Midterm Evaluation Support Programme for Implementation of the Legal Sector (SPLSMP)

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Evaluation Plan:
2012-2016, Lao
Evaluation Type:
Mid Term Project
Planned End Date:
12/2015
Completion Date:
02/2016
Status:
Completed
Management Response:
Yes
Evaluation Budget(US $):
15,343

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Title Midterm Evaluation Support Programme for Implementation of the Legal Sector (SPLSMP)
Atlas Project Number:
Evaluation Plan: 2012-2016, Lao
Evaluation Type: Mid Term Project
Status: Completed
Completion Date: 02/2016
Planned End Date: 12/2015
Management Response: Yes
Focus Area:
  • 1. Others
Corporate Outcome and Output (UNDP Strategic Plan 2014-2017)
  • 1. Output 3.4. Functions, financing and capacity of rule of law institutions enabled, including to improve access to justice and redress
Evaluation Budget(US $): 15,343
Source of Funding: SPLSMP Budget
Evaluation Expenditure(US $): 15,343
Joint Programme: No
Joint Evaluation: No
Evaluation Team members:
Name Title Email Nationality
Mark Aiken Human rights and organisational development issues specialist mark.aiken@notiopartners.com
GEF Evaluation: No
Key Stakeholders: MPJ
Countries: LAO PEOPLE'S DEMOCRATIC REPUBLICLAO PEOPLE'S DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC
Lessons
Findings
1.

The project is highly relevant to the priorities of Lao PDR and those of the United Nations.

The project was designed to support the ambitious Legal Sector Master Plan (LSMP), which is the roadmap of Lao PDR to become a Rule of Law State by 2020. The project structure and activity selection is very closely aligned to the LSMP.

The project is also aligned with Directions 4 and 5 of the Government's National Socio-Economic Development Plans (NSEDP) and strongly pro-poor access to justice approach of the priority actions under the five year National Growth and Poverty Eradication Strategy (NGPES).  

The project is also aligned with the UN country programme priorities, as set out in the UNDAF 2015 Outcome 2 and UNDAF Action Plan Output 2.4. 

2. The LSMP is ambitious in both its breadth and timing. The SPLSMP is correspondingly ambitious, in that: 

  • a. It works across a range of institutions and departments, led by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) and including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA), the Ministry of Public Security (MPS), Office of the Supreme Public Prosecutor (OSPP), the People's Supreme Court (PSC) and the Lao Bar Association.  
  • b. The scope of activities is broad – the project includes diverse activities such as technical assistance, training, IT development of a judgment execution database and website, establishment of a recording studio and grass roots community outreach activities. 
  • c. The timeframe for activities is ambitious, particularly where activities are sequenced – for example, on the training initiative for Village Mediation Units, where a delay at one stage of the process can result in delays for subsequent activities.

The diverse range of project partners, diverse scope of activities and ambitious timeframes combine to form a challenging project to implement.

3. The project is led by a National Project Director from the Ministry of Justice, who manages this role in conjunction with his regular MoJ responsibilities. The project is executed using the NIM modality.  Pillar / Output Heads have been assigned to manage the implementation of each output. The Output Heads also have full time responsibilities relating to their substantive appointment within their Ministry. The Project Secretariat provides overall project coordination, and includes support staff to provide administrative support on the implementation and reporting of activities. The Secretariat serves as the 'go-between' between UNDP and the implementing Ministries.

4. During the evaluation consultations, stakeholders appreciated the breadth of efforts which the project had made to support the priorities under the LSMP. It was not the intention of the project to fund the entire LSMP, as with limited budget and limited management capacity, it is not possible to address all of the LSMP priority needs via the project. There is a risk that the project may be seen as a source of extra budgetary resources, and that the project may become too stretched by trying to implement a large number of small activities. To ensure the coherence of the project, it is important to ensure that the selected activities remain strategic, and avoid choosing activities to 'divide up the pie'.  

5. The project has played a very positive convening role, in bringing together Government, development partners and civil society to engage on justice issues. One example of this role was the project's support to the review of the Penal Code, and another example was the two day workshop for Human Rights Day 2015. The project has also promoted intra-Government dialogue on human rights issues for example, by the training provided by MoFA concerning ICCPR and Lao PDR's regional and international obligations. The project has taken steps to encourage dialogue and build confidence between the Government and civil society. Some development partners believe that there is space for UNDP and the SPLSMP to go further in its support for civil society capacity development and Government / Civil Society confidence building. The project plans to have increased engagement with civil society - for example, in relation to outreach and village level activities.

6. SPLSMP has sought to work in a methodical and structured way. For example, it has worked to create an evidence base to inform policy making, by conducting the legal aid survey which will feed into the draft Legal Aid Act. It approached training with the People's Supreme Court and the OSPP by conducting a training needs assessment, leading to training design, training of trainer activities and followed by the implementation of training courses. While this rigorous approach is sound, some stakeholders expressed frustrations concerning the lengthy process and timeframe required to deliver training courses. The project has tried to balance 'quick impact activities' with its longer term work, however it is not feasible to meet all of the 'quick impact' priorities under the project.

7. The project initially commenced slowly, but has made significant efforts to expedite activities and is now far more advanced in project implementation. The initial slow start was due to a combination of factors, including start-up issues, difficulties in recruitment, procurement, training of the Secretariat and Government counterparts in NIM policies and procedures, and a complicated UNDP and Government decision making process to prioritise and plan activities. In line with the very ambitious scope and timeframe of the LSMP, the SPLSMP has been similarly ambitious and has probably over-estimated the timeframe required to realistically implement some activities. While project activities are generally now back on track, some activities remain delayed, including several activities relating to grass roots justice service provision, such as the planned work with the Village Mediation Units. At the time of the evaluation, this work was pending the issuance of the Village Mediation Unit Decree (or Prime Minister's decree). The project should consider contingency plans in case it is not possible to fully implement this work stream before the end of the project.     

8. Some Outputs and activities clearly have very strong champions, who have led the planning and implementation of the activity. However, the commitment to implement some activities is not as clear. Under Output 3, the SPLSMP and the Government of France combine to provide technical and financial support to the NIJ. The technical assistance included a range of recommendations for course structure and management, however at the time of the evaluation the NIJ was focused on implementing the second round of training, and the commitment (and capacity) to implement the technical recommendations was not clear.

9. The project has taken a mainstreamed approach to gender programming. The SPLSMP has worked together with UN Women on gender issues, including consideration of women’s issues under the Penal Code review (including pregnant women and women with young children), advocating for the inclusion of women as panel members in the VMU decree,  advocating for women’s access to legal aid in the legal aid drafting process (as women may be unable to access their family’s money to obtain legal assistance, particularly if the case involves a family member and conducting some outreach on SGBV. Women’s leadership and capacity development within the justice institutions could also be further promoted.


Recommendations
1

The project should ensure that the selected activities are strategic and coherent. There is a risk that the project may try to engage in too many small activities, which are individually important and priorities of the relevant Ministry, but which collectively do not achieve the Government’s vision of becoming a Rule of Law State by 2020.  There is also the need to strike a balance between activities to address immediate Government priorities, and longer term strategic initiatives. As each activity has associated management requirements, it may be more effective to implement fewer activities with a larger budget for each activity, rather than many small activities. There are some benefits to implementing a wide range of small activities, however realistically the demands upon the project cannot be met in full.

2

The project is piloting several innovative initiatives – for example, using MoJ personnel to provide legal assistance (rather than lawyers), and the implementation of legal information kiosks at provincial courts. At the time of the evaluation, there had been a limited period of implementation (reportedly 5 legal aid clients had been received in Xiengkhoang at the time of the evaluation). It is important that these pilot initiatives are robustly assessed, to determine whether they are effective and good value for money, and if so, whether they can be scaled up (either by UNDP or another donor). For example, what are the advantages and disadvantages of using MOJ staff rather than private lawyers to provide legal assistance? The project is collecting data including client satisfaction surveys and case statistics. This links in with UNDP’s Strategic Plan Output indicator 3.4 (Number of clients who have used the legal aid service, disaggregated by sex). However, the criteria or process to assess the higher level performance of these innovative activities was not clear at the time of evaluation (ie, are these policy approaches the most effective and which activities should be discontinued or scaled up).

3

The role of the Secretariat was not clear to all stakeholders. Some stakeholders believed that the purpose of the Secretariat was to coordinate all activities under the LSMP. Other stakeholders believed that the LSMP was only intended to coordinate UNDP’s activities, and that other development partners should coordinate their own projects directly with the relevant line Ministry. If the purpose of the Secretariat is only to coordinate UNDP’s activities, then the role of the Secretariat is probably unsustainable beyond the life of the project and the level of staffing is probably excessive. If the purpose of the Secretariat is to coordinate all projects under the LSMP, then this requires greater commitment by counterparts and development partners to bring their activities under Secretariat framework, including by sharing their Annual Workplans. It would also require greater commitment by UNDP to encourage additional participation of other development partners at Secretariat meetings.

4

The SPLSMP M&E system has a comprehensive series of activity level indicators. The logframe includes less emphasis on higher level impact measures. Given the importance of training and capacity development within the project, the project should explore including some higher level measures to assess the project’s impact. For example, in relation to training outcomes – whether there were changes in terms of knowledge gained (ie, pre-test versus post-test results), changes in workplace behavior, or changes in results linked to the training.

5

In addition to building the legal architecture of the State, the project has focused mainly on criminal justice issues. While JICA is supporting the civil law reform process, there are likely a range of other thematic issues which could be supported to help the Government with their vision of greater regional integration – for example, commercial and investment law, environmental law, labour law etc. The project has provided some support for environmental issues relating to mercury, by leveraging UNDP experts based within the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment. However, the project and the Secretariat could play a useful role in supporting the Government to attract and obtain support from other experts whether within or outside of Lao PDR – for example, by assisting the Government to scope support from the World Bank, Asian Development Bank or DFID which have specialist expertise in commercial law development. This is not to suggest that any project should be delivered through the Secretariat, but rather, that the Secretariat has the potential to play a bridging role to reach out to specialist institutions, and to assist the Government in assessing their priorities and managing the scope of any engagement.

6

In preparation for a potential successor project, UNDP and development partners should commence discussions with the Government over potential co-funding contributions. The Government has made significant contributions to the SPLSMP, especially in the allocation of human resources and office space. However, the priorities of the justice sector exceed the amount of funding which donors are likely to be able to provide. Co-funding contributions offer the possibility of providing for additional activities, while further demonstrating the commitment of the Government to the project.

1. Recommendation:

The project should ensure that the selected activities are strategic and coherent. There is a risk that the project may try to engage in too many small activities, which are individually important and priorities of the relevant Ministry, but which collectively do not achieve the Government’s vision of becoming a Rule of Law State by 2020.  There is also the need to strike a balance between activities to address immediate Government priorities, and longer term strategic initiatives. As each activity has associated management requirements, it may be more effective to implement fewer activities with a larger budget for each activity, rather than many small activities. There are some benefits to implementing a wide range of small activities, however realistically the demands upon the project cannot be met in full.

Management Response: [Added: 2016/12/06]

All activities under this project are based on the Government’s priorities through the discussion with all parties concerned. However, it is well noted of the recommendation to balance between immediate and long term intervention.

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
Further prioritization during the new project design
[Added: 2016/12/06] [Last Updated: 2018/09/26]
- MoJ led by the Project Manager - UNDP led by Head of Governance Unit a.i. 2017/06 Completed The new project was designed ensuring that the selected activities are strategic and coherent to support the Government's vision of becoming a Rules of Law State by 2020. The new Strategic support to Strengthen the Rule of Law in Lao PDR started in August 2018 History
2. Recommendation:

The project is piloting several innovative initiatives – for example, using MoJ personnel to provide legal assistance (rather than lawyers), and the implementation of legal information kiosks at provincial courts. At the time of the evaluation, there had been a limited period of implementation (reportedly 5 legal aid clients had been received in Xiengkhoang at the time of the evaluation). It is important that these pilot initiatives are robustly assessed, to determine whether they are effective and good value for money, and if so, whether they can be scaled up (either by UNDP or another donor). For example, what are the advantages and disadvantages of using MOJ staff rather than private lawyers to provide legal assistance? The project is collecting data including client satisfaction surveys and case statistics. This links in with UNDP’s Strategic Plan Output indicator 3.4 (Number of clients who have used the legal aid service, disaggregated by sex). However, the criteria or process to assess the higher level performance of these innovative activities was not clear at the time of evaluation (ie, are these policy approaches the most effective and which activities should be discontinued or scaled up).

Management Response: [Added: 2016/12/06]

Agree with the recommendation that the criteria or process to assess the higher level performance of the legal aid services should be strengthened to inform whether the policy approaches are appropriate or which activities should be discontinued or scaled up.

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
Develop an assessment tool with clear criteria or process to
[Added: 2016/12/06] [Last Updated: 2018/09/26]
- MoJ led by the Project Manager - UNDP led by Head of Governance Unit a.i. 2017/06 Completed The plan to develop an assessment toll with clear criteria/process was included in the new project to assess and scale-up or roll-out successful pilot initiatives. History
3. Recommendation:

The role of the Secretariat was not clear to all stakeholders. Some stakeholders believed that the purpose of the Secretariat was to coordinate all activities under the LSMP. Other stakeholders believed that the LSMP was only intended to coordinate UNDP’s activities, and that other development partners should coordinate their own projects directly with the relevant line Ministry. If the purpose of the Secretariat is only to coordinate UNDP’s activities, then the role of the Secretariat is probably unsustainable beyond the life of the project and the level of staffing is probably excessive. If the purpose of the Secretariat is to coordinate all projects under the LSMP, then this requires greater commitment by counterparts and development partners to bring their activities under Secretariat framework, including by sharing their Annual Workplans. It would also require greater commitment by UNDP to encourage additional participation of other development partners at Secretariat meetings.

Management Response: [Added: 2016/12/06]

The role of LSMP Secretariat is to coordinate all activities under the LSMP supported by different donors and not necessary supported only by UNDP. It is well noted of the recommendation that the Secretariat should play a better commitment and role in coordinating all projects under the LSMP. UNDP will continue encouraging other donors to take part at Secretariat meetings.

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
The Secretariat to facilitate regular meetings between Government and donors to discuss key issues around access to justice and legal sector. This can be implemented using the existing mechanism of Legal and Institutional Sub-Sector working group
[Added: 2016/12/06] [Last Updated: 2018/09/26]
- MoJ led by Head of LSMP Secretariat and the Project Manager - UNDP led by Head of Governance Unit a.i. 2017/06 Completed Completed 1 meeting in Feb, May and June 2017. History
4. Recommendation:

The SPLSMP M&E system has a comprehensive series of activity level indicators. The logframe includes less emphasis on higher level impact measures. Given the importance of training and capacity development within the project, the project should explore including some higher level measures to assess the project’s impact. For example, in relation to training outcomes – whether there were changes in terms of knowledge gained (ie, pre-test versus post-test results), changes in workplace behavior, or changes in results linked to the training.

Management Response: [Added: 2016/12/06]

This recommendation is well taken.

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
For new project, develop a better M&E system, taking into account changes in terms of knowledge gained, changes in workplace behavior, or changes in results linked to the project intervention through trainings.
[Added: 2016/12/06] [Last Updated: 2018/09/26]
- MoJ led by the Project Manager, UNDP lead by Head of Governance Unit - UNDP led by Head of Governance Unit a.i. 2017/06 Completed New project was designed with a better M&E systems, taking into account changes in terms of knowledge gained, changes in workplace behavior, or changes in results linked to the project intervention. Relevant activities are planned under the new project History
5. Recommendation:

In addition to building the legal architecture of the State, the project has focused mainly on criminal justice issues. While JICA is supporting the civil law reform process, there are likely a range of other thematic issues which could be supported to help the Government with their vision of greater regional integration – for example, commercial and investment law, environmental law, labour law etc. The project has provided some support for environmental issues relating to mercury, by leveraging UNDP experts based within the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment. However, the project and the Secretariat could play a useful role in supporting the Government to attract and obtain support from other experts whether within or outside of Lao PDR – for example, by assisting the Government to scope support from the World Bank, Asian Development Bank or DFID which have specialist expertise in commercial law development. This is not to suggest that any project should be delivered through the Secretariat, but rather, that the Secretariat has the potential to play a bridging role to reach out to specialist institutions, and to assist the Government in assessing their priorities and managing the scope of any engagement.

Management Response: [Added: 2016/12/06]

The recommendation is well taken. The current draft of concept note for the new project has already taken into account Commercial and regulations related law, and climate change and related law will be most likely areas of intervention. In fact, UNODC has been involving in the penal code development on environmental crimes.

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
As Laos has integrated into regional and international development, the Secretariat with the support from the project will play a useful role in attracting and obtaining support from other experts for a range of other thematic issues.
[Added: 2016/12/06] [Last Updated: 2018/09/26]
MoJ led by Head of LSMP Secretariat and the Project Manager 2017/06 Completed New project was designed taking into account commercial and regulations related law, and climate change related law with most likely to be areas of intervention. History
6. Recommendation:

In preparation for a potential successor project, UNDP and development partners should commence discussions with the Government over potential co-funding contributions. The Government has made significant contributions to the SPLSMP, especially in the allocation of human resources and office space. However, the priorities of the justice sector exceed the amount of funding which donors are likely to be able to provide. Co-funding contributions offer the possibility of providing for additional activities, while further demonstrating the commitment of the Government to the project.

Management Response: [Added: 2016/12/06]

The recommendation is well taken.

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
The Government and UNDP should initial the discussion on co-funding for the new project after the SPLMP.
[Added: 2016/12/06] [Last Updated: 2018/09/26]
- MoJ led by the Project Manager - DIC – MPI led by the Director General - UNDP led by Head of Governance Unit a.i. 2017/06 Completed Discussion on possibility of co-funding was initiated in July 2017 and will be continued under the new project History

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