1.2 The Vital Importance of Political-Strategic Dialogue and Advocacy Strategy

In order for the PSA to be regarded as a national benchmark instrument, it should be formulated through an internal process with high levels of participation of national actors, to achieve more effective identification of the needs and proposals for action, while building ownership and enhancing national capacities.

There are critical moments at which political-strategic dialogue can generate its best results, e.g. when development plans are at the design stage or when efforts are being made to reform legal and institutional frameworks. These situations are generally associated with changes of government.

These opportunities should be seized by the United Nations Country Teams (UNCT) for elaborating their own situation analysis (CCA) and framework of development assistance (UNDAF).

We therefore recommend that the PSA process should be undertaken anticipating or making use of the opportunities generated by moments of political change and/or strategic planning of the United Nations System, to play into the predisposition of actors to rethink their country’s situation.2

An interest group/stakeholder analysis needs to be conducted to identify the groups and individuals who should be a part of the overall causality analysis of the PSA. A stakeholder is an individual, a community, a group or organization with an interest in the outcome of an intervention, either as a result of being affected by it positively or negatively, or by being able to influence the intervention in a positive or negative way. Potential proponents, opponents and neutral parties (from government, parliament, civil society, etc.) on issues emanating from the PSA need to be identified. “Stakeholders will have different levels of interest, different motivations and different levels of power and influence. Stakeholders will be drawn from within government, civil society and the private sector. The aim of Stakeholder Analysis is to identify stakeholder characteristics, their interests, and the nature and degree of their influence on existing or future policies, reforms, or interventions.”3

The analysis should identify the level, scope and circles of influence of each group on the acceptability and adoption of the PSA’s findings and recommendations by various stakeholders. It should review the skills, commitment, resources and authority of those responsible for addressing key problems. Analysts can then identify major capacity gaps from families to communities to the national level, and ensure that future development assistance will help close those gaps. For example, an analysis of gaps in capacity at various levels to address the problem of maternal mortality could uncover needs to convince key community and family members about the importance of skilled attendance at deliveries and to organize emergency transportation for the evacuation and referral of complicated deliveries. Such an analysis could also highlight that advocacy is needed to compel local and national policy and decision makers to make resources available from adequate emergency obstetric care services and referral mechanisms. The analysis should also highlight that the health care administration requires knowledge and competency in how to manage such services.4

The stakeholder analysis recognizes that outcomes of decision making are a function of the political economic and ideological interests of major policy stakeholders. The aim of this analysis is the identification of the characteristics, interests, and the nature and degree of the influence on existing or future policies, reforms, or interventions of various stakeholders. One of the major challenges in the assessment of the institutional and political landscape is the variety of stakeholders, with shifting and evolving interests and interactions over time.

The main types of stakeholder include:

  • Key stakeholders, who significantly influence or are relevant to the success of an intervention;
  • Primary stakeholders, who are either positively or adversely affected by an intervention; and
  • Secondary stakeholders, all other individuals or groups with a stake, interest or intermediary role in the activity.


In addition to identifying stakeholders, the PSA process should be accompanied by a well thought-out advocacy strategy. This plan should dovetail with different national actors from the government, civil society, and the private sector, as well as cooperation agencies. We suggest identifying ideas that reflect a number of key challenges for the conduct of the country’s development and major policies that have a particular resonance and priority for the country. The communications strategy can be part of the advocacy plan or can be designed independently.

The advocacy strategy should include the following elements:

  • Identification and delineation of issues, priorities and challenges which are associated with the PSA and need to be addressed;
  • Specific and clear statement(s) of outputs reflecting the expected results of advocacy efforts; activities that are geared to achieve each output; responsible party(ies) to implement the activities and achieve each set of result; benchmark indicators which should be SMART (simple, measurable, achievable, realistic and time bound), time frame to implement activities and realize each output; and risks and assumptions based on analysis of the environment;
  • Strategies to address each group of the above in a way to allow for achievement of the desired outputs of the PSA. Particular emphasis should be placed on building alliances, lobbying and networking with proponents, including potential ones, as well as winning over neutral parties or those who remain undecided on issues emanating from the PSA;
  • A communication strategy including elements such as: a) target audiences or individuals and groups that the advocacy strategy aims to influence, b) themes, messages which should be articulated and packaged should reflect arguments and counter arguments. Messages should be disseminated to each of the targeted audience(s), taking into account political and socio-cultural issues and sensitivities, c) sources or people who are best suited to deliver such messages and themes of the PSA. Such people, groups and lobbies should be carefully defined based on their credibility and likely impact on the targeted audiences. UNFPA may need to build or strengthen coalitions with such lobbies, institutions and individuals and strengthen their advocacy capacity, d) channels of communication through which messages are delivered. These could include media (press, radio, TV, internet, etc.) or interpersonal and public communication channels, and e) follow up and feedback on the impact of communication efforts which would allow UNFPA to adapt its messages, channels and sources, etc. to realize the desired impact;
  • Other elements: there is a need to mobilize financial, technical and human resources to implement similar advocacy strategy. There is also a need to regularly monitor and evaluate the strategy based on benchmark indicators mentioned above.


The objective of national ownership of the PSA entails extensive dialogue, interaction and search for consensus with and between key national actors. To the extent feasible, the PSA should be developed by, or at least with, these various actors. This is where the mapping exercise of the key actors proves its usefulness. The results of this mapping exercise guide the selection and respective roles of the key actors in the PSA development process. These key actors should include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Government decision makers – typically at Ministries of Planning, Health, Social Affairs, and Finance;
  • National Statistical Offices (NSOs);
  • Academia and other research institutions;
  • Civil society organizations;
  • Community of donors and I/NGOs.


The advocacy strategy for implementing the PSA should seek active participation of each of these key actors. Depending on the strength and availability of national capacities, different levels of participation must be considered. Where sufficient national capacities are available and a favourable political climate exists, the PSA would be largely carried out by national actors, possibly through a task force that is headed by a high-level government official and comprised of members drawn from various government agencies and civil society organizations.

Technical assistance and quality assurance can be provided through UNFPA and its sister agencies in their respective mandate areas. Alternative configurations and arrangements may need to be considered in countries where fewer capacities are available. At the end of this spectrum we may find some of the least developed countries and small island states where national capacities may be lacking altogether. In these situations, the PSA process may need to involve regional actors, such as regional development institutions or regional research agencies or academia. For instance, in the Pacific region one might seek participation of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) or the University of the South Pacific (USP), possibly in association with the Australian National University (ANU). In the Caribbean, one might also draw on regional academic structures such as the University of the West Indies (UWI) and agencies of cooperation such as CARICOM.

But regardless of the actors implementing the PSA and conducting the actual analysis, the implementation and prioritization of topics to be covered by the PSA will need to be decided by or in very close collaboration with the national government, in order to achieve a sense of national ownership.

In order to carry out a comprehensive identification of national priorities, one must analyze national policies and generate a dialogue with national actors. Decisions as to how this process of dialogue will take place, as well as the preparation of an exhaustive mapping of national actors that can contribute to this process, are fundamental and represent one of the first steps that should be taken at the beginning of the PSA. It is also important to identify the public institutions that can lead the process together.

Given the range of information that will be analyzed in the PSA, we suggest considering two possible strategies, either a) choosing the information that will be particularly novel for the country and of greatest relevance for public policies, or b) segmenting the information and developing a strategy of sectoral or territorial political-technical dialogue in accordance with the analysis of the context and opportunities.

To embark upon this dialogue, we suggest beginning with the preparation of a small diagram that features the relevant policies and population issues in the respective country. Display whether they are considered or not and if they are, explain how. This first analysis would need to display which policy implications could identify the main policy dialogue. It should be remembered that policies tend to be government policies, rather than state policies—and their conceptual underpinnings, emphasis (including their objectives), contents and “modi operandi” can change with changes of the government (or even within the same administration, in some cases). Therefore, it is necessary to extract from these policies those aspects that are most essential, sustainable and based on broad consensus, as this allows for maximum coordination between population behaviours and trends and the agenda for national economic and social development.

The PSA should subsequently be tailored around these challenges to address country priorities. Regardless of the strategy of political dialogue, advocacy and alliances pursued in the country, we recommend preparing an initial document containing a body of evidence about the demographic transition process, sexual and reproductive health (SRH), and gender equality in the country and specific relationships between population dynamics (population growth, age structure, mobility). Despite the national driven character of the PSA, reflecting the occurring realities, the reflection should occur through the prism of the MDGs and ICPD, considering the Post 2015 agenda.

Since the entry point for this activity lies in UNFPA country offices and other UN agencies represented in the field, they are the ones to initiate dialogue with the government and subsequently collaborate with them and who need to appropriate themselves of the PSA. The process that follows consists in the formulation of the guide as such and its ongoing compilation and interaction with different national actors. All work should be developed in collaboration with the national government, so that eventually the government itself takes ownership of the PSA. Once the analysis had been finalized, key messages should be presented at the end of the PSA process.

Thus, the PSA represents a result as well as a democratic process that constitutes an opportunity to the United Nations system to establish political, economic, and social dialogue based on the applied research processes whose findings in turn generate new political dialogue. Ideally speaking, we are seeking the participation of a growing number of actors: decision-makers, intellectuals and social leaders, among others, build or strengthen consensuses regarding the priorities of the population, and display how policies can respond in a more efficient and equitable manner to the needs of current and future generations.

As a result, formulating the PSA promotes increased dialogue, interaction and the search for consensus among decision-makers, professionals, researchers, civil society organizations, and the community of donors. These efforts seek to contribute to a change in thinking and practice among key actors, so that challenges of policy and governability, human rights, concerns over equity and technical questions and policies with regard to population and development, SRH, and gender can increasingly come to be perceived as inextricably interrelated elements.

In as far as is possible, the final document should reflect national realities and guarantee consensus among the greatest number of actors. At the same time, it is worth remembering that the use of dialogue to foster political and economic commitments by the state, increase the interest of donors in the areas addressed, but also, if possible, make necessary investments to generate data and information about the country’s situation lies at the basis of development cooperation. It is important to document the process of political dialogue and to include it in the report, with a special emphasis on the results that are being achieved.

For example, the formulation of the PSA in Venezuela was closely connected to an extensive process of technical and political dialogue. In fact, the process unfolded as a set of concentric circles of technical analysis and political dialogue, beginning with an initial set of evidence disaggregated by social strata and geographic areas, which was broadened through the increasing participation of actors from the public sector and Venezuelan academia. The objective is not only to present a body of quantitative evidence, but also to take into account qualitative research, as well as evidence emerging from the process of dialogue itself, that allows to better understand the issues raised and to reflect the human dimension of the problems being addressed. 

2 Some countries have already developed their own instruments to this end. In Ethiopia, for example, the inclusion of population factors into the Plan for Accelerated and Sustained Development to End Poverty (PASDEP) led the Government and UNFPA to formulate a Guide to Integrate Population Issues in Development Planning (IPDP). This Guide has some elements in common with the PSA Guide, but it also contains a didactic section on basic population concepts and it encourages users to formulate a vision and to set Goals, Objectives and Targets, accompanied by the appropriate strategies. On the other hand, the situation analysis proposed in this document is much more limited than what is being proposed in the PSA.
3 UK Department for International Development (DFID) and Social Development, The World Bank (2005). Tools for Institutional, Political and Social Analysis (TIPS). A Sourcebook for Poverty and Social Impact Analysis (PSIA).
4 Paragraph B.20 of the Policies and Procedures Manual (PPM) on population and reproductive health analysis.