Regional Briefing on the Medium Term Strategic Plan of UNICEF
(Cartagena, Colombia, November 8, 2001)
1. Objectives. The objective of this document is to present to the Executive Board a summary of the main topics discussed at the regional briefing on the medium-term strategic plan (MTSP) of UNICEF, which was held in Cartagena de Indias, Colombia, on 8 November 2001. In addition to UNICEF representatives, delegations from Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Guyana, Jamaica, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Trinidad and Tobago and Venezuela also participated.
2. Format of the meeting. The meeting was characterized by an informal exchange of views among all participants around four central blocks corresponding to the main aspects of the MTSP: (1) general principles; (2) overall UNICEF priorities; (3) profile of Latin American and Caribbean programmes (country notes); and (4) implementation of the MTSP in the region.
3. Rights-based assessment. This was the first of the two principles discussed, together with that of results-based management. Generally there is agreement on the usefulness of this assessment. However, during the discussions a number of factors were raised which deserve close attention, since they directly affect the implementation.
4. Development of new indicators. With a view to implementing this new rights-based assessment, several participants emphasized that it was necessary to develop information systems that adequately reflected this approach by means of new indicators. Several ideas were presented in regard to this matter:
(a) New indicators would not necessarily reflect some of the excellent results which have been obtained in Latin America and the Caribbean, for example with regard to basic education. Furthermore, they could highlight the lack of information on issues that are highly sensitive for the region, such as intra-family violence, exploitation of minors, prospects regarding the life cycle and fundamental rights;
(b) There is uncertainty regarding the methodology to be followed in developing indicators that will show what has yet to be done instead of reaffirming what has been done. Here the disaggregated indicators which are beginning to be considered in UNICEF could help identify which groups need assistance;
(c) Statistics that go beyond registering children at birth should be strengthened; failure to do this is causing problems with medium- and long-term planning;
(d) The new rights-based indicators should be complex indicators; to generate these it is necessary to combine the action of public and private actors, which, in itself, is a fairly complex task;
(e) The new indicators should incorporate both qualitative and quantitative elements. For example, what is the family's view regarding the children? How sensitive is society to recognizing the rights of children? This type of information calls for a different sort of work than has traditionally been done, and Governments have little practice with it;
(f) Latin American and Caribbean countries require international cooperation for the development of indicators that would develop existing methodologies such as social assessment and impact assessment;
(g) In developing indicators, it is necessary to have consensus in order to preserve the principles of universality and integrality to respond to the substantive aspects of the entire life cycle rather than just UNICEF priorities;
(h) There are regional examples of UNICEF working with local Governments to construct complex indicators with various components. Here UNICEF must become a focal point for the sharing of national experience which will benefit the whole region. That is the sort of international cooperation sought by the Latin American and Caribbean countries - not money but cooperation to maximize the capacities that exist at the local level;
(i) It is important to develop indicators not only in relation to results but also in relation to demand. Thus due consideration is given to the families and children who benefit from the policies.
5. The impact of economic models on children and adolescents. Several participants stressed the impact of macroeconomic models on policies relating to children. Nevertheless, the region has not yet come up with a common, coherent position on the matter that would cover not only the social content of policies but also the social impact of such policies. In this context reference was made to the benefits and disadvantages of UNICEF having a greater role in the work of international economic organizations which have a high impact on the levels of investment in children. At the same time, attention was drawn to the importance of introducing legislative reforms that would guarantee the continuity, legitimacy and sustainability of those policies which produce favourable results for children.
6. Privileges or rights. Special attention was given to this dilemma in the exchanges. Although the discussion of the issue remains open, some elements were underscored:
(a) The rights established in international conventions are seen as a minimum (starting point) not as a maximum (end point). This vision would mean, therefore, that the focus on privileges was limited;
(b) The Latin American and Caribbean region is a victim of its own success, since this reduces the chances of help notwithstanding the dimensions of the existing needs. The focus on rights could help the region be more effective in achieving this balance between success and attention;
(c) One political note of caution: it might be advisable to opt for using the term "privilege" rather than favouring the use of the term "violation". This could make enforcement more viable and would avoid an unnecessary politicization of the debate.
7. The regional goals. By means of intergovernmental processes supported by the participation of civil society, the region has established its own goals in respect of children. For example, the fifth ministerial meeting on children and social policy in the Americas, which was held in Jamaica (Kingston Consensus), the meetings of the countries of the eastern Caribbean to examine the issue of children and the plan of action of the Ibero-American agenda (Panama). A desire was expressed that the UNICEF Regional Office and ECLAC should develop a plan to follow up implementation of the commitments made at these meetings and consider the possibility of merging the results of Jamaica and Panama into a single regional proposal to which United Nations agencies could accede.
8. Results-based management. The second principle which was the subject of discussion was that of results-based management. It was clear from the discussion that the principle enjoys great support in the region, precisely because it is not often that one sees such an approach taken within the United Nations system. It is a welcome development that UNICEF has adopted it as a principle. Nevertheless, several points were raised which deserve to be underscored:
(a) Results must be measured on the basis of the new indicators and, in any event, taking into account qualitative factors which take local opinion into account;
(b) There is little information regarding the causes and determining factors which have led to a child's rights being violated. The causes come from different poles, and therefore we need composite indicators to determine them in order to measure more precisely which policy achieved what result. The example was cited of a country in the region which managed to reduce infant mortality but was never able to establish exactly what was the determining factor that produced this desired result (whether it was health policy or educational policy);
(c) The Latin American and Caribbean countries recognize that results bring with them a great danger, namely of pulling back when a result has been achieved. Frequently, the management areas which are most neglected are precisely those in which results have been achieved. Paradoxically, once something has been achieved it ceases to be a priority.
Global priorities of UNICEF
9. Consistency with regional priorities. There is a high degree of convergence between the global priorities and the targets established at the intergovernmental level in the regional meetings held recently in Kingston, Panama and Lima. Some participants suggested that the Regional Office should establish a focal point at which the UNICEF regional and global priorities established in the MTSP could be coordinated with the need to determine the competitive advantages of UNICEF in the region. This exercise could be of great importance for the new cooperation cycle that will begin next year.
10. Focus on regional issues. During the discussion, several delegations stressed specific issues which, in some cases, reflect national and/or regional concerns; some of these are not reflected in the MTSP. Among the most noteworthy are:
(a) Migration. Migrant children in Latin America and the Caribbean are left to their fate; this leads to a series of problems which should be addressed on a priority basis in the destination countries;
(b) Human immunodeficiency syndrome/acquired immunodeficiency virus (HIV/AIDS). Despite the well-known progress in the region, there are clear warning signs, especially in the area of prevention: (i) the issue of family planning is no longer being addressed, despite its importance in previous decades; (ii) throughout the region, the problem has worsened among women aged 15 to 25, a group for whom the risk of AIDS is especially high; and (iii) there is not always continuity between strategies for prevention at an early age and those pursued during adolescence;
(c) Childhood education. Girls' education has been promoted, but it has become clear that boys' education also presents serious problems which must be given the same priority, particularly during adolescence, when boys tend to lose interest in education;
(d) Family. The importance of the family for the global priorities of UNICEF was stressed, as was the importance of a continued focus on families with the participation of parents and teachers;
(e) Natural disasters. The Latin American and Caribbean countries have made great progress in dealing with humanitarian emergencies resulting from natural disasters; children have been and remain a priority in that area;
(f) Trafficking in children and women. This issue is particularly urgent in some subregions of Latin America and the Caribbean and is considered to have received insufficient attention;
(g) Domestic violence. This is an issue of great importance in the Latin American and Caribbean countries and includes physical and psychological abuse and sexual exploitation. Prevention efforts are carried out in the schools, families and extracurricular activities;
(h) Recreation. This includes access to cultural activities as a way of making children realize that they have options in life. During natural disasters and among children removed from situations of armed conflict, the focus on this issue has had very encouraging results.
11. Comprehensive approach. All rights are important and have the same status; for this reason, the process of developing strategic plans is of great importance in Latin American and Caribbean countries. Thus, in implementation of the principle of comprehensiveness, various participants mentioned the need to more accurately identify the areas covered by United Nations agencies that deal with children and adolescents.
12. Importance of UNICEF in the development of national strategies. In certain countries belonging to some Latin American and Caribbean subregions, the global responsibilities of UNICEF help direct and implement national policies.
13. Regional disparities. There are disparities between indicators and targets at the global, regional, subregional and even national level which should be given due consideration during policy development and implementation. Overview of Latin American and Caribbean country programmes (country notes)
14. Scope of application. Through an analysis of the situation, including problems, difficulties, achievements and results, Governments have established national priorities. Many of these are promoted without the help of UNICEF, but some are addressed jointly with it; the latter are discussed in the country notes.
15. Convergence between the medium-term strategic plan (MTSP) and the country note. A study of country notes prepared and submitted at the meeting by a representative of the UNICEF Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean showed that there is significant convergence between activities in the region and the priorities set in the mid-term review. Application of the MTSP in the region
16. Horizontal cooperation. The participants consistently referred to the importance of horizontal cooperation. Some even suggested that the MTSP should contain incentives for that type of cooperation in the Latin American and Caribbean States that would involve not only Governments, but also other strategic partners. In addition to an explicit recognition of the important role that UNICEF could play in encouraging such cooperation, it was suggested: (a) That work should be focused on methodologies and procedures for problem-solving. In other words, the exercise should not be allowed to be confined to the exchange of good examples or practices, since what happens in practice is that each partner offers information on results obtained, without sharing relevant information on ways of solving existing problems; (b) That pilot projects capable of being replicated should be developed through international cooperation, bearing in mind available resources and problems of scale (in other words, ensuring that what is developed at the local level can serve at the national level); (c) That strategic partners should be involved, including not only non-governmental organizations, but also the private sector; (d) That information should be disseminated on community initiatives and initiatives that sometimes lack funding; (e) That advantage should be taken of the environment offered by such cooperation so as to consolidate a legislative infrastructure to promote mandatory implementation of the rights of children; (f) That working mechanisms should be developed to create space for a new paradigm to facilitate the monitoring and evaluation of results on the basis of the new indicators.
17. Strategic partners. Work with strategic partners in the Latin American and Caribbean States was highlighted as a model for implementation and monitoring. The key players would be as follows: (a) Organizations in civil society. Some participants drew attention to those global non-governmental organizations that compete with UNICEF in obtaining resources. Specifically, it was found that in any event it would be useful to treat them as strategic partners in this process. Likewise, it was pointed out that UNICEF has a competitive advantage over non-governmental organizations in terms of government endorsement offered through many mechanisms, including country notes; (b) Private sector. There has been an emergence of corporate social responsibility, with companies not only serving as donors of resources, but also becoming directly involved in activities on behalf of children. In the Latin American and Caribbean States, there are examples of the private sector playing a substantial role in financing UNICEF programmes; (c) Regional and global financial banks. These are strategic partners that have been financing joint projects at this time; they might become more involved if greater opportunities for horizontal cooperation were created.
18. Vertical cooperation. In some cases, is also necessary to strengthen cooperation within national, regional and local frameworks in order to achieve results. UNICEF would have advantages that would allow it to play a significant role in this area.