UNFPA Bolivia started the preparations for the Population Situation Analysis in mid September 2006 following the conceptual and methodological guidelines provided by the Manual for the Population Situation Analysis (henceforth “the Manual”).
The UNFPA office in Bolivia believes that the preparation process for the PSA was a success inasmuch as politically it allowed for the successful (albeit not always trouble-free) development of the joint work with the Bolivian government and other relevant actors that led to a sharper focus on population-related issues, and technically made it possible to assess Bolivia’s performance with regard to population and development.
The process of dialogue with the government was successfully implemented with the support of the former Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean of UNFPA, Ms. Marisela Padrón, through who an initial high-level contact with the Ministry of Planning, UNFPA’s main counterpart in the areas of population and development, was established.
The nature of the National Development Plan (NDP) presented by the incoming government in June 2006 and the government’s interest in receiving sectoral inputs and feedback for the purpose of fine-tuning the NDP as well as developing sectoral plans and policies were responsible for two key features of Bolivia’s PSA that distinguished the latter analysis from the structure proposed by the manual:
1) An effort was made to identify relevant aspects of the relationship between population and territory and environment in order to ensure that the PSA was as compatible as possible with the concept of development as expressed in the concept of “good life “ postulated in the NDP that envisaged human beings — who are, after all, the subject of the population analysis exercise — as living in harmony with nature and within a territorial community; and 2) a decision was taken to structure the analytical part (the key section of the document) using an approach that assesses the relationships between demographic dynamics and sectors. Issues such as the relationship between “population and health” and “population and education” have been evaluated. The main purpose of these adjustments was to lay the groundwork for meaningful national ownership of the PSA document.
The process of conducting the PSA in Bolivia called for a considerable effort from the national office of UNFPA, which accounted for the bulk of the work involved in the technical drafting of the text; not to mention ongoing efforts in the area of technical and political outreach, a sphere in which the greatest challenges have been addressed.
Lessons learned from the preparation process of the PSA
a. Flexibility is Necessary
The manual proposes a structure for the analysis that is well-suited for the task of determining the population situation in a particular country.
In the case of the PSA in Bolivia, the urgent need to enlist the necessary national ownership for the analysis document demanded the adoption of a different structure, characterized by sub-sections analyzing population phenomena with regard to specific sectors, incorporating the study of trends and inequalities in the analysis. Also, needs and selected focus of the government for the study (population, territory and environment) made it imperative to address certain issues in areas where UNFPA does not have a specific mandate. This shows the importance of flexibility to meet analytical and research challenges and the need for partnership in addressing these issues.
b. Multi-disciplinary Team is Required
The PSA Bolivia had been developed in a period during which various technical offices of the government found themselves in the process of preparing sectoral standards or plans. In this context, the experience of Bolivia demonstrated that offices in the public sector that had been designated as counterparts were confronted with resource constraints, mainly regarding time, necessary to undertake a joint task of analysis and revision.
Moreover, it is imperative to stand ready to implement a consistent strategy in preparing the technical sections of the document in their entirety and relying to a greater extent on a process of feedback and validation. For this purpose, the ideal course of action would be to have a multi-disciplinary team in place that is well equped with knowledge on the subjects addressed in the study, generally available in UNFPA offices.
c. External Advisory Services are Important
The experience of Bolivia showed the importance of having access to permanent inputs from qualified external advisors, in our case the Population Division of ECLAC (CELADE) (in particular in the beginning of the process, project RLA5P201 for the development of specific sections of work and the country support team (CST) to review the document and to provide feedback in order to fine-tune the contents of the text).
In this context it is advisable, for the team responsible for the development of the PSA, to pursue a similar strategy, with 1) an initial project (with CELADE or CST) that permits the preparation of a general overview of the focus and possible contents of the study after a review of national priorities; and, 2) a feedback exercise after a major change had been made in the text (ideally with CELADE, CST and RLA5P201). The reader’s attention is drawn in particular to the preparation of section IV in the PSA due to its highly specialized character, requires assistance from specialized advisors.
Lastly, given the track record of preparing the PSA in two countries, consideration should be given to the possibility of establishing mechanisms for the provision of horizontal advisory services (between countries).
d. Analysis Can Generate Responses but also Raise more Questions
In the experience of Bolivia, the PSA is a process allowing the country as a whole the identification of an important and substantial agenda for research and for the generation of socio-demographic information.
UNFPA Bolivia perceives the implementation of this agenda as a continuous process of analysis and political dialogue with regard to population and development issues.
Lessons Learned Regarding the Process of Political Dialogue
e. Defining a Dialogue Strategy is Important
The manual clearly points to the need for mapping relevant actors involved in the dialogue process and for development of a plan for such dialogue.
The experience gained in the preparation of the PSA Bolivia reinforced the conception that this is a critical task. At the same time, it showed that depending on the particular conditions prevailing within each country, it could be necessary to adopt different strategies that might be referred to as “centralized strategies” or “decentralized strategies”.
In countries in which UNFPA has a very strong natural counterpart, maximum effort is required in order to enlist the support of the local counterpart authority. In the case of Bolivia, a decision was made to work not only in a coordinate manner, but also together, with the Ministry of Planning of Development, UNFPA’s main counterpart. The working hypothesis was that the Ministry of Planning could coordinate dialogue with the relevant sectors of the government.
Due to exogenous factors on a considerable scale the government agency experienced difficulties in undertaking the work involved in preparing the PSA: a) the beginning of the preparation process for the PSA coincided with the fine-tuning stage for the National Development Plan (NDP), b) the Ministry of Planning confronted a period of institutional instability (three Ministers in one year, change of vice-ministers and others), and c) the Ministry of Planning had been in charge of designing and implementing the three main social programmes proposed by the new government.
In this context, a decision was made to begin the joint work by engaging in dialogue at technical-sectoral level that, without neglecting technical progress, did not exceed the political authority of the main counterpart. Thus, based on interviews with vice-ministers and directors, progress was made in the process of giving feedback on the initial results achieved by the drafting team, with the ultimate aim of conducting validation workshops with technical civil-servants and authorities.
f. Identifying National Priorities is Crucial
The population analysis exercise was significantly facilitated by the existence of a National Development Plan which, having been recently formulated and having a high profile, made it possible to engage in dialogue about population-related issues within a common framework. Also, in the area of sectoral work, the development of the analysis was simplified in the cases in which sectoral plans were already available, or at least in the preparation.
g. Comparing Notes May be Necessary
Depending on the political realities within each country, the prevailing conditions, and the available resources, it may be necessary to prioritize dialogue with certain actors.
In the case of the PSA Bolivia, a decision was made to opt for the strategy of maximizing efforts to pursue dialogue with the two major actors at the present time; the government and the constituent assembly.
At the same time, as part of the programmatic work of UNFPA, that provided direct input for the drafting of the text, efforts began to pursue dialogue with grass-roots organizations, for example with reference to the reappraisal of gender from a multicultural perspective, diverse dialogues addressing the constitutionalization of sexual and reproductive rights, dialogues aimed at inclusion and participation of adolescents and young people in local/municipal planning exercises focusing on the rights of citizens.
Mainly due to time constraints, dialogue was not extended to sub-national levels of government, academia or non-governmental organizations, although there are plans to develop the process of dialogue with national and international actors in the future.
h. A Working Agenda should be Established after the PSA Report
The most important lesson learned both in the process of technical drafting and political dialogue, which are in reality no more than two aspects of a single process, is: What to do after the presentation of the PSA report? In the case of Bolivia, in short and medium terms, a working agenda with the government had been established incorporating those emerging issues in the technical-political dialogue. In the view of key actors the following issues should be addressed in greater and more specialized detail: internal and international migration, migration of the young and adolescent population, adolescence pregnancy, the relationship between territory and population, the relationship between population and the environment and cultural and ethnic diversity in urban or peripheral urban context. Also, action is being taken with respect to those guidelines or action strategies identified as priorities for implementation in the short term, such as the implementation of the National Survey of Demographics and Health 2007/2008 and the initiation of preparatory tasks for the National Census of Population and Housing in 2010.
Comments on Available Methodological Instruments
In the experience of Bolivia, the manual has proven itself to be an instrument that provides exceptionally useful guidance in the performance of research, both in conceptual terms and in regard to issues pertaining to content, analytical methodology and sources of information which were consulted for the study.
Moreover, the application of the manual to the case of the PSA Bolivia has shown that the manual can serve as a flexible instrument that can be tailored to individual structures that differ from the general PSA, as occurs in the case of Bolivia.
On account of these considerations, apart from small adjustments related to these findings, the manual is a suitable instrument for performing regional population situation analyses.
Furthermore, it is advisable to indicate and suggest that the document showcases the conclusions of the World Summit in 2005, particularly with respect to complementing the MDGs regarding universal access to RH services.
In the same fashion, a more specific methodology for analyzing the extent of compliance with international commitments (ICPD, MDG, Beijing, etc.) has been suggested.
Finally, it is recommended to incorporate an appendix including recommendations on possible future work with regard to those issues that need to be studied in further detail. Also, with regard to the guidelines or action strategies identified as priorities for implementation in short or medium term further work will be necessary.
109 Prepared by the Bolivia Country Office, September 2007.