Mid-Term Regional Electoral Support for Middle East and North Africa Phase II (2017-2020)

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Title Mid-Term Regional Electoral Support for Middle East and North Africa Phase II (2017-2020)
Atlas Project Number:
Evaluation Plan: 2018-2021, Bureau for Policy and Programme Support
Evaluation Type: Mid Term Project
Status: Completed
Completion Date: 10/2019
Planned End Date: 11/2019
Management Response: No
Corporate Outcome and Output (UNDP Strategic Plan 2018-2021)
  • 1. Output 2.2.2 Constitution-making, electoral and parliamentary processes and institutions strengthened to promote inclusion, transparency and accountability
Evaluation Budget(US $): 15,000
Source of Funding:
Evaluation Expenditure(US $): 17,819
Joint Programme: No
Joint Evaluation: No
Evaluation Team members:
Name Title Email Nationality
Sue Nelson
GEF Evaluation: No
Key Stakeholders: SIDA, Regional organization in the Arab region, EMBs in the Arab region
Countries: GLOBAL
Lessons
Findings
1.

The project’s intended goals of improving the accountability, participation and representation in the region are widely recognized as integral components of credible electoral processes that accurately reflect the votes and underpin the legitimacy of governments. These objectives correspond to UNDP’s development goals as well as to those of SIDA for the MENA region. SIDA’s goals are to strengthen democracy and gender equality and greater respect for human rights.28 These also align with the objectives of the SDGs, most notably SDG 5 on Gender Equality and SDG 16 Peace Justice and Strong Institutions.


Tag: Relevance Election Policies & Procedures Capacity Building Agenda 2030

2.

The project provides a clear goal that is directly linked to this strategic objective: “strengthen the credibility, inclusivity, effectiveness and sustainability of electoral institutions and processes” and “improve [their] accountability, participation and representation.” It also explains that it would achieve this through enhancing knowledge, awareness and capacity on electoral processes and regional cooperation among electoral stakeholders.”32 However, it does not lay out a clear theory of change that demonstrates how the outputs and activities selected, some of which are quite broad, contribute to these processes and achieve the higher level objectives for this project.


Tag: Sustainability Election Theory of Change Youth

3.

The project’s activities were directly relevant to the needs of its partner regional organizations, in particular the ArabEMBs, the electoral departments at LAS and the OIC and the network of national human rights institutes. They saw the project as a partner and a useful tool to help them achieve their own objectives. The project’s participatory approach to planning and organizing activities and events substantially contributed to this sense of partnership, trust and ownership in the efforts.


Tag: Relevance Women's Empowerment e-Governance Ownership Capacity Building Youth Agenda 2030

4.

UNDP was well placed to implement the Regional Electoral Support Project having successfully implemented Phase I which helped to establish the ArabEMBs and develop the relationships with the regional partners and institutions that provided the platforms for the project’s efforts. The fact that Regional Electoral Support Project was a component of a global project based in New York gave it immediate access to UNDP’s global network of experts, staff and relationships, although this would also have been easily available had it been attached to the regional bureau as UNDP has an experienced and well organized system of technical and other support for its electoral projects.


Tag: Relevance UN Agencies UN Country Team UNDP Regional Bureaux

5.

This midterm review found that the project’s overall efforts, including those targeting Output 1.1, contributed to an increased level of professional knowledge on elections and related issues for those who participated in the project’s workshops, trainings, knowledge product development, exposure visits and exchanges. This helped ensure that professional knowledge was shared among project partners, built peer networks and developed a sense of common interest and understanding of the topics discussed.


Tag: Impact Knowledge management Capacity Building

6.

The numbers of persons reached directly by the project was limited. For instance, 257 persons participated in all of the activities implemented for Output 1 (Table 7). Many of these are likely to be the same persons who attended different events. These numbers also include project or other UNDP staff or consultants in some cases. Nevertheless, the majority of these participants were representatives of their institutions which do the actual work of the electoral processes in their countries and region, and were in a position to be able to adopt some of the better practices and systems promoted by the project, pass them on to their colleagues and in some cases to institutionalize them within their own institutions.


Tag: Effectiveness Impact Capacity Building

7.

The project produced two knowledge products in Phase II so far for Output I. These are the Dictionary of Electoral Terminology and the Human Rights Guidebook on Monitoring in Election. In addition, it is coordinating with IDEA on the development of the ArabEMBs guidebook on the independence of EMBs. It also published other knowledge products in undertaking the work for the other outputs (Box 7). Earlier products produced in Phase I were seen to be of good quality, although their actual use is an unknown. Tracking the reach of the Phase II products and gathering feedback on their use would help to determine their actual relevance and usefulness to the recipients.


Tag: Knowledge management Capacity Building

8.

LAS sees the project as an indispensable partner which, with EAD, helped to develop its electoral unit into an Electoral Department which it feels can provide technical assistance and observation services for its members. The Department credited the work done under Phases I and II with helping it reach this position stating that 90% of the cooperation activities it has done in the past five years have been through this project.


Tag: Impact Election Bilateral partners Capacity Building

9.

There is no performance data for the efforts with LAS beyond numbers of persons trained and events facilitated although BRIDGE efforts include a participant feedback mechanism.40 It appears evident from the anecdotal information provided that the capacity of the Department, its staff and observers has improved substantially. The Department reports that the training of its observers increased the efficiency of their observation and their awareness of the process. It also credits the training and their earlier signing of the Principles for International Elections Observers and the Code of Conduct for International Election Observers for increasing the credibility and integrity of their electoral observation missions.


Tag: Effectiveness Impact Country Government Capacity Building

10.

South-South exchanges and helped EAD facilitate an UN-OIC workshop with CSOs on electoral integrity. In Phase II it held its first BRIDGE workshop on Gender and Elections, and included the OIC Electoral Department Director in the 2018 LAS exchange visit with EAD and DPA in New York.


Tag: Impact South-South Cooperation

11.

Media engagement (1.4). The overarching objective for the project’s engagement with media was to promote public access to professional, accurate and comprehensive electoral information to safeguard the transparency of electoral processes and to encourage an electoral process with public debate and the information needed to make informed choices. The output itself focused on professionalizing the media in the region to raise awareness on its role, facilitate discussions and partnerships, and promote the development of a framework to improve the quality of electoral reporting in the region. The project anticipated holding annual workshops in 2018 – 2019 in partnership with regional media networks, regulatory bodies and other media entities that were to be engaged in 2018.


Tag: Communication

12.

The focus on thematic topics at the annual conferences, and with the LAS-EMB forums, has provided useful and practical information for the EMBs that some are already using. For instance, the EMB in Palestine stated that after the thematic conference on EDR, some EMBs were now viewing their EDR procedures with a regional and global perspective. The EMB in Libya, which classified itself as in a transitional phase where each event has a different election law, stated that it was collecting the lessons learned from the sessions and visits, and from its own three elections, and was combining these so that when the time came for a new electoral law they will be ready to make their technical comments. It also noted that it was optimistic that if it could incorporate some of the best practices shared on EDR into the new electoral law, it could reduce the number of complaints.


Tag: Knowledge management Coordination

13.

The project has not tracked the results of its work with the ArabEMBs beyond the activities themselves.
Current indexes, such as the Varieties of Democracy (V-Dem) index on EMB capacity (Table 8)42 can give an indication of regional changes over time however they are affected by so many different factors that they are difficult to use to measure project performance. More targeted data could be obtained by undertaking a knowledge, attitudes and practices assessment of the member EMBs which could provide some needed baseline information against which future project results could be measured as well used as to help to target the capacity building efforts at the regional and national levels by UNDP or others. Developing synergies with country level programmes to provide the follow up with EMBs for practices raised at the ArabEMBs level could significantly expand the impact of the project and its efforts.


Tag: Knowledge management Monitoring and Evaluation

14.

Phase II continued the work with ANNHRI, a regional network of Arab national human rights institutions. The project had run several workshops in Phase I in collaboration with the regional hub’s human rights advisor where they raised the idea of the value added that the national human rights institutions could bring to the electoral process by monitoring the cycle rather than observing the elections event which was their practice. This generated the idea of developing a joint UNDPANNHRI manual for NHRIs on monitoring human rights in elections. As this was a new area for ANNHRI, in Phase II the project contracted two senior experts to support the drafting and the development of the guidebook with ANNHRI.


Tag: Effectiveness Election Human rights Capacity Building

15.

The project coordinated with UN Women on the organization of some of its events and on the establishment of the women’s network in terms of sharing information and attending events. This element could be strengthened in the next project design by developing a more programmatic and synergistic
relationship focused on strengthening women’s political
participation. UN Women is in the process of developing its next five year regional women’s political participation project, which will include the electoral and political processes as key components, and it stated that it looks forward to collaborating with UNDP on these efforts through connecting the networks that each supports.


Tag: Gender Equality Women's Empowerment UN Agencies

16.

The project and Mosharaka worked on the idea of developing a women’s network in the region in Phase I exploring the different possible avenues for a network, wanting to ensure it had an institutional home for sustainability purposes. They ended up with the ArabEMBs. This seems logical and should help to help institutionalize the effort and avoid the political overtones and issues that would come if it were attached to a more political body such as LAS. Many EMBs also have gender focal points and units which provides a foundation for such a network.


Tag: Sustainability Gender Mainstreaming UN Agencies Agenda 2030

17.

YLP has become a flagship programme for the regional hub and was well liked by the project, regional hub and the UNDP country offices interviewed, all of which saw growth and potential in the youth who participated. YLP focuses on empowering youth seeing them as agents of change. YLP provided a platform for youth to meet other youth from the region and supported them to promote leadership, SDGs and to develop solutions for their community’s challenges.


Tag: Capacity Building Youth Agenda 2030

18.

The model curricula mentioned in the project document is an important concept and could be developed and promoted through the ArabEMBs and its members for high school youth and their teachers. This should be included in a future project given the time it would take to do this, and done in coordination with the country offices which could support its dissemination and national level efforts with the educational systems to adopt and implement the curricula.


Tag: Knowledge management Capacity Building Education

19.

The elements of political space could be strengthened in the design and during implementation by focusing on increasing youth voice in the policy area and with policy makers, and by becoming more informed voters or representatives, and by ensuring a direct causal relationship between these activities supported by the project and the intended outcomes.


Tag: Capacity Building Youth

20.

The project provided a significant level of support to UNDP country offices and projects in the region in terms of advisory services, technical assistance, human resources and in some cases financial support for individuals or efforts. Although the financial support for individuals in other offices and projects appears to have been more limited in Phase II, the scope of this and the other support services provided is difficult to determine since it was not an area that the project reported on other than a short paragraph in each annual report noting this or that. However, from the evaluation interviews and anecdotal information provided it was clear that this type of project support enabled some critical processes to continue, provided valued advisory services and in some cases facilitated UNDP relations with partners at country levels.


Tag: Impact Human and Financial resources Project and Programme management Capacity Building Technical Support

21.

Project implementation. The project was flexible in its approach and able to adjust its programming to the context and challenges. Its implementation was widely participatory and seen by the regional partners as joint initiatives.


Tag: Sustainability Project and Programme management

22.

The number of events held and the costs to fly to all those events, and for the regional project staff, advisors and consultants to go to the different places in terms of results achieved was raised by several during the evaluation interviews. This is difficult to judge from the perspective of this short midterm review, especially when the cost information is not disaggregated by sub-output levels. However, in general, the greater the results emanating from an event, the more cost-effective, and effective it becomes. In this, the project should seek to document its results beyond the event and ensure that event-level results are put into action with the respective institutions and members. The project is doing this with many of its events, such as the workshops that developed the concept that led to the development of the Women’s Network.  After this becomes operational, the project should find partners that can pick up the efforts and move them forward at country levels to expand the project’s results.


Tag: Efficiency Human and Financial resources Project and Programme management

23.

The project also entered into a number of partnerships that have helped to defray some of the implementation costs as well as enabling the project to increase the range of support for its partners. This was a lesson learned from Phase I when it worked alone. Some of these partners, such as the Venice Commission, bring in experts who participate in ArabEMBs conferences as well as split costs for some of the ArabEMBs conferences and general assemblies. Others such as International IDEA, have shared costs at some ArabEMBs events and in the development of the Women’s Network. Some of the ArabEMBs members have also covered the costs for their own people to participate at some of the project facilitated events. And if an event were held in their country, they also shared costs in terms of providing the venue or the airport transportation (Tables 14 and 15).74


Tag: Efficiency Project and Programme management Bilateral partners

24.

The project did make good use of UNDP’s global electoral network and experience in terms of providing exposure and models for regional cooperation.
Project Staff & Consultants It also took advantage of some of its global knowledge products to translate into Arabic so that the resources were available for Arabic speakers.
Project branding seemed appropriate and includes the UNDP and SIDA logos. Joint efforts with partners, such as the ArabEMBs also included their logos. Visibility of the project and the donor seemed good for the events held and in the publications developed.


Tag: Communication Knowledge management

25.

From an evaluation perspective, the project is understaffed. It has been able to hold timely events, move activities forward for all of the outputs and has effectively engaged the regional hub experts in its work. But there were elements in the project document within those outputs that were not developed or consistently followed up and likely would have been if the project had more full-time staff focused on those areas.


Tag: Human and Financial resources Project and Programme management

26.

Project reporting: Project reporting followed the requirements of the project document and was done on an annual basis. It focuses on the activities implemented, followed the results framework, and provided updated data on its indicators which is a best practice.


Tag: Relevance Monitoring and Evaluation Results-Based Management

27.

Monitoring and evaluation. The project followed the M&E requirements in the project document and tracked its results according to its results framework and indicators. It reported annually and included updated data for its indicators. It arranged for this midterm review of its project as required in the project document. It also has documented its workshops, collected feedback from participants on the quality of the efforts and their suggestions for improvements, and kept disaggregated data on participants for each event it supported. It also is keeping track of its social media sites for youth and collecting its user data.


Tag: Effectiveness Impact Monitoring and Evaluation Results-Based Management

28.

The project undertook its activities with a sustainability perspective however it also realized that creating a new association and networks, and strengthening existing ones, required a longer term perspective and engagement. Its model for this effort was Latin America which built its structures, systems and capacity with international support and which was now not only fully developed but providing assistance to others undergoing similar transitions.


Tag: Sustainability Knowledge management Technical Support

Recommendations
1

Complete efforts underway with the main partners. Ensure any new activities focus directly on achieving the project’s intended goals.

2

Continue support to the ArabEMBs for its institutional development and programmatic efforts. Continue election visits and efforts for the ArabEMBs to provide technical assistance to other EMBs. Support the women’s network and its efforts to become an effective means for women’s advancement in the political and electoral processes.

3

Continue efforts with LAS and OIC for the development of their electoral departments and programmes

4

Finalize the Guidebook for NHRI monitoring and start work with their association to implement the work. Coordinate this with efforts of others at the country level who can help the national NHRIs to implement the guide and undertake the monitoring.

5

Increase efforts to track and aggregate the results of the YLP programme at country levels and work with the regional hub to expand the projects engaged in the YLP efforts to expand its base and contributions

6

Extend the Electoral Systems course to at least one other academic institution in the region since the concept and curriculum are already developed. Ensure the course at St Joseph’s will continue after project participation ends through a better understanding of the University’s intent for the course post-project.

7

Strengthen ties with country-level programmes (UNDP and others) to develop follow up efforts for the members of the regional associations including NHRI’s after the guidebook is published, and to help track the results of project efforts at the country levels

8

Strengthen the next annual report by including analysis of the progress made towards the achievement of the project’s intended outcomes and ensure clarity in reporting on the who did what and why for events and knowledge products.

9

Collect more results-level data to use to target future efforts and to monitor project effectiveness. Supplement the M&E plan with the addition of a few results-based indicators for each main output for the remainder of the project.

10

Develop an exit strategy in case there is not a follow-on UNDP project that would continue the key efforts and include progress made on this in reporting.

11

Continue close collaboration and partnerships with EAD, IDEA, Venice Commission, UN Women and others and expand these where possible

12

Start the design process now for a future project and avoid extending the project indefinitely.

13

There is still a need for a regional project focused on strengthening the electoral and political processes and their integrity, equity and inclusion in the Arab region. Electoral processes provide an effective entry point for broader good governance and policy reforms and for the promotion of democratic norms and the rule of law without the level of sensitivities inherent in a “democracy and governance” project.

14

Start the next stage of assistance by conceptualizing the future project within the broader framework of UNDP’s electoral and political processes support to the region as a whole, and within this framework how the regional and country levels can work together to strengthen the processes in the region. To support this effort, UNDP should develop a five-year integrated strategy of assistance that covers the regional and country levels and includes a common theory of change, common goals at the outcome level and mutually synergistic programming. This strategy should include a few joint indicators that both levels can use to measure their progress towards achieving those goals. The strategy should also identify the partners that can help UNDP at country and regional levels to implement its strategy and how this would be coordinated. Use this as the foundation for the design of the next regional project and for any new country-level projects, adapted as appropriate for the country contexts.

15

Continue efforts from Phase II that show the most promise in terms of impact, notably, the consolidation of ArabEMBs and its efforts with its members, further professionalization and development of LAS as a regional resource and defender of norms for member states on electoral and political processes, the strengthening of the human rights network efforts as protectors of human rights and democratic norms throughout the electoral process and similar efforts with the OIC.

16

Think through how to strengthen the project’s impact at the regional level for the political participation of women and youth beyond existing efforts as well as building on successes. Include PLWD in this. As part of this, strengthen ties with specialized organizations especially in light of the UN’s repositioning that looks for “a stronger UN institutional response and system-wide approach to partnerships for the 2030 Agenda.”75

17

Strengthen efforts to address issues of electoral violence, electoral dispute resolution and the broader areas of electoral justice, the constructive role of media and transparency of EMBs and other institutions (especially in relation to open government and data),

18

Explore relationships with UNDP’s other on-line platforms beyond ACE related to project goals such as iKNOW POLITICS and AGORA. Look into UNDP’s open data efforts in relation to standards that could be adopted by regional institutions for their members and the possibility of supporting the ArabEMBs to promote ISO certification within its member EMBs which could contribute significantly to the professionalism and reliability of their work as well as to the outcome level goals of reliable and accurate election administration.

19

Expand the reach of the Electoral Systems course by developing a certificated e-learning course that would be open to university students and others, including electoral practitioners throughout the region and market it widely.

20

Provide a country window focused on strengthening coordination and developing programmatic synergies, and measuring progress made under the integrated strategy. Avoid a country window for the purpose of filling country level funding gaps unless this is developed as part of the project’s design and the parameters for this type of support are well defined.

21

Develop the role of the regional electoral advisor and project in assisting other UNDP offices and projects in the integrated strategic plan and project design. Ensure the parameters for this are well defined and it has its own output, resource allocation and performance indicators.

22

Attach the regional project to the regional hub rather than continue as a part of GPECS to formalize its integration into the larger UNDP regional programme, strengthen project oversight and streamline its administration. Ensure the set up of the project accounting system is designed to enter data at the sub-output level (1.1. 1.2 etc.) so that the project can better track its expenditures and monitor its efforts.

23

Develop a full M&E plan as a supplement to the project document with performance based indicators, tracking tables, roles and responsibilities for monitoring and aggregating data, etc. Use country offices to help collect M&E data that can help track results at country levels that when aggregated would show results at the regional level. Ensure the collection of baseline data at the start and end of the project.

24

Broaden the donor base to make it a more collective international effort and to help ensure stability and adequate funding for efforts. Allow earmarking of funds so that donors can support their areas of particular interest.

Management response not available

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