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

UNDP should continue to capitalize on its positioning and added value in Ecuador, supporting the country in the identification, mobilization and execution of resources for the implementation of strategic interventions to address poverty reduction and the socioeconomic consequences of COVID-19, as well as upcoming fiscal and environmental challenges that pose a serious threat to social equity, biodiversity conservation and sustainable development.

UNDP has played a leading role in accessing and coordinating national and international actors to implement highly relevant interventions in Ecuador. However, for the new programme cycle, UNDP needs to leverage its experience and strategic positioning in terms of governance, elections, biodiversity conservation, natural resource management, climate change and the SDGs to strengthen and expand partnerships, mobilize public and private resources and deepen its focus on transformative development interventions for the country. In addition, it must continue to leverage its comparative advantages, especially in driving the sustainability of achieved and future results. It should undertake a review of factors affecting sustainability and an assessment of UNDP capacity to address them. It should maximize the benefits of integrating the specialized mandates of other United Nations agencies, similar to that done to tackle chronic child malnutrition, and reinforce efforts to seize the opportunities arising from working in collaboration with IFIs, such as with the World Bank to address social protection, youth and migration issues.

Management Response: [Added: 2021/12/29] [Last Updated: 2022/04/01]

The country office aims to play an important role in helping Ecuador to achieve significant advances on the SDGs. We will continue supporting national priorities advocating for the sustainability of results; creating strategic alliances with key partners (government, donors, United Nations agencies, IFIs, NGOs and civil society) and leading programmatic efforts to: i) build democratic governance, rule of law and inclusive institutions, (ii) reduce inequalities and exclusion, eradicate poverty and build resilience; and (iii) support sustainable natural resource management and environmental initiatives.

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
1.1 Through a consultative process, including different stakeholders, the office will ensure that the new CPD is aligned with national development priorities, accordingly with the National Development Plan and the new UNSDCF. The CPD will be the framework to strengthen the positioning and added value of UNDP in Ecuador.
[Added: 2022/04/01] [Last Updated: 2022/11/07]
Senior management, Programme Units. 2022/07 Completed The new UNDP country programme 2023-2026 has been aligned with National Development Plan of Ecuador 2021-2025, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the UNDP Strategic Plan 2022-2025, and the United Nations Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework 2022-2026. The programme priorities considered the achievements of the previous cycle and the challenges identified in the United Nations Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework consultations, process in which UNDP actively led several consultation groups carried out with the Government; other state actors; decentralized autonomous governments; civil society; academia; international cooperation agencies; the private sector; the media; and international financial organizations. Consultations with stakeholders highlighted the need to strengthen public institutions, increase capacities, improve information management, and promote better articulation between levels of government and other sectors. Sustainable and innovative financing mechanisms are needed, together with a regulatory framework and public policy instruments supporting poverty reduction, institutional transformation, comprehensive security, resilience, and ecological transition, defined as national priorities in the National Development Plan. In consultations, UNDP has been recognized as an impartial and credible partner that can take advantage of multisectoral partnerships on a wide range of issues with a comprehensive vision. While it will continue to mobilize technical assistance and resources and articulate responses to development challenges, greater efforts must be made to guarantee the sustainability of such interventions. To that end, UNDP will work on institutional strengthening to ensure better, more transparent public management, including anchoring actions with local actors. History
2. Recommendation:

UNDP should adapt its office structure to the realities of the programme it implements. It should consider strengthening the programme and operations areas to allow for more realistic distribution of workloads, avoiding the risk of bottlenecks and delays, and continue to look after staff health and motivation.

Corporate calls to care for the physical and mental health of all office staff have been continuous since the start of the pandemic, and as it drags on, these calls have become more relevant due to accumulated fatigue, stress and psychological distress. The country office must maximize the opportunities arising from the ‘People for 2030’ strategy and promote measures that enable staff to achieve a better work-life balance, and increase motivation and job satisfaction. At the workload level, the office needs to undertake a thorough reflection and analysis covering processes, time requirements and staffing available for implementation in the context of its growing project portfolio and the new work realities arising from the pandemic. It should encourage the transition to full NIM to reduce the burden of internal processes. Likewise, it should exploit possibilities for operational improvement arising from the clustering process at corporate level. The office needs to assess and consider strengthening the areas of procurement, finance, human resources and M&E. It should also continue to decentralize administrative processes to project units to the extent permitted by internal regulations, optimize workloads at operations and programme levels and free up time for strategic advice and technical oversight of progress.

Management Response: [Added: 2021/12/29] [Last Updated: 2022/04/01]

There are ongoing efforts that aim to achieve a better work-life balance, increased motivation and job satisfaction. The country office senior management is committed to this purpose and will continue to do so. The office has implemented the transformation plan approved by RBLAC in 2021 that aims to strengthen the office structure. This includes hiring of an M&E position, among other actions, which at the time of the evaluation was in process. Other operational enhancements will be analysed once the corporate
clustering is fully operational. 
The size of the office and organizational structure is a matter for in-depth analysis, including cost structures, which the evaluation team has not carried out. In comparison to other office structures in the region and their delivery levels which are used as benchmarks, the office has an adequate size. At present, its sustainability does not represent challenges.
Despite limitations to hiring additional staff (fixed-term appointment), the country office has made efforts to adapt it structure and the senior management will continue to address this issue. The country office has managed to mobilize resources for Service Contracts, Individual Contract, National Personnel Services Agreement (NPSA) and United Nations Volunteers in essential areas (Procurement, Finance, Communications, Human Resources and Programmes). To note: the example given, ProAmazonia, has several dedicated persons within the programme unit under different contract modalities.

The issue of excessive workload is a complex issue. The country office Standard Operating Procedures to enhance workflows have been reviewed, but there are several dimensions that should be carefully analyzed for a comprehensive understanding:
1. The increase in workload is due not only to the growth of the programme and its delivery, but also responds to: a) the challenges of teleworking during the pandemic; as well as b) to attend and implement a number of new corporate operational initiatives (on the operational side, e.g. introduction of new a contract form (NPSA) and Clustering of services). On the human resources side, this was compounded by the COVID-19 vaccination process of United Nations personnel.
2. Another factor is that the country office business model mainly uses DIM and support to NIM modalities, creating significant volumes of transactions and workloads. Despite efforts to transition towards full NIM, the enabling conditions and government capacities do not yet allow for transiting towards this modality.
3. On the programme side, it should be noted that the functions of programme staff should be primarily linked to oversight and accompanying actions – implementing units in projects have the main responsibility for execution.
Recognizing the challenge with workloads during the pandemic, the senior management has paid special attention to mental health/ mindfulness, several activities were and are being carried out, including the action plan that responds to the 2019 Global Staff Survey.

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
2.1 Finalize the implementation of the Transformation Plan approved in 2021 to strengthen the office structure, including the reclassification of a managerial position and its reassessment at the corporate level and complete the hiring of some key positions that have been vacant and are part of the country office organigram.
[Added: 2022/04/01] [Last Updated: 2022/11/07]
Human resources 2022/09 Completed All actions were completed. The new Business case regarding the Transformation Plan to strengthen the structure of the office and balance the levels of management positions was submitted and approved by RBLAC in August 2022. The changes will be reflected in the next year as part of the IWP 2023 and in line with the new policy on New Organizational Unit restructuring Policy that was shared to all staff by BMS on 7/10/2022. History
2.2 Conduct a rationale of operational enhancements and implement the 2019 Global Staff Survey Action Plan, the timing of which is appropriate now that the corporate clustering is fully operational.
[Added: 2022/04/01] [Last Updated: 2022/11/07]
Human Resources 2022/10 Completed All actions and activities included in the GSS Action GSS Plan were completed and the results presented to all staff in the last staff meeting held on 27/10/2022 History
3. Recommendation:

UNDP should leverage its unique strategic positioning on the environment to continue expanding and reinforcing biodiversity conservation, ecosystem management approaches, climate change interventions and the linkages between sustainable development, resilience and poverty reduction.

Leadership on environmental issues should allow for expanded synergies. The next programme should jointly focus on responding to the effects of the COVID-19 socioeconomic crisis on the most vulnerable sectors of the population and the global environmental crisis due to biodiversity decline and climate change and its impacts on Ecuador’s various ecosystems and natural resources. Causal analyses of interventions and the specific characteristics of national ecosystems need to be deepened to prove project hypotheses, achieve more transformational impacts in terms of global environmental benefits, and increase effectiveness in meeting the challenges of climate change and biodiversity decline in Ecuador. UNDP should encourage and facilitate learning among projects. The next CPD should strengthen its indicator system and monitoring and sustainability strategies, to showcase its higher-level environmental goals and its inclusive approach, livelihoods promotion and contributions to poverty reduction. The environmental portfolio can also expand opportunities to apply nature-based solutions for DRR and resilience.

Management Response: [Added: 2021/12/29] [Last Updated: 2022/04/01]

UNDP will leverage its strategic positioning as a key actor in the country to continue supporting actions on the environment and energy areas, in particular: conservation of biodiversity and ecosystems (including landscape management approach), climate change, DRR and resilience, sustainable energy and energy efficiency, pollution – management of chemicals and hazardous substances, sustainable fisheries, sustainable production and livelihoods, integrated water resource management, green finance and green recovery. Greater synergies will be fostered with public, private, civil society, academia, national and international financial institutions, amongst others, to leverage resources and complement actions for a higher impact.
The next country programme will further strengthen the linkages between social, economic and environmental matters with a focus on green recovery (in the context of the pandemic), with a reinforced indicator and monitoring system. The portfolio will continue to support and promote integrated and inclusive approaches that contribute to the conservation of natural resources and ecosystems, while promoting sustainable livelihoods that support poverty reduction targets. Likewise, the portfolio will continue to contribute to the design and implementation of public policy (regulations, incentives, budgetary systems, strategies, plans and so on) and capacity strengthening to address the environmental priorities and challenges of the country.
The design process for projects will pay attention to the development of causal analyses that support the theories of change, and on the analysis of the specific characteristics of the country´s ecosystems at the time of developing intervention hypotheses, to ensure that project results achieve impacts in terms of global environmental benefits. This will allow for a stronger and more effective means of measurement of those impacts. In this context it is, however, important to highlight that the design of projects follows solid and diligent processes, especially for those funded by vertical funds. GEF and GCF require several technical and financial clearances to ensure coherence of design and causal linkages before approval. Projects are closely monitored and reported following donor and UNDP templates and tracking tools, and results are substantive. Notwithstanding, we will ensure even stronger analysis at the time of project formulation to respond to the recommendation of the evaluators.

Finally, UNDP welcomes the recommendation to encourage and facilitate learning among projects, but also among programmatic and strategic areas. The projects under the Environment and Energy programme hold bi-weekly meetings to provide quick updates on the progress of actions, main milestones, key events and opportunities for capacity-building, information exchange, best practices, etc. Those spaces will be strengthened to promote learning among projects and to include other programmatic areas to share knowledge, methodologies, etc. Moreover, the country office also holds bi-weekly programmatic meetings led by the Resident Representative, which aim to share knowledge and learning among country office programmes and strategic areas (programme areas, Accelerator Lab, DRR, gender, communications, M&E). Those meetings will be maintained and enhanced to facilitate continuous learning.

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
3.3 UNDP country office will continue holding bi-weekly programmatic meetings led by the Resident Representative to facilitate knowledge exchange and learning among the different areas and projects of the country office. On the other hand, the Environment and Energy Programme will continue holding bi-weekly meetings with the projects of the portfolio and will ensure there is an agenda that covers topics that will strengthen the capacities of the team and facilitate learning and knowledge exchange among projects. A follow-up mechanism will be implemented to monitor concrete joint actions.
[Added: 2022/04/01]
Programme Units 2022/12 Initiated Those spaces have already been taking place every two weeks and will be strengthened to ensure deeper learning among projects and among areas. History
3.4 UNDP country office will articulate actions to expand the portfolio on nature-based solutions for DRR and resilience and its linkage with adaptation to climate change. In that sense, UNDP country office will explore opportunities to mobilize resources (from the Adaptation Fund for instance) to apply risk-based adaptation approaches to support community adaptation to climate change effects. In addition, the area of disaster risk management will proactively participate in initiatives implemented by NDC and NAP to articulate concrete actions such as the business roundtables to identify nature-based solutions for DRR and resilience.
[Added: 2022/04/01] [Last Updated: 2022/11/22]
Environment and Energy 2022/12 Initiated History
3.1 In the framework of the development of the new country programme, UNDP country office will lead a discussion workshop and prepare an analysis, based on the findings of the Common Country Assessment, to define the focus of the environment outcome of the new programme in response to the recommendation of the ICPE that highlights the opportunity to strengthen the country office joint response to the effects of the COVID-19 socioeconomic crisis on the most vulnerable sectors of the population and the global environmental crisis due to biodiversity decline and climate change and its impacts on Ecuador’s different ecosystems and natural resources.
[Added: 2022/04/01] [Last Updated: 2022/04/08]
Environment and Energy 2022/04 Completed The workshop has been developed under the leadership of the CO Senior Management. As a result of the discussions, the main environmental challenges in the country have been identified and therefore, UNDP focus areas have been drafted, to strengthen the country office's joint response to the effects of the global environmental crisis due to biodiversity decline and climate change, COVID-19 and its impacts on Ecuador’s different ecosystems and natural resources. In addition, UNDP has provided technical and strategic insight to the process of development of the new UN Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework, where environment and sustainable management of natural resources has been prioritized as one of the key outcomes. This is an ongoing process during 2022. History
3.2 At the design phase of a project, UNDP country office will ensure that a thorough causal analysis is developed to support the theory of change of the project. In addition, depending on the area of intervention, a deeper analysis of the specific characteristics of ecosystems will be conducted to ensure that the proposed intervention generates effective transformative impact in terms of global environmental benefits and ensures the sustainability of those impacts.
[Added: 2022/04/01] [Last Updated: 2022/04/08]
Environment and Energy 2022/12 Completed The CO have implemented these actions during the design phase of the Project “Implementation of the Strategic Action Programmes and the National Strategic Action Plans for the Integrated Water Resources Management in the Puyango-Tumbes, Catamayo-Chira and Zarumilla Transboundary Aquifers and River Basins”. The following process was developed: Two virtual workshops were held with all the actors involved from both countries (Ecuador and Peru). In the first one, a problem tree and a causal analysis were developed as a first step to create the project's theory of change (prodoc can be shared as requested). In the second workshop, with the same actors, the GEBs proposed during the PIF were analyzed and their relevance was evaluated. The analysis even included new GEBs beyond the ones considered by the donor (international waters window of the GEF). As a result, the number of hectares that will be conserved to include GEBs for reducing greenhouse gas emissions was analyzed. Furthermore, the effect of the project in reducing the use of mercury in mining and hazardous pesticides in agricultural areas that end up polluting the watersheds, to include GEBs from the chemicals and waste window was also analyzed. These key actions will continue be implemented during the design phase of projects. UNDP CO through the Environment & Energy Programme is committed to ensure that the theory of change is developed based on the results of a causal analysis of problems and solutions. Deeper analysis is conducted, through technical support, to ensure that the proposed intervention generates an effective transformative impact in terms of global benefits. In the case of vertical funds, such as the GEF, we follow the donors policies and technical guidelines to define and monitor global environmental benefits (GEBs). History
4. Recommendation:

UNDP needs to build on the lessons and opportunities from the pandemic response to strengthen its programme offer and consolidate its governance and inclusive development area for greater effectiveness.

The experience and information derived from the PDNA should allow UNDP to make coherent programme adjustments for the new programme cycle. Internally, it must design a new theory of change, adapting it to the country’s new reality and the UNDP vision and mission for Ecuador. This exercise should enable the consolidation of the area of governance and inclusive development. It should secure its emerging work on anti-corruption and explore the possibility of including complementary and highly relevant areas of work such as justice. In the electoral field, it must continue to strengthen technical capacities, extend the scope of action to future electoral processes at local level and promote the active participation of citizens and civil society to guarantee the sustainability of progress. The drive for sustainable economic development must seek impacts at public policy level and foster partnerships that enable poverty reduction, green recovery, the promotion of the circular economy and the economic inclusion of young people, women and vulnerable households dependent on the informal sector. Innovation should continue to be encouraged and seek to expand the partner ecosystem and move from local initiatives to far-reaching experiments anchored in the programme.

Management Response: [Added: 2021/12/29] [Last Updated: 2022/04/01]

UNDP will update the CPD theory of change and strengthen its programmatic strategy, taking into account the impacts of the pandemic and the priorities defined by the National Development Plan 2021-25. In terms of governance and inclusive development, the country office will work in support of national and local stakeholders in actions that aim at socioeconomic recovery, poverty reduction and inequality, but also towards institutional strengthening for better and more transparent public management. It will build on the foundations of the current projects of sustainable socioeconomic recovery, socioeconomic integration of the population in migration situation, employability of young people and women, financing of the SDGs and initiatives that support the transparency agenda, with which it is already supporting key lines of policy defined by the new Government. In the electoral field, UNDP will expand the scope of its current project to support the electoral cycle, for which it has already negotiated with Spain a new financial contribution. In all these initiatives, UNDP plans to consider innovation and digitalization as key enabling factors.

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
4.1 Update the Theory of Change in new CPD.
[Added: 2022/04/01] [Last Updated: 2022/06/29]
Senior Management and Programme Units 2022/06 Completed UNDP has update the CPD theory of change and strengthened its programmatic strategy, taking into account the impacts of the pandemic and the priorities defined by the National Development Plan 2021-25 and the new UNSDCF. The theory of change for the period 2023-2026, was worked under the strategic vision of the office and presented in the first narrative version of the CPD and in a graphic scheme. History
5. Recommendation:

UNDP efforts and initiatives on gender should focus on policy impact, to address the structural barriers and root causes of gender inequality and contribute to changes in women’s rights, gender norms and cultural values. In this respect, the country office should strengthen its programmatic focus on poverty, social inclusion, indigenous women’s rights and young women’s empowerment, drawing on lessons from current work in traditionally male-dominated sectors.

UNDP Ecuador must take advantage of its good institutional positioning to address the root causes of gender inequality and promote initiatives that engage public authorities and trigger cultural changes in favour of gender equality and women’s empowerment. It has already started to do so at the sectoral level, but it needs to expand the lessons learned from these initiatives in traditionally male-dominated sectors to the rest of its spheres of action. UNDP should explicitly and effectively communicate the transformational changes and results achieved by its interventions on gender equality, to make its added value more visible to and acknowledged by external partners. The impact of the pandemic and the need for a gender-sensitive approach to poverty reduction and socioeconomic recovery requires UNDP to place gender equality at the centre of its interventions, thus serving as a programmatic catalyst to trigger changes in social protection, GBV, resilience, political and electoral rights, natural resource management and economic empowerment. UNDP must have a gender agenda beyond the framework of the next CPD to reflect that consolidating progress on gender issues requires structural changes and sustained work with a long-term vision, and have the monitoring and communication tools to provide evidence of progress. In addition, UNDP should continue strengthening the inclusion of vulnerable or traditionally excluded groups in its programmes.

Management Response: [Added: 2021/12/29] [Last Updated: 2022/04/01]

The UNDP project portfolio has evolved from a timid application of the gender-based approach, towards full mainstreaming, through the incorporation of gender-sensitive tools throughout its programme and including the development of projects and initiatives whose specific objectives are the protection and empowerment of women. This is the case of the regional project financed by CAF and more recently the Spotlight program, both addressing GBV. In both interventions, UNDP works at the level of public policies and institutional reforms. UNDP has also worked on issues of economic inclusion and employability with a gender focus, as well as on local planning that combines an approach to environmental sustainability with the empowerment of women. On this basis, UNDP plans to incorporate other strategic interventions into its next CPD. The country office will seek to strengthen its partnership with other United Nations agencies and with the women’s organizations with which it currently cooperates. The objective will be to contribute at the level of policies and cultural practices, removing obstacles to the exercise of women’s rights.

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
5.1 Strengthen the work on gender that is carried out in different projects in the office, through a portfolio approach, as proposed in the 2022-25 strategic plan. The different interventions will be reviewed with the idea of aiming to achieve structural transformations that contribute to changing root causes.
[Added: 2022/04/01] [Last Updated: 2022/11/22]
Governance and Inclusive Development 2023/04 Initiated This action is on going. The Governance Area has worked with the Acceleration Laboratory to incorporate new products within the framework of the Spotlight initiative (gender violence) and also on issues related to the Open Government Plan, through the Public Innovation Laboratory. With the Environment Area it is working in terms of sustainable finance/national financing framework with the Ministry of Economy and Finance. History
5.2 Develop 2 new GEN3 projects.
[Added: 2022/04/01] [Last Updated: 2022/11/22]
Governance and Inclusive Development 2023/06 Initiated This activity is on going. We have prepared two GEN3 program proposals: one for the second phase of Spotlight, a program that ends in 2022, and which will allow us to work during 2023 on institutional strengthening in terms of prevention/reduction of gender-based violence and care for victims. Another iniciative has been prepared, financing from the Italo-Ecuadorian Fund. Both are concept notes awaiting formal approval. History

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