Jehan Raheem (Team Leader)
Office of Evaluation and Strategic Planning, UNDP, New York, 1996
TABLE OF CONTENTS
CHAPTER I: OVERVIEW
1. This report attempts to provide answers to the following questions raised by the Administrator regarding the functioning of the Resident Coordinator (RC):
2. The Office of the Evaluation and Strategic Planning (OESP) of UNDP undertook a desk review of documents related to the strengthening of the RC system covering the period 1983 to 1994. The analysis from the desk review was later supplemented by visits to three sample countries. The countries visited were Vietnam (a country in transition in Asia), Zimbabwe (a representative developing country in Africa) and El Salvador (a country in Central America emerging from civil strife and emergency situation). The Swiss Government should be thanked for its financial contribution to the country visits. One representative from the Swiss Development Cooperation Ms. Nicole Wyrsch participated in the country visit in Vietnam.
3. This exercise should not be considered as an evaluation and the country reports are not intended to be an assessment of the performance of the corresponding Resident Coordinator and his/her country team.
4. The present report - drawing on the analyses of the desk review, the findings of the country visits, the conclusions of the 1995 Triennial Comprehensive Policy Review of the UN operational activities for development (TCPR), the review of the latest Resident Coordinator annual reports and the Capetown workshop on the UNDP Office of the Future - addresses the questions raised by the Administrator and gives some recommendations for making the system more effective and efficient.
II. Overall impression:
5. Any appraisal of the workings of the RC function and system leaves an overwhelming impression of concern with questions of process rather than with questions of substance. Although concern with the latter is emerging, the impact of (now almost universally reported) wide ranging efforts at building substantial thematic committees at every level, in many key areas, has yet to be evaluated.
6. The workings of the RC function and system can be viewed through two sets of optics:
7. Both optics interact to produce a common development vision guided by a commonly agreed set of objectives. The shift towards common operational objectives as compared with operational activities has perceptibly begun. It now needs considerable support and dedication, however, to fully make its mark. There is increasing recognition that the success of an institutionalized programme tool for substantive coordination (such as the Country Strategy Note - CSN- and Joint Programmes) depends as heavily on the quality of substantive managerial guidance received from various headquarters as it does on local collaboration and coordination. At all times, however, the capacity and involvement of the programme country is critical.
8. The RC is a frequently studied species and much is known to many. The enormous volume of written material available is, on balance, more descriptive than analytic, with increasing recent tendencies in the latter direction. It has, until very recently, been concerned with process issues. Very little direct feedback appears to have been received by Resident Coordinators to their efforts at systematic reporting.
9. This vast and enormous output is derived from annual reports of RCs, annual/triennial reports to ECOSOC, CCPOQ and JCGP reports, and UNDP papers. When the output is distilled for analysis an impression of concern for efficiency and performance rather than for effectiveness and achievement emerges from the work in progress. It is therefore not easy to validate the "success" element entirely and solely from the written material.
10. Finally, assessing the work of the RC and his colleagues is a complex undertaking. Oversimplification of the approach in order to derive simple answers to strengthen the RC system at work will not be productive. Specificity of country circumstances make comparisons less than useful. The two most recent (policy) pronouncements - on coordination in the HIV/AIDS field and also in the humanitarian/ emergencies arena - help in the process of clarifying the policy dimension along the two more relevant axis, i.e., vertically, coordination amongst and throughout organizations on global goals and strategies; and, horizontally, at the country level.
III. How to Measure the R C Function:
11. Four measures of success are already employed by various users for somewhat different purposes:
12. Since the RC function and system can be viewed at least through two optics (one in terms of benefits to the beneficiary government and two in terms of the benefits to internalized team building processes), all four measures of success will continue to be required to meet short-term needs and long-term goals.
13. The first two measures (success in achieving legislated aspects of GA Res. 47/199 and success in applying the principles of common ownership and responsiveness to ACC guidelines are needed for policy monitoring purposes (ECOSOC, ACC).
The third measure (performance appraisal of Resident Representative, when developed to include RC dimensions and elements of peer assessment) will be invaluable to identify and retain a solid core of innovative managers (UN, UNDP and JCGP).
The fourth measure (substantive evaluation of effectiveness) will be critical to complete achievement, accountability and provide lessons from objectively assessed experience (UN, Executive Board/UNDP).
14. Over time, objective evaluations can encompass the first two measures. We will then have only two measures, namely, a more comprehensive Performance Appraisal of RCs and Evaluations of system performance.
IV. How Coordination has Fared on Average:
15. On average, discernible progress and clear results (especially since 1990) can be reported. Details in support of this finding abound in the annual and handover reports of RC's. However viewed, whether at the level of coordination mechanisms or of field level committees, or of providing assistance in generating CSNs, or in substantive activity or any other operational collegial activity, success, on the average, can be reported. As reflected by the TCPR report, Governments are generally supportive of the Resident Coordinator system and this appreciation is slightly more positive in LDCs.
16. According to the TCPR data collected, the most important achievements of the RC system were in order (I) the enhancement of the coordination of the UN system; (ii) common initiatives on socio-economic development; and (iii) the support for national capacities and resources mobilization in LDCs, and natural disaster and environment management in non-LDCs.
17. A degree of coherence is emerging at the country level. Experience is being gained in mobilizing and managing field level arrangements for collaboration, although at times the precise purpose of these committees needs specification. Joint baseline studies, situational analysis, programme formulation consultation/collaboration, joint programme reviews, greater information sharing, collective sharing of local costs for coordination activities and considerable administration/downstream of coordination have all been reported.
V. How Coordination of UN Operational Activities is at its best:
18. By common consent, coordination is at its best in times of emergencies. This is a legitimate terrain for coordination excellence.
19. As the nature of the emergencies changes from those deriving from one-time natural disasters to longer persistent complex emergencies, the prospects of evident success vary. This is to be expected. But the basic conclusion that coordination is an effective response to emergencies, remains.
20. Although not evaluated objectively, many RR's recent and useful efforts at contributing to peace building, democratization and human rights have also met with success. Whether collaborative coordination of the whole team or individual Resident Representatives' leadership achieved the successes claimed in each of these cases requires field visit validation.
21. Documented coordination successes in development work are rare.
Getting all of these together, keeping the team spirit alive, obtaining a meaningful role for the UN system in a resource stagnant context and producing development results is an evolving and often a wholly new process. Total support to this challenging effort, rather than criticism, is what is now needed.
22. Two important evaluations carried out by UNDP (one on aid coordination in the LDCs and the other on the role of the RC/RR in dealing with the HIV/AIDS epidemic (1993)) were not enthusiastic at all about the demonstrated level of success of coordination efforts in their respective areas of study. However, they highlighted many specific innovative efforts on the part of RRs for promoting multi-sector approach, and in identifying new opportunities to put the relevant development message across. The evaluations also recognized the considerable efforts launched through a variety of programming processes. They, however, could not find evidence (i.e., plans/strategies) of coordinated goal-setting. Neither did they find significant evidence of useful guidance from the various headquarters which were substantively responsible for programming these activities or which could help in developing conceptual frameworks to tackle evolving problems at the country level.
23. It is essentially in the "business of development" that the substantive skills of the entire UN system are challenged. Coordination of ideas assumes a dominant dimensional value. Money and authority to strengthen the RC function are necessary but not sufficient conditions for achieving development success in today's world concerned with policy clarity and stimulating the development of capacities to deal with the future.
VI. Facilitating conditions and generic issues:
24. The data collected for the preparation of the TCPR report shows that country teams favor formal coordination meetings, informal daily contacts , joint UN and government meetings, the establishment of thematic groups with different agencies and exchange of documentation as effective means to support inter-agency cooperation.
25. The TCPR also provides interesting information on the current functioning of the RC system. The purpose of this report is to use this information, along with the experience gained through the country visits, to respond as far as possible to the Administrator's questions. The three country studies provide interesting insights on some current experiences but they do not pretend to capture the wide and complex range of country situations. However, they provide live examples of coordination in "action".
26. The three following boxes present the main features of the RC system in the three countries selected.
The Mission found, overall, that the UN team, the donors and the Government were collectively committed to the need to enhance coordination. Evolving country circumstances provided distinct opportunities to further build upon the achievements to date and to learn from the emerging experience.
The achievements include a comprehensive vision linking UN coordination to the wider concerns of all donors, a completed CSN, initiation of promising programme frameworks, especially in the social sectors and work in process on modem information sharing. Whilst the Government, the donors and many members of the UN team fully endorsed and supported the team leadership role of the Resident Coordinator, there was a clearly stated concern by one agency about the "Dual hat role" and the possible conflict of focus which arises from the UNDP Resident Representative being the Resident Coordinator.
The UN team's response to the comprehensive questionnaire for the forthcoming Triennial Review also confirms (see response to question 19), that there was little evidence of coordinated UN system funding of Government programs and projects. A competition for scarce UN resources was perceived to be a reason for this phenomenon. Differing degrees of decentralization were also perceived to be a fact affecting the enabling environment in support of coordination. In substantive terms, the UN team with its long experience in Vietnam clearly recognized the importance of developing common UN system responses to Aid Coordination, Human Development issues, HIV/AIDS programming along with other emerging capacity building needs.
Balancing the capacity building demands of a growth-oriented reform-minded government with the concerns of donors whilst evolving a collegial and satisfactory common UN perspective on and response to issues arising from a complex set of political, social and economic transitions, will be a challenging and rewarding task for the entire development community in Vietnam, including the Resident Coordinator and the UN team.
The RC system in Zimbabwe works well with strong support from the Government, the donor community and the UN agencies in general. This is witnessed by many examples where the UN is coordinating donors and NGOs and where it provides an active interface between the Government of Zimbabwe (GoZ) and donors in contributing to the development of the country.
The dynamism of the RC system has mobilized the contributions of many UN agencies. However, it does not mean that all agencies are working with the same spirit. But by collaborating in concrete operations, they are learning to work together and discover that the GoZ and the donors are relying on them.
An implicit strategy for the positioning of the Resident Coordinator system in the field of coordination is discernible in the case of Zimbabwe. The strategy is best identified through an analysis of constraints; pull factors (elements facilitating coordination); push factors (active elements for promoting coordination) and tactical factors.
The most important factor of success is the confidence of the GoZ and donors in the UN system. For this, the personality of the UN team members and the particular role of the Resident Coordinator are key elements in building the team, leading the team, and getting the confidence of the programme country and the donor community. Sustainability of the results, however, might not be secured by a fast rotation of the leader or members of the UN team.
The second key factor is developing a culture of coordination of the whole UN system through concrete initiatives. Issues of mandate, role, headquarters support, and even financial resources become less central if there is strong willingness to demonstrate coordination in real situations.
The main actors in coordination are obviously the government and the international community or donors. Given the recent history of El Salvador, civil society also must be brought in as full partner. Neither the Government nor the donors speak with one voice or have an agreed upon strategy.
The fragmentation and institutional weakness of the government are conditions which clearly militate against coordination. There are at least three strands of views within the donor community, with the international financial institutions promulgating a conventional structural adjustment strategy. Within the UN system, the demarcation lines between peace-keeping (ONUSAL* and subsequently MINUSAL*) and the rest of the UN system have been blurred, certainly in so far as the provision of technical assistance is concerned, and further thinking is warranted on the technical assistance requirements of a peace-building operation.
A clear delineation of mandates and responsibilities between the political and development organs of the UN system would be helpful. Leaving aside institutional issues, while the interdependence of peace and development is generally acknowledged, there has been little systematic discussion within the UN system--or indeed outside it--on how socioeconomic policy should be reshaped in a post- conflict situation.
A highly sophisticated and articulate UN development team on the ground in El Salvador (with representatives from FAO, UNICEF, UNHCR, UNESCO, WHO/PAHO and WFP in addition to UNDP) has been grappling with these issues, not always with strong support from their headquarters.
* ONUSAL: United Nations Observer Mission in El Salvador
* MINUSAL: Mision de las Naciones Unidas del Salvador
27. What works is/are, at least in Vietnam and Zimbabwe (since El Salvador presents a particular situation that needs a special treatment at the end of this paragraph):
28. What are the generic issues to be addressed:
In a transition from peace to development, many UN actors are in place which, in a versatile political situation, requires an effective and strong RC system's coordination role in terms of political and development issues.
VII. Successful Techniques and Procedures
29. It is difficult from the documentation collected and the experience gained from the countries visited to identify generic successful techniques and procedures. However it was possible to find some promising techniques, initiatives and ideas that merit wider application subject to the specific conditions prevailing in each country. The RC system should develop a knowledge-based memory that would document the best practices in coordination for dissemination.
30. Through the country visits, the following initiatives were identified as potentially promising for replication in other countries:
VIII. UNDP's Contribution:
31. UNDP has in recent years taken an active interest in supporting the work of the RC. It has:
32. Taking this very useful contribution forward calls for a variety of substantive developments, which will shift the focus from process to product. Getting the processes right will certainly facilitate, but will not ensure the achievement of development impact. UNDP's role in encouraging the production of clear practical monitorable guidance in the development issues of the day (environment, poverty reduction, gender, employment creation, governance capacities, etc.) is critically needed to provide the animating and unifying development motivation which will render coordination more effective, not merely more efficient. It will also help to move the debate from "coordination" to management by objectives and from discussion to action.
IX. The new Challenges Ahead:
33. At the country level, the RC system has to deal with (I) the complex socioeconomic and politic situation prevailing in the country; (ii) the rapid development of political and economical considerations in the international context and their impact on the country; (iii) the specific importance of the UN in a particular country due to historical factors and the volume of UN financial resources available for TC; (iv) the different economic and political agenda of partners in development; (v) the fragmentation of the UN system and the competition between the UN organizations; and (vi) the lack of human and financial resources. In the last TCPR, RCs and their Country Teams indicated what are, in their views, the recent shifts in operational activities and particularly underlined the increasing demands for upstream interventions. They considered that the RC system requires improvement in the following areas (classified by order of number of references): financial and human support, clarity of the mandate, guidelines on the RC system to other representatives of the UN system, substantive support to the RC system, relationship with the Bretton Woods institutions, operational guidelines for the RC system and flow of information of relevance to the RC system. However, when asked to specify one or two changes that would strengthen the RC system, most of them considered two actions with potential immediate impact: (I) intensify the operational collaboration at country level within the UN system and with donors; (ii) provide more resources to support the RC system.
34. In terms of mandate and guidelines some initiatives are ongoing in the UN. With regard to the provision of financial and human resources, UNDP is making a substantial contribution to the functioning of the RC. Relationships with the Bretton Woods institutions are in the process of improvement. What the country visits show is the variety of coordination initiatives at the country level. This is also confirmed by the review of the 1995 RCs' reports.
35. It seems that the coordination of the RC system has gone through the following steps: (I) a passive phase until 1994; (ii) a political and institutional shift in mid 1994; (iii) a wake up phase with some minimum resources from 1994 to 1995; and (iv) a take off phase with more resources and clarification of mandate in 1996. The next challenges for the UN will be its capacities (I) to mobilize the right team at the right time in any country situation with a strong commitment for coordination; (ii) to provide appropriate and substantive support to the RC system at the country level; and (iii) to reward effective Country Teams.
CHAPTER II: COUNTRY VISIT REPORTS
COUNTRY VISIT TO VIETNAM
1. The Terms of Reference for the field visits explicitly affirmed that "the global exercise is not mounted to evaluate the performance of the Resident Coordinator as conventionally understood". Any suggestions offered here to further enhance UN coordination essentially arise from the views of the team and the Resident Coordinator and his colleagues.
2. The purpose of the visit was therefore to identify circumstances and conditions that contribute to successful coordination of UN operational activities or militate against it. The specificity of country circumstances could well render some responses by the U.N. Agencies in the country as unique. Conclusions, however can be drawn at the end of the global exercise that contribute to the generalized understanding necessary to take forward the process of continuing reform. This brief report will therefore:
II. Coordination Context in Vietnam:
3. The decisions of the 6th Party Congress in 1986 are popularly seen as the starting point for redirecting Vietnam's economy through far-reaching economic reforms. Some observers have remarked that the foundations for reform have been gradually laid since 1979 through the introduction of the "Three Plan System" for industry and the "Output Contract System" for agriculture. In 1989 a further liberalizing of prices marked yet another stage in the ongoing reform process. An open door economic policy has been one of the cornerstones in the reforms transforming the former autarky into an increasingly outward oriented economy.
4. The process of normalizing relations with ASEAN, China and the Western Powers has proceeded apace; and by end 1992 normal ties, political and economic, had been restored with virtually all nations in the region. 1993 saw the normalization of relations with the IMF opening access to reserves from it and the World Bank. The lifting of the US trade embargo in February 1994 marks a final end to Vietnam's economic isolation.
5. These recent dramatic changes in Vietnam's external relations combined with the continuing policy reform process have led to the resumption of foreign development assistance. The first Donor Conference for Vietnam was held on 9 and 10 November, 1993 in Paris, France under the co-chairmanship of UNDP and the World Bank. By the close of the conference, donors indicated an availability of US $ 1.86 billion by the year 2,000. Even with this aid volume, foreign development assistance remains at around 6% of estimated GDP for 1994. A second very successful donor conference was held in November, 1994.
6. Achieving the levels of disbursements for effective use of the resources available would place great demands on Vietnam's aid coordination capacities. Normalization of relations with Vietnam has met a necessary but not sufficient condition to ensure future positive development. Policy making capacities will have to be integrated with policy implementation skills. The social and environmental consequences of growth oriented reform now need to be factored in to ensure the "human centred" development goal enumerated in the February, 1995 Social Development Report of Vietnam to the World Summit on Social Development, held recently in Copenhagen.
7. The increased influx of foreign capital therefore has significant implications for aid coordination and the consequent demand for coherence and collaboration within the U.N. system. Firstly, the UN system will have a key role in strengthening national aid coordination and management and capacity building in the public sector. Secondly, a large number of newly arriving donors will continue to look to the Resident Coordinator and his UN colleagues for details of analysis of aid and development information. The gradual increase of the international NGO community will call for the UN system to help in supporting NGO coordination efforts. Thirdly, the evolving consultative group process will need appropriate technical cooperation support to government in preparing its Public Investment Program and strengthening its capacity to absorb and disburse increased aid resources. Fourth, neutral advice on strengthening legislative and judicial institutions to support market oriented reforms will call forth a new role for the UN. Fifth, ensuring that future development balances the demands for growth, equity and environmental sustainability emphasizes the importance of valuable UN system support and advocacy through coordinated program frameworks, which translate complex needs to implementable ideas that support national efforts. Finally, many newcomer's to Vietnam will look to the UN system's long experience in managing logistic operations, human resources recruitment, and management and security arrangements to help them to become rapidly operational. Coordination of downstream activities will be an important adjunct to upstream policy and capacity-building collaboration.
III. Views and Responses of Different Partners:
III.1. The links between Government and the UN system
8. The Government of Vietnam has placed the responsibility for aid coordination and management in the hands of the State Planning Committee (SPC). Our interview with the SPC indicated that the Government sees an important and specific role for the UN system in support of aid coordination. This includes assistance in capacity-building for aid coordination which encompasses
9. The Government views the recently published Country Strategy Note (CSN) as their document embodying the above priorities and reflecting its understanding of the division of labour arising from the various UN agency mandates. In the preparation of the CSN views had been carefully sought from UN agencies, both resident and non-resident. The Government saw a clear link between the CSN and the preparations for the Donor Conference in November 1994. In May 1994 the CSN process had benefits from UN team participation at the workshop in Turin, which, according to an evaluation of the CSN conducted in November 1994, "Served to build consensus and support among key UN personnel for an unified UN country strategy for Vietnam". It is important here to stress the value of continuous training and review in strengthening UN system collaboration and coordination.
10. The SPC also stressed to us that the CSN process had helped it (the SPC) to promote a meaningful exchange of views within government. Such an inter-ministerial process was not common among the various ministries at present. This contribution to Vietnam's policy formulation process is an important by-product of the carefully planned CSN process in Vietnam.
11. In many ways, (collegiality, extent of Government participation, recognition of programming frameworks, etc.) the CSN process was favourably welcomed by Government who have had a long and sustained history of good relations with the UN system. Learning by doing encouraged the SPC to take a leadership role in the process. The evaluation of November, 1994 also asserts that "A good deal of learning about the realities of aid coordination can also be said to have occurred". Our discussion with SPC certainly indicated a healthy awareness of aid coordination issues and the kinds of choices that a receiving Government has to make amongst and between alternative sources of ODA. This capability strengthens Government's critical role in the CSN or any similar strategy setting process.
12. In summary:
III.2. Links to donors and the Consultative Group Process:
13. The donors whom we interviewed and spoke with were a fair sample of traditional and newer donors. The donors collectively acknowledged the very useful team leadership provided by the Resident Coordinator. They welcomed the information and knowledge providing role that the UN system has developed. A recent technological innovation (Net Nam) of on line information, net-working introduced by UNDP using a Vietnamese computer capability has attracted much attention and potential participation.
14. The donors also clearly welcomed the important role that the UNDP and the UN system had hitherto played in aid mobilization at the two recent donor conferences, 1993 and 1994. They also appreciated UN system efforts (led by UNICEF) to provide coordination and information opportunities to NGO'S. Participation by UN agencies in sector coordination meetings was also favourably cited.
15. Our attention was drawn by the donors to the rapidly changing ODA scene; the emerging role of the World Bank and its sustained concern for macro-economic reform and its recent comprehensive household survey. These significant activities give the recently arrived World Bank group an important role in policy setting.
16. Donors were particularly appreciative of the design of the general aid coordination framework currently in place. The framework places overall responsibility for aid coordination in the hands of Government, with 2 semi-annual review meetings being key events intended to lead to the annual CG meeting. Below this level, a variety of sector reviews led by the World Bank chaired by the Government, constituted the formal governmental coordination framework. At the next level, amongst and within donors, monthly meetings were being held at the Heads of Mission level. Frequent and informal operational meetings completed the overall aid coordination picture. Many of these activities are serviced and supported by the Resident Coordinator who in turn draws upon UNDP and UN agency support. The Resident Coordinator chairs donor meetings when held in UNDP, which is a frequent occurrence. An overall "architecture of coordination" is thus emerging and important roles are assigned to the Resident Coordinator and his team. As the aid coordination tasks acquire complexity, the UN system's responses and roles will change.
17. The Resident Coordinator's vision of UN coordination being but a subset of larger aid coordination processes involving all donors and the Government seeks to place the UN system in a relevant and realistic context in the development of Vietnam.
18. Finally, donors greatly appreciated the operational and logistic coordination services provided by the UN system. This effort was led by UNDP on behalf of the country team. These important coordination services are often overlooked and their importance in development management frequently understated.
III.3 U.N. System Collaboration and Team Building:
19. The perceptions of the various members of the UN team as to the role of the team leader, the existence of a common UN perspective on Vietnam's development, and the utility and value of coordinating mechanisms, including the CSN thematic groups, information-sharing etc., were interestingly varied. Some agencies with small offices were pre-occupied with performing regular operational tasks. Other "small office "agencies welcomed the coordination role of the Team Leader and appreciated the benefits of common services, program consultations and the opportunity for interchange. The JCGP agencies on the whole, we felt, were more comfortable with coordination and collaboration and were confident in their views that if properly used, collaboration could be of benefit to the Government and to themselves. One JCGP member was clearly uncomfortable with UNDP's role as team leader. Their concern with the "dual hat" syndrome (as they called it ) was that UNDP's agenda, deriving from its strong links to the aid coordination authorities, would tend to become the dominant agenda. This agency was also concerned that the CSN was more reflective of the national coordination authorities priorities (as expressed at the Donor Conference) rather than representing an effort to arrive at a more "balanced" use of the UN system capacities to respond to issues arising as a consequence of the growth-oriented planning process. It was felt that the dialogue initiated in Turin by the country team was not entirely followed-up by an appropriate situation analysis leading to a more comprehensive social issues oriented CSN. Smaller technical agencies also felt themselves excluded from the CSN and its strategy for the use of UN resources.
20. The Deputy Resident Representatives and the UNDP country office staff took their responsibilities for support to the Resident Coordinator, the UN team, the donor and NGO community and Government, as important and useful. The strengthening of aid coordination capabilities was an important contribution to the development process, they felt . Support to the rapidly increasing donor community through briefings, sector meetings and discussion groups on key program areas was also felt to be an important adjunct to the overall process of enhancing aid quality and its impact on national development. The HIV/AIDS program sought to coordinate individual programmed contributions to the national HIV/AIDS effort. The development of program frameworks, the provision of real-time information on an interactive basis and the sharing of substantive knowledge were seen by the UNDP staff as important contributions that they could make to the overall UN system coordination role. The importance of UNDP developing "coordination related services" ( information-sharing, substantive data generation, logistic support services, etc.) was fully recognized and supported by the senior UNDP staff whom we interviewed.
21. It is important to stress that the Resident Coordinator in his team leadership role enjoyed the personal support of his UN and donor colleagues as well as that of key figures in Government. His commitment to strengthening the coordination process was widely recognized and often appreciated.
22. The World Bank office was included as part of our request for interviews. But the absence of the only Bank professional denied us the opportunity to review coordination in the widest of macro-economic and social contexts as seen from the perspective of a key actor in the reform process. We have, however, commented earlier on the donor view that they too foresee a much greater role for the World Bank in the days ahead.
23. An important and innovative input by the Resident Coordinator was that the CSN process was evaluated by an outside consultant. He identified a range of issues that could well contribute to improving successive interactions of the CSN process.
24. Principal findings of that evaluation were:
IV. What Works:
25. The following is a summary list of "what works":
29. What requires continuing attention is/are:
Communication of Nicole Wyrsch to Jehan Raheem (8 May, 1995)
VI. The Lessons Learned:
30. The principal lesson that emerges is the need for all those concerned with coordination at the field level to fully appreciate the complexities involved in designing coordination processes in an environment of rapid transition at the policy level and significant changes in the volume of aid resources. Sustaining the historical role and influence of the UN system in the face of change calls for an open and supportive response by the UN system and leadership in promoting efforts to ensure commonly agreed upon strategies. The system as a whole should comprehend the burden that reform processes place upon a country and judiciously balance capacity-building with advocacy and collegiality. Attempts at developing flexible work plans and program frameworks could well clarify opportunities for interacting with the CSN process, encourage better contribution to the CG process and render UN coordination a meaningful development act.
COUNTRY VISIT TO ZIMBABWE
1. Neither the whole exercise could be considered as an evaluation nor the country report could be assimilated as an assessment of the performance of the Resident Coordinator or his/her Country Team. Furthermore this report does not pretend to mention all initiatives on coordination supported by the UN system in Zimbabwe and the author apologizes in advance for any oversight. This exercise was meant to find elements for response to the Administrator's concerns.
II. The Visit to Zimbabwe:
2. The Vietnam report made a comprehensive analyse of the linkages between the different partners on the issue of coordination. It provided a detailed list of what works and what does not.
3. The country visit to Zimbabwe, taking stock of what was learnt in Vietnam, was deliberately conducted in different way to offer a different perspective in the analysis of the experience of the Resident Coordinator system. It was designed to identify functions, mechanisms and focus and whether a strategy is discernible for the positioning of the Resident Coordinator system.
4. This report tries to illustrate the functioning of the RC system through concrete and relevant examples and attempts to raise the concern of "dual hat" in terms of policy and strategy rather than of mandate.
III. The Socio-economic Context:
5. The performance of the economy during the 80s was not considered satisfactory by the Government of Zimbabwe (GoZ) since the annual GDP growth rate was 2.9 percent while the annual population rate was 3.5 percent in average. However, some significant results were achieved in terms of lower infant mortality, higher adult literacy and higher school enrolment rates. Investments have been notable in the fields of manufacturing, commercial, agriculture and mining during the second half of the considered period.
6. The Government launched in 1991 the five year Economic Structural Adjustment Programme (ESAP) as part of the Second Five-year National Development Plan (1991-1995). The new policy was directed towards a sustainable economic growth through a more market-oriented economy, reduction of unemployment and alleviation of socio-economic inequities. ESAP had tree objectives for economic reform:
7. A severe drought occurred in 1992 and had a serious effect on the socio-economic development. Nevertheless the GoZ decided courageously to maintain some previous decisions such as the abolishing of the foreign exchange allocation, the price control system, the investment licensing system (but not for large foreign investment) and the public monopoly on the trade of agricultural commodities. The fiscal deficit, the monetary expansion, the deficit of the public sector, the impact of the drought and the abolishment of the price control system resulted in a higher inflation rate. To curb inflation pressures, the GoZ adopted a very restrictive monetary policy through high interest rates that had a severe impact on economic growth, domestic investment and employment generation.
8. Aware from the beginning that ESAP will have a negative impact on vulnerable groups, the GoZ decided to alleviate its negative effects by having, in parallel of ESAP, a Social Dimension Adjustment (SDA) programme. The need to respond urgently to the drought consequences by providing food aid to 3 million people delayed the implementation of the SDA programme conceived in a different context. The 1992 drought reduced the economic growth, increased poverty and had adverse effects on the environment.
9. A good rainy season in 1993 and the reform measures implemented were instrumental in accelerating an economic recovery process. To provide a more targeted response to poverty issues, the GoZ decided in February 1995 to launch a Poverty Alleviation Action Plan.
10. The challenges faced by Zimbabwe are multiple: economic reform, productive investment, agricultural productivity, land degradation, employment, poverty alleviation, food security, housing, education, humanitarian aid and relief, health and HIV/AIDS. Some of them are closely linked and some require short, mid-term and long term measures and strategies.
IV. The Coordination Context:
11. The government entity responsible for aid coordination is the Ministry of Finances. The World Bank organizes the Consultative Group meetings focussing on capital and financial assistance while UNDP is responsible for presenting technical assistance issues in these meetings. The donors from the EU have their own mechanism of consultation. The Nordic countries have, in addition, a special arrangement for coordination. The UN agencies through the Resident Coordinator have their own coordination system.
12. A number of bilateral donors (25), multilateral institutions (4), UN agencies (17) and NGOs (45) provide to the GoZ technical and capital aid at the central level and at the level of the provinces.
13. The number of donors with their own agendas, the need for exchange of information, the complexity of the challenges faced by the GOZ, their inter-linkages and the political sensitivity of the social issues under consideration create a strong demand for aid coordination and aid management.
14. Since the national structures were not always fully equipped to perform these functions, the GoZ was inclined to use the assistance of the UN and particularly UNDP in consideration of its neutrality, its particular positive record on emergency aid and relief in the country and the social and political characters of the issues concerned. Before presenting how the UN system responds to its coordination needs and contributes to the coordination needs of the GoZ and donors, a quick presentation of the UN contribution to the development of Zimbabwe seems useful for a better understanding of the mechanisms in place.
V. UN Development Activities in Zimbabwe:
15. The UN system as a whole contributed to around 6.4 percent of the Official Development Assistance as indicated in the Development cooperation Report of 1992. Its assistance covers policy advice, programme formulation and implementation. UNDP is involved in economic management, income generation, environment and sustainable development, drought mitigation and poverty alleviation. FAO is active in drought (early warning, needs assessment...), water and sustainable agricultural development, irrigation, food and nutrition. Food security is an area where FAO, UNDP, UNICEF and WFP are partners. WFP is focusing on emergency operations (drought relief and refugees feeding). UNHCR is providing assistance to refugees with WFP. UNICEF assists the GoZ in water sanitation, poverty alleviation and drought. WHO helps the GoZ in health and health-related issues while HIV/AIDS is an area where WHO and UNICEF are associated. ILO has a role in SDA and employment. The World Bank is a major player in economic reform, industry, transport, energy, urban development, health, agriculture and trade.
VII. Nature of the UN' Contribution to Coordination:
16. There are three levels where the UN system is supposed to provide a contribution to a specific country: international, regional and national.
17. At the international level, the Resident Coordinator system has been very effective in assisting the GoZ in the preparation and follow-up of international conferences (Cairo, Copenhagen and Beijing) through the presentation of country reports, development of action plans and resources mobilization. UN agencies have coordinated their contributions and assisted the GoZ to coordinate donor contributions.
18. At the regional level, there is no such coordination. Each UN agency has its own approach, some of them such as WHO assigned a lead country for subregional coverage. Others such as UNDP developed the concept of country office focal point for a specific theme such as poverty alleviation while the coordination at the regional level remains handled by UNDP headquarters. In a country such as Zimbabwe where many regional or sub-regional centres are located, the role of the Resident Coordinator is not clear vis-a-vis these centres.
19. At the country level, the support offered by the UN system includes, in addition to its own coordination requirements, assistance in aid coordination and aid management as defined by the COWIconsult in its report (see footnote 4). We will use the taxonomy developed in this report to highlight the contribution of the UN system.
Aid Coordination Services
CG; Drought, Thematic groups...
CG; Drought, DCR, Thematic groups...
CG, Drought, PAAP, Health, Civil Service Reform, Give a DAM...
CG, Drought, Give a Dam...
Economic and Social Policy
Sector programme policies and strategies
ESAP, PAAP, Environment...
Management Information Systems
The above table does not pretend to be exhaustive (particularly for UN agencies other than UNDP). It seems that the UN system is offering a wide range of aid coordination services. In the area of capacity building, the UN' contribution is important at the programme level.
An interesting initiative took place in 1993: government officials, donors and project staff were invited to a workshop in Kadoma to discuss coordination issues. The workshop was successful and the participants become a Kadoma Group that promotes coordination in Zimbabwe.
VI. Coordination Mechanisms of the UN System:
20. The UN system established an Inter-Agency Group led by the Resident Coordinator. This group has monthly meetings. In the nascent age of the Group, the issues considered were mostly administrative with some basic exchange of information on substantive issues. Later to respond to more complex demands from the GoZ and donors and to facilitate the coordination between agencies in common priority areas, the following thematic groups have been established with common terms of reference and different lead agencies:
Economic Reform/Civil Service Reform/Employment Promotion
Rural Development/Water/Agriculture/Food Security
Education for All
Infrastructure/Small and Medium Scale Industries
Women in Development
21. These groups have a core of common activities: knowledge of the government's sectoral plan, harmonization of agencies' approaches, rationalization of their contribution, cooperation in resources mobilization in that particular theme, information from other groups and discussion of the relevant thematic issues. Some of these groups have been found to be effective forums for discussion. This is witnessed by the interest of donor representatives and government officials to attend their meetings. One group (HIV/AIDS) has initiated a field committee to collect detailed information from all agencies on their activities in this particular area. UNDP is the lead agency of a thematic group on overall coordination. All these groups are ready to contribute to the preparation of the Country Strategy Note (CSN) as soon as the GoZ has defined the development objectives of the Third National Plan.
22. For common administrative matters, UN agencies have established an administrative committee in charge of reviewing relevant topics leaving the Inter-Agency Group free to focus on more substantive issues. To facilitate the coordination and the release of information to the public, an information committee has been set up comprised of information officers or focal points of all UN agencies.
23. There are many ad hoc mechanisms that have the specific purpose of consultation and coordination within and outside the UN system such as on drought, poverty alleviation, civil service reform, water, health and UN conferences. These meetings include government officials, donors, UN agencies and sometimes NGOs. The UN Resident Coordinator is playing an important role with the UN country team in these meetings. Some concrete examples will be presented later in this report to illustrate how these mechanisms serve the purpose of coordination amongst different players.
VII. Key Entry Points:
24. The UN system has a key role in the following areas: humanitarian affairs (drought); poverty alleviation; economic reform; health; and natural resources management. Coordination within and outside the UN system, mobilization of resources, development of relationships with NGOs and capacity building are the main activities covered through the UN contribution. Four examples follow to illustrate this contribution: the emergency relief against drought, the poverty alleviation programme, the health programme and the NGOs programme "Give a Dam". Each of these examples will show how coordination works in real situation.
VIII. Implicit Strategy of Coordination:
25. Through all the above paragraphs, it seems that a implicit strategy is discernible based on the following working assumptions:
The above four examples illustrate the implementation of this strategy.
26. This strategy has not been explicitly formulated but nevertheless is the reflection of views expressed by individuals and by the examples mentioned. This strategy presented for validation to the Resident Coordinator has been recognized as the current one.
Three points merit attention:
27. The RC system in Zimbabwe works well and this is witnessed by many examples where the UN is coordinating donors and NGOs and where it provides an active interface between the GoZ and donors in contributing to the development of the country.
28. The dynamism of the RC system has mobilized the contributions of many UN agencies. However, it does not mean that all agencies are walking with the same spirit. But by collaborating in concrete operations, they are learning to work together and discover that the GoZ and the donors are relying on them.
29. The thematic group led by UNDP should envisage discussing issues of programme approach, national execution, resources mobilization, etc.
30. It is not clear what the Resident Coordinator system role is at the regional or sub-regional level but this is a generic conclusion not specific to Zimbabwe.
31. There is a possibility to develop in a dynamic way a strategy for the Resident Coordinator system in the field of coordination that brings the whole UN family together to provide a valuable and consolidated contribution to the development of a programme country and to facilitate the coordination of efforts from all partners. In this active mode of collaboration, issues of mandate, role, headquarters signals, even financial resources become less central.
32. The personality of the UN team members and the particular role of the Resident Coordinator are key elements in building the team, leading the team, getting the confidence of the programme country and the donor community. Sustainability of results is not guaranteed. The fast rotation of the team members and its leader can disrupt the whole capital of confidence gained.
COUNTRY VISIT TO EL SALVADOR
1. El Salvador was the third country visited after Vietnam and Zimbabwe. The author of this report has benefitted from the findings of the TCPR mission mounted in early 1995 to El Salvador, and has endeavoured not to go over the ground already covered in the reports on Vietnam and Zimbabwe.
II. The Country Context:
2. El Salvador is the smallest country in Central America, with an area of some 21,000 sq. kms. As of 1991, it had 5.4 millions inhabitants with a high population density (250 inhabitants per sq.km, or 380 per sq.km of arable land), and a relatively high rate of population growth (2.26% in 1990). Per capita income is estimated at 1,110, life expectancy at birth at 64 years, infant mortality rate at 59 per thousand, and the illiteracy rate at 24.6 per cent. The urban population represents 51 per cent of the total. The country is affected by extensive soil erosion, water pollution and deforestation.
3. The socio-political perspective is dominated by the fact that the country has recently emerged from a violent civil conflict which left 75,000 people dead, resulted in the exodus of one-fifth of the population, and internally displaced half a million more. The war, which lasted 12 years, wrought massive destruction of infrastructure. In January 1992, a final peace agreement was signed between the Government of El Salvador and the Farabundo Marti Liberation Front (FMLN). The Peace Accords covered a wide-ranging agenda promoting national reconciliation, promoting human rights (economic, social and political), poverty alleviation, the re-integration of ex-combatants into civil society, and the development of a democratic political culture. In many ways, El Salvador represented a test case for the Secretary General's Agenda for Peace, and the UN system for operational activities was called upon to address new challenges.
4. El Salvador remains a highly polarized country, and whilst considerable progress in the peace-building process can be reported, including the creation of such institutions as the Ombudsman's Office for the protection of human rights, the National Police Academy, and the Supreme Electoral Council, the process remains fragile and has yet to tackle in a sustained way the root causes of the earlier conflict. The apparent divisions within the Government on future direction (as evidenced by the absence so far of a national socio-economic plan). the lack of donor consensus, the pursuit of macro-economic recipes for structural adjustment without reference to the need for consolidating peace, and the negative perception by some powerful elements within the country of the role of the United Nations in "imposing" peace have all been factors in a complex coordination scenario.
5. The country is at a stage now where it needs to pursue a development strategy that would re-enforce peace. A sustainable human development approach appears eminently appropriate for El Salvador.
III. Coordination Context:
6. The main actors in coordination are obviously the Government and the international donor community. Given the recent history of El Salvador, civil society must be brought in as a full partner. Neither the Government nor the donors speak with one voice or have an agreed strategy. The fragmentation and institutional weakness of the Government are conditions which clearly militate against coordination. There are at least three strands of view within the donor community, with the international financial institutions propounding a conventional structural adjustment strategy. Within the UN system, the demarcation lines between peace-keeping (ONUSAL - United Nations Observer Mission in El Salvador and subsequently MINUSAL - Mision de Las Naciones Unidas del Salvador -) and the rest of the UN system have been blurred, certainly in so far as the provision of technical assistance is concerned, and further thinking is warranted on the technical assistance requirements of peace-building operations. A clearer delineation of mandates and responsibilities between the political and development organs of the UN system would be helpful. Leaving aside institutional issues, while the interdependence of peace and development is generally acknowledged, there has been little systematic discussion within the UN system --or indeed outside it-- of how socio-economic policy should be reshaped in a post-conflict situation.
7. A highly sophisticated and articulate UN development team on the ground in El Salvador (with representatives from FAO, UNICEF, UNHCR, UNESCO, WHO/PAHO and WFP) has been grappling with these issues, not always with strong support from their respective headquarters. Examples of coordination on specific issues abound. Thus, one effective platform, for action and cooperation has been the International Conference on Central American Refugees (CIREFCA). CIREFCA, and its principal initiative PRODERE (Development Programme for Displaced, Repatriated and Refugee Populations) aimed at promoting the integration of uprooted and low-income populations through local development initiatives. The process was sponsored by UNDP and UNCHR, who also teamed up with ILO, PAHO/WHO and OPS in the context of PRODERE. A number of UN agencies also coordinated their efforts in emergency and humanitarian programmes in support of demobilization, e.g. basic health care, education, and food aid, whilst others jointly worked on the Land Transfer Programme, a key feature of the Peace Accords. Perhaps the best example of inter-Agency collaboration has been the mounting of a mission, comprising experts from fourteen agencies of the UN system, early in the peace process to analyze and evaluate the National Reconstruction Plan. However, this did not result in the formulation of a concrete joint work agenda for the agencies.
8. In 1994, agencies and UNDP invested time and effort in preparing a proposed Country Strategy Note (CSN) for Government's consideration. This did not elicit any interest from Government, partly perhaps because of the absence of any agreed coherent socio-economic policy on its part.
9. The Resident Coordinator, who happened to present her credentials as RC during the course of this country visit, is new to the function and to the country. She has along with some members of the UN development team in El Salvador benefitted from a workshop management of field coordination held in Cartagena last month. An informal and open style has helped her make a promising start, but this is not to suggest that the substantive challenges ahead are to be under-estimated. She already has the elements of a strategy aimed at gaining the trust of her colleagues in the UN system, by providing them with logistical services and substantive support as well as intervening on their behalf with Government when needed. "Coordination in making things happen, and means delegating tasks to the agency best equipped to handle them within the (UN) system."
10. In conversations with the Resident Coordinator and Agency Representatives, a number of points were made:
IV. Questions Raised:
11. The Vietnam report suggests that an increasingly "upstream" role for the UN may be unavoidable. The El Salvador case would bear that out, and indeed suggest that it would be highly desirable for the system, and certainly the Resident Coordinator, to have greater involvement in policy dialogue and advocacy. In the current country situation, this is likely to be a thankless task possibly resulting in a conflict with the host Government. How do we measure success as Resident Coordinator in the circumstances? This may be further compounded by the fact that there are divergent views within the donor community.
12. The previous Resident Coordinator, as part of the national and international debate on post-conflict socio-economic policy making, commissioned a study entitled "Adjustment Toward Peace, Economic Policy and Post-war Reconstruction in El Salvador". The study, which was an excellent initiative, provided an alternative strategy to structural adjustment and "globalization" as proposed by the World Bank. How far can a Resident Coordinator go in advocating an opposite strategy at a time when a significant part of his or her office's income is precisely derived from World Bank projects? Is there an inherent dichotomy between the upstream and downstream roles of the Resident Coordinator? Between the advocacy and operational activities of the system?
13. Should country strategies continue to be formulated on the ground by the Resident Coordinators, able as most of them are? What role should headquarters play, given that Resident Coordinators are sometimes rotated far too quickly to assure some measure of continuity and that, in any event. RCs have different styles, ideas and priorities?
14. As indicated earlier, the El Salvador case presents a complex coordination scenario, not only because of the divergent views within the Government and within the country and the absence of an agreed position amongst the donors, but also due to the presence of a UN political mission in the country dealing with the peace process, including the provision of some related technical assistance. Indeed, the term of this mission may well come to an end in April 1996, and the question is what happens after its departure, since by all accounts it is playing a necessary and useful role in mediating conflicts, amongst other things, and ensuring that the peace process remains on track.
15. The larger question, of course, relates to the inter-linkages between peace building and development. If one accepts that civil conflicts of the kind suffered by El Salvador are, regrettably, likely to repeat themselves (if not multiply) in the decades ahead (growing populations, shrinking resources, environmental degradation, repressive regimes, etc), then there is a need to define the respective mandates of the political and development organs of the UN system and to equip both agencies and staff to deal with this emerging agenda.
16. Coordination does not exist in a vacuum and must take into account political, economic and social reality. It must be underpinned by commonly accepted values and norms of behaviours as embodied in the UN Charter, the Declaration on Human Rights and similar international covenants. In operational terms it should be informed by a sustainable human development strategy that is "pro-choice, pro-poor, pro-women and pro-environment".
17. Operationally, coordination must consciously seek least cost, efficient ways of delivering assistance. This may well be another yardstick by which to measure the success of a Resident Coordinator.
18. Little regional coordination is in evidence on the ground, despite the fact that Central America is perceived as a distinct and homogenous region by the outside world. This should not be construed as a negative. Not only do RCs have their hands full with country issues, but the general trend is toward decentralization of decision-making and development activity-- except of course where shared natural resources (e.g. rain forests) or regional markets are involved.