Independent Subregional Programme Evaluation: Pacific Countries

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Evaluation Plan:
2022-2025, Independent Evaluation Office
Evaluation Type:
ICPE/ADR
Planned End Date:
12/2022
Completion Date:
06/2022
Status:
Completed
Management Response:
No
Evaluation Budget(US $):
68,000

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Title Independent Subregional Programme Evaluation: Pacific Countries
Atlas Project Number:
Evaluation Plan: 2022-2025, Independent Evaluation Office
Evaluation Type: ICPE/ADR
Status: Completed
Completion Date: 06/2022
Planned End Date: 12/2022
Management Response: No
Focus Area:
  • 1. Poverty
  • 2. Governance
  • 3. Resilience
  • 4. Sustainable
  • 5. Energy
  • 6. Others
Corporate Outcome and Output (UNDP Strategic Plan 2018-2021)
  • 1. Output 1.1.1 Capacities developed across the whole of government to integrate the 2030 Agenda, the Paris Agreement and other international agreements in development plans and budgets, and to analyse progress towards the SDGs, using innovative and data-driven solutions
  • 2. Output 1.1.2 Marginalised groups, particularly the poor, women, people with disabilities and displaced are empowered to gain universal access to basic services and financial and non-financial assets to build productive capacities and benefit from sustainable livelihoods and jobs
  • 3. Output 1.2.2 Enabling environment strengthened to expand public and private financing for the achievement of the SDGs
  • 4. Output 1.3.1 National capacities and evidence-based assessment and planning tools enable gender-responsive and risk-informed development investments, including for response to and recovery from crisis
  • 5. Output 1.4.1 Solutions scaled up for sustainable management of natural resources, including sustainable commodities and green and inclusive value chains
  • 6. Output 2.1.1 Low emission and climate resilient objectives addressed in national, sub-national and sectoral development plans and policies to promote economic diversification and green growth
  • 7. Output 2.1.2 Capacities developed for progressive expansion of inclusive social protection systems
  • 8. Output 2.2.2 Constitution-making, electoral and parliamentary processes and institutions strengthened to promote inclusion, transparency and accountability
  • 9. Output 2.2.3 Capacities, functions and financing of rule of law and national human rights institutions and systems strengthened to expand access to justice and combat discrimination, with a focus on women and other marginalised groups
  • 10. Output 2.3.1 Data and risk-informed development policies, plans, systems and financing incorporate integrated and gender-responsive solutions to reduce disaster risks, enable climate change adaptation and mitigation, and prevent risk of conflict
  • 11. Output 2.4.1 Gender-responsive legal and regulatory frameworks, policies and institutions strengthened, and solutions adopted, to address conservation, sustainable use and equitable benefit sharing of natural resources, in line with international conventions and national legislation
  • 12. Output 2.5.1 Solutions developed, financed and applied at scale for energy efficiency and transformation to clean energy and zero-carbon development, for poverty eradication and structural transformation
  • 13. Output 3.2.1 National capacities strengthened for reintegration, reconciliation, peaceful management of conflict and prevention of violent extremism in response to national policies and priorities
  • 14. Output 3.3.1 Evidence-based assessment and planning tools and mechanisms applied to enable implementation of gender-sensitive and risk-informed prevention and preparedness to limit the impact of natural hazards and pandemics and promote peaceful, just and inclusive societies
Evaluation Budget(US $): 68,000
Source of Funding:
Evaluation Expenditure(US $): 68,000
Joint Programme: No
Joint Evaluation: No
Evaluation Team members:
Name Title Nationality
Harvey John Garcia Lead Evaluator
Sonjuhi Singh Associate Lead Evaluator
Elizabeth Wojnar Research Associate
Bonifacio Javier Research Associate
Cassandra Brooke Evaluation Consultant
Mardi Trompf Evaluation Consultantvaluation Consultant
Albert Mariner Evaluation Consultantvaluation Consultant
GEF Evaluation: No
Key Stakeholders:
Countries: FIJI
Lessons
Findings
Recommendations
1

In the areas of climate change, DRR and the environment, UNDP should develop a strategic narrative for its portfolio, to ensure that all of its projects under its diverse themes are working towards a common goal. There is an ongoing tension between responding to the funding opportunities vertical funds offer, fulfilling the needs of countries for individual projects, and acting strategically within the vast array of challenges under Outcome 1. To move forward with coherence, UNDP could invest in two or three strategic areas under Outcome 1, based not only on the existing portfolio, but by further identifying UNDP comparative strengths within them through systems thinking. This might include coastal adaptation, DRR and climate finance.

A coastal adaptation cluster could draw together UNDP work on coastal adaptation with R2R integrated management and innovation under the Global Fund for Coral Reefs. UNDP plays a leadership role in DRR and there are examples of innovative financing that it has initiated. In the area of climate finance, UNDP is well poised to directly remedy some of the barriers countries face in accessing and managing vertical funds, taking full advantage of its in-country presence and relationships with PIC governments.

UNDP could reasonably foresee strategic commitment to these strategic areas over the next decade, and commit to embedding and maintaining technical focal points in the Pacific. This commitment would, to some extent, address the internal capacity issues evident with project-based funding. The evaluation also suggests that UNDP could improve programme cohesion in vertical fund projects through better linkages between project design and implementation, staff retention within and beyond projects, and better information management, communication, responsiveness and evaluation.

2

In the inclusive growth and governance portfolio, UNDP should develop strategic areas of work and maintain and strengthen the partnerships it has helped to build. UNDP should continue to take full advantage of United Nations reform to build on the recognized success of the UNDP and United Nations country team joint programming. It should take advantage of the large youth dividend in the Pacific for economic programmes that contribute to peace and security. UNDP should capitalize on its SIDS Offer, such as expanding its digitization portfolio, especially for developing policies for digitalization, to push its inclusive growth mandate and respond to the needs of the youth sector.

UNDP has built strategic partnerships under Outcome 2 (inclusive growth) and Outcome 3 (governance). These partnerships could be used to build coherence, and advance the UNDP integrator role in the Pacific. For example, UNDP has built synergy through the exchange of expertise between its ‘Markets for Change’ project with UN Women and PFIP with UNCDF. This kind of integrator role will be more challenging and need more programme-level sensemaking, but will be more beneficial in the long term.

The UNDP SIDS Offer, made up of climate action, the blue economy and digitization, presents a strong mandate and negotiating tools to rally support from PIC governments and donors for sustainable and inclusive growth. In doing so, UNDP should ensure that the blue economy concept is not green/blue washed in the process of being defined. Through its vast experience in PICs and with non-Pacific SIDS, UNDP has the capability to facilitate the process of defining the blue economy with nuance for the Pacific context while aligning it to the SDG principles.

As peace and security issues are tied to economic growth and inclusivity, UNDP should ensure that programmatic linkages between the two are observed in its programming. This is especially true for countries with high youth populations and unemployment. In the case of digitization work, while other actors could be more suited to work on the hardware, such as undersea cables, stakeholders agree that UNDP could work in the digital policy space to prepare PICs for digital transition. UNDP should take advantage of its Global Policy Network and Accelerator Labs for reimagining what a digital economy could look like in the Pacific.

3

UNDP should focus its governance programmes in areas where it has a niche and can bring lessons learned and knowledge products from other small island States. The UNDP strength and niche in its governance programmes have been built through the institutional strengthening and capacity-building of national and local leaders.

UNDP needs to continue working in partnership with UN Women and other key development partners in the region (in particular Australia and New Zealand) to encourage women’s political participation. The Pacific has the lowest number of female MPs, and more work is required to address this.

UNDP needs to do more research and work at local and subnational levels to encourage bottom-up democracy to empower local communities, so that local decision-making can have an impact at national level. There has to be recognition that more formal governance work may not be suitable in micro-States like Niue and Tokelau, where local governance structures are better suited to address local issues. UNDP should continue to ensure that any governance programmes are designed and tailored to the unique national contexts of each PIC, and more thinking is required for UNDP to ensure that governance programmes benefit the diverse societies of PICs.

4

UNDP should continue to improve the integration of gender across its future SRPD outcomes, especially in the governance workstream. UNDP should ensure that it is using knowledge management to share lessons between the two MCOs and achieve the broader adoption of results within the 14 PICs.

UNDP should take advantage of the experience it has accumulated over the last decade working on gender in the Pacific. The current SRPD has fully integrated gender in its outcome areas, but still needs further refining to ensure that UNDP is working in areas and PICs where deeper intervention is needed, such as the governance workstream. UNDP should maintain and capitalize on the strength of sister agencies such as UN Women in implementing wider and regional activities in the region.

5

To ensure coherence across multi-country offices, there is a need for regular programmelevel meetings between outcome teams and senior management. The role of RBAP in building coherence across the whole Pacific subregion should be clarified, given that it is in a position to see the bigger picture, future programming directions and the pipeline of projects (especially for vertical funds), and serves as liaison with the Regional Office.

The next UNDP programme in the Pacific could still be under one SRPD for Fiji MCO and Samoa MCO. However, separate IRRFs need to be developed for the two MCOs. This would fit the current operational structure and corporate-level reporting of UNDP, and will manage expectations in terms of the level of coherence that could be achieved. If the MCOs decide to have a common IRRF, then shared services such as M&E, knowledge management and communication should be organized to ensure programme coherence, in addition to regular coordination meetings senior management and outcome teams.

A separate IRRF for the two MCOs would clarify their commitments to the SRPD, roles and responsibilities and the target budget to be mobilized. In doing so, the MCOs will not be expected to have an overall SRPD Board. Instead, there could be smaller manageable boards that could be linked. Neither would there be an expectation from oversight functions that the programme be implemented as one. The time and resources of both MCOs should be concentrated on areas where coherence and synergy are expected to naturally occur, such as regional and multi-country projects, common approaches such as R2R projects, or umbrella themes such as climate change.

This would require the senior management of both MCOs to push for more regular coordination between outcome leaders/ teams and working groups (i.e., gender working group, M&E, knowledge management). At the very least, the outcome teams of both MCOs should be aware of project concepts being prepared or pipeline projects to ensure collaboration and lesson sharing.

Regardless of whether there is one joint or two separate IRRFs, under the leadership of RBAP the two MCOs should improve the forecasting of projects and needs, especially for large vertical fund projects. In addition, LTAs should be made available to all Pacific MCOs and sub offices.

6

As one of the largest development actors in the Pacific, UNDP should actively monitor the ‘overcrowding’ of small-value projects in the subregion, and should proactively seek solutions to lessen the factors contributing to this issue.

PICs have been voicing that the high transaction costs of implementing multitudes of small value projects are taking a toll on their governments’ ability to deliver projects on time and of high quality. UNDP has recognized this, and should continue to minimize or consolidate small-sized projects. Working through joint programmes has been proven to minimize the implementation and coordination burden of PICs.

Donor coordination has been identified by several PICs as an area where UNDP could assist or build capacity. As a trusted partner in development, UNDP is in a position to engage its partners in discussions around the saturation of small projects in the Pacific, advocate on this issue with donors and push for pooled funding where possible. UNDP should work with the United Nations Resident Coordinator and individual PICs to find solutions for this unique development challenge.

The evaluation notes the existence of project appraisal committees, convened by all PIC governments to review the integrity of project designs, and to a certain extent possible activity-level duplication. The evaluation sees the need to further strengthen these committees and align the review of projects at outcome level, contrasting UNDP projects against those of other development actors to see opportunities for synergy, coherence or joint programming.

7

UNDP should ensure that its M&E resources are appropriate to the size of its portfolio. It should prioritize ensuring that management responses are tracked and there is continuous learning within the programme.

In addition to the geographical isolation of PICs and the logistical challenges of conducting monitoring exercises, restrictions brought about by COVID-19 have made M&E more demanding. National M&E capacity should be strengthened in PICs, especially since there is a sizeable number of NIM projects being implemented. This means that regional M&E officers should strengthen their oversight function and help to build the capacity of national M&E officers in government-administered NIM projects. Due to the unique context of the Pacific, UNDP should also highly consider bolstering its support for National Evaluation Capacity (i.e., facilitating engagement with the Global Evaluation Initiative).

There has been a wealth of lessons gained through evaluation and project implementation over the last decades in the Pacific. This presents an opportunity to conduct syntheses on various topics, thematic or portfolio, which could be identified at the onset of the coming SRPD. Conducting regional syntheses would be an opportunity to bring the two MCOs together. For example, the work on gender could be an interesting theme since this identified that lessons on gender do not often attain broader adoption.

Measurement of the current SRPD outcome was challenged by the high-level nature of the outcome statements and indicators. In some cases, SRPD output indicators were not directly aligned with SRPD outcome indicators, so measurements toward the outcomes were not prioritized or fed into programming. Moving forward, SRPD outcome statements and indicators will still be directly derived from the UNPS, and UNDP should establish a direct relationship with its UNDP SRPD outcome and output indicators or add outcome-level indicators that are within its purview. This should be observed, because UNDP designs projects at output level and needs to track its own progress against the SRPD outcomes.

8

UNDP should reflect on and better define its models of capacity-development for the Pacific. A paradigm shift is needed, in which UNDP views Pacific regional organizations as a vehicle for capacity-development and an extension of the Pacific Island Country governments.

The Pacific regional organization has the mandate directly from PIC governments to complement capacity in the Pacific. In most cases, regional organizations have more contextual knowledge and institutional memory compared to global development agencies, which often rely on expertise from outside the region. UNDP needs to engage more with regional partners at a strategic level, in addition to collaboration for project implementation. For example, UNDP needs to be more active in regional platforms and discussions such as the Pacific Resilience Partnership Task Force and the SPC Governing Council Meeting. Similarly, UNDP Annual Programme Reviews in the current form are used as a reporting mechanism to PICs. UNDP could further their use by inviting observers such as the Regional Organizations and joint programming partners to add another layer of external coherence-building.

UNDP should work harder to strengthen its partnership with PIFS and other development actors and collaborate where possible in delivering governance interventions to PICs. PIFS governance engagement is delivered under the Forum Regional Framework endorsed by all Pacific Forum leaders. UNDP should help to build the capacity of their PIFS counterparts through lessons learned from other small island countries in other regions where it is engaged in similar governance interventions.

Moving forward, UNDP could take advantage of regional mechanisms to engage deeper with regional organizations. For example, the CROP charter is the guiding document for coordinating the regional architecture against PIC leaders’ priorities. This strategic document was amended in 2018 to include a high-level discussion between the heads of CROP agencies and heads of United Nations agencies. The discussions were supposed to be piloted at the end of 2021, but this was postponed. Once that process occurs, there will be an opportunity for greater coherence. Also, there are existing CROP working groups in specific areas such as human resource development. Drawing in UNDP engagement through these existing working groups could strengthen its relationship with the regional CROP agencies. It could also decrease the transaction costs that burden countries, especially smaller PICs. In addition, UNDP has been invited to Governing Council meetings as an observer, and its increased attendance is welcomed to facilitate coherence.

9

UNDP should reflect on and better define its models of capacity-development for the Pacific. A paradigm shift is needed, in which UNDP views Pacific regional organizations as a vehicle for capacity-development and an extension of the Pacific Island Country governments.

The Pacific regional organization has the mandate directly from PIC governments to complement capacity in the Pacific. In most cases, regional organizations have more contextual knowledge and institutional memory compared to global development agencies, which often rely on expertise from outside the region. UNDP needs to engage more with regional partners at a strategic level, in addition to collaboration for project implementation. For example, UNDP needs to be more active in regional platforms and discussions such as the Pacific Resilience Partnership Task Force and the SPC Governing Council Meeting. Similarly, UNDP Annual Programme Reviews in the current form are used as a reporting mechanism to PICs. UNDP could further their use by inviting observers such as the Regional Organizations and joint programming partners to add another layer of external coherence-building.

UNDP should work harder to strengthen its partnership with PIFS and other development actors and collaborate where possible in delivering governance interventions to PICs. PIFS governance engagement is delivered under the Forum Regional Framework endorsed by all Pacific Forum leaders. UNDP should help to build the capacity of their PIFS counterparts through lessons learned from other small island countries in other regions where it is engaged in similar governance interventions.

Moving forward, UNDP could take advantage of regional mechanisms to engage deeper with regional organizations. For example, the CROP charter is the guiding document for coordinating the regional architecture against PIC leaders’ priorities. This strategic document was amended in 2018 to include a high-level discussion between the heads of CROP agencies and heads of United Nations agencies. The discussions were supposed to be piloted at the end of 2021, but this was postponed. Once that process occurs, there will be an opportunity for greater coherence. Also, there are existing CROP working groups in specific areas such as human resource development. Drawing in UNDP engagement through these existing working groups could strengthen its relationship with the regional CROP agencies. It could also decrease the transaction costs that burden countries, especially smaller PICs. In addition, UNDP has been invited to Governing Council meetings as an observer, and its increased attendance is welcomed to facilitate coherence.

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