Contact: Aida Orgocka, Consultant, firstname.lastname@example.org
In October 2000, the United Nations Security Council endorsed the groundbreaking Resolution 1325 (UNSCR 1325) which called on countries to address the impacts of conflict on women and girls around the globe, and to systematically include women in peacebuilding efforts, including peace talks, peacekeeping and post-conflict reconstruction efforts. Over the last two decades, UNSCR 1325 has been complemented by nine other resolutions, thus constituting what is commonly known as the Women Peace and Security Agenda. At the national level, the implementation of this agenda is ensured through National Action Plans on Women Peace and Security. A variety of actors contribute to the implementation of such plans through their own programs and projects; these in turn have specific performance and process metrics to measure progress toward planned objectives. As a normative framework which derives its success at the global level from what happens nationally and locally, monitoring and evaluation of change effected in the implementation of Women Peace and Security Agenda in individual countries becomes thus the space to critically examine the meaning of results and their measurement.
In May 2022, I had the opportunity to tackle this challenge of defining and measuring results in the process of developing the performance measurement framework for the project, “Empowering women for sustainable peace in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM)” (hereon referred to as the “project”). Funded by Global Affairs Canada, the project strengthens capacities of the agencies in the regional and local government, communities and individual women in BARMM to implement the Women Peace and Security Agenda. The three-year project, undertaken jointly by UN Women and UNDP, started in April 2022 and will conclude in September 2025. It will be evaluated three months before the end of the project. In preparing the performance measurement framework of this project, the team tackled three types of challenges.
Clarifying the level of change to measure. The adoption and implementation of a national plan on women, peace and security and its evaluation takes priority when arguing how well a country is addressing the space afforded women in peace and reconstruction. However, localizing this plan and increasing its ownership at the community level is assured through a complex set of political and social relationships between many different actors (women and men in all their diversity) which interrelate with each other in different ways. These actors define peace and security and women’s involvement in ways that matter to their communities; at times, these priorities do not align fully to what happens at the national level. The project made an effort to address this by turning the focus on “socially inclusive” barangays (the smallest administrative unit in the Philippines) at the ultimate outcome level rather than common indicators such as, for example, the number of women in formal peace talks.
Determining what constitutes result among funders and implementers. Results-based management, the approach concerned with a focus on results, is commonly applied in initiatives on women, peace and security (but not only). However, funders and implementers may differ on the meaning of result. “Undoing” the understanding and use of certain concepts which have been instilled through numerous training sessions and resources for the purposes of reporting to a funder may be challenging. For example, to a funder, “output” may be an instrument through which a result is achieved; to an implementer this may be an activity; the change in capacity resulting from such an activity is an output (in the eyes of an implementer) rather than an outcome (in the eyes of a funder). To illustrate, to an implementer, that a government agency has increased its capacity to mainstream women, peace and security in its departmental plan following technical assistance is an output directly linked to the investment made (result); to a funder this is the first level of outcome (result) in the chain of immediate, intermediate and ultimate outcomes. The implementers made a note of reconciling their understanding on results with that of the funder’s through a series of conversations among the team members and with their stakeholders. This was important as it clarified the level at which reporting started.
Using pre-set versus project level indicators. This challenge was specifically apparent in the case when the team tried to parse out how the change at the lower-level outcome (immediate and intermediate) contributed to the ultimate level outcome. For example, measuring the kind of technical assistance provided to the regional government to develop a regional action plan on women peace and security, was relatively straightforward. However, arguing that such plan was the result of only this type of technical assistance was harder to argue given that mainstreaming women peace and security in the work of a government is the result of various initiatives. In fact, the complex nature of implementing the Women Peace and Security Agenda makes inferring causation from single initiatives extremely difficult because there may be various programs or projects designed to support specific components in the development of a plan. For implementers in which this project was part of a larger portfolio where specific indicators were set, introducing new indicators resulted in additional work and fragmentation in arguing change. It was thus important that rather than create new indicators all the way to the ultimate level outcome, the team aligned these indicators to those measuring the results of the entire portfolio.
Resolving these challenges at the outset has had its own benefits. The process developed a shared understanding and created the grounds for a healthy distinction between different approaches to the meaning and measuring of results by the funder and the implementers. It was the basis for the development of tools which in the long run monitor progress toward the rightly defined expected results.
Acknowledgment: The author thanks Ryce Chanchai, UN Women ASEAN Governance, Peace and Security Lead and staff of UN Women Programme Presence in the Philippines, Nery N. Ronatay, Program Specialist, Women, Peace, and Security and Humanitarian Action, and Gilbert Guevarra, Monitoring and Reporting Analyst for their careful review.