These factors need to be integrated into the process of strategic programming, a companion to strategic planning, which would identify priorities for programme action. Such priorities include: determination of the critical mix of programme components and appropriate formulating and executing agencies (government, United Nations agencies and organizations, NGOs private sector); target groups for programme intervention (the poor, landless, underdeveloped regions, high-risk groups, [etc]); the varying inputs to the programme; the operational thrust, such as whether to improve quality of service or extend programme coverage, or whether to initiate new programmes or strengthen existing programmes where success is most likely; the degree to which population programmes should be harmonized with social and economic sectors; and the types of women's concerns that should be part of population objectives.
Experience shows that NGOs, community organizations, socio-cultural and religious groups, women's groups and influential individuals can and do play an important role in influencing the attitudes and behaviour of people, so a national plan should be aware of the basic make-up and outlook of such groups and organizations and involve them along with the intended beneficiaries when designing and implementing the national programme.
Lack of strategic thinking, manifested in population assistance that is often lacking in focus, uncoordinated, [ad hoc] and without follow-up, has been a major obstacle to successful and sustainable population programmes. In addition, there is a need to develop a framework for population assistance, based on strategic planning at the international level, for which the population assistance community must take responsibility. An international strategy would require agreement on overall population objectives and on specific fund-raising targets. The exact role of the various donors in each country would be determined within the context of each government programme, although there are certain constraints on donors in terms of mandates and policies that apply generally, such as the selection of countries to receive support. Because it is essential to coordinate assistance and avoid duplication of effort, it is important that the priorities of all donors be well known so that the various sources of assistance can be adjusted to cover the most urgent needs. This will enable donors, especially UNFPA and the World Bank, to establish a system whereby they can see to it that all needy countries get their required share of the assistance. The priorities or limitations in the population mandates of the various parties are also not well known and must be clarified. A large number of agencies, although not seen as active participants in the population field, do support, or could support, programmes that influence the population area.
Efforts are needed to streamline, simplify and introduce flexibility, including decentralization, in the procedures the many different donors require for programme and project formulation, appraisal, approval, implementation, monitoring and evaluation, which currently put an unnecessary burden on governments. are necessary. Since these procedures apply to all programmes of a particular agency, the issue cannot be resolved by the population assistance community alone, but the international population community should raise the issue in international and national development fora and suggest improvements.
Discussions on developing an international strategy must also address the issue of which intercountry activities work best in which circumstances and how to harmonize international support for them. All donors give priority to country over intercountry programmes; but certain kinds of activity that benefit country programmes can better be undertaken at the regional or global level. It may not be possible in the short run to arrive at a comprehensive and detailed international strategy, but certain principles can be established, information exchanged and programmes and procedures harmonized. Currently DAC analyzes bilateral assistance, UNFPA reviews multilateral assistance, and UNDP roundtable discussions, consultations of the World Bank and inter-agency meetings in the UN address specific issues. A system needs to be established for gathering information and holding regular fora for discussion among all parties concerned.