Using JANS: recent experiences from Sudan
Joint Assessments of National Strategies (JANS) were conducted in Kenya, Rwanda and Sudan during the last few months. Sudan reflects on the experience, and concludes that though inevitably some challenges arose, the assessment process significantly improved the strategy.
Sudan organized a Joint Assessment of its Health Sector Strategic Plan 2012 – 2016 in January 2013. The objectives of this assessment were: to ensure national ownership by facilitating strategic discussion on the strategy with all stakeholders at different levels; enhance and improve the quality of the strategy and ensure its relevance and feasibility by providing a comprehensive review of the strategy; mobilize resources to fill the funding gaps by increasing confidence of partners in the strategy; as well as to reduce the transaction costs for the country in dealing with multiple partners' assessments, projects and funding streams.
Sudan is the first country to use the ‘One JANS’* approach in assessing its national health sector strategic plan. This entailed the assessment of another four programme specific strategies, along with the national strategy. This exercise was undertaken by a team comprising international and national consultants, using the Joint Assessment Tool and Guidelines developed by IHP+. The country decided to go for ‘One JANS’ for a number of reasons, namely to avoid risks of multiple JANS in terms of high transaction costs and duplication; improve synergy between sector and programme strategies (address fragmentation and inconsistency); and to institutionalize the JANS approach within the planning cycle (strategies’ development and reviews).
The process was very significant in improving the ownership of the sector strategy by the National Programmes, as they were meaningfully engaged during the strategy development, costing and financing. This approach showed that alignment of sector and programme strategies, targets and interventions is possible if technical guidance is provided from the very beginning. It also provided the opportunity for key stakeholders to reflect and bridge the gaps in the planning process.
However, some challenges were encountered during the assessment - namely, disconnects that existed between sector and programme planning cycles. The sector strategy was in its final stages of development (mature draft) when the JANS was being conducted, whilst programme strategies were either approved, politically endorsed or at various stages of implementation. This lack of synchronization raised a question on what is the compelling incentive to align on-going, fully funded programme strategic plans with the sector strategy and how can this be done effectively?
Another challenge encountered, was the lack of detailed guidelines on conducting ‘One JANS’ with a programme focus, and the critical elements for comparing and analyzing the key programme strategic plans with the sector strategic plan.
Based on the Sudan experience, the JANS attributes are recommended to be well embedded in planning, implementation and review processes at country level so as to ensure the soundness of the strategy. As for development partners, there is a need for greater donor discipline, harmonization of fiduciary assessment requirements, and more aligned support for health sector strategies. IHP+ is requested to develop clear guidance on ‘One JANS’ that responds to different needs.
* ‘One JANS': a health sector JANS that better accommodates sub-sector programmes by covering agreed priority areas in more depth.
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