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Synthesis of evidence and lessons on country capacity strengthening from decentralized evaluations
This synthesis comprises 32 decentralized evaluations completed between 2016 and 2019 that included country capacity strengthening (CSS) among other WFP activities.

The objectives were to: i) draw lessons from evaluations on CSS; ii) assess WFP performance and results of CCS interventions; iii) identify common themes and systemic issues relating to the design and implementation of CCS interventions; and, iv) provide insights for country offices designing CCS interventions in Country Strategic Plans.

The synthesis affirmed the importance of CCS to the achievement of WFP’s objectives, particularly in supporting countries to strengthen their capacities in food security and nutrition. The evaluations provide indications of long-term positive capacity change as a result of CCS interventions. However, WFP uneven monitoring and under-reporting of CCS achievements affects its ability to identify and showcase results and strengthen its own learning.

The synthesis identified several lessons aimed at strengthening WFP's engagement with state and non-state actors: (i) systems for CCS knowledge management and performance measurement are needed to enable continual improvement; (ii) conducting capacity needs assessments or utilizing existing data at the design phase could increase the scope and usefulness of CCS interventions; (iii) combining advocacy with technical advice that is aligned with national government frameworks for transformative change; (iv) synergies between CCS across all three domains; (v) collaborating with partners, including other United Nations agencies, and establishing (where appropriate) clear transition plans and agreements prior to transition help to sustain results.

The synthesis made five recommendations.

Key findings

Relevance of country capacity strengthening (CCS) interventions
The analysis showed that CCS is integral to WFP interventions and approaches, regardless of programme or region and their design closely aligned with national priorities. Improved identification of specific capacity needs and attention to local context would have increased the relevance of CCS interventions.
Results of CCS interventions
WFP contributes mostly to strengthening the capacities of state actors at the organizational level. The synthesis also found evidence of results achieved in the individual domain, but less so at the level of the enabling environment. The analysis of qualitative evidence showed that more results were achieved than formally reported. Indeed only 13 evaluations included some CCS monitoring data and only four stated that monitoring was satisfactory. This reflects a gap in expertise in relation to the design, measurement and implementation of CCS interventions. Effectiveness related to gender equality or empowerment was mixed, with more extensive reporting of results at outputs rather than outcome levels. Eight evaluations demonstrated achievement of gender-sensitive implementation targets and 13 evaluations provided partial evidence of CCS-related gender-sensitive outcomes. Few evaluations had any evidence regarding how CCS interventions related to protection or accountability to affected populations.
Factors contributing to or hindering CCS success
Strong and trusted partnerships underpinned CCS success in all evaluations analyzed. Long-term investments in relationships with institutional and organizational partners and adaptation to local context were also critical to achieving positive results. Whereas evaluations in the sample did not make explicit reference to the pathways identified in the 2017 CCS framework, the principles of partnership, ownership, trust, recognition of existing capacity and needs, and time required to develop self sufficient capacity for transition were identified in the evaluations as necessary for successful CCS interventions. Hindering factors to CCS success included weak and inconsistent monitoring, lack of expertise, embedding of capacity strengthening and of resources for promoting CCS.
Sustainability of CCS interventions
The extent to which CCS has contributed to sustainable positive changes in capacity is difficult to assess due to a lack of clearly articulated CCS objectives across the interventions, combined with inadequate monitoring. However, some evaluations did demonstrate positive contributions to sustainability through robust transition planning, formal documentation of sustainability arrangements, and the preparation of budgets and adequate staff in place for continued operations. Where appropriate, transition plans identifying clear roles and responsibilities as well as arrangements to ensure sustainability need to be prepared.