October 17, 2014
Each country introduces its own monitoring and evaluation mechanisms and the challenges they face.
The JICA Iraq Office hosted the knowledge sharing workshop “Monitoring and Evaluation Mechanism for Development Results” with the United Nations Development Programme in Istanbul, Turkey, August 25-28. From Asia (India, Bangladesh, the Philippines and Viet Nam), and Middle East and Northern Africa (Iraq, Egypt and Tunisia), 29 people from seven countries participated from monitoring organizations, such as the Ministry of Planning, and project executing agencies.
For effective monitoring and evaluation of cooperation projects, day-to-day communication with implementing agencies in the counterpart country and regular project site visit are critical. However in Iraq, JICA staff are not able to carry them out frequently for security reasons. So the JICA Iraq Office made a partnership agreement with UNDP, which has active experiences in various locations in Iraq, as well as a network with the Iraqi governmental organizations. JICA has jointly implemented monitoring and evaluation with the support of local UNDP national staff, as well as capacity building training for Iraqi implementing agencies many times. The workshop shared with participating countries the efforts of monitoring and evaluation implemented by maximizing the strengths of each organization under such a restrictive situation in Iraq.
“Under the current turmoil due to insurgents since June, we thought about canceling the workshop, but I’m glad we went ahead,” JICA Iraq Office Chief Representative Shohei Hara said. “When you see the media reports, it may sound like Iraq is in a totally devastating situation amid fighting, but the entirety of Iraq is not as bad as that. Our counterparts on the Iraqi side are doing their best despite various difficulties, and have actually achieved certain results,” he continued.
As part of the partnership with UNDP, the Iraqi government, the Japanese Embassy, UNDP and JICA formed a Monitoring Committee and co-hosted monitoring meetings, held quarterly for project management team members of ongoing Japanese ODA loan projects to share information on the progress of each project and to promote issue resolution. Since 2009, the meetings have been held 23 times.
At the meetings, they analyze progress, time required for procurement and other aspects of each project from various dimensions, based on a framework for monitoring and evaluation developed by UNDP, and clarify structural problem solutions and actions by each organization involved. Then the results of the identified actions are reviewed at the next meeting.
Thanks to these efforts, according to the past four years' data, the time required for some procurement processes was reduced by no less than 60 percent and the capacity of Iraqi government agencies to manage projects in accordance with international business standards has increased remarkably. This is despite the fact that it has been just five years since Japanese ODA loans began in Iraq and Iraq has little experience with implementing those loans.
The mechanism not only identifies and resolves issues upon implementing projects, but also improves the business environment in Iraq through simplifying administrative procedures, which will also become beneficial for private sector development.
“I hoped that the people involved on the Iraqi side, who historically had limited opportunities to play an internationally active part, would realize the remarkable results so far by looking back on their efforts with people from other countries. And I hoped this would serve as a case of ‘South-South cooperation (1) initiated from Iraq’,” Hara said of his thoughts toward holding the workshop.
Participants hold theme-based discussions that go beyond the limits of their nationalities and affiliations.
Facilitated by Hara, the workshop was conducted using an interactive learning method. First, each country presented its monitoring and evaluation mechanism, efforts made in their organization or issues faced. At the thematic group discussions that followed, the participants actively discussed topics that went beyond the limits of their nationality and affiliation on such themes as “How to build a monitoring and evaluation mechanism that is not a mere ‘information collection’ or ‘reporting obligation,’ but is a feedback mechanism for problem solution” and “What is an evaluation method that fosters a healthy culture of responsibility/competition culture and improves project ownership of the implementing agencies?”
The participants also showed high interest when examples of good practices, such as a “web monitoring system” by the JICA Philippine Office, “achievement-oriented management” by Delhi Metro Rail Corporation Limited of India, and “performance evaluation mechanism of each implementing agency” by UNDP in Iraq, were introduced.
Anwar Buni, director general, Ministry of Planning, Government of Iraq
After completing all sessions, many of the participants left positive comments such as, “Knowing good practices of different countries by interactive learning was a great inspiration” or “The network I gained with other participants is a valuable asset. By taking advantage of these assets, I would like to work to improve monitoring and evaluation mechanisms in my country.”
Anwar Buni, director general of International Cooperation Directorate, Ministry of Planning, who is in charge of monitoring and evaluation of ODA projects in Iraq, gave her feedback on the workshop: “There is a monitoring and evaluation mechanism in Iraq, but it’s not fully utilized at this stage. We were able to learn many ideas for our future development.”
The JICA Iraq Office will continue to provide assistance in Iraq that could become a role model for other countries, and will use this workshop as an opportunity to promote information dissemination from Iraq and exchange with other countries.
1: A form of cooperation in which a developing country that has advanced in a field provides assistance to development in the field to another developing country. At this workshop, the goal was to mutually learn from the advantages of each country, which can be called South-South cooperation in a broad sense.