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Wednesday, May 4, 2011 witnessed the official signing ceremony for the United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF) for the 2012-2016 period. The event hosted by the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ) marked the progression of a strong partnership between the Government of Jamaica and the United Nations represented by the participation of the heads of all 10 UN agencies with offices in Jamaica.
The current UNDAF is the second such agreement to be signed between the UN and the Government of Jamaica and provides a coordinated strategy for the delivery of UN assistance to Jamaica to address national challenges and development objectives as well as international commitments including the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
The UNDAF development process is a yearlong exercise initiated with an assessment of the previous agreement followed by an assessment of the country's development situation, an assessment of the UN systems comparative advantage in the country and finally selection of the areas for strategic intervention.
Under UNDAF 2012-2016, the UN agencies will be providing development assistance of USD $37.6 million to support the Government of Jamaica in implementing the country's long and medium term goals as outlined in Vision 2030. This allocation comes as an extension from UNDAF 2007-2011 in which initiatives in education, HIV/AIDS, poverty, the environment, health, and justice, peace and security were supported. Through UNDAF 2012-2016, the UN agencies will provide targeted intervention geared to the most vulnerable groups in the Jamaican society with three broad thematic areas of focus - the environment; social empowerment and equity and safety security and justice.
Of the USD $37.6 million allocated, approximately 26% will be allotted to support initiatives in the Environment sector; 38% to support initiatives geared to deliver the Social Empowerment and Equity outcome and 36% dedicated to contribute to the outcome related to Safety, Security and Justice.
Speaking at the signing ceremony, PIOJ Director General, Dr. Gladstone Hutchinson commented on the three thematic areas covered by the UNDAF
"These specific areas of focus are critical for improving the holistic well-being and quality of life of our most vulnerable ... We are also helping the socially excluded and at risk population in rural (and) urban communities, to have increased access to improved quality health and education services. And, we are assisting government and civil society organizations, to provide comprehensive social protection and justice systems and services for vulnerable individuals and groups,"
Other representatives of the Government also expressed positive sentiments regarding the UNDAF and the immense impact it will have in their areas of work .
Chief Technical Director in the Ministry of Agriculture, Dr. Marc Panton noted:
"Agriculture plays a significant role in poverty alleviation. It certainly plays a significant role in rural life development, food security... and clearly, that ties into the direction that the UNDAF will be going."
Similarly, Ms. Dianne McIntosh, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of National Security expressed her strong support for the framework. She noted, regarding Pillar 3- Safety, Security and Justice, that:
"This pillar seeks to address several risk factors that threaten Jamaica's safety and security by focusing on social exclusion, poor educational outcomes, and youth unemployment, youth resilience to drugs and alcohol, and peaceful co-existence."
She also highlighted that the UNDAF will build on existing initiatives in safety, security and justice currently being pursued in partnership with the UN.
Amidst all this support for UNDAF 2012-2016, Dr. Hutchinson importantly reminded partners and stakeholders that the success of the UNDAF is largely dependent on the level of their commitment. He stated:
"The government's central role in guiding the further refinement of the elements of the programme, to ensure readiness for implementation and compatibility with the objectives of national development, cannot be overemphasized. This is critical."
Acting United Nations Resident Coordinator, Mr. Robert Fuderich, in speaking to the level of success which can be achieved from the UNDAF, mentioned various indicators identified that would help to track whether the outcomes are being achieved. He highlighted the flexibility of the UNDAF and the opportunity to amend it as needed, through annual reviews and a midterm review, in order to ensure its relevance and effectiveness:
"That's when we can actually change a lot in the UNDAF. It won't change drastically, but it gives us the chance to really amend and see whether we are heading for the results that we have targeted."
The UNDAF will be implemented and monitored by a Steering Committee, co-chaired by PIOJ and the UN Resident Coordinator and will comprise key partner ministries, senior level officials from private sector, civil society, International Development Partners and the heads of UN Agencies. This body will meet at least once a year and will provide overall direction and guidance at all stages of the UNDAF implementation process.
At the operational level, the UN will organize internally into 3 UNDAF Theme Groups, each with a designated lead agency and specific members. The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) has been designated to lead the Outcome related to the Environment and is to be supported by the Food and Agriculture Organisation as Co-Chair. The process of monitoring progress in the Outcome related to initiatives geared to the Social Empowerment and Equity outcome will be led by the United NATIONS Population Fund (UNFPA) and initiatives in the Safety, Security and Justice Outcome will be monitored by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) as chair of that Outcome. In addition to being responsible for monitoring the implementation of programmes and activities under each thematic area, Theme Groups will assist with encouraging agency work programmes alignment to the UNDAF.
With the dedication and hard work of the UN and all its partners and stakeholders, UNDAF 2012-2016 is anticipated to deliver a platform that will prove instrumental in assisting the Government of Jamaica in realizing the goals of Vision 2030.
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