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Frequently asked questions

UNDP supports countries to implement large scale health programmes—including accessing some of the most hard-to-reach populations and strengthening institutions to deliver essential services in challenging and high-risk country contexts. On this page you can find some of the most frequently asked questions.

About capacity development

Understanding capacity development

What is capacity development?

Capacity development is a process of change to improve systems for health, to strengthen performance and ensure their resilience and sustainability. It assesses how the health system is currently working, and what areas need support; for example: developing and implementing health information systems; developing policies and procedures for strong financial management; and improving the supply and distribution of key health products

Why should we do capacity development?

UNDP’s commitment to strengthening health systems is based on the principle that health is both a driver and outcome of development, and that actions across a wide range of sustainable development goals have a significant impact on health outcomes. Capacity development aims to strengthen national systems and procedures to ensure stronger programme implementation and better health outcomes.

How do we do effective capacity development?

Central to the UNDP capacity development strategy is a strong focus on strengthening national systems for health. Implementation is delivered by national governments, national coordinating bodies, such as national AIDS councils, civil society organisations and private sector entities. UNDP works with these national implementing partners to identify capacity gaps in systems, develop plans to address these gaps and support implementation of capacity development plans. UNDP’s approach ensures a participatory process, and uses tools and methods which have been tested in a wide variety of environments.

What areas should we think about when planning capacity development?

UNDP focuses on strengthening national systems for health, to ensure that country infrastructure, systems and procedures are enhanced in key focus areas vital to a strong health system. This includes:

The process of capacity development

What is the process to do capacity development?

Capacity development aims to strengthen national systems and procedures to ensure stronger programme implementation and better health outcomes. The Capacity development process involves various stages, including agreeing on what the capacity development programme will focus on; assessing what is in place; developing a plan through a participatory process; and implementing and evaluating capacity development programmes.

What are the key factors to ensure successful capacity development?

The success of any capacity-development programme is very dependent on the culture, context, and circumstances of the country, organization, and individuals involved, so the process should be adjusted to the country context as required.

Central to the UNDP Capacity Development Strategy is a strong focus on strengthening national systems for health, in order to build resilience and to ensure greater sustainability.

The most important success factor is national support and ownership to drive planning and implementation, led by national leaders who are empowered and willing to change structures and processes in order to improve health systems performance.

UNDP’s approach ensures a participatory process, and uses tools and methods which have been tested in a wide variety of environments.

Programme management

Why is programme management important?

Effective programme management aims to deliver health services that are safe, accessible, high quality, people-centred, and integrated. Strengthening programme management leads to better health outcomes.

Effective and efficient programme management should ensure that programme planning and implementation respect the underlying principles of equality and non-discrimination, in order to achieve universal health coverage. Activities should be implemented in such a way that all those in need of information and services can access them irrespective of age, gender, social status and sexual orientation.

How do we do effective programme management?

1Assess the best models for service delivery based on national plans and stakeholder dialogue
2Ensure that enough health workers are trained and motivated to meet countries' needs
3Collect and analyse relevant reliable data to inform decision making
4Guarantee essential medicines and other health technologies are safe, effective and affordable
5Budget and monitor expenditure
6Manage and support other implementing partners
7Relate programme achievements back to national health strategies and plans to ensure the optimal use of available country resources
Stakeholder involvement

What support should we think about to strengthen programme management?

UNDP focuses on strengthening national systems, to ensure that country infrastructure, systems, and procedures are enhanced in key focus areas vital to a strong health system.

Capacity development to strengthen programme management should focus on:

  • programme design, using national plans, which lead to rigorous programmes which deliver quality results against a plan, but are flexible enough for continued renewal of focus and adaptation to change
  • relevant policy development to ensure an enabling environment to programme implementation
  • involvement of key country stakeholders, such as civil society, at all stages during implementation
  • the set up and operationalization of functional management and governance structures
  • the development of human resource strategies and plans
  • clear systems to ensure that information is gathered and analysed to inform decision making
  • strong systems to manage implementing partners
  • clear links between programme management and financial management functions to ensure review of programmatic versus financial data, and the optimal use of available resources
  • strong links to procurement systems to guarantee effective supply of health products

Financial management

What is financial management?

Financial management involves planning, organizing, directing and controlling the financial activities of the organization.

In addition to managing the short term cashflow needs, financial management includes budgeting, systems, procedures and controls to protect an organizations’ financial assets, as well as ensuring sufficient relevant and reliable information for good decision making.

Do effective financial controls prevent fraud?

Strong financial controls can dramatically reduce the likelihood of fraud. Good internal financial controls can be broadly categorized into two types of activity.

  1. Preventive: Preventive control activities aim to deter the instance of errors or fraud.
  2. Detective: Detective control activities identify undesirable "occurrences" after the fact.

Source: Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (2018). Report to the Nations. 2018: Global Study on Occupational Fraud and Abuse.

What is an audit?

An audit may be defined as “the expression of an opinion by the auditor on whether the financial statements are prepared, in all material respects, in accordance with an applicable financial reporting framework.” i Ideally, an audit should be conducted in line with International Standards on Auditing (ISAs) to enable the auditor to give their audit opinion.

In addition to giving an opinion on the financial statements, an audit conducted in accordance with ISAs requires the auditor to understand the relevant internal control systems in order to identify and assess the risks of material misstatement. This does not in any way change management’s responsibility for designing and implementing sufficient effective internal controls, however, through the terms of reference and audit engagement letter, an organization may specifically request the auditors to review the systems and processes in place and express an opinion on them.

Health information systems

Why are health information systems important?

Sound and reliable information is the foundation of decision-making across the health system. Understanding the progress of the health of populations and the performance and quality of health care systems requires the ability to monitor individuals over time, as they receive treatments, and experience improvements or deteriorations in their health.

Good governance of a health system requires reliable, timely information. Decision makers need to know whether or not people are getting the services they need and where resources are going.

Information is used in a wide range of situations: when developing national strategies and plans; when monitoring progress against national priorities; or when ensuring accountability for results.

What is a health information system?

A health information system includes all health data sources, including health facility and community data, electronic health records for patient care, population-based data, human resources information, financial information, supply chain information, and surveillance information, along with the use and communication of this information.

A well-functioning health information system should:

  • generate information from district level routine information systems, disease surveillance systems, and also laboratory/procurement information systems, hospital patient administration systems and human resource management information systems
  • detect events that threaten public health security
  • synthesise and communicate information for use in planning and implementation

Figure: The Six Components of a Health Information System. Source: Health Metrics Network ‘Framework and Standards for Country Health Information Systems ‘WHO 2012

Data Sources
Data Management
Information Products
Dissemination and Use

UNDP focuses on strengthening national systems, to ensure that country infrastructure, systems, and procedures are enhanced in key focus areas vital to a strong health system.

What support should we think about to strengthen Health Information Systems?

Capacity development to strengthen health information systems should focus on:

  • improving the enabling environment and robust collaboration between health and other sectors
  • strengthening health information workforce skills and their capacity for using data
  • aligning investments from development partners and national institutions to integrate data, monitoring and accountability into one plan and one budget, with one system to collect and manage the data during implementation
  • using the power of information and communication technology to improve the availability, completeness, timeliness, quality, and use of data for decision-making in health
  • ensuring health information is provided to decision makers at all levels for improving health policy, systems and services
  • strengthening national oversight mechanisms for key indicators of national health targets, and goals and mechanisms for regular transparent reviews to assess progress against national health sector targets

Law, rights and policy

What are critical enablers?

Laws, policies, human rights and gender equality all affect the health of vulnerable and key populations. Critical enablers are activities and policies that aim to address this. They create enabling law, rights and policy frameworks, protect human rights and promote gender equality, to support effective health programmes that reach all populations in need.

Who are vulnerable and key populations?

Vulnerable and key populations include populations living in poverty without access to safe housing, water, sanitation or nutrition, those who are marginalized, discriminated against and even criminalized in law, policy and practice. Three of the world’s most serious communicable diseases—HIV, TB and malaria—disproportionately affect key populations least able to protect their rights and access non-discriminatory, quality and affordable health care and social services.

How can you create enabling law, rights and policy frameworks (for health)?

Countries can identify, advocate and develop programmes to respond to stigma, discrimination, gender-based violence and other human rights and gender-related barriers that place the health of vulnerable and key populations at risk. For example, law reform or training and sensitising health workers are useful ways to reduce discriminatory laws and practices that create barriers to health care.

How can UNDP help you?

UNDP works with key partners to support strengthened national, regional and international efforts to promote human rights, reduce gender inequality and promote the health and development of all persons. Support may include, amongst other things, generating evidence developing guidance, policy advice and technical support, supporting empowered multi-stakeholder participation and engagement and building the capacity of strengthened institutions for effective, rights-based responses to health.


What is transition?

The sustainable handover or “transition” of programmes being managed by UNDP to national entities can be one of the results of capacity development processes.

In some countries UNDP acts as a channel for donor funding to reach the implementation level, onward granting to both government bodies and civil society organizations. During this time capacity development activities are implemented with the aim of transitioning management and implementation of these programmes to national entities once capacity in the national organization is strong.

What is the process for transition?

The initial stage of transition involves developing the capacity of the national organizations and systems, to ensure stronger programme implementation.

Following the development of capacity, a joint transition strategy and plan should be developed to gradually transition the grant management role in a planned manner—with national entities gradually taking over the responsibilities as their capacity is strengthened. It is vital that any handover of health programmes must be managed well in order to avoid disruptions to service delivery and essential treatment to patients.

What are the keys to successful transition?

As with capacity development it is essential to ensure national ownership of the process and the results. This leadership should also form part of the oversight of the transition process, along with other key stakeholders.

A participatory process is vital to engage stakeholders and partners in conducting evidence-based assessments and planning.

The timing of the stages in transition should be guided by defined capacity development ‘milestones’ within an agreed timeline. A longer period of support may be needed for transitioning the procurement of health products including medicines and laboratory diagnostics. It can help to use a phased approach to transition to mitigate risk, and develop resilient health programmes.

UNDP’s approach to transition ensures a participatory process, and uses tools and methods which have been tested in a wide variety of environments.

What areas should we think about when planning transition?

The detailed transition plan should list the activities that are required to transition the grant and the timeline. It should include the following:

  • all activities needed for transitioning the grant management from UNDP to one or more national entities
  • if the transition plan is integrated with a capacity development plan, details of the capacity milestones to be achieved that will allow transition of specific activities or full functions to sustainable country systems
  • risk mmitigation activities to improve resilience of systems and to minimize the risk of moving services, in particular to avoid disruptions in treatment

The capacity development plan which supports the transition should assess capacity in the national systems for health, to ensure that country infrastructure, systems, and procedures are enhanced and develop milestones in the following areas:

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