The UNICEF Municipal Seal of Approval is a strategy to make children and adolescents a priority in public policies across the Brazilian Semiarid and Amazon Regions, by building and strengthening the capacities of duty bearers and rights holders at the municipal level. It is an acknowledgement granted to the municipalities of a given State that, after enrolling voluntarily, have significantly improved the situation of children and adolescents in a given period. It is based on the CRC, MDGs and MTSPs and leads to three types of changes: (i) in the lives of children and adolescents; (ii) in public policy management; and (iii) in social participation. When a municipality enrolls in the Seal, it commits to undertake a number of actions in order to achieve specific objectives, related to the areas of education, health and protection – which also encompasses environmental protection. Progress is measured through specific, achievable and timely indicators. The two underlying ideas of the UNICEF Seal are: (i) that by strengthening public policies, by stimulating healthy competition among participating municipalities and by giving recognition and visibility to the work of municipal leaders, the quality of public services will be enhanced, leading to an improved wellbeing of children and adolescents; and (ii) that by building strong partnerships with governments’ different sectors and spheres and non-governmental organizations it is possible, even with few resources, to achieve widespread results for children without developing countless projects. In concrete terms, through trainings, workshops, publications, newsletters, website and social participation activities, UNICEF works with federal, state, and municipal governments to promote a culture of results – based planning, monitoring, evaluation and communication aimed at influencing public policies and achieving concrete results for children and adolescents.
History and context
The UNICEF Municipal Seal of Approval is a strategy that was first implemented in the year 1999 in the State of Ceará, located in the Northeastern Region of Brazil. In 2005 it was expanded to the 11 states of the Brazilian Semiarid, and in 2009 to all states of the Legal Amazon. The methodology was also adapted for use in low-income communities in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo in 2008 and 2009. In Brazil, in order to influence the design of public policies for children it is essential to work and be present at all three governmental levels: federal, state and municipal. For this reason, the Seal was developed under the umbrella of a national pact led by UNICEF, known as “A World Fit For Children in the Brazilian Semiarid Region”, that was signed by the President of the Republic, all State Governors of the Semiarid Region (11 in total), over 60 civil society organizations, private sector representatives and Ministries. Since 2008, similar pacts have been created in the Amazon and in the large urban centers of Rio and São Paulo.
The Seal initiative monitors and evaluates the municipality’s performance during a period of 31/2 years by looking at three areas: Social Impact, Public Policy Management and Social Participation. The Social Impact area evaluates 9 goals directly related to the MDGs, which are monitored using 13 indicators, focusing on health, education, and protection (including environmental protection). The above goals are related to municipal action and programmes implemented and managed by the municipality, whose progress is monitored and assessed, qualitatively and quantitatively, through 19 indicators related to Public Policy Management. The qualitative part is a self-evaluation process carried out by the municipalities themselves. Public administrators, representatives of civil society and members of the community (including adolescents) make a diagnosis of the situation during an initial Community Forum; they go on to define a plan for action, which involves prioritizing concrete actions, setting responsibilities and fixing deadlines; to finally assess progress made in a final Community Forum at the end of the period. This process is coordinated by the Municipal Council for the Rights of Children and Adolescents (CMDCA), following UNICEF’s orientations.
The aim of Social Participation is to promote the involvement of children, adolescents and the community in mobilizing municipalities around the realization of children’s rights, related to three specific themes: (i) Art, Culture and Communication to Preserve Ethnic & Racial Diversity; (ii) Sports and Citizenship; (iii) Education for Life in the Semiarid; or, in the Amazon Region, (iii) Climate Change and its Impact on the Lives of Children and Adolescents. For each social participation topic, several products are prepared, including school programmes, social mappings, newspapers, blogs, photo boards, etc., that are assessed by external experts based on pre-defined sets of criteria.
Certified municipalities can use the UNICEF Municipal Seal of Approval trademark up until the next edition of the Seal is awarded. The trademark can be included in the municipality’s publicity materials, on public buildings and vehicles, during events, with office materials, for fundraising material, etc. A users’ manual is sent to the award winning municipalities showing them how to properly use the Seal trademark and visual identification.
The UNICEF Seal in 10 steps:
1. UNICEF mobilizes the government, NGOs and the media and invites municipalities to join the initiative aimed at improving a set of indicators linked to the MDGs over a 31/2 year period;
→ At the municipal level, enrolled municipalities designate someone to act as a liaison between UNICEF and municipal teams;
2. Enrolled municipalities are clustered into groups, divided by States, taking into consideration a composite index made up of social indicators that reflect the living conditions of children, weighted by a factor related to the municipality's wealth to guarantee a more equitable comparison;
→ At the municipal level, enrolled municipalities set up a commission to coordinate the efforts of the different areas – particularly Health, Education and Social Services – directly involved in the implementation of public policies geared towards children and adolescents;
3. UNICEF sends each participating municipality the baseline data for each indicator, collected through the official data systems. Municipalities can then see where they stand compared to the other municipalities in their cluster;
→ At the municipal level, the commissions organize intersectorial meetings to assess the situation based on the available indicators and to define the actions and resources (human and financial) needed to improve each one of them;
4. Working through partners, UNICEF engages municipalities in a series of capacity building exercises that emphasize intersectorial collaboration to improve the coverage and quality of the services delivered; to use data in decision making; and to monitor progress;
→ At the municipal level, enrolled municipalities generally organize a public ceremony to launch the Seal, which marks the beginning of the process of social mobilization and communication for the rights of children and adolescents;
5. Municipalities carry out intersectorial activities, including the organization of two community forums (one diagnostic and one evaluative) and social participation projects;
→ At the municipal level, enrolled municipalities mobilize schools to get teachers, students and their families involved in the different social participation activities of the Seal;
6. Adolescents participate by contributing to situation analysis, identifying priority areas of action, implementing social participation projects, producing communication materials and mobilizing their peers and community to participate;
→ At the municipal level, adolescents are stimulated to become active participants in the different processes of the Seal, including the diagnosis of the situation, definition of priority actions and communication to local communities;
7. Federal, state and municipal partners commit to join forces to improve the situation of children and adolescents. This is done mainly through the signing of the pact. – UNICEF plays a crucial role in brokering partnerships between the various levels of the Union;
→ At the municipal level, enrolled municipalities coordinate their actions with state and federal programmes, trying to harmonize the information they collect locally with the ones provided by the official data systems;
8. At the end of the period, all the information collected from official data systems and the municipalities themselves, including the results of the community forums and social participation projects, are analyzed by independent evaluators;
→ At the municipal level, municipal commissions send UNICEF the reports of all the activities undertaken during the 31/2 year period; It is important to note that, all along, enrolled municipalities communicate to UNICEF the activities they are undertaking and the successes they are achieving through the mail, e-mails and postings on the Seal website;
9. Each municipality receives a score based on its achieved results in the three sections: (i) Social Impact; (ii) Public Policy Management; and (iii) Social Participation. Municipalities that achieve the best results by reaching a certain score in each section are entitled to receive the Seal. In general, municipalities awarded represent up to 20% of the enrolled municipalities;
→ At the municipal level, municipal commissions review their scores and data, ask for clarifications and analyze the results achieved to adjust their actions;
10. Finally, Municipalities are awarded with the Seal and receive a trophy in a widely publicized–and often very emotional–event with the media and major partners, including State Governors and even the President.
→ Awarded municipalities use the Seal trademark up until the end of the next edition of the Seal.