United Nations Development Assistance Framework Afghanistan 2015-19 Mid-Term Review Report

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Evaluation Plan:
2015-2020, Afghanistan
Evaluation Type:
UNDAF
Planned End Date:
08/2018
Completion Date:
11/2017
Status:
Completed
Management Response:
Yes
Evaluation Budget(US $):
120,000

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Title United Nations Development Assistance Framework Afghanistan 2015-19 Mid-Term Review Report
Atlas Project Number:
Evaluation Plan: 2015-2020, Afghanistan
Evaluation Type: UNDAF
Status: Completed
Completion Date: 11/2017
Planned End Date: 08/2018
Management Response: Yes
Corporate Outcome and Output (UNDP Strategic Plan 2014-2017)
Evaluation Budget(US $): 120,000
Source of Funding: UNCT cost-share
Evaluation Expenditure(US $): 120,000
Joint Programme: No
Joint Evaluation: Yes
  • Joint with UN Agencies
  • Joint with All UN in Afghanistan
Evaluation Team members:
Name Title Email Nationality
GEF Evaluation: No
Key Stakeholders: UN agencies
Countries: AFGHANISTAN
Lessons
Findings
1.

7. FINDINGS OF THE MTR

7.1 Context

Afghanistan embarked on the modernization and democratization process with resolute support from the international community after the December 2001 Bonn conference. By 2004, this process was perceptible: with Loya Jirga approving the constitution and the successful conclusion of elections. Although this is the third UNDAF through which the UN Country Team is assisting the national development agenda, yet the duration is limited for achieving substantial impacts. Development continues to be constrained because of overlooked opportunities affixed to Afghanistan’s history of political instabilities and conflicts of decades. The lost economic chances, the lack of political cohesion and the cultural misalliances made the development goals more aloof.

Afghanistan adopted the MDGs development strategy in 2004, nearly five years after the Millennium Declaration was issued, to be to be achieved by 2020. To this, the country had included an additional Goal pertaining to security. This implies how before 2004 Afghanistan was secluded from the world development community. The additional peace goal is the marker of the fact that even when the country began to return to global development approach and oversight the fragile peace continued to be the single most constraining factor. This also indicates that in this reincarnation UN and the other donors only have had about a decade of implementation experience to learn lessons and to be effective.

The UNDAF glosses over political analysis, the regional context of Afghanistan development too is important. There is an emerging trend of violent radicalism. The Afghanistan government is asserting itself. The current UNDAF is functioning in a situation when the GoIRA is reclaiming the political discourse and expectations from the UN are firming up. However, the nascent political coalitions, unpredictable security and persisting international as well regional dynamics continue to be the reality of Afghanistan. In 2015, when this UNDAF was developed the economic prospects and transition to a post-conflict Afghanistan were optimistic. The slackening economy and persistent infirm peace have festered development opportunities; the moot question is whether UNDAF in its present form will be of as much value as it was expected during its drafting? This review primarily has tried to analyse the progress of UNDAF implementation. However, considering the timing, the review assessed the inherent robustness of UNDAF and has also looked at enhanced contribution of the UN in future.


Tag: MDGs Conflict Peace Building Post Conflict Security Social cohesion

2.

7.2 Pillar wise Response

7.2.3 Overview

The five pillars of UNDAF are:

  • Pillar I: Equitable economic development with reduced dependence on the illicit economy
  • Pillar II: Provision of quality and sustainable basic social services on an equitable basis
  • Pillar III: Securing social equity and investing in human capital especially for women, youth, and vulnerable minorities
  • Pillar IV: Justice and accessible rule of law for all, and
  • Pillar V: Inclusive and accountable governance

Meetings and discussions were carried out with all the Pillar heads and members, agencies and government partners to obtain feedback on the structure and function of UNDAF. A schedule was used to obtain wide ranging responses (Annexed). The intent of these interviews was to contextualise the development in Afghanistan via UNDAF and alignment with the government and national priorities. The continued relevance or alternative to UNDAF was primary concern of the review.

Pillar I: Equitable Economic Development Inclusive, more equitable and sustainable economic growth with reduced dependency on the illicit economy.

The pillar supports licit economy and expects reduced dependence on donor assistance. The pillar activities include designing policies and strategies for economic growth in agriculture for reducing unemployment and underemployment, risks from disasters, besides providing shelter and even construction of a road to improve access. The results aimed by the pillar are diverse as well as ambitious considering the economic base of Afghanistan. The pillar participants acknowledge the challenge of managing this portfolio. Urban development appears to be the catalyst that could support economic development of Afghanistan but considering the agrarian nature of the economy and low urbanisation it is a long-term goal. Pillar stakeholders do not work together because of the diverse nature of their, agency-specific, expected results and, they cannot identify any overlaps for common grounds. There are several crosscutting themes in play besides urban development, like, returnees, livelihood, normative and women participation. This requires cross-pillar engagements, which is limited. The summary conclusion was that while it is challenging to coordinate with the pillar members interacting with other pillars to understand and support common objectives was even more complex. The pillar management responsibility is not the most coveted job. This pillar has transferred the head from ILO to UNHABITAT.


Tag: Agriculture Challenges Justice system Rule of law Programme/Project Design Service delivery Economic Recovery Inclusive economic growth Jobs and Livelihoods Coordination Vulnerable Women and gilrs Youth

3.

Pillar II: Basic Social Services

The expected outcome for this pillar: ‘All Afghans, especially the most marginalized and vulnerable, have equitable access to and use of quality health, nutrition, education, WASH, prevention and protection services that are appropriate and effectively address their rights and needs’ Pillar II is extensive spreading over several result areas. The pillar has about 62 percent of the annual UNDAF budget. This makes the pillar management a challenge considering that all UNDAF/Pillar management is considered additional task by the participants. It was reported during the consultation that meetings were infrequent and participation low. The Pillar managers opined that, for the ease of coordination, this pillar could be subcategorized into three groups (1) Education (2) Health, Nutrition, and WASH and (3) Legal and protective segment (Child protection, drugs, etc.) The political importance of UNDAF is undoubted as this is the UN development narrative for the country and needs to be communicated as a holistic approach. In about 42 percent of the country, the governance is feeble as there are non-state influences. To carry out any programming in such areas the strategies must cater to the intricacies of the local situation. Some UN agencies use extenders, NGOs and third-party monitoring systems. Others reported to directly support government capacity building, besides the use of the third-party and local communities for implementing its activities. The general scenario of the country has changed since the current UNDAF was developed from being optimistic to cautious. As pillar II focuses on basic services to the vulnerable population it entails issues of access and outreach that are impacted by inadequate security, remoteness, and dispersed population all constraining access.


Tag: Rule of law Health Sector Nutrition Sanitation Service delivery Security Education Vulnerable

4.

Pillar IV: Justice and Rule of Law

The outcome: Trust in and access to fair, effective, and accountable rule of law services is increased in accordance with applicable international human rights standards and the government’s legal obligations. UN’s role for managing and promoting informal justice is constrained and this needs to be reconsidered. Afghanistan has a long tradition of informal justice systems and there is an opportunity to build upon it. However, this should be the role of the government who would have durable legitimacy. It must be developed through a bottom-up approach. The World Bank through the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund provides legal aid but UN has demonstrated more comprehensive role towards security and governance. The UN focus is more on promoting national ownership. The Pillar focuses on formal justice and security issues through activities for anti-corruption, Gender Based Violence (GBV), and relative normative outputs, for instance, EVAW (End Violence Against Women) Law. Another challenge to the results related to justice and rule of law is that it needs to be contextualized vis a vis the constitution of Afghanistan, which is based on the Koran and the Sharia law, this needs reconciliation with the Human Rights aspects promoted by the UNDAF. Reorganization of Law and Order Trust Fund (LOTFA), while the major component is related to police payroll, it is also expected to be one of the examples of national ownership. The government is increasingly involved in planning and taking charge of delivery. However, for better and effective support indicators and targets will have to be more specific.For this pillar as well, the coordination is not regular but need-based, on issues that are to be addressed at any given time. This way coordination is utilized rather for urgent problem solving and not for long-term strategic planning. The members felt there was more need for proactive planning rather than just responding to demands for reporting. In practice, the fact of no (lead or primary) counterpart also adds ambiguity to the coordination with the government for this pillar. It was suggested by some members that it may be more efficient to combine the Rule of Law and Justice and Governance under one structural category that will manage access to services, institution building, and anti-corruption systems. The police payroll must be transferred to the government over a defined period.


Tag: Gender-Based Violence Anti-corruption Human rights Justice system Rule of law Ownership Coordination

5.

7.3 Inferences from Pillar findings

Table 3 summarises the number of outputs, indicators and targets for each pillar. It is obvious here that the progress at the time of MTR was not monitored and reported adequately, and from what was reported the apparent conclusion is that the reported targets were on track. However, since the progress for considerable number of targets were not reported it can not be to what extent the UNDAF was achieving its purpose. The pillars/agencies will have to ensure that these targets are reported and shown as being on or off track.

Relevance

  • Contextualized international development perspective MDGs, SDGs, conventions
  • Supported the government with technical assistance, policy development, and with service delivery
  • Human Rights, Gender, youth, and vulnerable population
  • To the donors for supporting UN in Afghanistan (interlocutor)/the UN picture: Multilateral interface
  • Formalization of Country Programs
  • Aligned with existing NPP and Tokyo Mutual Accountability/ Self-Reliance through Mutual Accountability Framework (SMAF)/ Brussels Framework /needs strengthening through alignment with ANPDF
  • Relevant per se as well as a starting point for the future collaboration

There was a consensus on the fragile security situation of Afghanistan, which is making programme outreach challenging. There is a need for realignment of UNDAF with the national priorities especially with the peace and nation/state building, which themselves are in a process of consolidation. The question of alignment is complex as it is multifaced. There is a lack of intrinsic as well as extrinsic integration. There are many occasions when pillars themselves need their results to be cohesive with those of other pillars and similarly there are several unpursued opportunities for integration with the government and other non-UN agencies because of the complexity of donor funding environment of Afghanistan. Integration is not only a question for the results at project or programme levels but also between development and humanitarian actors in the specific political context. While funding is manageable except in some intermittent cases; the cost of implementation is high making the overall scenario inefficient. However, the issue of efficiency here should not be compared with other countries. Joint programming approaches are trying to work towards greater collaboration with efficient results. While the donor driven, and international community support may not qualify as ideally efficient, but the jury is out on government’s capacity to take over the responsibility in a sustainable way. The pillar system has managed to coordinate in a haphazard manner. The coordination is neither strategic nor proactive and veers more towards reporting as and when required. There is limited added value of such reflexive coordination, which is not geared to monitor results in any sustained manner. The coordination can only be improved if the UNDAF results are organised where the investment (mandate, funding, and efforts) of the participants are rewarding towards common agreed goals.


Tag: Gender Equality Human rights MDGs Service delivery Security Coordination Policy Advisory Technical Support Agenda 2030 Youth Relevance

6.

7.4 The Review Questions

The ‘review questions’ were used to analyse the UNDAF status at the Mid Term point. Due to time and data limitations it was not possible to get empirical robustness to the responses, but there is adequate indicative content to provide useful status description.

7.4.1 Relevance

The relevance of UNDAF is rooted in its five programming principles: ‘Human Rights Based Approach’, Gender Equality’, ‘Environmental Sustainability’, ‘Results-Based Management’, and ‘Capacity Development’. They together make the UN participation inimitable for development in Afghanistan. These five themes run across all agency programmes and are significant for Afghanistan.8 Role of the woman recognised by the UN Security Council is vital in the prevention and resolution of conflicts, peace negotiations, peace-building, peacekeeping, humanitarian response and in post-conflict reconstruction and stresses the importance of their equal participation and full involvement in all efforts for the maintenance and promotion of peace and security.9 The planned UNDAF results continued to be relevant to Afghanistan over the past 30 months as these are aligned, along with the global development agenda of MDGs (2020), SDGs (2030), and several other conventions and treaties like CEDAW, CRC, etc. with the national priorities set at the time of development of UNDAF.


Tag: Environment Policy Relevance Gender Equality Human rights MDGs Results-Based Management Peace Building Capacity Building

7.

Gender Equality

UNDAF recognized that addressing woman’s rights is to contribute sustainably to the development challenges of Afghanistan. Women continue as the most marginalized segment of the Afghan population despite over 3 million girls in Afghanistan attending primary and secondary education and women constituting 28 per cent of Members of the National Parliament. Because of varied interpretation of formal law, religious sanctions and customary rules, Afghanistan represents one of the most extreme cases of gender inequality in the world, and ranks 147 out of 148 countries on the 2012 Gender Inequality Index. To improve the status of women and enhance gender equality, women’s rights, and quality of life, including the right to life, property, justice, protection, and political and economic participation UNDAF is a step in the right direction. UNDAF Steering Committee was to implement the ‘Accounting for Gender Equality Scorecard’ to assess what the UN contributes to gender mainstreaming and the promotion of gender equality. 10 However, this could not be established.


Tag: Gender Equality Gender Mainstreaming Women's Empowerment

8.

7.4.2 Effectiveness

The five highest level development priorities for Afghanistan in UNDAF are (i) economic growth, (ii) social services, (iii) inclusion, (iv) rule of law and (v) accountable governance. These have corresponding results as outcomes managed through the pillars. UNDAF through these pillars enhance local and national government capabilities with explicit attention to relevant technical assistance and policy development and services delivered in an integrated, multi-sectoral approach. UNDAF has allocated a total UNDAF budget (2015-19) of USD 867,617,428 to manage results through these five pillars and organized around 17 outputs and over 215 specific targets. Determining ‘effectiveness’ of the UN’s contribution to UNDAF outcomes is dependent on the availability of credible evidence especially through independent evaluations. There were a few evaluations carried out and most of them were agency-specific and not as a direct support for UNDAF. (Table 7 and Annex 9) However, the line-up of the UN Programme Management Team, UNDAF Pillars and the M&E Working Group could not come together and missed opportunities to set out a comprehensive M&E matrix after two years of programming that could monitor results. There were regular reviews of UNDAF through MidYear and Annual Reviews, but these were more ritualistic that provided the overview of the situation but were not subjected to rigorous and continuous monitoring. For instance, during the reviews, focusing only on a few key achievements meant that all targets were not tracked and reported. The need for detailed record-keeping and effective and coordinative follow up could be strengthened. A systematic monitoring of the progress would have ensured measurement of the progress and indicated the gaps. This is because of a lack of updated data or undefined targets. These have impeded the UN's ability to measure progress towards outcomes in Afghanistan and build a credible UN story around that.


Tag: Effectiveness Rule of law Monitoring and Evaluation Service delivery Inclusive economic growth Policy Advisory Technical Support

9.

In summary, it can be said that the UN assistance has provided a maximum budget for goods and service followed by capacity development and then creating enabling environment for development. This could be used as one indicator for how the development assistance is strategized in the future.

The earlier reviews have identified that the UN agencies have come together in several results areas to make the UN assistance effective. Polio eradication efforts jointly managed by WHO and UNICEF in collaboration with MoPH is sterling cooperation for effective results. Noteworthy progress has been made towards polio eradication with just 9 cases of wild polio virus reported so far, this year compared with 13 in 2016 and 20 in 2015. Maintaining program neutrality allows the implementation of polio eradication activities and has been the cornerstone for reaching children with the vaccine in all parts of the country. Afghanistan continues to be one of the three countries with Polio cases, where the threats are enhanced by the mobile population that moves within the country in search of basic survival as well as seeking economic opportunities. This is further aggravated by the returning population from Pakistan, which, too continues to be a Polio prevalent country. The UN has been working closely with the Government to ensure sufficient resource mobilization to effectively implement and monitor the quality of polio eradication activities in Afghanistan.


Tag: Access to Medicines Health Crises Joint UN Programme UN Agencies Capacity Building Operational Services Youth

10.

7.4.3 Efficiency

The issue concerning efficiency was taken up through developing joint programmes or at least, to begin with, adopting joint programming approach. The focus on joint programming attempted to reduce overlap, duplication, and transaction costs to ensure accountability. The establishment of the Outcome Working Groups (Pillars), with a chair and a co-chair, for monitoring interventions, supported through UNDAF aimed at increasing efficient management of UN programmes with strengthened coherence and focus on results. UNDAF, together with the contributing agency annual work plans and planned reviews, engages with the development stakeholders (predominantly GoIRA). UNDAF provides an opportunity to the government and the people to seize the ownership of their development by strengthening national institutions, utilization of service delivery support, setting the normative agenda, among many other facets of development. The efforts towards developing joint programmes needs utilising comparative advantages of different partners rather than merely mustering collective participation.


Tag: Efficiency Joint UN Programme Operational Efficiency Ownership Institutional Strengthening

11.

7.4.4 Sustainability

In the context of an assertive political will for a paradigm shift in the UN operations in Afghanistan, and that the UN should have a clear exit policy, the issues pertaining to sustainability acquired increased significance. There are several examples of outputs and results in place at the mid-term of Afghanistan UNDAF 2015-19, including efforts to support government engagements through proposed systems strengthening as well as efforts to developing capacities. UNHCR suggested to mention of durable solutions for refugees/IDPs. Finding sustainable solutions to forced displacement constitute a key aspect of any peace process and stability which are preconditions for any result on development objectives.

Pillar 1:

  • supporting job oriented policies
  • capacity development of Ministry of Public Works
  • specifically targeting farmers capacity development
  • transparent management of natural resources and access to energy
  • disaster risk management and climate change and early warning
  • illicit economy
  • women business models
  • skills assessment and certifications
  • land assessment and management also at times including housing and other property

Pillar 2 

  • quality and effective health care (SEHAT/SEHATMANDI) including infant and young child feeding
  • improving government and CSO capacity in provision of health services and addressing vulnerability
  • align off-budget support with SEHAT and gradual integration in BPHS and EPHS
  • strengthening sub national administrative and delivery systems

Tag: Sustainability Rule of law Capacity Building Institutional Strengthening Policy Advisory Displaced People Refugees

12.

While capacity building was central to UNDAF programmes, the absence of a collective understanding and systematic approach to capacity building leads many stakeholders to question whether a clearer exit strategy in some programmes needs to be identified with the government and CSOs.

The two and half year of UNDADF is not adequate to definitively analyse sustainability. Sustainability will incorporate (i) a measurable contribution to the national development and (ii) and the added value of UNDAF for collaboration among individual UN agencies. The MTR focused on the capacity building and system strengthening results of MTR and identified the indicative opportunities for sustainability.

Joint programming, as given in the ‘efficiency’ section, has also build complementarities, collaboration and/ or synergies fostered by UNDAF contributed to greater sustainability of results of Country Programmes and projects of individual UN agencies. What percentage of the UNDAF intervention are likely to continue when UN support is withdrawn is an issue where the government and the respective agencies must dwell on to move forward with exit plans as exit and sustainability and enabling environment (including peace) are bound together.

Scaling up has been a challenge. An overt example of scaling has been seen in the nutrition programme. At the time of MTR, the government had committed itself to the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) movement culminating in the policy framework: Afghanistan Food Security and Nutrition Agenda (AFSANA). Considering the national ownership, its sustainability has a high probability.

For development programmes, which are inherently slow-building, focus on return of investment is imprudent expectation in the short and medium terms. Sustainability for development assistance in Afghanistan must be part of the strategic thinking, in the words of George Lakoff as ‘what counts as a good or bad outcome of our actions.’16 For Lakoff “Reframing is social change.” Some of these frames that were considered in this review were:


Tag: Sustainability Joint UN Programme Capacity Building

13.

7.4.5 Coherence

UNDAF coherence is maintained through the UNCT, which is primarily responsible for the coordination of UN development assistance to Afghanistan. The UN, with its funds and programmes, including the ‘mission’ (UNAMA) and OCHA, has played a multi-faceted role in Afghanistan with the RCO taking on some broader coordination efforts recognized by the ministries and departments of the GoIRA. UN with its comparative advantage has managed to balance service delivery, policy support and technical assistance to the government. However, the majority of the results have been noted in service delivery and because of the security, even the NGOs have constrained outreach.

The issue of coherence incorporates that results related to political processes, humanitarian assistance and development support provided by the UN in Afghanistan should be coordinated in a way to get optimum synergy. This should be the principle used when designing the collaborative and mutually accountable framework for the development UN-GoIRA. The UN has made some modest progress in harmonizing its work through joint programmes and efforts will continue in this regard. It has developed several internal coordination structures, although some of these are not seen to be functioning as well as they should be, and require adjustment to ensure relevance and coherence with national coordination structures. The UNDAF has seen mixed results in terms of generating increased support for its joint programmes over the two years. Weak communication on coherence through joint UNDAF results has been cited as a contributory factor in this regard, and it is noted that government partners need to be equal participants in the communication of UNDAF results to mobilize resources in a crowded donor, constrained security, and fluid political environment.


Tag: Challenges Resource mobilization Communication Harmonization Joint UN Programme Ownership Humanitarian development nexus Security Coordination Operational Services Policy Advisory Technical Support

14.

Pillar III: Social Equity and Investment in Human Capital

The expected outcome level result for this pillar is: ‘Social equity of women, youth and minorities and vulnerable populations is increased through government’s improved and consistent application of principles of inclusion in implementing existing and creating new policies and legislation’. From the perspective of social equity and human capital Afghanistan is making a new beginning. As 16 years is rather short for strengthening the social fabric, which has been deprived of economic opportunities because of continuous strife. Considering the country demographics, the UN must focus its support to youth. However, this needs more data and greater analysis that was not done in the current UNDAF. Similarly, more understanding of the marginalized population of Afghanistan is necessary. In 1978-79, with the coming of revolution and war, field studies inside Afghanistan were constrained and therefore a clear picture of ethnicity and marginalized groups is opaque.7 In the principle of ‘leaving no one behind’, the minorities and the marginalized will continue to need concerted development focus and social inclusion. Pillar III has recognized the need for youth to be a special development focus in Afghanistan. Working with other UN agencies, UNFPA as the lead agency for youth programming, has supported the development of several youth related initiative in Afghanistan, e.g., ‘National Youth Policy’, ‘National Youth Strategy’, ‘Adolescents Health Strategy’ and ‘National Action Plan for Eliminating Early and Child Marriage’. In addition, a ‘Joint United Nations Programme of Support on Adolescents and Youth’ (JUPSAY) that brings together nine United Nations agencies to work collaboratively for the implementation of this framework. The results expected under pillar III are more normative in nature concerning advocacy, legal systems, conventions, policies, etc. Also, the pillar coordination because of the complex issues like gender and equity is challenging.


Tag: Gender Equality Women's Empowerment Rule of law Joint UN Programme Social cohesion Advocacy Policy Advisory Leaving no one behind Vulnerable Women and gilrs Youth

15.

Pillar V: Accountable Governance

The outcome: Improved legitimate, transparent, and inclusive governance at all levels that promote the progressive realization of human rights. UNAMA’s focus on governance is reflected through this pillar. Institution for governance in Afghanistan has become weak because of continuous conflicts, which has created a standoff. In the post-2001 era too institutions were established without providing sound foundations. Governance is a holistic concept and must be taken as such while conscious initiatives for capacity building with system development and strengthening is ongoing process. UN continues with the project approach, which needs to be made more comprehensive. In the National Unity Government of Afghanistan, the governance responsibilities are distributed between the President and the Chief Executive Officer. This has created an opportunity for effective and equitable governance but also poses its challenges because of allegiance. Changes in portfolios of the ministers bring in a veneer of instability. This also encourages the need for consistent capacity building. Worsening security is a challenge for governance besides the issues related to corruption. Different non-state actors are claiming parts of the country to be in their control. Susceptible security status does impact the access to programme areas. To resolve this the government has managed to create more local courts in areas under its control. The pillar management suffers from inadequate participation from the government as counterparts’ accountability is blurred. The pillar management agrees that it may be more efficient to merge accountable governance with the justice and rule of law because of the overlapping functions.


Tag: Anti-corruption Justice system Local Governance Rule of law Security Capacity Building Institutional Strengthening

16.

Human Rights

The donors committed US$15.2 billion at the Brussels Conference to the Afghan government, and this was an opportunity to specify concrete human rights benchmarks for that assistance, which they did not. In this context UN’s Human Rights Based Programming Approach (HRBPA) becomes an important fulcrum for human rights in development and, relevance of UNDAF is reiterated. There is no human rights caveat for funding to Afghanistan, but the UN agencies’ work as embedded in the UNDAF ensures human rights through HRBPA. In September 2016, there was a surge in the return of refugees and migrants from Pakistan. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees launched an emergency appeal for Afghanistan to provide humanitarian assistance to an unprecedented number of returnees, along with hundreds of thousands of those newly displaced by the expanding conflict. According to Human Rights Watch there are many contexts in which Human Rights is stressed in Afghanistan including armed conflicts, women equality, Arbitrary Detention, Torture, and Discriminatory Practices and freedom of expression,11 UNDAF is relevant in terms of promoting Human Rights as a cross-cutting issue and through specific results through Rule of Law and Governance. (Pillars IV and V).


Tag: Human rights Humanitarian development nexus Refugees

17.

Sustainable Development Goals 

The relevance of UNDAF is also in contextualizing and assuring the achieving of the SDGs. Afghanistan’s efforts towards the achievement of the Agenda 2030 will require dedicated partnerships between the government, civil society organizations, and private sector actors, in close cooperation with the United Nations and international partners12. Afghanistan has divided the 17 SDGs into 8-socio-economic sectors. This is to facilitate the planning and implementation process through the line ministries and agencies. Government agencies are working to align all the ‘A-SDGs’ targets and indicators with their development plans and policies. Implementation of the 2030 agenda has several challenges where the UN plays a significant role. Need for funding, implementing partners, localization of SDGs, data management, M&E all challenges can be factored in the Government-UN development strategic framework of the future. To highlight the relevance of UNDAF it is important to have a development mapping of Afghanistan – who does what and where. This will bring out the comparative significance of the UN and support efficient management of development.


Tag: Challenges Resource mobilization Partnership Country Government Agenda 2030 SDG Integration Civil Societies and NGOs Private Sector

18.

8. CONSTRAINTS AND CHALLENGES

There were several constraints (limiting the results by delaying) and challenges (that were potential risks) that influenced effective implementation of UNDAF. There were some general constraints that make overall UNDAF management challenging and there were others that were specific to an output or to a target. The recurring challenges have been bunched here for ease of presentation.

  1. i. Results Based Management (RBM) 17: The ideal approach to UNDAF implementation is to focus on result-based management and the extent to which results were indeed conceived and managed in an integrated manner, and not agencies focusing only on their own accountabilities. Projects must be seen in this perspective, i.e., as a repository of results. The outcomes and programmes and outputs and projects helped facilitate the process towards reaching results.

Some of the recurring constraints in achieving results through the prevailing project management approach, were:

  • definitional clarity of the goals/objectives
  • precision in delineation of the scope
  • availability of skills for managing the results
  • clarity of accountability of the stakeholders
  • absence of contingency plans
  • shifting deadlines causing delays and
  • stakeholder engagements with results

All these were recognised as constraints in UNDAF implementations by the pillar members/agencies. Sometimes these were nothing more than what could be termed as ‘collaborative confusion’. Partners either were not on the same page of comprehension or did not own the ‘project’. The constraints, if not addressed, were likely to turn into challenges for reaching the planned results and therefore a risk to UN contributions to Afghanistan.

  • ii. Security: Much has been said about security in this report as being possibly the main challenge of development support to Afghanistan along with the constraints of governance. Varying estimates suggest that between 40 to almost 50 percent of country’s area is not fully under the control of the government – national or provincial. However, areas that are peaceful have their insecure moments, too. In either situation security is the prime concern for development in Afghanistan. The uncertain security at the minimal makes results management inefficient, by time and cost over runs, but can also totally derail achievement of the results. Security situation has several fall outs: access (for both the duty bearers and the rights holders), escalated cost of managing results and time overruns. The uncertain security is compounded by difficult terrain together with remoteness and dispersed population in Afghanistan.
  • iii. Human Resources and Capacity issues: There are several aspects of human resource management, which constrained UNDAF implementation. This ranged from organisational development and work processes, availability and utilisation of skills, and issues related to placements as transfers and vacant posts are hinderance to achieve the planned results. It was found that the government staff either had inadequate capacity or the skilled personnel were transferred often for them to be able to contribute significantly. UN also was unable to obtain, and place staff as required especially in field offices and the outposts.

Tag: Challenges Human and Financial resources Results-Based Management Security

19.
  • iv. Culture and Social Norms: The biggest cultural challenge affecting development in Afghanistan has to do with women participation because of the assigned role for women, which confines them to homes and domestic duties. Social norms are part of the way in which gendered power inequalities are maintained. Education of girls has improved but there are social norms making attendance and achievement challenging. Early marriages also impede individual development. Gender based violence is prevalent and accepted as normative. Sometimes immunisation is neglected because women can’t travel alone. Nutrition and food in the family too has cultural prescriptions and proscriptions. Maternal mortality continues to be a challenge and the underlying causes of maternal deaths include poor antenatal care, low skilled attendance at birth, early child bearing, high fertility rate, low contraceptive prevalence rate, narrow gap between consecutive pregnancies and all these have roots in behavioural issues deeply entrenched in cultural norms. Social norms are not only connected with gender issues but also marginalises minority groups.
  • v. Land acquisition: There are several projects requiring land, which is not easy to acquire. Afghanistan has a complex and unsettled land ownership and land management situation. Land rights are perceived to be highly insecure and disputes are widespread owing to perennial conflicts, population displacement, changes in national political and economic environment, and variable climatic conditions (including drought). In such a scenario even, limited acquisition takes time with government validations.
  • vi. Data availability, analyses, and use: Last Census was conducted in 1979 and current population estimates are based on the 1979 baseline population. Since 2011, Socio-Demographic and Economic Survey (SDES), a rolling census, has been conducted and has so far covered 12 provinces. Demographic and Health survey (DHS) was last reported in 2015. Collecting any primary data in Afghanistan is a challenge because of remoteness, rugged terrain and persisting security issues. This has resulted in a lack of reliable, current, and disaggregated population data at provincial and district levels. The lack of disaggregation makes understanding and using women and diversity data complex and planning less effective. A major constraint of planning is that it is agency specific – each agency is on its own and there is no joint planning other than development of UNDAF, and there also it is collection of plans and not collective planning. Coordination at multiple levels as well as monitoring with weak reporting, and taking corrective actions are additional constraints. The question is not limited to contextual ‘lack of data’, but also a weak evidence culture in the UN here. This makes results based management challenging.

Tag: Challenges Gender Equality Gender Parity Social cohesion Access to Land Data and Statistics

Recommendations
1

Management Response was never developed. A new One UN for Afghanistan document and Results Framework were developed in response to government request.

2

12. RECOMMENDATIONS

Taking into consideration the emerging development situations in the country and lessons learnt for implementation by the MTR this report suggests the direction for future programming. The discussion throughout the report indicates the way forward, but this section focuses on the key issues the MTR identified for adjusting the UNDAF as well as developing future strategic development framework.

12.1 Architecture of UNDAF

The most significant debate at the time of the MTR was whether the content management of the UNDAF should be changed through adjustments or there should be a radical structural change. The internal feedback was that the Pillar system was not effective as it was not able to provide a cohesive management to UNDAF. The Pillars per se were unmanageable because of their compositions (especially Pillar I) or it did not have a specific counterpart (Pillar V) or there was lack of political will fettered by social norms (Pillar III) and limited human resources. The government perspective was presented in no uncertain terms that UNDAF was not an effective tool for Afghanistan and there was a need for a complete overhaul. With this came the issue of structural functioning of the UN system in Afghanistan. Debates of one UN and Delivering as One (DAO) was not only an MTR scrutiny but had been discussed for a while during annual and mid-year reviews, government too has been keen for One-UN approach.

3

12.2 Reorganization of UNDAF Results

The MTR has observed that the pillar structure the way it is functioning now is not effective in managing results. It is limited with inadequate participation and it is not based on strategic initiative; mostly confined to reporting. Expenditure analysis has indicated that five thematic areas consuming most of the budget were agriculture, health, education, return, reintegration and migration and returnees, and rule of law. These should be the focus of the future strategic accountability for development. However, UN development support is not only about short-term service delivery and procurements but long-term capacity development and system strengthening. UN must continue the normative support. This could be implanted in the thematic areas. For this kind of proposed structural changed to the next version of UNDAF the UNCT should consider the following issues:

  • Cross cutting programmatic issues like urbanisation, climate change, gender, equity, human rights, peacebuilding, youth, among others, should be incorporated and managed
  • The thematic areas should not become sectoral silos; it is recommended that to avoid this there should be regular consultations on programme management and identified programme overlaps. Joint programming will assist in building bridges among agencies, themes, and programmes
  • There should not be over emphasis on supplies and procurements, which should be reduced over the years
  • Emphasis should be on policy advocacy, system development and strengthening, institution building based on a well-articulated Right Based Approach
  • This UNDAF theory of change should include a conflict sensitivity analysis and a ‘Do No Harm’ approach. There is a need to focus on strategic results concerning migration and refugees because it could be a significant destabilizing factor on the fragile peace and stability. It is also an opportunity when it comes to economic growth and resilience capacity. Issues related to return of refugees such as Housing, Land and Property (HLP) and documentation should be central to reinforce the human right component of the peace building process.

Figure 7 is the summary of the way forward with the constraints that need to be avoided. It depicts how the resources are utilised, which indicate future consolidation as this suggests where UN is effective. There are cross-cutting areas that require specific considerations for fuller development. And, most importantly, while the thematic approach may serve greater development purpose it should be ensured that it does not become limiting in a silo like approach but should focus on sharing, collaboration, and coordination for synergy and efficiency.

4

12.3 Alignment of Results

The process of concerted alignment of the UNDAF results with the (national) ANPDF as well (international) SDGs has already begun in earnest as a parallel exercise this should not be restricted as a one -time activity but facilitated by the UN until the national ownership of the process is complete. It must be a collaborative goal oriented exercise among the stakeholders. Some factors that should be considered are:

  • Raison d'être of the organisations and programmes (organization’s mission, programs, resources, and needed support areas)
  • Culture of the organisations (government department and UN agencies have distinct cultures)
  • Identify what’s working well and what needs to be adjusted – all aspects of the programmes being aligned may not be working well or have the same priority)
  • Alignment process also provides opportunities to Identify how adjustments should be made and determine the best approach
  • Develop a roadmap with a stated alignment path
  • The adjustments will be incorporated as strategies for the collaboration between the government and the UN culminating in the ‘A-UNDAF’
5

12.4 Coherence

The next version of the UNDAF must be a holistic strategic accountability framework based on principle of coherence reflected in delivering as one UN with government partnership in the unified strategy and, not in a piecemeal agency-line ministry corporation as is the practice. The UNDAF results should be above and not confined to programmes managed by agencies. For coherence, the UNCT should look at integration of humanitarian, development, and political aspects of the UN contributions in Afghanistan with the stabilisation framework. This must be done at the country as well as programme levels. There must be increased participation of humanitarian actors (OCHA) in the UNCT and the political aspects should have specific development content. While OCHA has infrequent presence in the UNCT and rarely makes a presentation of its results other than in times of emergencies UNAMA provides the political brief but with limited development perspective. UNDAF or its newer version must include relevant development and humanitarian indicators, which must be identifiable and measurable. Operations have been largely left out of the UNDAF proceedings. It is not possible to incorporate coherence without synergy in the operational aspects of the management. OMT neither participated in the UNDAF meetings nor went beyond supporting respective agencies or special coordination needs. OMT had a negligible role in the UNDAF and this indicated an absence of operational synergy. OMT must be engaged for ensuring increased efficiency in the future.

6

12.5 Results Management & Monitoring

As observed by the MTR, one of the essentials of the UNDAF supervision was pertaining to Results Based Management and Monitoring. It is true that UNDAF has a results chain (Outcome-outputs-activities) but this needs to be strengthened by not only looking at the results hierarchy and logic at the planning stage but throughout the implementation. The following are recommended:

  • UNCT to take a decision on developing a theory of change for UN-GoIRA development collaboration as part of the transition
  • There must be structures for management, monitoring and reporting with defined accountability. The current system is based more on a need based reporting and not systematic monitoring
  • Agencies monitor their programmes but UNDAF monitoring is limited. M&E framework should be strengthened and there is a need for target-progress status score card. Simple monthly monitoring will track the progress of results at the target level
  • Progress data (targets and expenditure) should be available at any time within an acceptable timeframe.
  • UNDAF coordination should change from information seeking and reporting to monitoring and results tracking
  • RCO must be strengthened vis a vis M&E functions. The current M&E Working group was not adequate for comprehensive monitoring of UNDAF because of transient participation. The need for at least one dedicated M&E professional needs planned consideration.
  • More investment is required for generating evaluative evidence in a systematic way (based on the M&E plan), to place UN in a better position to demonstrate its contribution to results.
  • The annual reviews and midyear reviews must be made more comprehensive and requires a streamlined follow up and accountability otherwise these reviews are reduced to a ceremonial status. Each review must have an ‘action taken report’ within a month of the review presented in the UNCT by the PMT/M&E group chairs.
  • RCO should consider dedicating additional resources and personnel, and take a leadership role within all pillars for the strategic purposes for enhancing the effectiveness of the UNDAF.
7

12.6 Fiscal Management

The Government has expressed greater transparency on the UN budgets. The programme budgets must be discussed with the government and publicised. The future A-UNDAF must work out mechanisms for being represented in the government budget and vice versa – UNDAF once it becomes the ‘one UN’-GoIRA document will also incorporate government contributions or from other sources for the same results. It is not possible to have one fund and experience from other countries has shown that one UN budget is also complicated. More consultations are required on the feasible options including participation in DAD and on/off budget reporting.

8

12.7 Communications

UNDAF is not merely a strategic plan that needs effective planning and implementation but also an opportunity to communicate the UN work in Afghanistan. Thus, it will require to develop an UNDAF specific communication plan. The minimum required results for the communication plan will be:

  • Defined communications objectives and targets for UN assistance
  • Identified key staff for communication (in tandem with the Communications Working Group)
  • Demarcated target audiences (the communications should be at several levels: internal for UN, for the government, for the donors and for the public)
  • Selected messages to be communicated – the focus must be on results, but strategic intent can also be communicated if required
  • Dedicated resources to implement the communications plans
1. Recommendation:

Management Response was never developed. A new One UN for Afghanistan document and Results Framework were developed in response to government request.

Management Response: [Added: 2018/10/23]

Management Response was never developed. A new One UN for Afghanistan document and Results Framework were developed in response to government request.

Key Actions:

2. Recommendation:

12. RECOMMENDATIONS

Taking into consideration the emerging development situations in the country and lessons learnt for implementation by the MTR this report suggests the direction for future programming. The discussion throughout the report indicates the way forward, but this section focuses on the key issues the MTR identified for adjusting the UNDAF as well as developing future strategic development framework.

12.1 Architecture of UNDAF

The most significant debate at the time of the MTR was whether the content management of the UNDAF should be changed through adjustments or there should be a radical structural change. The internal feedback was that the Pillar system was not effective as it was not able to provide a cohesive management to UNDAF. The Pillars per se were unmanageable because of their compositions (especially Pillar I) or it did not have a specific counterpart (Pillar V) or there was lack of political will fettered by social norms (Pillar III) and limited human resources. The government perspective was presented in no uncertain terms that UNDAF was not an effective tool for Afghanistan and there was a need for a complete overhaul. With this came the issue of structural functioning of the UN system in Afghanistan. Debates of one UN and Delivering as One (DAO) was not only an MTR scrutiny but had been discussed for a while during annual and mid-year reviews, government too has been keen for One-UN approach.

Management Response: [Added: 2021/02/03] [Last Updated: 2021/02/03]

Key Actions:

3. Recommendation:

12.2 Reorganization of UNDAF Results

The MTR has observed that the pillar structure the way it is functioning now is not effective in managing results. It is limited with inadequate participation and it is not based on strategic initiative; mostly confined to reporting. Expenditure analysis has indicated that five thematic areas consuming most of the budget were agriculture, health, education, return, reintegration and migration and returnees, and rule of law. These should be the focus of the future strategic accountability for development. However, UN development support is not only about short-term service delivery and procurements but long-term capacity development and system strengthening. UN must continue the normative support. This could be implanted in the thematic areas. For this kind of proposed structural changed to the next version of UNDAF the UNCT should consider the following issues:

  • Cross cutting programmatic issues like urbanisation, climate change, gender, equity, human rights, peacebuilding, youth, among others, should be incorporated and managed
  • The thematic areas should not become sectoral silos; it is recommended that to avoid this there should be regular consultations on programme management and identified programme overlaps. Joint programming will assist in building bridges among agencies, themes, and programmes
  • There should not be over emphasis on supplies and procurements, which should be reduced over the years
  • Emphasis should be on policy advocacy, system development and strengthening, institution building based on a well-articulated Right Based Approach
  • This UNDAF theory of change should include a conflict sensitivity analysis and a ‘Do No Harm’ approach. There is a need to focus on strategic results concerning migration and refugees because it could be a significant destabilizing factor on the fragile peace and stability. It is also an opportunity when it comes to economic growth and resilience capacity. Issues related to return of refugees such as Housing, Land and Property (HLP) and documentation should be central to reinforce the human right component of the peace building process.

Figure 7 is the summary of the way forward with the constraints that need to be avoided. It depicts how the resources are utilised, which indicate future consolidation as this suggests where UN is effective. There are cross-cutting areas that require specific considerations for fuller development. And, most importantly, while the thematic approach may serve greater development purpose it should be ensured that it does not become limiting in a silo like approach but should focus on sharing, collaboration, and coordination for synergy and efficiency.

Management Response: [Added: 2021/02/03] [Last Updated: 2021/02/03]

Key Actions:

4. Recommendation:

12.3 Alignment of Results

The process of concerted alignment of the UNDAF results with the (national) ANPDF as well (international) SDGs has already begun in earnest as a parallel exercise this should not be restricted as a one -time activity but facilitated by the UN until the national ownership of the process is complete. It must be a collaborative goal oriented exercise among the stakeholders. Some factors that should be considered are:

  • Raison d'être of the organisations and programmes (organization’s mission, programs, resources, and needed support areas)
  • Culture of the organisations (government department and UN agencies have distinct cultures)
  • Identify what’s working well and what needs to be adjusted – all aspects of the programmes being aligned may not be working well or have the same priority)
  • Alignment process also provides opportunities to Identify how adjustments should be made and determine the best approach
  • Develop a roadmap with a stated alignment path
  • The adjustments will be incorporated as strategies for the collaboration between the government and the UN culminating in the ‘A-UNDAF’
Management Response: [Added: 2021/02/03] [Last Updated: 2021/02/03]

Key Actions:

5. Recommendation:

12.4 Coherence

The next version of the UNDAF must be a holistic strategic accountability framework based on principle of coherence reflected in delivering as one UN with government partnership in the unified strategy and, not in a piecemeal agency-line ministry corporation as is the practice. The UNDAF results should be above and not confined to programmes managed by agencies. For coherence, the UNCT should look at integration of humanitarian, development, and political aspects of the UN contributions in Afghanistan with the stabilisation framework. This must be done at the country as well as programme levels. There must be increased participation of humanitarian actors (OCHA) in the UNCT and the political aspects should have specific development content. While OCHA has infrequent presence in the UNCT and rarely makes a presentation of its results other than in times of emergencies UNAMA provides the political brief but with limited development perspective. UNDAF or its newer version must include relevant development and humanitarian indicators, which must be identifiable and measurable. Operations have been largely left out of the UNDAF proceedings. It is not possible to incorporate coherence without synergy in the operational aspects of the management. OMT neither participated in the UNDAF meetings nor went beyond supporting respective agencies or special coordination needs. OMT had a negligible role in the UNDAF and this indicated an absence of operational synergy. OMT must be engaged for ensuring increased efficiency in the future.

Management Response: [Added: 2021/02/03] [Last Updated: 2021/02/03]

Key Actions:

6. Recommendation:

12.5 Results Management & Monitoring

As observed by the MTR, one of the essentials of the UNDAF supervision was pertaining to Results Based Management and Monitoring. It is true that UNDAF has a results chain (Outcome-outputs-activities) but this needs to be strengthened by not only looking at the results hierarchy and logic at the planning stage but throughout the implementation. The following are recommended:

  • UNCT to take a decision on developing a theory of change for UN-GoIRA development collaboration as part of the transition
  • There must be structures for management, monitoring and reporting with defined accountability. The current system is based more on a need based reporting and not systematic monitoring
  • Agencies monitor their programmes but UNDAF monitoring is limited. M&E framework should be strengthened and there is a need for target-progress status score card. Simple monthly monitoring will track the progress of results at the target level
  • Progress data (targets and expenditure) should be available at any time within an acceptable timeframe.
  • UNDAF coordination should change from information seeking and reporting to monitoring and results tracking
  • RCO must be strengthened vis a vis M&E functions. The current M&E Working group was not adequate for comprehensive monitoring of UNDAF because of transient participation. The need for at least one dedicated M&E professional needs planned consideration.
  • More investment is required for generating evaluative evidence in a systematic way (based on the M&E plan), to place UN in a better position to demonstrate its contribution to results.
  • The annual reviews and midyear reviews must be made more comprehensive and requires a streamlined follow up and accountability otherwise these reviews are reduced to a ceremonial status. Each review must have an ‘action taken report’ within a month of the review presented in the UNCT by the PMT/M&E group chairs.
  • RCO should consider dedicating additional resources and personnel, and take a leadership role within all pillars for the strategic purposes for enhancing the effectiveness of the UNDAF.
Management Response: [Added: 2021/02/03] [Last Updated: 2021/02/03]

Key Actions:

7. Recommendation:

12.6 Fiscal Management

The Government has expressed greater transparency on the UN budgets. The programme budgets must be discussed with the government and publicised. The future A-UNDAF must work out mechanisms for being represented in the government budget and vice versa – UNDAF once it becomes the ‘one UN’-GoIRA document will also incorporate government contributions or from other sources for the same results. It is not possible to have one fund and experience from other countries has shown that one UN budget is also complicated. More consultations are required on the feasible options including participation in DAD and on/off budget reporting.

Management Response: [Added: 2021/02/03] [Last Updated: 2021/02/03]

Key Actions:

8. Recommendation:

12.7 Communications

UNDAF is not merely a strategic plan that needs effective planning and implementation but also an opportunity to communicate the UN work in Afghanistan. Thus, it will require to develop an UNDAF specific communication plan. The minimum required results for the communication plan will be:

  • Defined communications objectives and targets for UN assistance
  • Identified key staff for communication (in tandem with the Communications Working Group)
  • Demarcated target audiences (the communications should be at several levels: internal for UN, for the government, for the donors and for the public)
  • Selected messages to be communicated – the focus must be on results, but strategic intent can also be communicated if required
  • Dedicated resources to implement the communications plans
Management Response: [Added: 2021/02/03] [Last Updated: 2021/02/03]

Key Actions:

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