© UNICEF/PAKA2008-1179/Kohdayar Marri
Monitoring and evaluation (M&E) and evidence-based research are critical at project/programme, national and international levels for determining the scale of child protection violations, identifying vulnerable groups, ascertaining risk factors and protective assets and mechanisms, informing policy and programming, and ensuring accountability at all levels. The move to a systems approach in child protection, consistent with similar and historic shifts in the health and education sectors, also implies a need for more evidence-based child protection. While M&E and research in child protection is extremely important, it requires much improvement, as highlighted by numerous reports including a child protection meta-evaluation carried out by UNICEF in 2008 and an inter-agency global review of evaluations of community based approaches in child protection consolidated in 2010.
In November 2008, Save the Children and UNICEF organised an interagency roundtable meeting on child protection M&E to review current practice in the sector and to discuss ways to facilitate coordination and strengthening of monitoring and evaluation across agencies. A Monitoring and Evaluation Reference Group (MERG) was presented as one model of improving the coordination of M&E initiatives among child protection partners and across thematic areas, and providing technical guidance on the development of indicators, tools and methodologies to improve the evidence base of the sector. In other sectors, such as HIV/AIDS and Health, MERGs have proven to be very successful in strengthening M&E by bringing together strong partnerships and ensuring focused work in this area.
Given the initial positive response of organizations working across this sector to the idea of a Child Protection MERG, Save the Children and UNICEF hosted a planning meeting from 21-22 July 2010 at the UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre in Florence, Italy to activate a Child Protection MERG. The meeting involved M&E and programme representatives from a range of organizations including CARE, ILO, Oak Foundation, Save the Children, UNFPA, UNHCR, UNICEF, USAID, and World Vision. At the close of the meeting, the CP MERG was officially established and the following were key outcomes of the two-day discussions:
1) The draft Terms of Reference for the CP MERG was revised. All organizations agreed that the MERG should produce concrete, practical M&E tools and methods that are grounded in field based work. The structure will be relatively informal, with Save the Children and UNICEF acting as co-chairs and fulfilling joint Secretariat functions during this initial year of operation. There will be a core group of members from operational organizations, with a balance between programme and M&E experts and geographical representation. The core group will meet annually to decide on the MERG work plan and review and endorse MERG products. An Academic Advisory Body will also be constituted and invited to attend the MERG meetings and provide technical advice on the work plan and products. Technical working groups (TWGs) will be formed as needed to deliver concrete products that the MERG members deem are needed to improve M&E practice in the sector. TWGs will consist of relevant technical experts in monitoring and evaluation, including from academic institutions, and will be chaired by a MERG member. The Terms of Reference for the Child Protection MERG is in final edits and will be posted on this site shortly.
2) A list of short term work priorities that the MERG should focus on over the next two years was developed. One person/organization is currently leading the development of a concept note for each piece of work, with inputs being provided from a wider group. This includes:
- Inventory and assessment of existing tools and methods to measure violence against children, leading to development of standard guidelines (led by Claudia Cappa/UNICEF)
- Collation and assessment of methods to monitor the incidence of children out of home care in emergency and development contexts (led by Bill Bell and Sarah Lilley/Save the Children)
- Identification of promising M&E tools that could be completed and validated and their use promoted, drawing on the mapping of child protection M&E tools completed by Columbia University in preparation for the MERG planning meeting (led by Sam Bickel/UNICEF).
Technical working groups will then be convened around each priority area and will report on progress to the co-chairs of the MERG.
As we have learned from other MERGs, any successful MERG relies on strong partnerships. In child protection, there is a pressing need to significantly improve the evidence base of the sector and this has been clearly expressed by a range of actors at global, regional, national, and project/programme levels. The most effective way forward is not in the form of individual disconnected initiatives, but rather by establishing partnerships and pooling knowledge, expertise and skills to review, validate and produce methods and tools that can take the evidence base of child protection to the next level.
If there is an additional piece of work that you think the CP MERG should focus on and your organization would like to take this forward, we would be delighted to hear from you so that we can explore this further. We also welcome suggestions of any additional organizations, experts or institutions, including from the Global South, that you feel may be well-suited to becoming part of the MERG. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org with your ideas or suggestions or for additional information.