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UNICEF sees UN’s global reach and talent pool as crucial for project execution
Accra, 16 May 2018— “The comparative advantage that the UN has in executing a project of this magnitude is that it can tap into a pool of one of the most talented people from around the world. At Unicef we had a big team dedicated to this project both at the country headquarters and on site.”
This is how the chief of WASH at Unicef Ghana David Duncan views the advantage of having UN agencies carry out the Joint UN programme on WASH in Disaster Prone Communities (DPC) project in selected areas of Ghana.
According to the chief, it was near impossible for other NGOs to match the kind of expertise that the UN boasted. In a narration on Unicef’s involvement, Duncan admitted that there were several hiccups at the beginning but hastened to add that once these were smoothed over, the project went ahead full steam till the completion.
“We had a strong leadership from the Resident Coordinator. The donors wanted faster results and we braced ourselves to do that. It was a rocky road but at the end we made it,” he said.
Another challenge Unicef faced was that it has a big operation and that did not give much room for wiggling in case things needed to be changed. This in comparison with UN-Habitat which had a small team where decisions could be made faster, he said adding that it was more difficult to introduce changes on their part.
“At the end of the day we could assemble a big team with a wealth of experience and although we were constantly under pressure, we managed to deliver,” he said explaining that there were some bureaucratic challenges especially on releasing the funds.
He says that all the agencies involved in the project saw a gap to fill and that they were all in agreement that they had to succeed even though they had different approaches to achieving success.
On lessons learnt Duncan says there needs to be serious talks on Delivering as One before a project kicks off. “We all have comparative advantages which if harnessed can be for the good of all. We also do disaster management and WASH but in different contexts,” he said.
He says it is a good idea to look at things in totality, looking at how different bits come together as well as looking at the tool kits available and how they are going to be used. Duncan advocates for a genuine commitment to Delivering as One together with a constant review of the project.
“We must keep the donor updated. They might not be ecstatic especially if there are delays but at least they will be in a position to understand what is going on,” he says. Having the right capacity for the job at hand was of utmost importance, he adds.
On his part Niall Boot, a WASH Specialist with Unicef, the project gave the agency the chance to practice what it knows best- WASH. The other UN agencies also got the chance to play a part and at the end of the day, the UN delivered a good project.
Lessons learnt from the project according to Boot was a dire need for better information management. “Coordination was a bit difficult and if there was someone managing information our work would have been easier. We also needed more data and if we had information management system like GIS we could have had access to more data,” he says.
All in all, it was a good project Boot says adding that there was good coordination among the UN agencies, the government and beneficiaries.
On her part, the chief of Unicef’s Tamale Field Office Ms. Margaret Gwada says the project was successful and achieved the set targets after the initial delays were overcome. “The project provided learning for the WASH sector as it was the first of its kind- specifically targeting flood prone communities to build resilient WASH facilities,” she says.
She lists some of the successes as; Technical guidelines and standards for the WASH sector being developed to guide development of resilient WASH infrastructure; UN delivering as one was operationalized through implementation of the joint programme, and specifically, over 200,000 people living in flood prone communities were reached with sustainable WASH interventions.
“It also contributed significantly to the improvement of performance of the Northern Regions/districts in their development performance. For example the Upper West Region was rated the best performing Region in the 2017 District League Table due to its improved performance in sanitation (one of the indicators in the DLT a tool used to monitor a multi sectoral integrated assessment of development at the local level across all 216 districts in Ghana).
The WASH in DPC having been the main programme that was implemented thus contributed significantly to the marked improvement of performance in the participating districts,” she says.
Speaking in Tamale, Gloria Nyam Gyang who was the Unicef person on the ground says the project was a learning curve for her. “This was a good opportunity for us to work together ass UN agencies and to bring discussions to the table,” she says.
She says the project displayed the practicality of Delivering as One and that the agencies involved brought their various experiences. Some hurdles, arising mainly from different mandates and staff skills, arose along the way. Organizing and executing the project, from a human resource and technical knowhow, was a challenge.
“A great work was carried out to bring all these different aspects together. There was also the length of time taken at the conceptualizing stage. We could have set ample time for inception activities before takeoff e.g. in engaging stakeholders, designation of focal points as well as dedication of staff and staff time,” Ms. Gyang says.
Gloria’s colleague Osman Mumuni agrees with her sentiments on the teamwork that delievered the project. According to him, this scope of work was too large to be handled by a single NGO and that the decision to give the project to the UN was the best.
“There is no NGO with such a scope. Second, we have the advantage of the UN which is quite respected. We also have experience in handling complicated logistics. I believe all these made the UN the better choice,” he says.
According to Osman, the project made the UN agencies to know each other better and to appreciate the various expertise available within the organisations. This would go a long way in fulfilling the global call for closer cooperation among UN agencies especially in the context of Delivering as One, he said.