Supporting access to justice, fostering peace and equity (SAFE) program (2018)
Rose Azuba – Team Leader, Abby Sebina-Zziwa, Joseph Muhumuza, Katherine Vittum
The Supporting Access to Justice, Fostering Peace and Equity (SAFE) program, a $15 million Activity, was implemented from 2012 to 2017 by the National Center for State Courts (NCSC) in partnership with Search for Common Ground and its consortium partners in 20 districts of Uganda. The 5-year program implemented with an additional one-year no-cost extension was designed to “strengthen peace building and conflict mitigation in Uganda by improving access to justice on land matters and enhancing peace and reconciliation in conflict-prone regions.” Its overall goals were to mitigate conflicts related to land, the discovery of oil, and cultural and ethnic diversity, to address the residual effects of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) conflict in northern Uganda, and to transform emerging conflicts into peaceful outcomes. The SAFE program was implemented through two distinct but mutually reinforcing components that sought to i) strengthen access to justice by focusing on institutions, processes, and services of land administration, and ii) foster peace and equity with a focus on enhancing peace and reconciliation mechanisms.
The purpose of this end-of-term evaluation was two-fold: a) to inform the design of future conflict and land activities; and b) to learn and develop best practices for adaptive Activity management, including relevant approaches to grantee management. The evaluation addressed the following questions:
(i) To what extent did the Activity achieve its objectives as set out in the SOW?
(ii) To what extent did the theory of change (ToC), approaches and assumptions clearly relate to the SAFE objectives?
(iii) To what extent was the management of SAFE adaptive?
For the logical flow of this evaluation, the findings in Evaluation Question 2 (EQ2) will be presented first, followed by the findings in EQ1. This SAFE evaluation employed qualitative methods, informed by an examination of the theory of change. The evaluation covered 9 of the 26 districts (35%) where the SAFE program was implemented. The ET reviewed findings from Activity reports, which were used to inform the evaluation design and approach to data collection. The findings were validated by data gathered from the field. The sources of information included district officials and leaders, members of Land Administrative Institutions (LAIs), both formal and informal, implementers, other government officials, and other national-level land actors.
Since the conflict landscape in Uganda is very dynamic and fragile, SAFE was designed to adapt and respond quickly to a changing context. The interventions were focused on training, sensitizing and convening stakeholders and citizens to resolve conflicts peacefully and to strengthen formal and informal institutions to ensure conflicts were mitigated. By working simultaneously on strengthening the supply and demand side in land management, and by forming reconciliation platforms, a foundation for long lasting peace would be built.
The evaluation team found that SAFE mostly met its targets, in some cases well and beyond. The number of people trained, legal aid services delivered, publications and peace messages disseminated, and reconciliation groups formed have been sufficient to generate several positive outcomes. These include citizens being more satisfied with land-related services, land administration institutions becoming more functional, and increased use of citizens using peaceful dispute resolution mechanisms. The program generated both intended and unintended outcomes that will allow for learning and continued 2 peace building efforts in beneficiary communities and at USAID. Key indicators that measured outcomes prove that SAFE was a successful program and achieved expected outcomes in the geographic areas where it operated.
SAFE also proved to be adaptive, especially in solving bottlenecks and problems that were encountered by beneficiaries and grantees. However, most adaptations were implementation adaptations and did not reach planning tools such as the Performance Management Plan (PMP) which could have initiated course correction decisions to guide strategic planning on how to address larger structural problems.
One of the three outcomes that SAFE identified for the program in the PMP was to foster an enabling environment to mitigate conflicts through efficient mechanisms and systems for fair resolution of landrelated disputes and service delivery. The Evaluation Team found that the enabling environment at large prevented SAFE from achieving objectives beyond peaceful conflict resolutions in the targeted areas. For example, skepticism among some local stakeholders prevented buy-in and the larger justice system was not in tune with supporting the gains in peaceful resolutions on the ground. Even if disputes were solved in the targeted areas, and trust restored for local efforts, the referral system was only partial receptive and functional to allow for the objective of access to justice to be achieved. In short, SAFE achieved its objectives in the two components of the Results Framework, but there was no evidence of those gains translating into sustainable access to justice and peace.
A fully developed and periodically tested Theory of Change would have allowed SAFE to anticipate and plan for how to address external factors that prevented the gains to be turned into sustainable peace. By identifying programmatic and contextual assumptions, the challenges that SAFE was unable to solve with an ad-hoc adaptive approach could have been addressed strategically to either allow for more sustainable outcomes or allow for course correction to limit the scope. There was a debate between the Implementing Partner and USAID/Uganda on whether the overall scope was to improve access to justice or to access to land justice in targeted areas. By identifying some missing outcome indicators that combined the two components and clarifying the relationships between the components, these uncertainties would have been solved.
A well-developed theory of change that guides implementation would also have allowed for even larger gains in the targeted areas. When SAFE interventions were synchronized and simultaneously supported supply and demand, the overall objectives were met. A theory of change to allow for synchronization was clear in the Results Framework for component 1. However, if the lessons from these results had been transferred to a theory of change for the entire framework, SAFE could have thought through the geographic locations of the interventions to ensure maximum impact of limited resources. Synergies between components 1 and 2 were not leveraged to allow for even better results and higher impact.