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The Safe from the Start (SftS) Initiative evaluation was performed between 01/19/2019 and 11/15/20. The final report was submitted on 11/11/2019. The Department of State (DOS), Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM) contracted SSG Advisors, d.b.a. Resonance to undertake the evaluation.

Purpose of the Evaluation and Questions Addressed

The SftS evaluation documents the ways in which DOS/PRM’s SftS investments are producing the intended changes in how the humanitarian system responds to Gender Based Violence (GBV) and identifies ways in which DOS/PRM can design, tailor, and increase the impact of these investments.

The evaluation, responds to three Evaluation Questions (EQs):

EQ1: To what extent are PRM’s SftS investments meeting their intended aims?

EQ2: What evidence exists, if any, that PRM’s SftS investments have affected the way the humanitarian community addresses violence against women and girls in emergencies (and in what ways)?

EQ3: What changes or updates need to be made to ensure PRM’s SftS investments are as strategic, sustainable and impactful as possible?

Methodology

The evaluation design is primarily qualitative with a focus on evidence from stories of most significant change (MSC) obtained from semi-structured interviews and participant observation. An online survey was also conducted and some findings, primarily from the survey, are quantified. The evaluation focused on the SftS primary beneficiaries: humanitarian staff and managers of the implementing partners (IPs).  Secondary beneficiaries, defined as refugees, internally displaced persons (IDPs), local organizations, community leaders, and government, where relevant, were also interviewed.

The evaluation scope was limited to four of 16 SftS-funded IPs: (1) International Medical Corps (IMC); (2) International Organization for Migration (IOM); (3) United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR); and (4) United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF); two countries of operation – South Sudan and Uganda; and two IP headquarter cities – Geneva and New York City. The evaluators met with a few representatives of international organizations working on GBV in emergencies in Geneva and the field sites, as well as USAID’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) GBV managers in Washington, D.C., and IP staff based elsewhere through telephone interviews. All interviews were confidential and adhered to “informed consent” and “protection of vulnerable adults” safeguards.

The evaluation’s main limitation is a lack of generalizability across the humanitarian sector and operations. The team conducted fieldwork principally with refugees and IDPs in rural settings from the South Sudanese protracted emergencies. By interviewing humanitarian staff and refugees/IDPs on both sides of the border (South Sudan and Uganda) over a month’s time, they obtained evidence about SftS’s impact in this particular emergency. A second limitation is that SftS’s funding did not directly cover current field operations in South Sudan. There, the evaluators obtained evidence of how GBV expertise at the onset of the emergency, pilot activities and on-going attention to GBV influenced protection operations and services over the course of the protracted emergency.

Key Findings

EQ1: To what extent are PRM’s SftS investments meeting their intended aims?

SftS funding increased the capacity of the four IPs, their local partners, and national government staff to reduce or mitigate GBV risks and provide services for survivors. Headquarter leaders across all four IPs committed to new system-wide policies, operating procedures, and training to address GBV at the onset of most (if not all) major emergencies. All four IPs provided GBV training for humanitarian workers. As evidenced in South Sudan and Uganda, IOM, UNHCR, and UNICEF deployed GBV experts at the onset. These experts set up systems to coordinate referral pathways and case management and to mainstream GBV risk reduction actions across sectors. They helped in establishing GBV Sub-Clusters and Working Groups to coordinate service delivery and programs across agencies. The three IPs also organized pilot projects and interventions (e.g., girls’ menstrual hygiene and education, livelihood support, women’s leadership training; youth mobilization, and mobile courts) to address gender disparities and root causes of GBV and sustain the interventions. New tracking measures and M&E systems were established to provide accountability and indicate potential high-risk areas and action plans for GBV specialists. The four IPs through the impressive dedication of the GBV specialists and other humanitarian workers met their specific, SftS programming aims, as evidenced in the South Sudanese and Ugandan operations. The SftS-funded GBV interventions in 2017, represented 0.07% of total humanitarian funding reported that year.

EQ2: What evidence exists, if any, that PRM’s SftS investments have affected the way the humanitarian community addresses violence against women and girls in emergencies (and in what ways)?

SftS’s top down, headquarter strategy led to institutional changes in four major humanitarian organizations as evidenced in policies, operations, planning, training, and M&E systems. Senior management observed that addressing GBV at the onset saved “costs and time” and given the small percentage of humanitarian funding required, proved to be cost effective. GBV coordination, referral pathways, case management, and risk prevention were mainstreamed across sector operations, and pilot projects, and engaged a range of international, national and local humanitarian actors in addressing GBV. The SftS focus on GBV risk reduction and services may have provided continuing international momentum by operationalizing the 2015 Road Map and Inter Agency Standing Committee (IASC) GBV Guidelines. SftS GBV programming also helped to focus international attention on the addressing survivors’ needs in cases of sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA) by humanitarian workers. DOS/PRM Refugee Coordinators played an important role in bringing agencies and donors together to share knowledge and coordinate activities. Sustaining the changes in emergency operations to address GBV was not without challenges given short term contracts, staff attrition, and continued gender disparities throughout the humanitarian system. Over time SftS programming and pilots provided evidence of the importance of engaging the humanitarian-development nexus and localization strategies in a protracted emergency.

Recommendations

EQ3: What changes or updates need to be made to ensure PRM’s SftS investments are as strategic, sustainable and impactful as possible?

The Evaluation Report provides 17 “updates and changes” aimed at ensuring that future SftS investments will be “strategic, sustainable, and impactful.” Three key recommendations are to:

  • Continue the USG investment strategy of supporting expertise and earmarked funding for GBV risk reduction and services at the onset of emergencies, as cost and time saving;
  • Localize interventions and strategies to respond to diverse risks of refugee and internally displaced person populations in different emergencies and in rural versus urban settings; and
  • Coordinate with community, youth and women’s organizations, national Governments, and development agencies, as part of the humanitarian-development nexus to engage local populations at the onset of emergencies, go to scale and sustain the impact of SftS.

U.S. Department of State

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