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Mid-term Project Evaluation: Modern Parliament for a Modern Armenia
Commissioning Unit: Armenia
Evaluation Plan: 2021-2025
Evaluation Type: Project
Completion Date: 02/2022
Unit Responsible for providing Management Response: Armenia
Documents Related to overall Management Response:  
1. Recommendation:

Strengthening parliamentary democracy and inclusive political dialogue. MAP should continue its work through a phased approach to support the parliamentary development in Armenia. That project support should continue as a long-lasting flexible and adaptive parliamentary programme (e.g. in three phases or several successive projects).

Management Response: [Added: 2022/02/04] [Last Updated: 2022/02/04]

Accepted. The Project is already, based on the Project Board of May 2020, in implementation of adaptive programming towards creating and implementing on-demand parliamentary development activities. In addition, due to the pandemic, post-conflict and pre-term election, the Project team has been implementing the contingency plan managing risks towards creating necessary conditions for stepping into the next project implementation phase. This approach, along with contingency planning and strong risk mitigation, proved to be the right approach that yielded results and the lessons learnt that are to be built into the next phase programming.

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
1.1
[Added: 2022/02/04]
New programming phase will be developed 2022/12 Initiated History
1.2
[Added: 2022/02/04]
Inclusive consultations conducted e.g., from mobile session, public hearings to needs assessments 2022/12 Initiated
2. Recommendation:

Public Hearings. From the facts obtained from the interviews, it is recommended that the project brings to MPs and stakeholders a few possible modalities for public hearings based on international best practices with relevant content and structure inclusive of public hearing benefits to parliament and external stakeholders in Armenia.

It is recommended that MAP consider the following during the 2nd half of Project implementation:

(1) organise consultative workshop(s) to learn, share experience and discuss implementation strategies and process possibilities in order to produce conclusions and recommendations for further development, i.e. improvement of public hearings on the national and local level.

(2) develop a publication and/or handbook on public hearings (as a knowledge product).

It is necessary to continue to work on improving the institution of public hearings in Armenia, which entails:

a) Improvement of the organizational and procedural aspect which should in detail address all questions with regards to organization: participation, written evidence, larger number of MPs, who gets to speak, duration of speeches, mandatory participation of a minister and other representatives of executive branch, duration, etc.

b) Development of more interest among MPs, citizens, and other stakeholders to ensure their attendance, preparation for and active participation in the public hearing process.

c) Recognition and actualization of specific results and outputs once a public hearing is conducted. A public hearing that deals with a concrete problem should be followed by concrete and serious questions directed toward the executive branch as part of parliament’s oversight function. This will mean developing the ‘information’ produced at the end of a public hearing into a document more akin to a committee report, which analyses the evidence heard at the hearing whilst making actionable recommendations for meaningful change.

Finally, it is recommended to proceed with online public hearings during the pandemic or to adopt a hybrid mode once possible during the second half of MAP implementation

Management Response: [Added: 2022/02/04]

Accepted. The Public Hearings are very extensively regulated in the National Assembly’s Rules of Procedure and do not so far foresee the possibility to organize the public hearings outside the National Assembly. The Project takes note of the need to reform the present organisation of public hearings and make them more efficient and effective.  The proposals to advance the practice are being communicated to the Standing Committees preparing for possible Rule of Procedure amendments. There is an average of 12-18 hearings taking place per year and the Project is increasingly being recognized as preferred partner of support, however the process is rather slow due to the political tensions and pandemic measures.

 

Through evidence gathering and monitoring the last public hearing conducted by the RA NA, the Project has initiated planning of programmatic support in this regard. Moreover, the problem has been identified and cross-checked with the NA Standing Committees and Administration as a gap in the function of legislative initiation, oversight and citizen and CSO engagement in the drafting or amendment processes.

Two-pronged approach will be programmed for modernizing the public hearings: 1) internal or organizational; and 2) external or contextual.

As far as the online public hearings are concerned, the Project is contributing to this through digital transformation component, which will provide such an opportunity.

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
2.1
[Added: 2022/02/04]
Organize and conduct a series of workshops with the National Assembly (NA) Standing Committee members for sharing international best practice in the organization and structure of public hearings. Develop a publication on public hearings for the NA. 2022/12 Initiated
2.2
[Added: 2022/02/04]
Peer-to-peer work and consultations for the NA Administration towards better organization and support in conducting public hearings and public debates 2022/12 Initiated
2.3
[Added: 2022/02/04]
Conduct analyses of the legal framework of public debates and public hearings, provide recommendations for improvement thereof, including introduction of online public hearings 2022/12 Initiated
3. Recommendation:

Town Hall Meetings. As noted in this report, town hall meetings have taken place in Yerevan and a part of a regional mobile town hall meetings modality. Their effectiveness is noted in the example of town hall meetings for rural administrative areas with territorial administration resulting in new chair of committee recognizing the possible amendment to territorial administration vis-à-vis the ongoing border dispute with Azerbaijan over N-K and how UNDP work and participation as an impartial arbiter in this process shows the positive impact of MAP intervention. Again, once the pandemic has subsided during the second half of MAP project engagement, this modality for parliamentary public engagement should continue and expand

Management Response: [Added: 2022/02/04]

Partially accepted. All Townhall Meetings (THM) have taken place in Yerevan but were conducted online with the regions due to pandemic.  This is the modality that belongs to the civil society, namely the ICHD, former Project Responsible party that the Project provided support for. The NA Standing Committee on Territorial Administration has not initiated or requested a THM on possible amendments to territorial administration vis-à-vis the ongoing border dispute. It has rather requested during the discussions at the THM Increasing the effectiveness of rural agricultural holdings and increasing the level of income.  As for recognizing the effectiveness of the THM modality and continuing its usage for parliamentary public engagement, the Project accepts the recommendation and will take it forward with respective parties

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
3.1
[Added: 2022/02/04]
Plan to organize discussions on the THMs with the think thanks and CSOs in Armenia to examine the demand needs for the next programming phase 2022/12 Initiated
4. Recommendation:

Evaluation recommendation 4.  Enhanced engagement of women in the political process

  • Regarding this issue, MAP primary scope should be MPs and gender equality, Women Parliamentary Network within the parliamentary domain.
  • Promotion of this work regionally (e.g., Armenian to English/Georgian/Ukrainian)
  • More public awareness work to bring attention to these issues in a non-political and more social progress way.
  • As Armenian society is highly politicized and polarized important to incorporate ruling party and opposition in these activities and engagements.
  • In Armenia following revolution, conflict, COVID and snap elections, important to focus on research to ensure that the approach is balanced and more representative of all in Armenian society and in line with UNDP (e.g., SDGs, gender empowerment[1]) and through UNDP Gender Portfolio, since UN Women is not currently present in Armenia. 

 


[1] See: Country Fact Sheet | UN Women Data Hub and Armenia country gender equality brief | UN Women – Europe and Central Asia.

Management Response: [Added: 2022/02/04] [Last Updated: 2022/02/04]

Accepted. The Project entails strong support in gender mainstreaming of the NA. Extensive collaboration with the Project RPAs has created solid basis for taking forward the gender equality mainstreaming, more informed decision and policy making among the MPs and Staff. The Project set the main direction towards enhancing parliamentary capacity for gender-responsive policy making, the aims, among other, to strengthen the capacity of the Parliament to better understand gender concepts, including gender equality, and importance of gender mainstreaming, scrutinize legislation from a gender perspective and carry out efficient oversight of state institutions with responsibilities in the area of gender equality related to SDGs and other national and international commitments.

The Project provided technical support in developing capacity of the MPs and staff members to undertake gender impact analysis, gender analysis, and gender budgeting. Gender mainstreaming of specific pieces of laws were proposed by MPs. More than 100 recommendations were produced and advocated for gender mainstreaming of Laws of RA, out of which 13 proposals turned into legislative initiatives and were adopted and 10 proposals have received other solutions or are in progress.

Moreover, the Public Opinion Poll results undertaken by the Project has shown positive impact of women’s participation in the work of the NA

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
4.1
[Added: 2022/02/04]
Mobile Sessions to be organized for discussing the Gender Equality Plan produced by the Project during 2021 2022/12 Initiated
4.2
[Added: 2022/02/04]
Work with the Women’s Parliamentary Network, engagement and support to women MPs 2022/12 Initiated
4.3
[Added: 2022/02/04]
Work with CSOs on piloting the gender mainstreaming: planning and piloting within the NA 2022/12 Initiated
5. Recommendation:

Research & training centre: to continue with collaboration of the MAP with R&TC and providing peer-to-peer trainings, workshops on facilitation skills.

 

Taking into account that MAP has been provided the NA with different research centre models that exist in different parliaments (comparative analytical review)[2], it is recommended to support NA to analyse pro and con arguments of each one in order to provide technical development support to NA in order to make strategic decisions regarding the Armenia NA Research Centre.  

It is recommended to consider and address possibilities for several important issues, such as: legal status of employees-researchers, salaries, recruitment process, etc. Adequate status and addressing of these issues is necessary in order to provide and secure high-level professional research and legal experts/lawyers in this centre.  It is up to the NA Administration to take forward the discussions on the status of employees and make a decision

 


[2]As example of comparative study, see: Parliamentary Libraries and Research Services in Central and Eastern Europe (Parliamentary Libraries and Research Services in Central and Eastern Europe (degruyter.com).

Management Response: [Added: 2022/02/04] [Last Updated: 2022/02/04]

Accepted. Workshops and peer-to-peer trainings have been conducted by the Project and will be provided to the NA Research and Training Centre during the next phase of the Project upon commonly formulated topics and within the Project PRODOC.

The comparative analysis of different parliamentary research centres has been already provided.

The options as to the legal status and the NA R&T Centre status have been proposed and provided in different comparative research documents and the functional analysis produced by the Project. The NA Secretariat and Leadership are vested with taking forward the discussions on the status of employees. The Project will secure the Swedish Parliament and other global best practice examples peer-to-peer exchange. In addition, consultations and technical advice will be provided to the NA Leadership. The Project will provide all necessary support as requested

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
5.1
[Added: 2022/02/04]
Engagement of R&TC staff in different workshops and facilitation skills will be ensured 2022/12 Initiated
5.2
[Added: 2022/02/04]
Consultative meetings with the Secretariat and NA Leadership to analyse pro and con arguments of the status of the RTC and its employees 2022/12 Initiated
6. Recommendation:

E-parliament. The MTR has identified a need to prepare an intermediate e-software as a tool to connect all parts of the electronic system in NA as part of a single consolidated e-platform to prepare e-parliament to be fully operational and functional.

The E-voting system needs to be linked to a website to automatically export data after voting. In line with information gathered from interviews conducted, in the current system after voting, information is manually compiled for the web site and there is the possibility of data entry error which can then be referenced by some stakeholders as being politically motivated despite being a technical error. 

There is a need for e-links and e-tools in order to link drafts of legislation with minutes from the NA session in order to provide citizens and other external stakeholders with a verbatim record of parliamentary proceedings on issues of interest and concern

Management Response: [Added: 2022/02/04]

Partially Accepted. The Project has initiated the digital transformation process of the NA, which envisages the preparation of a special software for connecting all the parts of the electronic system of the NA, including the e-document circulation, opportunities of e-platform (including e-modules), automatic calculation of the voting and its extrapolation into the web-portal.

The web portal will be a comprehensive tool for MP and constituency communication expansion, compilation and reflection of individual MPs work, online airing of sessions and more opportunities. The e-voting is not necessarily linked with the website but rather part of separate software programming that may be attached to the web portal in terms of transparency.

Legislative drafting is not necessarily connected with e-parliament but can be included. The Project will carefully monitor the latest e-parliament trends based on the IPU e-parliament global reporting to capture the lessons learnt and evolving technology

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
6.1
[Added: 2022/02/04]
The Digital transformation component work will continue into the next planned stages of activities 2022/12 Initiated
7. Recommendation:

Legislative drafting. The MTR has identified the need to strengthen legislative capacities in the NA. It is recommended to organise seminars/training on various legislative technics, including legislative drafting (for current/new convocations of NA) and to use and promote Guide on “Legislative Process” (the legal path of passing a law) developed by ICHD for the first time in Armenia. In the current system, each MP has an assistant, but in practice it is an administrative assistant who does not have the legal expertise or technical experience of a lawyer

Management Response: [Added: 2022/02/04]

Accepted. The Project has already taken tangible steps in strengthening the legislative drafting capacities of the NA, including the MPs, Standing Committee experts and Administrative staff. Other than the Guide on “Legislative Process” developed by Project RPA ICHD, which has been published and widely disseminated, the Project has organized a number of workshops and trainings on gender responsive budgeting within programme budgeting process to strengthen the gender equality awareness during future the legal drafting process and move towards overall gender mainstreaming of the NA. Moreover, the Project has produced 2 e-modules on pre and post legislative scrutiny and gender responsive budgeting and transferred to the e-learning platform of the NA.

 

During future landscape analysis meetings with NA representatives, the issue has been raised once again in regard to the new staff and assistants, to which the Project will adapt its programming and undertake necessary steps

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
7.1
[Added: 2022/02/04]
Undertake training and consultative processes for strengthening the legislative drafting capacities of the NA 2022/12 Initiated
8. Recommendation:

Standing Committees. It is recommended to analyse and review the possibilities to further support standing committees in the form of external expertise, advisory bodies (to committees) and similar, depending on the country context

Management Response: [Added: 2022/02/04]

Accepted. The Project has already initiated landscape analysis and comparative review of civic advisory and scientific bodies attached to the parliamentary committees

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
8.1
[Added: 2022/02/04] [Last Updated: 2022/04/04]
Conduct a landscape analysis of the international practice of the advisory bodies to the parliamentary standing committees 2022/06 Completed The analysis was completed and translated into the Armenian Language. Discussions with MPs helped identify the most relevant models in the Armenian context. History
9. Recommendation:

Donor coordination and engagement. There is a need to strengthen donor cooperation and coordination regarding further international development support to the NA in order to increase the level of cooperation and possible multi-donor interventions.[1] MTR findings indicate that there is no overlap at present, but on the other hand there should be better communication, mutual exchange of information, shared plans and regular coordination meetings. Of note is that as with so much else planned for the first half of MAP implementation, the operational situation was better during pre-Covid period when such meetings were held. 

During the second half of MAP implementation, it is important to find an adequate and functional technical coordination format in order to upgrade partner cooperation and to have better synergy and complementarity of donor-sponsored activities in support of the NA moving forward.

  • Because reliant on HQ or regional staff, and because of challenges between donors and UNDP in some cases elsewhere, in Armenia an excellent project team in place and standard maintained from 2020. If possible (in the following project phase), it is recommended that all RPs have national representative in the beneficiary country (in this case in Armenia) when there is important governance project, as parliamentary projects are.

Donors, however, need to consider enhancing project design during the MAP (or other) project implementation period periodically (e.g., annually at minimum) to include flexibility and adaptability on an ongoing basis—and in particular given the evident external circumstances which have disrupted planned activities during first 2 years of MAP

 


[1] Coordination with other actors (such as Council of Europe re corruption and ethical standards, OSCE/ODIHR parliamentary ethics standards, and elaboration of NA Code of Ethics). See: Armenia | OSCE - ODIHR . Anti-corruption with integrity and accountability is very important. See: National Assembly of the Republic of Armenia | Official Web Site | parliament.am

Management Response: [Added: 2022/02/04]

Accepted. The Project in vested with the power of a donor coordinator for the parliamentary support within the NA, which is under constant implementation and monitoring. The last Donor Coordination meeting took place on the 5th of November 2021, which gathered representatives from more than 10 international donor and implementing partners to share and discuss experiences and combine efforts for the improvement of overall 0parliamentary democracy in Armenia.

The final two points are well noted and will be conveyed to donors and UNDP HQ.

The MAP Project has a unique role within the RA NA as an in-house project, with a proved level of trust and commitment for future collaboration in the upcoming phase.  Continuous consultations with the NA management on the cooperative frameworks for avoiding any kind of overlap of support projects are on the project agenda and the Project is working towards finding best complementarity ways for the NA

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
9.1
[Added: 2022/02/04] [Last Updated: 2022/03/03]
Meeting every three months online 2022/03 Completed The first meeting is planned for March. The lesson learned is that periodicity of such informative meetings is better to revisit and prolong to semiannual or other duration, as will be mutually agreed with the National Assembly of Armenia. History
10. Recommendation:

Project implementation. It is important to promote and ensure NA ownership in order for project results to be sustainable over time.

Taking into account the fact that the political situation is not yet stable, there are lingering social and political tensions and evident polarization and politicization of issues. It is therefore important for MAP to stay institution-oriented and to deliver technical parliamentary development support in order to minimize political influence whilst maintaining neutrality and the current level of good will within the NA and among stakeholders of the parliament. 

The MAP already produced and formulated relevant strategic recommendations. The strategic set up was developed by the CTA as well by all three RPs (in the set of documents that may be reviewed as strategic) and MAP is utilizing that recommendations. Taking into account snap elections, it is recommended to understand needs of current (new) convocation of NA and as an important element of continuity and impact in the interest of sustainability and institutional memory and to use capacities of CTA (for modality of project implementation

Management Response: [Added: 2022/02/04]

Accepted. The MAP Project is set as demand-driven, non-partisan with strong national ownership. The sustainable results and the level of trust attest to that.  The NA as a receiving and institution body has full ownership of all the processes going on within the Project, as the Project is playing a facilitating and support role in the larger reformatory process initiated by the NA. All initiatives of the project stem uniquely from an agreed PRODOC and the requests coming from the NA Standing Committees and NA Administration. The Project will continue to use the same modality in designing the next programme phase. The Project has set up and personally met with certain SCs and MPs in order to assess the needs and accommodate within the Project mandate. As for the NA Administration, the Project is working with focal points appointed by the Leadership on daily basis and in a synchronized manner

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
10.1
[Added: 2022/02/04]
Equal and equitable engagement of all parliamentarians in the capacity building activities organized by the Project 2022/12 Initiated
10.2
[Added: 2022/02/04]
Strategic agile programme management and adjustment of Project activities to the needs of the NA 2022/12 Initiated
10.3
[Added: 2022/02/04]
New inclusive programme design incorporating strategic direction and demand-driven, non-partisan approach 2022/12 Initiated
11. Recommendation:

Citizen engagement and providing direct feedback to their Parliament. Digital and traditional tools can be used for accomplishing citizen access to their parliament. It is important to ensure MP outreach and informing citizens, in order for them to understand  how and what NA works. People need to be empowered and able to access their MPs, influence the agenda (e.g. Budget Priorities and allocation). In the next project phase it is recommended to consider possibility of focusing on solicit citizen input on issues and self-identified policy priorities via survey what priorities, how to accomplish, what they want from their parliament

Management Response: [Added: 2022/02/04]

Accepted. The MAP Project is pleased to be incorporating a number of digital and traditional tools to strengthen the citizen participation in decision making. Primarily, the project holds periodic public opinion polls and will introduce a number of digital tools for two-way communication between the NA and the citizens via the refurbished web portal.  The project will add new modalities such as crowdsourcing and has finalized the Behavioural analyses towards understanding the citizens perspective for taking part in the NA decision-making processes.

In the post COVID-19 period, the project plans intensification of the citizens’ engagement processes

Key Actions:

Key Action Responsible DueDate Status Comments Documents
11.1
[Added: 2022/02/04]
Web portal two-way communication 2022/12 Initiated History
11.2
[Added: 2022/02/04]
Mobile committee sessions 2022/12 Initiated
11.3
[Added: 2022/02/04]
Public opinion poll 2022/12 Initiated
11.4
[Added: 2022/02/04]
Behavioral Analysis on citizens participation in decision making processes (based on the public opinion poll findings) 2022/12 Completed

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