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Core Commitments

for Children

are the core UNICEF policy and framework for humanitarian action

PROGRAMME APPROACHES

Programme approaches describe the approaches expected of UNICEF and its partners in their humanitarian action and advocacy. These are corporate commitments which apply across every sector and programme area.

Benchmarks describe the performance levels expected against the approaches. They set expected standards to be applied across all programming.

 

Quality of Programmes

Design and implement high quality programming 

Commitment

All COs, with the support of ROs/HQ, design and implement results-based humanitarian responses that are informed by humanitarian principles and human rights, meet global norms and standards, and contribute to strengthening local capacity and systems

Benchmark

UNICEF works with its partners to design and implement programmes that:

  • Are informed by international legal frameworks, humanitarian principles and human rights, put children’s rights at the centre of programming and mainstream the protection of children, women and affected populations in all sectors  

See 1.3 International legal framework and 1.4.5 Centrality of protection

  • Are in line with global norms and standards, including the Sphere standards, CHS, INEE and CPMS

See 1.4 Global standards and principles

  • Target the most disadvantaged children, women and communities

See 2.2.3 Equity

  • Foster multisectoral programming, geographic convergence and an integrated approach for sustainable and at-scale outcomes  

See 2.2.2 Multisectoral and integrated programming

  • Are safe and accessible

  • Are results-based, contribute to collective outcomes and are founded on evidence, analysis and needs assessments

  • Are based on communication with, participation of and feedback from affected populations, including women and children

  • Are gender-responsive, age-sensitive and inclusive

  • Are conflict-sensitive, avoid negative effects, and are informed by a robust child-sensitive risk and conflict analysis, taking into consideration protection risks and potential violations

  • Contribute to strengthening national and local systems and capacities of national and local actors (authorities and CSOs), reduce vulnerabilities and risks, build resilience and social cohesion and lay the foundation for recovery and sustainable development, including environmental considerations, by integrating climate adaptation and disaster risk reduction

See 2.3 Sectoral commitments and 2.4 Cross-sectoral commitments (key considerations on quality programming and standards)

Multisectoral and Integrated Programming

Foster multisectoral/integrated programming and geographic convergence at all phases of the programme cycle

Commitment

All COs promote multisectoral and integrated programming, as well as geographic convergence, when designing and implementing programmes and partnerships

Benchmark

UNICEF fosters multi-sectoral/integrated approach and geographic convergence in the design and implementation of its programmes and partnerships. Sector leads are encouraged to operate in the same geographic locations; coordinate the planning, financing and implementation of programmes jointly; contribute to each other’s goals and results, in order to deliver more sustainable, cost-effective and at-scale outcomes[21].

This applies to all phases of the programme response cycle: needs assessments; planning, design of partnerships; programme implementation; support to service delivery; capacity-building; coordination; field monitoring and evaluation.

See 2.3 Sectoral commitments and 2.4 Cross-sectoral commitments (key considerations on quality programming and standards)

Equity

 

Target and reach the most disadvantaged children and their communities with humanitarian assistance, protection and services

Commitment

All COs develop context-specific approaches for reaching the most vulnerable groups and balance coverage, quality and equity in their humanitarian response planning

Benchmark

UNICEF’s humanitarian response strives to focus on the most disadvantaged communities to realise the rights of every child starting with the most vulnerable[22] and deprived. UNICEF seeks to understand and address the root causes of discrimination and inequity, often exacerbated by emergencies, so that all children and women, particularly those most vulnerable, have safe access to education, health care, nutrition, sanitation, clean water, protection and other services, and have an opportunity to survive, develop and reach their full potential, without discrimination.  

UNICEF balances reaching the greatest number of people in need (coverage) with reaching those in greatest need (equity), while maintaining the delivery of quality programming[23]. UNICEF prioritizes accessing people who are in greatest need of assistance in a timely and principled manner, particularly in contexts with limited funding. To inform an equity approach, UNICEF collects and uses disaggregated data to understand the different needs of different groups of affected populations, in order to target and reach the most disadvantaged groups.

See 2.3.1 Needs assessments, planning, monitoring and evaluation

 

Linking Humanitarian and Development

 

Foster coherence and complementarity between humanitarian and development programming

Commitment

All COs, with the support of ROs/HQ, design and implement risk-informed and conflict-sensitive humanitarian programmes that build and strengthen national and local capacities and systems from the start of humanitarian action to reduce needs, vulnerabilities of and risks to affected populations; and contribute to social cohesion and peace, where relevant and feasible

Benchmark

All COs must implement risk-informed and conflict-sensitive programming that build and strengthen national and local capacities and systems to reduce needs, vulnerabilities of and risks to affected populations. This includes:

  • Responding to emergencies in a way that strengthens existing national and local capacities and systems, helping to safeguard women and children’s rights and deliver essential services to the most vulnerable and marginalised through:

  1. Investing in the organisational and institutional capacity of national and local actors, including national and local authorities, CSOs, and the private sector

  2. Strengthening national and local service delivery and management systems, including building the readiness and resilience of national social protection systems

  3. Strengthening capacities of communities, particularly women, adolescents and children

  4. Strengthening the leadership and coordination of humanitarian response by local communities and authorities

 

  • Identifying and analysing risks, shocks and stresses and implementing risk-informed and conflict-sensitive programming that:

  1. Plans for the impact of shocks and stresses through appropriate preparedness measures to avoid possible disruptions to service delivery

  2. Is designed to avoid exacerbating conflict and violence (i.e. conflict-sensitive)

  3. Improves national and local capacities for disaster risk reduction, including sustainable climate change adaption 

UNICEF’s Procedure on Linking Humanitarian and Development Programming makes these strategies mandatory for all COs. 

See 2.3 Sectoral commitments and benchmarks on system strengthening and key considerations on linking humanitarian and development

Linking Humanitarian and Development

All COs design and implement conflict-sensitive programmes that contributes to social cohesion and peace, where relevant and feasible, by:

  • Focusing on the equitable and inclusive delivery and effective management of social services such as education, health, clean water and sanitation and child protection

  • Supporting the good management and delivery of essential services in conflict-sensitive, equitable and accountable ways

  • Promoting the participation of communities, especially children, adolescents and young people

  • Building trust and collaboration within and between communities

  • Strengthening individual coping mechanisms and capacities to deal with causes and effects of conflict and sustaining peace

In contexts affected by conflict, fragility and/or other major challenges to social cohesion, COs design and implement humanitarian programmes that:

  • Are informed by a robust conflict analysis and avoid exacerbating conflict and violence factors

  • Identify and seize opportunities to build social cohesion and peace in the delivery of services 

  • Entail activities aiming at preventing the outbreak, escalation, continuation and recurrence of conflict, whenever relevant and feasible

  • Safeguard operational independence and principled humanitarian action when linking humanitarian and development programmes, especially in situations where the government is party to the conflict. In some contexts, it may neither be possible nor appropriate to engage in development action.

In all contexts, while contributing to collective outcomes, UNICEF humanitarian action remains guided by humanitarian principles and focused on its objectives of saving lives, alleviating suffering and maintaining human dignity during and in the aftermath of crises. Without prejudice to the humanitarian principles of neutrality, impartiality and independence, and when relevant and feasible, UNICEF contributes to the UN system-wide agenda for Sustaining Peace[24].

In UN Integrated Mission Settings, UNICEF seeks to maintain sustained engagement at all levels with the Mission while maintaining an operational distance to minimise the risk of compromising perceptions of UNICEF adherence to the humanitarian principles and acceptance with local communities and stakeholders[25].

See Engagement in UN Integrated Mission Settings in 1.4.1 Humanitarian principles

Environmental Sustainability and Climate Change

 

Incorporate environmental sustainability into the design and delivery of UNICEF’s humanitarian action and strengthen communities’ resilience to climate change

Commitment

All COs, with the support of ROs/HQ, design humanitarian programmes that integrate environmental and climate risk, prioritise approaches that minimize harm to the environment and contribute to building resilience, whenever relevant and feasible

Benchmark

UNICEF is committed to reducing the risk and impact of environmental degradation and climate change upon children and providing them with a safe and clean environment. In the delivery of its humanitarian action, UNICEF assesses its impact upon the environment and takes steps to minimize emissions, pollution and waste.

See 2.1.3 Supply and logistics

At Country Office level, humanitarian action is informed by a mandatory assessment of climatic and environmental risks,  part of the Procedure on Linking Humanitarian and Development Programming, mandatory for all COs. Solutions designed in consultation with the community build resilience to future environmental stresses and promote low-carbon and pollution approaches. UNICEF works with national and local authorities to promote and implement environmentally sustainable and climate-resilient solutions.

Localisation

 

Invest in strengthening the capacities of local actors (national and local authorities, CSOs and communities) in humanitarian action

Commitment

All COs, with the support of ROs/HQ, invest in strengthening institutional and technical capacity of local actors to deliver principled humanitarian response

Benchmark

UNICEF invests in the institutional and technical capacity of local actors (authorities, CSOs, communities and private sector), to better address the needs of children affected by humanitarian crisis and to prepare national and sub-national actors for future humanitarian responses. UNICEF commits to localizing its humanitarian response by recognising, respecting and strengthening the leadership and coordination of humanitarian action by national and local authorities, CSOs, and communities. UNICEF achieves localisation by supporting capacity-building of local authorities and CSOs including on emergency preparedness and risk informed programming, engaging in principled partnership, adopting comprehensive risk management and, where possible, supporting multi-year agreements and funding.

See: 1.2.3 Partnerships and 3.5 Partnerships with governments and civil society organisations for programme implementation; 2.1.1 Preparedness; 2.1.2 Coordination; 2.1.6 AAP; 2.1.3 and 3.8 Supply and logistics; 2.2.1 Quality of programmes; 2.2.4 Linking humanitarian and development; 3.1 Administration and finance; and 3.6 Resource mobilisation.

 

Community Engagement for Behaviour and Social Change [26]

Target and reach the most disadvantaged children and their communities with humanitarian assistance, protection and services

Commitment

All COs, with the support of ROs/HQ, design and implement humanitarian programmes with a planned and resourced component on community engagement for behaviour and social change

Benchmark

UNICEF safely engages and mobilises communities to foster positive and measurable behaviour and social change and puts people at the centre of humanitarian programmes. UNICEF integrates community engagement, behaviour and social change into humanitarian preparedness and response by including a planned and resourced component, designed and implemented with national and local partners and adapted to each context[27], with a focus on:

  • Providing life-saving information and information on rights and entitlements, services available and how to access them

  • Supporting the adoption of healthy and protective behaviour, including psycho-social self-care practices

  • Conducting rapid assessments, social and behavioural research to inform response activities

  • Creating community engagement platforms or converting existing ones for the purpose of the response

  • Supporting the scale-up of community-based interventions for the purpose of the response

  • Building engagement and interpersonal capacity of front line workers

  • Supporting the participation of all affected and at-risk populations in intervention design and feedback

See 2.1.6 AAP

  • Promoting peace building and social cohesion activities (including coexistence between displaced populations and host 

  • communities)

See 2.2.4 Linking humanitarian and development

  • Helping build trust with local actors to secure humanitarian access to intervention areas

  • Where relevant, UNICEF leads or contributes to the coordination of stakeholders implementing community engagement, behaviour and social change interventions.

See 2.3 Sectoral commitments for commitments on Community engagement for behaviour and social change, 2.4 Cross-sectoral commitments and 2.5.1 Public health emergencies (PHE)

Humanitarian Cash Transfers

 

Promote unconditional and unrestricted humanitarian cash transfers

Commitment

All COs, with the support of ROs/HQ, promote the use of unconditional and unrestricted humanitarian cash transfers, whenever relevant and feasible

Benchmark

Alongside other modalities, UNICEF is committed to assessing the feasibility of cash transfers in every humanitarian response in coordination and agreement with other humanitarian actors. All COs must assess the feasibility of cash transfers in a timely and efficient manner in accordance with the UNICEF Procedure on Preparedness for Emergency Response or during the response.

Humanitarian cash transfers are a flexible assistance modality which helps meet the survival and recovery needs of the most vulnerable children and families; contributes to multi-sectoral response through addressing immediate basic needs; gives families flexibility to make their own choices and supports local markets. Cash transfers can also contribute to the delivery of sector-specific objectives through the design of cash plus approaches.

As the context evolves, all COs must update and adapt their approach to humanitarian cash transfers, maintaining minimum ethical and safety standards around the collection, use and sharing of data.

While a range of implementation models can be used to implement cash transfer programmes, UNICEF first considers the possible use of existing national social protection systems.  When this is not feasible or not aligned with humanitarian principles, UNICEF uses or sets up an alternative system of implementation through partnerships with other UN agencies, international financial institutions, international and local NGOs, the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and the private sector.

Footnotes

[21] Examples of multi-sectoral and integrated programming include the combining of Health, Nutrition, WASH, Child Protection, ECD and HIV for

severe acute malnutrition (SAM) treatment; the combining of Health, WASH and Community engagement for behaviour and social change for

the response to disease outbreaks; the combining of Education and WASH for menstrual health and hygiene in schools; and of Education and

Child Protection for mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS).

[22] Vulnerable groups are those most exposed to risk, and particularly susceptible to the effects of environmental, economic, social and political shocks and hazards. Vulnerable groups may include: children, adolescents, women, older people, pregnant adolescents and women, child and female-headed households, people with disabilities, unaccompanied minors, people from marginalized groups and the poorest of the poor, people marginalized by their society due to their ethnicity, age, gender, sexual identity, disability status, class or caste, political affiliations or religion. The typology of vulnerable groups may evolve depending on contexts and risks.

[23] Balance coverage, quality and equity: Process which consists in balancing the objective to reach the greatest number of people (coverage)

with the objective to reach the people in greatest need (equity), while maintaining quality of programme. This balancing is particularly critical in

contexts with limited funding. Coverage is guided by estimates of people in need. Quality is measured against UNICEF and interagency

and IASC standards. Equity is judged by appropriate prioritisation of the people most in need, informed by assessment and analysis of

vulnerability and deprivation, and the principle of leaving no child behind.

[24] The UN system-wide agenda for Sustaining Peace focuses on the contribution the UN system can make to end some of the world’s most devastating and protracted armed conflicts and support member states in their efforts to prevent armed conflict and sustain peace.  See General Assembly resolution A/RES/70/262 and Security Council resolution S/RES/2282 (2016).

[25] See UN Integration/Working in Mission Context and the UNICEF Technical Guidance Note on Working with UN Integrated Presences, 2014

[26] Also known as Communication for Development (C4D).

[27] See UNICEF Minimum Quality Standards and Indicators in Community Engagement, 2020

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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