1.3. Build an HDR Team and Related Structures

Establish the main structures associated with the production of the HDR. These include management structures, the core national or regional report team (the HDR team) and internal partnership and consultative mechanisms (table 1). Though the names of the specific entities may vary, these types of structures have been used in most HDR processes. It will be up to the lead institution, the HDR team, the steering committee, or some other entity that has been assigned executive authority to determine the precise mechanisms that are the most appropriate in a given context.

Table 1: Organigram of the HDR Team and Related Structures
Management structures Lead institution (government, independent institution, or UNDP) Steering committee (HDR process supervision, policy input)
Core national or regional report team Team leader (may be the lead author) Institutional focal point Lead author(s) Researchers and analysts (gender specialist, statistics expert, etc.) Coordinator (monitors deadlines) Content editors and proofreaders
Internal partnership and consultative mechanisms Advisory committee (substantive quality assurance) Reader and reviewer group Validation groups Follow-up group

1. After deliberation with national and regional counterparts and other key constituencies, establish management structures.

Draw up terms of reference for each of the entities that are to be created.

The lead institution is responsible for supervising the report process and linking with appropriate advisors, consultants and experts, including institutional actors. Several configurations are possible (box 1).

Regional HDRs are usually compiled based on research and analysis conducted by UNDP and external experts. As in the case of national HDRs, background papers may be published separately, but experience suggests that the text of the reports should be crafted by or through internal regional teams to ensure consistency with the objectives of the Regional Bureaux or Regional Centre.

The identity of the lead institution in a national HDR process will depend on the demands imposed by the country context. Three types of arrangements are described below. The principle of local ownership assumes that national actors must be key drivers in the HDR process. Thus, no matter which solution is adopted, it is important that local actors be assured a voice at every step.

  • A government-led HDR process: This structure is particularly appropriate in the case of subnational HDRs in which local governments, in coordination with the national government, are committed to the human development approach in the preparation of development plans. See, for example, the subnational HDRs in India. If the UNDP Country Office supports the process and if the final product is expected to carry the UNDP logo whether the report is a subnational or national one, UNDP should become actively engaged in ensuring inclusive consultations, a diversity of perspectives and methodological integrity. This will help secure local ownership. A UNDP national execution project is a frequent means of financial and technical support in this case.
  • An independent institution–led process: This structure is recommended if national-level academic institutions and independent private interdisciplinary research organizations have the necessary capacityies and sensitivity to apply and promote the human development approach. The UNDP Country Office should see that inclusive consultations are provided for in the terms of reference for the preparation of the report and should act as a liaison between the institution and the government. HDR team training can be an important UNDP contribution to guarantee the proper application of the human development approach. A UNDP national execution project or a UNDP direct execution project is a frequent means of financial and technical support in this case.
  • A UNDP-led process: In this arrangement, the UNDP Country Office has direct responsibility to ensure inclusive consultations, the integrity and quality of the research methodology and regular deliberations with the government. This arrangement is recommended if national capacities are weak (for example, in crisis countries) or if the Country Office expects to establish a policy analysis and research capacity (for instance, through the creation of a policy unit). A UNDP direct execution project is most appropriate in this case.
  • A mixed arrangement may prove effective in certain situations. Thus, in the case of Youth in Turkey, the 2008 HDR in Turkey, the Government was not particularly involved initially, though it was kept informed, but did eventually become an active participant in the follow-up thanks to a powerful media campaign.

The steering committee is the most important mechanism at the policy level. It is a decision-making body that coordinates the HDR process and has overarching responsibility for HDR production, launch, advocacy and follow-up. It typically comprises a senior representative of each of the principal sponsoring organizations, including the government, significant national organizations or groups, UNDP, other United Nations organizations and so on. National ownership requires that the composition of the steering committee should be inclusive, however. Committee membership should therefore extend beyond the government or UNDP to encompass significant representation among local and national or regional policy-making communities, technical experts in the area of the report theme, and non-governmental and civil society organizations. The inclusive membership of the committee can be instrumental in assessing political sensitivities, championing the human development approach and encouraging the buy-in of decision makers, including in analysis that may be critical of current social and development policies. Indeed, inclusiveness should be a characteristic of all HDR structures, including the core HDR team (box 2). The committee should eventually serve to foster partnerships that are able to advocate for the integration of the report findings and recommendations into national or regional policies and contribute to national and regional capacities to debate and analyse substantial development issues. The effectiveness of the committee will depend on who takes part: ideally, people with decision-making experience, who are not too politically engaged and who possess some insight into the theme of the report and the human development approach.

The success of the HDR product depends to a large extent on the participants in the HDR process and, especially, the capacity of the core HDR team to interpret local conditions in terms of human development concepts and principles and to recognize the link between issues in human development and social and economic progress.

For this reason and because participation is a key to establishing collective ownership of the HDR process, the HDR community should be wide-ranging and inclusive. The goal should be to provide a platform to engage with the diverse perspectives and concerns of all stakeholders and with practical alternatives to solving development problems and to push the frontiers of thinking on development at the national or regional level. Dialogue is essential in this process. An HDR should reflect a healthy exchange of outlooks and promote constructive debate.

It is therefore important to ensure that the members of the core HDR team and the participants in the related structures share a commitment to the open-minded, in-depth discussion of various perspectives that may be starkly different and may sometimes be held in opposition to prevailing or majority opinion. While an HDR may reflect a consensus among stakeholders on many issues, a report should not necessarily be a consensus document in which all the stakeholders have been obliged to align their various positions. Balanced analysis that is sound, solution oriented and based on good, current data is the best argument against critics, including those who fear innovation.

An HDR achieves national or regional ownership because it is country or region based, because it draws on local development actors and capabilities and because it is the culmination of inclusive consultations among stakeholders of all stripes. National or regional ownership and wide participation help ensure that an HDR responds to local needs and expectations. It implies a commitment to broaden dialogue encompassing diverse perspectives. A report rooted in national perspectives inspires trust in the HDR as a source of policies focused on development alternatives.

Whether one is undertaking consultations on the theme of the report, constituting a group of technical advisors, reviewers, or readers, inviting contributions in drafting the report, seeking financing, or surveying the opinions of focus groups or the public at large, every effort should be made to represent diverse interests and viewpoints and a large swath of sectoral and institutional affiliations, including elements of the target audience of the report. Participation should also be characterized by gender balance and balance across population groups and geographical areas within the national or regional community.

For these reasons, participation, understood broadly, should be considered an ongoing focus across all phases of an HDR process, including in reviewing particular aspects of the report or completed drafts. Regular training exercises, public meetings and consultations, workshops, retreats, round tables, brainstorming sessions, participatory information-gathering initiatives, the establishment of social media outlets and networks, and the publication of regular newsletters to update partners and stakeholders on the state of the HDR process are among the many schemes that may help promote broad-based participation and engagement in the report and the process. Such initiatives support naturally the effective media and communications strategy that should be part of the HDR process. Indeed, participation and advocacy go hand in hand and appear as elements in each of the modules and from beginning to end of the HDR process.

Likewise, the feedback provided by stakeholders through such forums is essential in defining the focus and messages of the report. The HDR must be for and of the people of the country or region. The effectiveness of an HDR is reduced if it is seen as an internal UNDP document setting out internal positions or if it is driven by a donor agenda or a group agenda external to the needs of the country or region. UNDP and the government should be considered crucial partners, but the HDR process should be impartial. Impartiality also has the advantage of allowing stakeholders the freedom to nuance their endorsement of key messages, thus additionally promoting committed debate. Because a major feature of any advocacy strategy should be meaningful engagement with as wide an external audience as possible, especially people who are able to influence policies, credibility and technical soundness should be a main goal.

Many core HDR teams have undertaken innovative initiatives to ensure broad participation and national ownership. A few relevant examples include the effort of the Kosovo team for the 2002 national HDR to include representation from various ethnic communities. Human Development Report 2005: Chhattisgarh, a subnational HDR in India, demonstrates how to use a participatory methodology as a foundation for the entire HDR process. Depending on the resources available and the size of the stakeholder population, participation might involve only a few workshops with key experts and representatives of relevant groups, or it might involve extensive consultations with dozens of governmental and non-governmental organizations and thousands of people. A national HDR in Colombia provides an example of the latter approach.

The terms of reference for the steering committee should define milestones for the committee’s work. These milestones might cover the following:

  1. the periodicity of committee meetings and the circumstances under which the committee might hold special meetings (dispute resolution, unexpected process bottlenecks, issues with the appropriateness of the consultation process, and so on);
  2. the responsibilities of the committee in approving or determining the selection of the HDR team, the outline of the report, the overall timeline and work plan, and the consultation process;
  3. the committee’s responsibilities in the review of the initial findings of the report and the first draft;
  4. the authority of the committee over decisions on additional work;
  5. the responsibilities of the committee in approving the final draft; and
  6. the responsibilities of the committee in defining the distribution strategy and the advocacy strategy.

2. In cooperation with the steering committee, establish the core national or regional HDR team to be responsible for drafting the report.

The HDR team will include some or all of the following:

  • In cooperation with the steering committee, select the team leader, who is responsible for supervising the preparation of the report on a day-to-day basis.
  • The focal point is normally located within the UNDP Country Office, Regional Bureau, or Regional Centre. The focal point is responsible for routine interaction between the UNDP Country Office, Regional Bureau, or Regional Centre, the lead institution, and the national or regional HDR team.
  • In consultation with the steering committee, the institutional focal point, the lead institution and the principal national or regional partners, including the UNDP Country Office, Regional Bureau, or Regional Centre, select the lead author(s) and contributing authors. In the selection, preference may be given to eminent local experts because this may add to the sense of local ownership, but this need not be a condition. Substantive criteria, including knowledge of the theme and the local context, professional reputation and technical skills, are most important. The authors and other experts and consultants engaged in writing the report will retain intellectual independence and are expected to show objectivity of view in the arguments and conclusions of the report. UNDP does not exercise editorial control over the report, and the views expressed by the authors must not necessarily reflect official UNDP positions. The lead author should meet regularly with the advisory committee, as well as other members of the core HDR team, for advise and feedback. The lead author and the team leader may, in some cases, be the same individual.
  • The core group of researchers and analysts should include a gender specialist. It should also include a statistics expert able to work with the Human Development Index and address other statistical issues.
  • In consultation with the steering committee, the institutional focal point, the lead institution and the team leader, appoint a coordinator to monitor production deadlines. The coordinator should be associated with the institutional focal point or located in the lead institution.
  • In cooperation with the steering committee and the team leader, select professional content editors and proofreaders.

3. After deliberation with national and regional counterparts and other key constituencies, as well as the internal management structures, establish internal partnership and consultative mechanisms.

Draw up terms of reference for each of the entities that are to be created. These mechanisms may include some or all of the following:

  • The advisory committee’s is the most important mechanism at the intellectual level. Its primary function is quality assurance. It provides thematic insights and assistance in framing the substantive content of the HDR. It also supplies technical input on the report methodology and on the approaches to be adopted in analysis, particularly in terms of national or regional interests and ongoing national or regional debates. The committee usually includes academics and opinion leaders in the country and the region, as well as representatives of partner organizations with a clear interest and expertise in the theme of the report and related issues. The committee may rely on consultations with the national Millennium Development Goals Report team and individuals and organizations working on the Common Country Assessment, the United Nations Development Assistance Framework and the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper. Because stakeholders are well represented, the committee helps guarantee credibility and ensure that the contents of the report do not become an instrument of any single entity, but are owned collectively.
  • The reader and reviewer group (sometimes known as the technical working group) examines drafts of the report’s elements and background material (including technical or research papers supplied by consultants and other experts) and provides overall conceptual and technical feedback, including checks for deficiencies and errors. It ensures that the analysis is based on the most reliable current data from within the country or region and elsewhere and offers a truly objective assessment of the situation. The members of this group usually have expertise in various areas relevant to the theme of the report. Some members of the group may also be members of the advisory committee, or the group may be identical to or a part of the advisory committee.
  • Validation groups are among the innovative methods HDR teams have adopted to test hypotheses and findings among people on the street. These methods might include local, national or region-wide workshops, reality check meetings among citizens, discussion groups, and reader circles of people in remote areas. The 2001 national HDR in Bulgaria offers a good example.
  • The follow-up group helps shape and implement outreach, communications, advocacy and impact monitoring. The group typically includes representatives of the steering committee, the advisory committee and the core group of researchers and analysts, plus advocates for the educational system, the private sector, the media, women’s groups, community associations and other actors within the target audience.