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WFP's Peacebuilding Policy: The Management Impact on Policy Outcomes

29 January 2023

By Katja Hemmerich

Woman receiving food aid at a table from two other women.

The WFP Executive Board will consider a series of country and thematic evaluations at its next session including the evaluation of the 2013 Policy on WFP’s Role in Peacebuilding in Transition Settings. The ‘Peacebuilidng Policy’ aims to promote ‘conflict-sensitive’ delivery of assistance by WFP, thereby ensuring that WFP does no harm in peacebuilding contexts. A main finding of the evaluation is that:

“The policy’s main limitation is not related to its contents but to shortfalls in the financial and human resources available to implement it, which limited systematic policy uptake until recent years.” - Summary report on the evaluation of the policy on WFP’s role in peacebuilding in transition settings (French version) (Spanish version)

We spotlight this evaluation in our newsletter because it highlights how management factors can significantly impact the expected policy outcome. Policy implementation plans, resourcing and related ‘management’ issues are often considered as secondary ‘support’ issues in international organizations, and are therefore less important than the development of ‘substantive’ policies. WFP’s Evaluation team has highlighted that these are in fact two sides of the same coin, and for a policy to be effective it requires both substantive and support elements to be included from the outset. The Evaluation highlights that when the Peacebuilding Policy was developed, there was no implementation plan or theory of change, nor were resourcing requirements identified. While steps were taken to support implementation, they were piecemeal and dependent on a few individuals pushing the issue of conflict-sensitivity. Investment in policy implementation was limited and the few staff hired to expand capacity for conflict-analysis were (and generally still are) on precarious temporary contracts dependent on voluntary funding. National staff with expertise in the local conditions were often not involved in discussions around the implication of the policy for programming or partnerships in their country. While the evaluation team noted improvements and greater investment in policy implementation from 2017, the following challenges remain evident in 2022:

  • limited investment in training, despite demand from staff;

  • policy implementation guidance developed, but little known;

  • a promising, but only nascent, community of practice for conflict advisers;

  • efforts to strengthen conflict analysis hampered by the existence of organizational silos;

  • efforts to broaden the evidence base that are too recent to allow the observation of results; and

  • only ad hoc processes for programme adaptation (in relation to human resources, cooperating partner management and supply chains).

As a result, ten years after the adoption of the Peacebuilding Policy, the Evaluation found:

"policy quality shortcomings that include the absence of adequate institutional frameworks, guidance, accountability arrangements and financial and human resources, and insufficient integration of monitoring, evaluation and reporting on policy implementation.” - Summary report on the evaluation of the policy on WFP’s role in peacebuilding in transition settings (French version) (Spanish version)

An immense amount of time and effort in international organizations is dedicated by staff, management and diplomats in agreeing on policies. Yet, as the Evaluation team found in this case in WFP, a lot less time, effort and resources are dedicated to planning and operationalizing implementation of policies, and this inevitably impacts their effectiveness. We encourage all our readers not only to read this insightful evaluation, but also to give equal weight to considering ‘substantive’ and ‘support’ elements of policies.


Key Meeting of UN Governance Mechanisms this week

  • The UNDP/UNFPA/UNOPS Executive Board holds its first formal session of the year from Monday, 30 Jan. until Friday, 3 Feb. 2023. A major agenda item is the approval of country programmes and extensions of existing programmes to better align them with the UN Sustainable Development Country Framework (UNSDGCF). Documents are available in multiple languages.

  • UNHCR's Executive Committee holds a briefing for new delegates on 1 February, followed by a preparatory meeting on the Global Refugee Forum on 2 February.

  • The WFP Executive Board holds its first informal consultation on the South-South and triangular cooperation (SSTC) policy update on 31 January. Also on Tuesday, the Board has organized roundtable discussion on partnerships for resilience, On 6-7 Feb., the Board holds a particularly interesting Roundtable on Evaluation to preview those evaluations considered by the Board at its upcoming session from 27 Feb. - 2 March.. Over the coming weeks we will spotlight some of the most interesting of these evaluations with lessons for other international organizations.


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