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Independent Country Programme Review: Mongolia
Commissioning Unit: Independent Evaluation Office
Evaluation Plan: 2018-2021
Evaluation Type: ICPE/ADR
Completion Date: 12/2020
Unit Responsible for providing Management Response: Mongolia
Documents Related to overall Management Response:  
1. Recommendation:

[Linked to findings 7-9 and crosscutting review questions on COVID-19 and positioning] – UNDP Mongolia should further refine and communicate its business case for 2021/2022 by further clarifying its offer and specifying how it intends to contribute to UNDAF objectives as well as the COVID-19 response and recovery in the immediate future. UNDP should intensify its efforts to help the Government mitigate the socioeconomic impact of COVID-19, specifically on groups severely affected by the pandemic. This may involve institutional strengthening of the Cabinet Secretariat’s Office as the main influencer during the crisis, as well as the provision of country-specific analyses and solutions, focusing on the most sensitive governance and economic issues only a trusted partner like UNDP can tackle. To clarify its offer for 2021/2022, the country office should produce a concise theory of change diagram visualizing in an attractive format who UNDP Mongolia is and how it makes a difference. A short accompanying narrative should identify new intervention areas, synergies and coherence across portfolios, linkages with other actors, opportunities for innovation and new partnerships, as well as the main underlying assumptions and risks. Such a document can serve as a UNDP business case, positioning the office as a key partner with a distinct profile in Mongolia’s dwindling donor landscape. It can also guide the country office in identifying activities with sustainability potential, and serve as a communication tool to clarify the UNDP role vis-a-vis the United Nations Resident Coordinator’s Office, which has been a source of confusion.

Management Response: [Added: 2021/05/03] [Last Updated: 2021/05/11]

Recommendation accepted: UNDP will intensify its efforts to help the government with its COVID response and recovery of the socio-economic impact while continuing to contribute to the UNDAF. This will build upon the joint work initiated with the Cabinet Secretariat as a government operational arm of the implementation of the national programme. Capitalizing on the UNDP’s previous work on the national strategy for COVID response, the focus will be to clarify UNDP’s role in the rest of the current programme cycle and transition to the Country Programme in 2023-2027. The business case will be based on the 7 distinct transformative missions suggested in the Mission-Oriented Framework, which is mapped in the Strategic Argument during the sense-making journey.  The Strategic Argument that UNDP developed in late 2020 aimed to design portfolios of mission for UNDP to help Mongolia transform in the post-Covid world. 

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
1.3 Regularly communicate through social media, UNDP website, CO monthly newsletters, blogs, and news releases to UNCT, external partners and the public its programmatic work and results achieved as a contribution to the UNDAF, SDGs attainment, and COVID response and recovery.
[Added: 2021/05/11]
CO Communications 2022/12 Initiated implemented throughout the programme period.
1.1 Organize an internal meeting to explore and identify the focus in the Covid response (using analysis of the current conditions along with the data captured in the relevant surveys, portfolio areas recommended in the Strategic Argument and the UN-info). The discussion and the roadmap will be documented to guide the next steps in 2021/2022 and to transition to the next programme cycle smoothly.
[Added: 2021/05/11]
CO management, M&E 2021/04 Completed Organized the initial meeting to explore the focus and business offer in 2021/2022 and the two-pager transition paper (CPD provisional addendum) is being developed in consultation with the programme team (ongoing and will be integrated into the activities planned under 1.2 and 2.2). In relation to Rec#1 and Rec#2, the programme team has reviewed the CPD tracking document and the programme areas that need our attention: - After reviewing the lacking-behind indicators, we’ve discussed possible indicators that better capture our current work, especially on covid and innovation; - Reviewed the main lagging behind indicators and targets: a) with the new projects (CGF contributing to Output #1.7; and Ensure reporting on 1.7.1 income level, all “at-risk” indicator performances can get easily improved; b) Under Output 1.3: Agreed to add biodiversity indicator (i.e: habitat size protected through sustainable natural resources management) c) Under 2.1, engaging/revising the Civil Society platform can be formulated as an indicator. This is captured in the actions planned for Recommendation #5. - Reviewed the main lagging behind indicators and targets: a) Covid focus, we agreed to use the existing corporate indicators such as Covid/SERP that are already reported under Covid-ROAR and UNINFO and updating the current output statement to capture covid work; b) And under city governments low carbon and energy-efficient technology, we agreed to add an update, capturing Smart Erdenet work - waste management and transportation; c) Agreed to check NDC indicators on waste and transportation and try to link to innovative activities to reduce emission from Transportation; and innovation in GHG reduction and waste management. This will be formulated carefully within the limitation of the available budget and existing project in order to avoid over-committing ourselves; -Agreed to place the Digital literacy (digital skills improvement of vulnerable groups) under the output 1.9, but will review further if it can also contribute to lagging behind outputs. History
1.2 A concrete design and roadmap for the portfolios will be developed with help from an independent consultancy based on consultation.
[Added: 2021/05/11]
CO Management, M&E 2021/12 Not Initiated
2. Recommendation:

[Linked to findings 3, 4, 10 and 12, review question 2 and crosscutting review questions on COVID-19 and positioning] - UNDP Mongolia should immediately review its staffing structure and tweak its results framework to ensure it is realigned with recent adjustments and fit for purpose. Staffing for programme delivery needs to be reviewed as soon as possible. The office may require additional personnel to implement pipeline projects starting in 2021, which is challenging given a relatively high existing management efficiency ratio. In addition, programme leads need more space to engage in innovation, strategic and thought leadership work, including on the UNDP normative position to be conveyed through advocacy and policy advisory (see recommendations 3 and 5). As a preliminary step to act on recommendation 1, the results chain for the vast existing outcome 1 must be reviewed, to ascertain that the country office can prove its contribution. To ensure that progress can be fully demonstrated by the end of the programme cycle, adjustments to the measurement of results (e.g. tweaking indicators, revising targets, including disaggregation where possible) should be made as soon as possible and in line with the updated theory of change. New programmes (GCF, Korea International Cooperation Agency, EU) will also need to be reflected adequately in both outcome areas and should not be made to fit under existing headings where contribution lies elsewhere. This will help demonstrate the full extent of the country office results, and position UNDP as the partner of choice on a wide range of issues for the 2023-2027 period. 

Management Response: [Added: 2021/05/03]

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
2.1 Targeted review support on staffing structure that fits for purpose with BRH technical advice and support developed
[Added: 2021/05/11] [Last Updated: 2021/06/02]
BRH and CO management 2021/09 Initiated The consultation with the BRH is ongoing and the exercise is led by the bureau which needed some time to further discuss. History
2.2 Internal meeting looking at the indicators and the business case (combined with the action outlined above under 1.1 above
[Added: 2021/05/11] [Last Updated: 2021/06/29]
CO management and M&E 2021/06 Completed The review of the business case and the CPD discussed in the summer retreat History
2.3 A roadmap and discussions outlining/documenting the design of the programme approach (portfolios) with an independent insight from consultancy support and will feed into the new CPD theory of change and design (informed by the CCA and new UNSDCF theory of change)
[Added: 2021/05/11]
CO management and M&E 2021/12 Not Initiated
3. Recommendation:

[Linked to findings 1-9 and 11, and review question 1] – In the next programme cycle, UNDP Mongolia should further enhance its focus on knowledge brokering, analysis and technical leadership, specifically in the realm of socioeconomic analysis. An emphasis on ‘upstream’ work is expected from UNDP in middle-income countries. Delinking from the United Nations coordination role has freed space for UNDP Mongolia to focus on its key strengths and take on a more substantive leadership role, as demonstrated in the socioeconomic response to COVID-19. In its 2023-2027 CPD, UNDP needs to position itself clearly as a thought leader, and promote its added value in policy advice and knowledge brokering across the United Nations system and beyond. UNDP has the necessary clout to lead transformative, green and gender-responsive change in Mongolia, and must now take decisive steps to model a whole-of-society approach engaging broadly beyond the Government. Programme area leads need to adapt and operationalize the latest corporate guidance for the context of Mongolia, build on recently initiated socio-economic and poverty analysis, and invest in demonstration projects to ensure proof of concept by collaborating with the upcoming A-Lab. The office is well positioned for analytical work in some of the programmatic areas that were left aside in 2017-2022 such as skills/ employment and youth, and could consider re-engaging more strongly, if a consolidated portfolio allows. International and national partners are available to collaborate, including the National Statistical Office, ILO, UNFPA and various civil society platforms (see recommendation 5).

Management Response: [Added: 2021/05/03] [Last Updated: 2021/05/11]

Recommendations accepted. UNDP will use its strength and the substantive leadership role that was demonstrated in the socio-economic response to COVID-19 and position itself as a thought leader and knowledge broker. Capitalizing on its partnership with IFIs and other partners on analytical works, UNDP continues to focus on the socio-economic analysis to capture multiple-angles with a whole-of-society approach.

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
3.1 Hiring of an International economist at the P4 level with in-depth expertise to bring an edge to the programme and elevate its portfolio
[Added: 2021/05/11] [Last Updated: 2021/06/02]
BRH, CO Management 2021/09 Initiated Update: International economist starting from June/July, 2021 History
3.3 A-lab roadmap and the frontier challenges further elaborated
[Added: 2021/05/11] [Last Updated: 2021/06/02]
CO Management, A lab 2021/07 Overdue-Initiated Update: digital literacy research started, Erdenet mission done History
3.4 Discussions initiated and meetings organised with IFIs (quarterly/bi-annual basis) to explore ideas and collaboration opportunities for further analytic work. This will be building upon the earlier successful collaborations, e.g. with the ADB on SDG budgeting the knowledge products such as the gender study.
[Added: 2021/05/11]
CO Management, International economist 2021/12 Initiated
3.2 Leveraging the CCA, the programme environment and design will be explored through internal consultations/dialogue (combined with actions 1.1 and 2.2)
[Added: 2021/05/11]
CO Management, M&E 2021/04 Completed Initial consultation was done as part of the activity under 1.2 by reviewing the CPD tracking tool and the CPD result framework. This activity will continue under actions 1.2 and 2.2 as well when the CCA is completed. Under the RCO leadership, the CCA draft has been developed by the CCA Task Force and the document is under the second round of review process. Once it is completed and validated through the stakeholder consultations, UNDP programme team will review and run internal discussion how it influence/feed into the CPD design (part of the action 1.2).
4. Recommendation:

[Linked to findings 1-6 and 11, and review question 1] – Programmatically, UNDP Mongolia should add depth to its governance programme and consolidate its portfolio on the environmentpoverty nexus. There are significant opportunities to push for a “green recovery” from COVID-19, from which UNDP could capitalize. UNDP Mongolia must make some tough choices regarding its highly fragmented portfolio on sustainable development, streamlining it and perhaps emphasizing some new areas going forward (see recommendation 3). A particularly promising area into which to bundle some existing work and partnerships is “green recovery” from COVID-19, where significant national and donor interest is noted. Such a focus would need to be operationalized further but could build on various assets in the office (history of engagement around climate and environmental issues, incoming GCF funding etc.). The UNDP governance portfolio could be more ambitious and normatively based, to include a strong focus on anti-corruption, gender and human rights. Emphasis on citizen voice needs to be reinstated as a core area of what UNDP does, believes in and stands for. Development financing is an additional growth area where UNDP expertise is sought and valued. The Mongolia country office is beginning to make a name for itself as a lab for experimentation in this area. This should be continued and knowledge, including of failed pilots and experiments, should be documented and shared widely across the region and globally.

Management Response: [Added: 2021/05/03] [Last Updated: 2021/05/11]

Recommendation partially accepted. With regard to adding depth to the governance programme, while efforts are being made for the CO to enhance and add-depth to the governance portfolio, it is still challenging to raise funding for the governance portfolio. The Country Office has an annual allocation of $ 350,000 under TRAC funding, the majority of which during the cycle has been allocated under the governance portfolio.  The Country Office relies heavily on vertical funds and traditional donors. Although efforts are being made including through the A-lab to engage with non-traditional donors including from the private sector and IFIs, these are also not strong entry points to mobilise resources to expand the governance programme. The CO will continue its work on “green recovery” and several initiatives are being launched in 2021 in this area.

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
4.1 Further strengthen its existing actions and concerted efforts on the green recovery (including enhancing livelihoods options, pilot imitative to introduce goat milk as a new livelihood option especially for women, address challenges faced by the cashmere sector due to COVID through the cashmere platform, rollout new initiative on sustainable tourism, and debt for nature swap.)
[Added: 2021/05/11]
CO management, Environment portfolio 2022/12 Initiated
4.2 Explore further on ideas and issues with National Human Rights Commission and the National Gender Equality Commission to step up its existing partnership and work.
[Added: 2021/05/11]
CO management, Governance portfolio 2021/12 Initiated
5. Recommendation:

[Linked to findings 5-7 and 9, review question 2 and crosscutting review questions on positioning] – UNDP Mongolia should branch out its partnerships, with particular focus on civil society. Being a thought leader and knowledge broker includes broad engagement and consultation, moving beyond servicing the Government of Mongolia, and promoting multidisciplinary solutions. Conducting a comprehensive landscape analysis of development partners and resources to ‘build forward better’ could provide entry points. Such a piece could build on the work of this review and its by-products such as the ‘formative analysis’. Partnership with civil society, or indeed strengthening civil society in its role to hold government accountable and accelerate the achievement of the SDGs, should be a key focus of UNDP work in Mongolia. This implies support beyond grant management to include areas such as the improvement of legal frameworks for civil society engagement, capacity development in the realms of advocacy, policy analysis and international fundraising, as well as facilitating direct engagement with government authorities at different levels. Partnerships with other non-state actors, such as foundations or the private sector, should also be examined and pursued where strategic, ethical and feasible.

Management Response: [Added: 2021/05/03] [Last Updated: 2021/05/11]

Recommendation accepted. Strengthening its existing work with civil society, particularly the platform supported by UNDP Mongolia for the Civil Society contribution to the VNR, it will revive/adapt the civil-society advisory group to promote multidisciplinary solutions to accelerate the achievement of the SDGs. Recognizing the difficult environment for engaging private sector due to its small size in Mongolia and sensitivities related to the extractive industry, the CO will take a cautious, yet pro-active approach based on the partnership/stakeholder analysis to reach out to private sector in and outside of the country.

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
5.1 Leverage Sounding board members to collect solutions and multidisciplinary views and validation on the potential partnership and work (combined/added as a step to the action 1.1. and 2.2 for a validation)
[Added: 2021/05/11] [Last Updated: 2021/06/02]
CO Management Alab 2021/09 Not Initiated Further works to be done related to the action. Sounding Board is to be held in Quarter3. History
5.2 Civil Society Advisory group (forum) established by reviving or adapting from the SDGs civil society platform.
[Added: 2021/05/11]
CO Management, SDGs portfolio 2022/03 Not Initiated
5.3 Develop Civil society engagement strategy (with components focusing on both engagement and advocacy; clarifying if a quota to be established for civil society representation percentage in the various project boards). The Strategy will be developed engaging the existing civil society platform and validated by the group.
[Added: 2021/05/11]
CO Management 2021/12 Not Initiated

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