Joint exploratory mission in Liberia helps actors define priority areas for UN Network support through REACH
A UN Network for SUN exploratory mission for REACH was conducted in Monrovia, Liberia from 30 April to 4 May 2018 following expressed interest from the interim SUN Focal Point, Mameni Linga, and the UN Network in-country. For the first time in REACH history, the donor joined the mission team comprised of a representative from the UN Network Secretariat, and a delegation from Irish Aid. A series of consultations were held with the SUN Focal Point ad interim (a.i.), government staff from key sectors, the UN agencies (FAO, UNICEF, WFP and WHO), the SUN Civil Society Alliance and other members of the donor community in order to gain a deepen understanding of the current state of nutrition governance in the country, including the underlying dynamics. In addition to the active engagement of the respective UN agencies in the UN Network (FAO, UNICEF, WFP and WHO), the UN Resident Coordinator participated and is highly committed to nutrition.
The consultations were supplemented with a 1-day workshop, held on 2 May 2018. These discussions guided the development of the REACH work plan through a process that was led and organized by the UN Network at country level in collaboration with the SUN Focal Point and Ministry of Health. This approach helped to foster country ownership in the planned activities from the onset. It also created a ‘can do’ environment, whereby actors were keen to join forces. Five government Ministries attended, namely: the Ministry of Health; the Ministry of Agriculture; the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection; the Ministry of Education; and the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning. Likewise, the UN participated in the workshop, including the UN Resident Coordinator, FAO, UNICEF, WFP and WHO, as well as civil society representatives. The workshop even attracted attention in the press with articles published in multiple local newspapers.
The mission found there is limited stakeholder engagement in nutrition in Liberia, largely due to the nominal awareness of nutrition at all levels. In particular, there are opportunities to bring less traditional actors into the nutrition arena alongside those which are already well-engaged, such as the Ministries of Health and Agriculture. This will entail mobilising the Ministries of Gender, Children and Social Protection, Public Works, Education and the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning, and sensitizing them on their respective roles in nutrition. The situation is promising in that the mission team managed to meet with the Minister of Education as well as the Assistant and Vice Ministers of Health; Gender, Children and Social Protection; and Finance and Development Planning. There is also intent to formally establish and improve the functioning of nutrition coordination mechanisms, including SUN networks. Given REACH’s proven track record, it is well-positioned to work hand-in-hand with the SUN Focal Point a.i. to facilitate these institutional changes.
The work plan reflects the priorities for nutrition governance that these stakeholders considered to be relevant to the country context. Structured according to the five outcomes and cascading outputs of the UN Network results framework, the work plan outlines activities as well as the corresponding indicators, UN agency lead and budget for them. It foresees undertaking multi-sectoral analytical exercises to enhance stakeholder dialogue and engagement in nutrition. The results will also inform nutrition governance processes, such as planning, advocacy and multi-sectoral coordination. For example, the multi-stakeholder nutrition mapping, planned for late 2018, will serve as a baseline for the national nutrition action plan to be developed following the ongoing revision of the nutrition policy.
The UN Network Secretariat will provide backstopping support and quality assurance for all stock-taking exercises. Other aspects of the work plan concentrate on facilitation support and context-specific knowledge brokering across sectors and stakeholder groups. For instance, it calls for the REACH facilitator to work with the SUN Focal Point a.i. as well as members of Liberia’s multi-stakeholder platform and other UN Network colleagues to include core nutrition actions in the annual work plans of relevant sectors/ministries. The mission concluded with interim SUN Focal Point’s endorsement of the actions to be included in the work plan and a debriefing with her, UN Network focal points, the SUN Civil Society Alliance and representatives from a few sectors. A separate debriefing was also held with the Heads of United Nations Country Team. Country actors are eager to initiate REACH activity in June.