UNITED NATIONS CHILDREN'S FUND, UNITED NATIONS DEVELOPMENT PROGRAMME, UNITED NATIONS POPULATION FUND
Background and Organization. In 2004, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Development Programme (UNDP) and Population Fund (UNFPA) in Paraguay were alarmed by the statement from the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean that the country will not achieve the Millennium Development Goals by the 2015 deadline. This scenario is likely due to the deep economic crisis: high fiscal deficit, potential cessation of payments, increasing unemployment and poverty. Despite this situation, policymakers and other voices that influence public opinion argued that social expenditure levels in Paraguay had been at excessive levels, particularly on education. On the other hand, a Country Common Assessment (CCA) and Situation Analysis (SITAN) confirmed the opposite: low priority was being given to social investment.
Faced with a crisis, inevitable failure to achieve the MDGs and a public calling for more transparent budgetary practices, the president’s economic team prioritized economic growth and transparency in the new administration. The groups saw the entry point in this situation, and partnered with the United Nations Development Programme and the United Nations Population Fund in a program called “Social Expenditure – Investing in People.”
Activities and Tools.
The joint program, “Investing in People” provides information on social spending in Paraguay through an Excel spreadsheet that can be downloaded through the program’s website at www.gastosocial.org
. The spreadsheet presents the budget as it is divided by governmental branch (executive, legislative and judicial), and across various government departments and agencies. Bulletins with commentary on the budget and other analysis that make the information practical to the average reader are also downloadable.
Aside from serving as a free information provider, the program also uses its data and analyses to advocate for increased public social expenditure. Its advocacy strategy is to facilitate agreements and build consensus in budgetary decisions that take into consideration those that might need most assistance from the government but not necessarily have strong enough a voice to demand for it.
Last, the program is also committed to support a government initiative, the Information and Management System of Paraguay (SIGPA), which has the potential to guide the efficient and equitable management of Paraguay’s public resources. SIGPA´s objective is to monitor whether economic and social policies are effective in improving the living conditions of the Paraguayan people and in promoting human development.
Roles of Actors. While only three United Nations organizations have ownership over the innovation, the program relies on the government’s continued policy for transparent budget practices. Further, the innovators’ decision to share raw budgetary information, while often accompanied by budget briefs, encourages other groups to take advantage of the available data.
Impact and Learning. During the first phase of the program, it worked in the dissemination of information on social investment, advocating for its increase by the State. The programme has managed to widely make known the concept of social investment and has produced abundant information and materials specific for various audiences, such as the general public and decision makers.
The work of advocacy, including socialization and visibility of the MDGs, the calculation of gaps and cost estimates has contributed to raise the share of central government budget dedicated to social expenditure from 46% in 2006 to 48% in 2008.
The agreement signed by the Programme with the Social Cabinet ministries with respect to SIGPA implementation has allowed the production of information for decision-making on integral, targeted public policies. In turn, this has contributed to foster a cross-cutting view of social policy actions among the various ministries.
In the near future, the data collected in 82 districts of the country and the results of the School and Food Habits Programme will make it possible to pinpoint the effects of the financial crisis on the population and how effective the government’s palliative measures have been.
A significant contribution is being made through the development of a single registry of social programmes beneficiaries (RUB), as a module of SIGPA. This allowed the conditional cash transfer Tekoporã Programme to rapidly expand its coverage from around 13,000 to 100,000 families, almost reaching the government’s goal of 120,000 for 2009. Information obtained through SIGPA on the profile of Tekoporã’s beneficiaries has been used to demonstrate that the programme effectively reaches people living under the worst conditions in the country.
Sustainability. The three UN groups responsible for the innovation commits to continuously monitor resources allocated to social investment. Still, their work encourages a greater participation of the public in the budgetary process in Paraguay and in monitoring the country’s progress towards achieving the MDGs.
Contact Person Andrés Osorio
Phone +595 21 611 007/8 - 608 644
Fax +595 21 611 015