched by then UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan in 2006 based on recommendations by Member States to strengthen coordination and management of the UN development operations. Test, evaluate and standardize But what does it take to bring to bear the full potential of a cooperative and collaborative UN on the ground? ‘Delivering as One’ equipped UN teams in 8 countries with flexibility and resources to experiment and find answers to this crucial question.  Some six years later,‘Delivering as One’ was formally recognized by Member States as a valuable business model for UN development activities. Building on five crucial pillars of the UN at the country level, namely one programme, a common budget, one leadership, and to communicate and operate as one, the UN set off to formalise the approach. Mandated by the UN General Assembly, senior UNDG leadership launched a unique interagency process  to come up with  Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for ‘Delivering as One’. These procedures were to codify the approach and bring together the lessons learned from the pilot countries for the benefit of all UN teams across the globe. If you would like to return to the travel analogy, the ultimate survival guide for a successful camping trip. In 2014 the UN Secretary General and 18 Heads of UN Agencies signed the SOPs, making the SOPs document the UN guidance document with the largest ever number of signatures by UN leaders. We’ve learned a number of valuable lessons in this two year journey of reviewing, drafting and negotiating a guidance document that would help unite UN efforts on the ground. With Ban Ki-moon’s term ending and a new resolution to guide the UN development system underway, the UNDG is at an important crossroads and  these lessons could inform future UN change processes:  1. Maintaining momentum: Reforming big institutions takes time. But with concrete yet strategic requests such as for the SOPs, change can happen fast. New resolutions and leadership create momentum for necessary change that should be harnessed. Sometimes this does not allow for in-depth preparatory research, but this time around much data has been collected on the functioning of the SOPs at the country level, paving the way for speedy progress in taking the SOPs to the next level. 2. Co-create change with those who will implement it: The UNDG set up a dedicated high level group to develop the vision of the SOPs, and a series of working groups to flesh out technicalities. Even though the high level group included colleagues from the regional and country levels, due to the very ambitious timeline, little time was left to consult and communicate intensively with important stakeholders such as country level agency staff who would be the eventual implementers of the SOPs. This might have caused delays in the behavioral change required by UN staff at the country level. 3.Keep the big picture in mind, even as you work out the detail: Developing the SOPs was a technical consolidation of experiences with ‘Delivering as One’ At the same time it was a political negotiation as to what extent agency procedures would later align to the the new standards. The UNDG focused on the technical aspects, and could have informed senior leadership and communicated to its governing bodies better about the strategic goal of the SOPs along the way: A UN system at country level ready to provide integrated policy support and solutions to multidimensional development challenges as versatile and complementary teams and has the internal procedures in place to fully support it (e.g. to allow for truly joined upfront analysis and planning). 4.The plan-monitor-adjust loop: The adoption of the SOPs falls in a period of change for many agencies, with shifting funding structures, calls for reform of governance mechanisms and the Agenda 2030 that requires taking policy integration and coherence to the next level. The SOPs embody a whole-of-UN approach that mirrors the whole-of-Government ethos that is called for to find the ideal balance between the economic, social and environmental pillars of sustainable development. The 2030 Agenda breaks new ground. In the same way, the SOPs allow for continuous adjustment of technical details while maintaining their broader strategic intent. To this end, the UNDG has set up a system to track progress in the implementation of the 15 core elements of the SOPs to allow for the analysis of bottlenecks and accountability towards Member States.   Challenges ahead: Changing the way we work In 2015 the UN turned 70, a year that will always be remembered as a year marked by major agreements signalling a paradigm shift in tackling global challenges. But while it was an opportunity to look back, it was also a chance to look ahead.  To help us deliver on the universal and transformative 2030 Agenda, the main challenge going forward is to enable UNCTs to provide equally integrated support to Governments through fully implemented SOPs. We need to gather more evidence on the value addition of the SOPs towards the UN’s contribution to the 2030 Agenda, and in continued reduction of transaction costs and duplication in the UN development system. On average, 16 resident and non-resident agencies in each of our 131 UN Country Teams make an incredible breadth and depth of expertise available to  Governments and societies. They provide pooled expertise, policy support and resources at country level. The SOPs allow us to harness the opportunities inherent in this vast offering by the UN system. As the recently published first Progress Report on the SOPs shows, much has been achieved in the short time span of two years since the launch of the SOPs: They have contributed greatly to improved inter-agency collaboration and enhanced the strategic positioning and relevance of the UN development system at the country level. A growing number of UNCTs are now organized around results groups and the most advanced ones focus their policy capacities around joint policy products and joint work plans. Around one third of UNCTs are implementing, or are in the process of preparing, common Business Operations Strategies in support of their United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF). Programme Country Governments that have formally requested the UN to ‘Deliver as One’ are responding much more positively to questions on the UN’s alignment with national priorities, its overall contribution to development, and its focus on the poorest and most vulnerable people. The SOPs were agreed upon, signed and rolled out. Nevertheless, more time and effort is needed to fully implement them across all UN Country Teams. To realise the full potential of the SOPs, we also need to bring the required actions at headquarter level to the governing bodies of UN entities. Member States should understand that this change does not come overnight. Persistent follow-up is required from all stakeholders. There is no need to reinvent the wheel. As John Hendra, Senior UN Coordinator “Fit for Purpose” for the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, put it we can build on the SOPs as the “floor” – for UN support to the 2030 Agenda at the country level. They are flexible and common sense principles of working together, transparently, efficiently and effectively. They also ensure government oversight and ownership, helping the UN to better align with national development needs and objective. In this sense, progress made in the past 10 years on ‘Delivering as One’ makes for a great campfire story perfecting a journey towards a UN that delivers better together. A story told jointly by so many UN colleagues from a diversity of organizations, based in countries across the globe, united by the UN values, vision and mission. This is an encouraging result from the 2012 quadrennial comprehensive policy review (QCPR) resolution and positive signal going forward into the negotiations of the next resolution on the UN’s operational activities for development.

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Central African Republic: Participatory programming, even in times of crisis

BY Meïssa Dieng Cisse | October 27, 2016

The US election and the Syrian war are all over the news. The recent crisis in Central African Republic is not. Unfortunately, we don’t make it to the news, but now that I got your attention, here it is: There is a crisis in the Central African Republic. Over the past three years, the country has experienced a major political crisis which has resulted in a violent conflict affecting nearly the entire population and leaving some 2.3 million people, over half the population, in dire need of assistance. For a full report on the situation, you can check the OCHA Central African Republicwebsite. Adapting the UN to fit the needs of Central African Republic With all the challenges that a humanitarian situation of this nature brings, it was a must to adapt the response of the UN to the country according to these urgent needs. In principle, in 2015 we were supposed to start planning our new four-year strategic framework, which takes two years to plan, but due to the circumstances, we couldn’t afford that. Upon consultation with the transitional Government, the UN team in the country agreed to develop a temporary strategic plan to address the urgent issues in 2016 and 2017. In this strategic framework, the UN team in Central African Republic complements the work the peacekeeping and humanitarian efforts of the organization in the country. However, to better understand the future development priorities of the country, and therefore the ones for the UN, we left our offices and went “outside” to ask the people of the Central African Republic. Innovation in times of crisis Traditionally, the development of a UN strategic framework is always preceded by a situation analysis to outline the key development issues in any given country. This analysis will later inform the key priorities of the UN in the country. In this “standard” country assessment the Government, as the UN key counterpart, is always consulted. This analytical exercise also incorporates conventional data, that is helpful to predict potential scenarios for development. However, under the current circumstances, data in Central African Republic is obsolete and unfit for the purpose of a national exercise like this. So what to do? How could we supplement conventional data sources? We decided to go where the data is and consult the people, the ultimate beneficiaries of any development effort. You might be thinking “that this is not innovative approach…”.  Well, keep reading. It was an innovative approach: For the first time ever for the UN and for the Central African Republic, the population was directly consulted to get its opinion about the country’s political and socio-economic situation and the possible solutions. For this kind of analysis, traditionally the UN organizes meetings or workshops with the main counterparts of our programs and projects to design strategies, elaborate or validate draft documents. This time we consulted people directly, in their own environment. The Red Cross managed directly the consultation, where opinion leaders, local authorities and the local population were  interviewed separately which allowed all of them to speak freely. Reaching those who policy consultations miss For each prefecture, representatives of vulnerable populations (indigenous peoples, persons with disabilities, older persons, girls and boys up to 25 years old, people living with HIV and AIDS, refugees, internally displaced populations), disadvantaged groups (women’s organizations, informal sector workers, youth organizations), local authorities (prefects, mayors, heads of districts), opinion leaders (crowned heads, traditional leaders, teachers and religious groups), and civil society participated in the consultation. These public consultations gave a voice to non-traditional stakeholders, especially the most disadvantaged who are not formally organized. We ensured that necessary measures were in place to allow participants speak freely. Such was the case of women, who were interviewed separately so they could express their opinions openly. A total of 660 persons were interviewed covering Bangui and all the 16 prefectures of the country. In addition to the focus groups interviews, 176 local authorities (in the rural areas) and opinion leaders (in Bangui) met to discuss about the major issues that arose during the focus group interviews. This public consultation exercise allowed us to map the priorities in a more disaggregated level,  geographically as well as demographically. As a result, the focus groups and the local authorities identified the following areas as the maincauses of the recurrent conflict in the Central African Republic: Weak governance and lack of local leaders consultation and involvement in their communities projects Insecurity and lack of peace Weak national capacities Absence of basic social services (education, health, clean water and sanitation, etc.) Lack of social cohesion It was interesting to find out that even though the expressed needs of all groups participating  are similar, the priority of the needs varies depending on the group. For instance, the lack of food and education has been identified as the most important need by vulnerable groups, while for opinion leaders, NGO and women associations, the first need is security. This differentiation will need to be addressed when designing responses to the crisis in our programming. Making public consultations part of development planning The consultation was key in the development of the UN common country analysis which now relies on broad participatory consultations; an innovation that the UN country team decided to introduce instead of just following the classical methodological approach (data review, supplemental surveys) to develop the common country analysis. The findings of the public consultations exercise were vital to identify the priorities of the UN Interim Strategic Framework (2016-2017) which is the reference plan for the UN in the Central African Republic for the coming two years. And last, BUT NOT LEAST, the consultations are also helpful in validating the Government’s priorities in the Recovery and Peacebuilding Strategy.  We’re proud of this!

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Beninese journalists take action for the Sustainable Development Goals

BY Marie Sandra Lennon, Aristide Djossou | October 18, 2016

If you are reading this blog chances are you work in development, so you might know something about the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). If you work for the United Nations, like we do, you might be able to identify a few of the 17 goals and maybe a few of their 169 targets. You might also be aware of the importance of the new agenda or, as the UN Secretary-General’s says - the SDGs are THE plan: there is no ‘Plan B’ because we do not have a ‘Planet B'! But, what about the rest of the World? Do they know? In Benin our answer to this question was “not… yet”, so we rolled-up our sleeves and started spreading the word! Journalists as allies We all know how important media are and, more how fundamental journalists are to generating a public debate, sharing information with the local population and making governments accountable keeping their promises. Journalists could be great allies and we at the UN in Benin decided to partner with them to spread the word.    The Union of Media Professionals of Benin was prompt to take on the Agenda 2030 challenge and we were thrilled to collaborate with them on a number of workshops in Cotonou, Grand Popo and Parakou guaranteeing the participation of all major community radios in Benin. More than one hundred journalists from different media establishments around the country participated in these workshops. We made sure to involve journalists from community radios, since they are often the most powerful channels to communicate with the most excluded and isolated populations, since they might not have other forms of communication, but they often have radios. Involving community radio journalists was our way of sticking to one of the (beautiful) agenda principles we maintained: to leave no one behind. A spontaneous translate-a-thon First we shared with journalists the goals of the 2030 Agenda, the development process of the Agenda and the principles behind it. Once achieved we moved to the important stuff: How are journalists in Benin going to engage and take action to mobilize support for the new agenda? The first step that the journalists took was a basic but essential one: “Let’s translate the goals into our local languages”. Using local languages is essential to ensure the full involvement of local authorities, civil society and population, among other many collectives. For a few hours our SDG orientation workshop was transformed into a translation space, where journalists helped the UN coming up with the translation of the SDGs into languages used in Benin Bariba, Dendi and Yoruba. Simple but smart. Moving forward We and the UN and the team of journalists see this collaboration as a first step on engaging and knowing more about the UN efforts in Benin to accompany the Government in the implementation of the agenda, sharing their enthusiasm for being agents of positive change in their society. During the workshop, they discussed with our programme colleagues on diverse development activities ongoing in their localities, including gender equity, education, and economic growth and how they relate to the SDGs. Such is the case of the towns of Banikoara and Bonou, where the Millennium Village Project is promoted by the journalists as one specific actions effectively linked to SDGs. Overall, they are enthusiastic on the contribution they could bring to achieve the SDGs and being agents of positive change in their society.   At the closure of one of the workshops, Isabelle Lemou, journalist from the Urban FM in Parakou, represented her peers and said “we very much need this type of capacity building as it will allow us to be armed to properly raise and advocate for SDGs issues”. She noted that collaboration between the UN and Beninese media should be reinforced in the future. We are already planning to identify clear and practical ways to follow up on this collaboration with radio communities. Thanks to UNICEF, the UN in Benin is soon organizing a ‘brainstorming’ day with the Ministry of Communication and community radios across the country to agree on the next steps. We will keep you posted!

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