RECENT PROJECTS

Inter-Agency Action Research on Strengthening Community-Based Child Protection Mechanisms

In partnership with Save the Children, which organizes a 17-agency global Reference Group, the Columbia Group is conducting action research in three countries on how to strengthen community-based child protection mechanisms by supporting better linkages with national child protection systems. The initial research is being conducted in Sierra Leone, where ethnographic methodology is being used to identify and learn about the functioning of existing community-based mechanisms, indigenous or externally facilitated. The second phase of work will define outcomes of community-based child protection mechanisms in ways that reflect local understandings and will construct rigorous measures of outcomes using a mixture of case-based and population based measures. Matched communities will be assigned on a random basis to early and delayed intervention conditions, with the intervention being designed by communities and focusing on strengthening linkages with the national child protection system. Child well-being and protection outcomes will be tracked over a period of two years. The research aims to shed light on how to measure the effectiveness of community-based mechanisms and how to build national child protection systems through a bottom-up approach.

Global Surveillance System for Attacks on Education

The right to education and the goals of Education for All – a movement launched by the World Conference on Education for All in 1990 to set global goals for educational achievement and benchmarks – are threatened in many countries by armed attacks, assassinations, abductions, forced recruitment and other violence directed toward students and their teachers, as well as the destruction, looting and occupation of education buildings. However, the body of knowledge of such attacks is currently limited. The Columbia Group for Children in Adversity was invited to undertake a feasibility study on how a global surveillance system for attacks on education can be developed.

The study aimed to provide an advanced understanding of the issues pertaining to the protection of education from attack and a more robust evidence base for: research; identified good practices; improved programming; strengthened policy formulation; increased accountability and diminished impunity; and enhanced advocacy for each of the above objectives.

Development of a Child Protection Rapid Assessment Tool

On behalf of UNICEF and the Child Protection Working Group (CPWG), the Columbia Group for Children in Adversity is developing a Child Protection Rapid Assessment Tool for use in the immediate aftermath of rapid onset emergencies. Lack of a simple common tool for the 1-3 week phase immediately following a rapid onset emergency has long been identified as a key gap for the sector. Following three large-scale emergencies in 2010 that urgently required a rapid assessment tool - Haiti, Kyrgyzstan and Pakistan - the development of an Inter-agency Rapid Assessment Tool was prioritized as a key activity and output of the CPWG. A consultation meeting was organized in Geneva to agree on 'what we need to know', key indicators and well-suited methodologies for a Child Protection Rapid Assessment Toolkit. Based on the recommendations of this meeting, the Columbia Group team developed a toolkit comprised of of sample tools and respective data management interfaces, as well as a guide on adapting the tools to local contexts. The guide also provides instruction on how to efficiently analyze collected data to inform programming and fundraising activities.

Feasibility Study for a Global Surveillance System for Attacks on Education

The right to education is threatened in many countries by armed attacks, assassinations, abductions, forced recruitment and other violence directed toward students and their teachers, as well as the destruction, looting and occupation of education buildings. The Qatar-based NGO Education Above All (EAA) commissioned the Columbia Group to carry out a feasibility study on a Global Surveillance System (GSS) for Attacks on Education. The study explored and clarified the multitude of factors related to monitoring attacks on education, provided the results of a stakeholder analysis of the institutional actors concerned with attacks on education, and offered recommendations on how to strengthen the monitoring of and reporting on attacks and related issues. The study recommended shifting from the present fragmented monitoring situation to a system that is structured and coordinated in order to advance understanding of the issues pertaining to the protection of education from attack and produce a more robust evidence base for research, programming, policy and advocacy purposes. The Global Partnership to Protect Education from Attack (GCPEA) has effectively taken on the inter-agency role of “Global Investigative Network” (GIN) mentioned in this report. GCPEA will undertake various data collection and investigative activities pursuant to preparing Education under Attack 2013 which will now be produced by GCPEA. This will provide the foundation for the Coalition’s ongoing activities to support improved monitoring and reporting in 2014 and thereafter.

Developing a Nationally Accredited Child Protection Training Course and Capacity Building Program in Uganda

There is currently no standardized comprehensive child protection training programme in Uganda. Instead, there exists a series of fragmented materials and approaches, some of which may not be relevant to the post conflict context in Uganda, while others have a narrow focus or are simply outdated. The goal of this program is to review, consolidate, streamline and transfer the rich learning that has taken place in Uganda over the past two decades to government training institutions and universities via a series of curricula. TPO Uganda together with the Ministry of Gender, Labor and Social Development (MoGLSD), have conceptualized this multiagency collaboration, which will culminate in the development of a national child protection training program accredited to selected government universities and tertiary institutions. This training program will be comprised of 3 separate curricula: one for university students, one for graduates of secondary school who seek further professional training and one intensive course for practicing professionals. Each of these courses will comply to the Ugandan national standards for education and training and thus be institutionalized as part of the professionalization of child protection work.

Strategies for Measuring the Needs of Children on the Move

Members of the Columbia Group have been working with Save the Children UK on the Thai/Lao border to conduct the second pilot of the Mobile Assessment Tool in two border locations, focusing on populations in transit as well as those having arrived in their destination, to understand the protection needs of these children. While on the move, children are often outside of conventional protection mechanisms, particularly when migrating irregularly. The Mobile Assessment Tool seeks to learn about migration patterns and to measure the needs of children during their journeys and in their destinations. The pilot also tests assumptions regarding assessment and sampling methodologies for hidden child populations in migration contexts.

Progress Evaluation of UNICEF's Education in Emergencies and Post Crisis Transition (EEPCT) Programme

The Columbia Group for Children in Adversity is conducting a progress evaluation on implementation of the EEPCT programme, which began in 2006 as a 5-year partnership between UNICEF and the Dutch Government. Intended as a strategic intervention in support of the Millennium Development Goals and the Education for All movement, the EEPCT programme looks to help achieve these targets by increasing institutional capacity and providing direct programme support. Senior Partners and Associates are overseeing a sixteen-member evaluation team engaged in extensive case study research in six countries as well as analyses of global and regional results. The progress evaluation’s objectives include systematically determining the EEPCT Programme‘s relevance, effectiveness, efficiency, coordination, and, to the degree measurable, indicative impact and sustainability in relation to its objectives. The evaluation also aims to gather relevant lessons learned on education interventions in emergencies, transition, and fragility-affected contexts, and to provide recommendations to improve future programming and support more-informed decision-making by UNICEF headquarters, regional and country offices, and relevant stakeholders.

Engaging Marginalised Youth in the South Pacific

Senior Associates examined four Pacific Island cases - Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Tonga and Samoa - to better understand why some young people are successful and make significant contributions to their societies while others become entangled in delinquent behavior and political violence. This region is also home to one of the youngest populations in the world, and recent publications including the UN State of Pacific Youth Report (2005) and the World Bank Pacific Youth Report (2008) have highlighted the socio-economic and political marginalisation of youth in the Pacific. This is a potentially volatile combination if significant numbers of young people are without meaningful engagement in work, educational opportunities and hope for their future. While the four case studies are significantly different in many respects, some general findings and recommendations were extracted. These highlighted the need to focus on addressing the underlying causes rather than symptoms and youth crime and violence and will be available both as a stand-alone report and as a chapter in the upcoming State of Pacific Youth Report (2010).

Analyzing National Child Protection Systems in South and Central Asia

Save the Children Sweden's regional office for South and Central Asia commissioned the Columbia Group to create an analytic framework to synthesize findings across national and community based child protection systems in South and Central Asia. Child protection system’s response was evaluated in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Maldives, Bhutan, Nepal, India and Sri Lanka. Findings will be used to lobby SAARC and to influence national governments in the region. It is also being shared with the UN Special Representative on Violence against Children.

Mapping of Global Child Protection Monitoring, Evaluation, and Research Tools

On behalf of UNICEF and Save the Children, the Columbia Group for Children in Adversity is conducting a review of relevant child protection monitoring, evaluation, and research tools as part of the development of a comprehensive mapping framework. This framework will be made available to support improved monitoring, evaluation, and research in child protection and to inform the establishment of an inter-organizational Child Protection Monitoring and Evaluation Reference Group (MERG). Information is being gathered from a structured search of current academic literature, elicitation of tools from child protection experts in the field, and interviews with key informants. The project will conclude with a finalized report that will evaluate existing child protection tools in order to identify areas of overlap, significant achievement, gaps, and recommendations.

Researching Family Separation in the South Pacific

Children in the Pacific face many factors that may render them vulnerable to exploitation and abuse. These include gender-based and other forms of discrimination, dysfunctional families, violence and abuse in the family and community, social and economic marginalization, a lack of livelihood opportunities for children and young people as well as attitudes, perceptions, social norms and structural factors. Senior members of the Columbia Group are working with UNICEF to research issues that lead to the separation of children from their families in this region. The research explores current forms of separation, include informal foster care, boarding of children for educational and other purposes, and institutional care arrangements. Factors making children vulnerable to trafficking and exploitation are also being explored. Recommendations address how UNICEF can collaborate with government and local organizations to reduce children's vulnerability and risk for abuse.

Scoping Study on Children on the Move

Members of the Columbia Group have been working with Save the Children UK on the Zimbabwe/South Africa border to pilot a Mobile Assessment Tool for the protection of children in transit. While on the move, children frequently lie outside the remit of any child protection services that may exist, and are instead often subject to negative attention from police, immigration, judicial, municipal and other authorities who place children’s best interests secondary to other considerations. This new methodological framework assesses the needs of children on the move, and elicits information critical for designing appropriate programmatic responses, focusing in particular on the risk of and protection during transit.

Evaluation of the Village Court and Women and Children's Access to
Community Justice in Papua New Guinea

Senior partners are conducting an independent evaluation of a UNICEF and government-supported child protection program in Papua New Guinea. The program seeks to train village court magistrates, women, and youth on women's and children's rights, particularly relating to protection against family violence. The village court system is the most extensive justice system in Papua New Guinea and provides access to justice for more than 85% of the population, who cannot reach the formal court system. In a country where family violence is commonly reported to affect 75% of all women and child abuse is grossly under-reported, the village courts provide a crucial access point for these vulnerable groups. The lead Columbia Group evaluator has conducted interviews with over 150 village court officials, as well as trained women leaders and men, women, and youth community members in five districts. A final evaluation report, assessing the pilot program and making a recommendation to the government on its proposed country-wide roll-out, is forthcoming.

Analysis of Child Survivors and Witnesses in Papua New Guinea

Senior Associates have been working with UNICEF to assess the treatment of child survivors and witnesses when they interact with the justice system in Papua New Guinea. This project investigates the ways in which the rights of such children are respected throughout the legal process in various regions of the country. The assessment has led to an action plan to guide planning by the government of Papua New Guinea for implementation of existing legislation on this issue and for new efforts to protect the rights of child survivors and witnesses.

Assessment of the Psychosocial Impact of the Israeli Military Operations and Blockade on the Education System in Gaza

Members of the Columbia Group led a UNESCO-commissioned assessment to determine how students and education staff at all levels of education are being affected by the very difficult situation in Gaza. The assessment used a mixed methods approach that included qualitative data from interviews and focus group discussions with education leaders, teachers, and learners; discussions with youth who have had to drop out of school to work; and information from body mapping with children in primary school. A survey instrument that is designed to tap into the issues identified from the qualitative data was administered to over 5,000 learners from different education levels. The results are being used to guide UNESCO education programming and to help the Education Cluster fill key gaps. The final report is now available upon request.

Child Protection Assessment in Gambella, Ethiopia

Columbia University is currently leading a process of field-based learning to feed into revision of the 'Inter-agency Child Protection Emergency Assessment Tool Kit'. As a part of this process, the Columbia Group, UNICEF and the Government of Ethiopia collaborated to document key child welfare concerns in the Gambella region of Ethiopia to support better child protection programming, emergency preparedness and response, with an emphasis on child protection systems in emergencies. Findings from the assessment have been shared with key government, UN and NGO agencies. Lessons learned on the utility of the Tool Kit are being synthesized with learning from a series of other country assessments including Central African Republic, the occupied Palestinian Territories, the Republic of Georgia and Iraq, and recommendations on further revisions to the Tool Kit will be shared at the Child Protection Working Group sub-cluster meeting in January 2010.

Mapping Child Protection Surveillance Systems in Indonesia

Members of the Columbia Group partnered with the University of Indonesia, UNICEF and key stakeholders within the Government of Indonesia to map the current child protection surveillance system in Indonesia. This project aimed to identify the existing data collection and information management mechanisms in place across different ministries, and other governmental and nongovernmental institutions currently involved in child protection data collection and analysis. The project also analyzed the appropriateness and efficiency of the mechanisms identified at national and provincial level. The team developed a set of recommendations for a new framework, which will ultimately improve data monitoring and evaluation mechanisms fro Child Protection in Indonesia.

The First Interagency Evaluation of Psychosocial Programs in the Occupied Palestinian Territories

Senior partners have been supporting an innovative initiative to evaluate psychosocial programs in the Palestinian territories (oPt). The project aims to build the evidence base to better understand the overall effectiveness of psychosocial programs, and to learn more about how to best address the psychosocial needs of children and their families in oPt. Using an ethnographic approach, agencies identified a shared set of indicators of what well-being means under occupation. These findings were used to develop a common quantitative survey instrument, which was used across the West Bank and Gaza. Preliminary findings from the evaluation suggest that children are showing surprisingly high degrees of resiliency regardless of whether they are involved in an intervention, but that children enrolled in psychosocial programs show significantly higher levels of resiliency and well being.

Rapid Response to Tsunami & Hurricane Katrina Victims and Evaluation of the Emergency Response

Senior team members and students were frontline responders in the immediate aftermath of the tsunami and Hurricane Katrina. In Aceh, Indonesia, team members arrived days after the tidal wave ravaged the coastal province to serve as senior advisors for the World Health Organization and Save the Children. A range of health and mental health programs that were launched in the early days following the Tsunami are still operating today. Senior associates continue to be involved in UNICEF led evaluations of tsunami response in Sri Lanka and Indonesia. In New Orleans, team members prepared hundreds of school teachers and counselors to provide psychological support to tens of thousands of children who were suffering from the impact of the hurricane.

Development of the Inter-agency Standing Committee Guidelines on Mental Health and Psychosocial Well-being

The UN Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) created a global Task Force on Mental Health and Psychosocial Support in Emergency Settings co-chaired by Mike Wessells. Using a highly consultative, participatory process engaging stakeholders at diverse levels, the Task Force has constructed guidance on minimum response with an emphasis on social interventions, effective first response amidst crisis, and integration of mental health and psychosocial supports into multiple sectors of humanitarian assistance.

Paris Commitments Reference Group

Senior partners were invited to assist in the development of the Paris Commitments and the Principles and Guidelines on Children Associated With Armed Forces or Armed Groups, which provide guidelines on the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of all categories of children associated with armed groups.

Research on Children Associated with Armed Forces or Groups

Senior partners have engaged in a number of studies to broaden our understanding of how to support children associated with armed forces or groups. The Mozambique Child Soldier Life Outcome Study investigated the adult outcomes of former child soldiers in Mozambique, paying particular attention to their psychosocial and social functioning. It represents the culmination of fifteen years of collaborative work aimed at producing a unique longitudinal study of individuals who, as children, participated in organized violence. Senior partners have also analyzed the impact of traditional cleansing on the reintegration of children in Angola and Sierra Leone, and are engaged with ongoing participatory action research for girl mothers who were associated with armed groups in west and east Africa.

Situation Analysis of Child Protection in Darfur

This project undertaken on behalf of UNICEF involves a detailed assessment and analysis of the nature, context, causes and characteristics of violation of children's rights to protection against violence, exploitation, abuse and deprivation of primary care givers in Darfur. The report - structured using the UNICEF framework of the 'protective environment' - offers recommendations for humanitarian and government actors to ensure the protection rights of children in Darfur, and identifies strategic actions required of UNICEF.

Measuring Gender Based Violence Against Women and Children

Senior partners have been developing epidemiological methods to effectively quantify problems and identify solutions to ensure an understanding of issues affecting women and children, which, to date, have been a critical shortcoming of human rights concerns. The neighborhood method has been utilized to determine incidence rates of gender based violence in Uganda, Liberia, Cote D’Ivoire, Ethiopia and Sri Lanka. The work in Uganda has been complemented with a longitudinal study of young survivors of rape to better understand how these girls can be better assisted through formal and informal support mechanisms.