Country Programming Process: The Namibian-Finnish Experience
Pertti Ahonen, Eeva Hiltunen, Johanna Maula, Henning Melber (Oy Finnagro Ab)
Report of Evaluation Study 2000:1
Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Department for International Development Cooperation
1. Terms of Reference of the Evaluation Team
The team was sent to evaluate the present state of country programming of Namibian-Finnish development co-operation, with special reference to Finnish government procedures. The processes and procedures of Namibian-Finnish interaction, and Namibian government procedures, were covered to the extent deemed necessary.
The ToR stated that the purpose of the evaluation was to critically review the current goals and practices of the bilateral country programming system which Finland uses in development co-operation. The aim of the evaluation, as separate from the purpose, was to address the special interests of the partners with respect to country programming procedures, the capacity of the Namibian government in this regard, and the effectiveness of the procedures in securing the wider participation of Namibian stakeholders. The ToR defined the relevant criteria for the evaluation of Namibian-Finnish bilateral development programming as: efficiency, effectiveness, relevance, and sustainability. In addition, partnership and donor co-ordination were also mentioned in the ToR.
2. State of the Art of Country Programming
Before beginning their evaluation, the team reviewed contemporary development co-operation in regard to country programming. The OECD-DAC defines country programming as follows:
A. An analysis of the socio-economic situation and development of a partner country
B. A review of the co-operation policies pursued so far, and the projects and programmes that have been jointly realised
C. The scheduling of the co-operation policies and the ensuing programmes and projects for c. the next 2-5 years.
Thus, an evaluation of country programming is revealed to be a necessary part of country programme evaluation. More precisely, the evaluation of country programming is that subset of the country programme evaluation which deals with matters of procedure and process, rather than with development impact.
The team also reviewed previous evaluations of country programming. The findings here suggested that:
· The great variation in the concepts used and the differences in the programmes themselves from country to country restrict, but do not eliminate, the possibility of utilising lessons learned elsewhere in Finnish development co-operation in regard to country programming.
· However, many of the previous evaluations have been too historically oriented to be of much use for the purposes of the present evaluation.
· Many of the problems dealt with in previous evaluations of country programming are broadly generic and must be dealt with as such in the present evaluation.
· Many of the recommendations made in previous evaluations are self-evident and no special evaluation is necessary to reach them.
3. Namibian Planning for National Development As A Counterpart for Finnish Programming of Development Co-operation
Planning of the national development policies in Namibia has been slow to evolve. At first, planning was retarded by the initially low capacity of the National Planning Commission of Namibia, the NPC. Second, there were difficulties in co-ordination and liaison between the NPC and the Ministry of Finance (MoF). Third, the practice of sector Ministries maintaining close direct ties to donors leads to bypassing both the NPC and the MoF. In the end, a good deal of the process of development aid bypasses completely the official Namibian system of public financial management. Lastly, evolution of planning has been slow because the Namibian procedures for monitoring, assessing, and evaluating the outputs, effects, and impacts of her national development processes have themselves been slow to materialise, although there are signs of improvement in developing these procedures. One of these signs is the joint efforts made by UNDP, NPC, and the Bank of Namibia (BoN) in the field of data provision.
The Namibian political system involves a combination of formal and de facto features that include one-party dominance, and the practice of selecting the members of the extended cabinet, including Ministers, from among the MPs belonging to the dominating party. Under these circumstances, keen parliamentary scrutiny of government policies is ruled out.
At Namibia's independence, both the Namibian Government and development aid donors were eager to begin the allocation of aid, so eager that aid began flowing in before all the necessary national policies, plans, and programmes were in place, and before the complete setting up of the necessary national institutions, vested with sufficient authority and having sufficient capacity for the task at hand. These problems also applied to Finnish participation in Namibian development co-operation, with the result that some of the Namibian-Finnish projects and programmes evolved ad hoc. This led in turn later on to the fact that Finland found it necessary to stop certain aid activities in Namibia because of uncertain aid tracking.
More formal and better organised development co-operation eventually evolved. However, the problem remains that most of the Namibian-Finnish aid is free-standing technical co-operation which is characterised by difficult donor co-ordination and less than optimal, separate, bilateral development efforts. Recently the European Commission has had some success in co-ordinating aid coming from the EU Member States: with the exception of the USA, almost all the leading donors are EU Member States. Overall co-ordination of aid to Namibia is still the function of the UNDP.
Namibia stands out among most African countries as an aid recipient. Although Namibia is a middle-income country in terms of GDP per capita - albeit a country of gross income and wealth disparities, she is the largest recipient of official development assistance per capita in the region. One of the reasons that might be put forward to explain this is that international aid can achieve very visible results in Namibia, which is a comparatively small country. The question then might arise as to Namibia's being a showcase of sorts for development aid. There is also the further question of aid dependency. This question is answered in public debates by pointing out that development aid has accounted for only 5 percent of GDP in Namibia in recent years, which would seem to rule out aid dependency, but this is a disputable point: seen as a proportion of public expenditures, the share of development aid is considerably higher than 5 percent. Because Namibian national resources must be allocated to the same purposes as aid, in some sectors aid dependency is substantial. The question now arises of Namibian national incentives to elaborate national development policies that would take national needs and preferences into account in a more logically planned manner, instead of relying on the willingness of donors to go on providing aid.
4. Evaluation of Finnish Programming of Development Co-operation with Namibia
All of the development co-operation between Namibia and Finland has produced valuable results. However, some of Finland's first development co-operation projects in Namibia could have had better targets. For example, a project could have been chosen that would have had a direct bearing on poverty alleviation, rather than choosing a project on geological surveying to find resources. Better results would probably also have been achieved by including environmental and community concerns in both forestry and water projects earlier rather than later. Evidently some difficult trade-offs have had to be made.
The present evaluation also found evidence of difficult trade-offs. It is true that, by yielding to Namibian pressure to gear a health care project toward hospital renovation, the project was more recipient-driven, in itself a good thing. However, Finland's insistence on first supporting capacity building in that sector is also a good thing, and would probably have had good results. And while it is true that Finland's decision not to enter the educational sector meant the loss of the valuable preparatory work and the expertise of Finnish NGOs in that sector were lost, this decision also meant that Finland's limited resources were not spread over an additional sector.
The changes that took place in the 1990s in Finnish policy regarding developing countries also affected country programming. During the latter half of the decade, more and more emphasis was put on the importance of good governance, on democracy and human rights, as well as on the protection of the environment. These changes have been communicated to Namibia through a series of annual consultations. In these consultations, policy coherence has been called for, which would include trade policies. Given the geographical distance between the two countries, the limited size of the two economies, and the differences in sector structures, however, it is difficult to see how trade can be integrated with development aid.
In general, programming of Finnish aid to Namibia has tried as far as possible to take Namibian policies as the starting point. At the outset of Namibian-Finnish co-operation, Namibian national policies were just beginning to emerge, but Finland and other donors were eager to start their programs despite the unclear policy situation. Over the next decade, the Namibian National Development Plan, outlined by Namibia, formed the basis for Finnish development co-operation programs. In hindsight, it appears that Finland might have been more active in basing country programming for Namibia on Namibian national policies in the individual sectors involved, particularly in the case of the environment.
The learning process continues in Finnish programming of development co-operation with Namibia. As the lessons learned are applied in e.g. the forestry programme, projects have become better integrated under the covering umbrella of the environment. Links between Finnish forestry programming and other Finnish programmes, as well as other international development co-operation programmes, are established and maintained to ensure a continuous dialogue. In the area of health, co-operation has evolved into combined co-operation in health and social welfare, with the emphasis on capacity building. The water programme is now strongly community based, which is in line with the current policy of the governments of both Namibia and Finland regarding decentralisation in development co-operation. Further, in Namibian-Finnish development co-operation, the emphasis is now on supporting and enhancing democracy, equality, human rights, and good governance, in order to help create and maintain the necessary conditions for a stable and sustainable programme of national development, including development co-operation.
Nonetheless, there have still been ad hoc projects within the framework of Namibian-Finnish development co-operation. Ad hoc projects are beneficial as a sign of flexibility and quick response to changing conditions. But ad hoc projects may be problematic in that they inherently lie outside the systematic programming framework, and occasion (sometimes difficult) adjustments to that framework. For this reason, the share of ad hoc projects of the number and the total financial volume of development co-operation should be severely limited.
There are numerous signs of a genuine dialogue between Namibia and Finland as development partners. There have been differences of opinion, but the dialogue remains open and friendly. Problems have arisen in country programming negotiations over such things as the unwillingness of the recipient to accept a given aid tool, or the unwillingness of the donor to spread or continue to spread its contributions over a given sector. The negotiations have been used to solve such problems as well as to check progress on the requirements for democracy, equality, human rights, and good governance. Throughout the negotiations the emphasis has been on maintaining good relations between the two countries, and very positive results have been obtained.
5. General Evaluation of the Finnish Programming of Development Co-operation
Certain factors define the parameters within which Finnish programming of development co-operation with Namibia takes place. These factors influence the quality of the programming. Most importantly, the number of persons involved in programming at both the donor and recipient ends is limited, and they have very few printed guidelines and/or strategy papers to help them in the programming process.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Finland (MFA) Regional Units (desk officers), together with the Embassy Staff, are in charge of the actual programming process. It is only recently that the development co-operation advisers have been able to engage in this process, thus taking some of the burden off of the clearly overworked desk officers at the MFA. The process also clearly makes heavy demands on the limited capacity of Finland's Embassies abroad, which generally have rather small Staffs.
No specific guidelines exist which would define the procedures, roles, and responsibilities of the MFA in regard to the country programming of development co-operation. This is a definite lack. The existing guidelines concentrate on the programme and project levels, with little mention of strategic planning at the regional or country levels. The MFA also has no recent country strategy papers, which might be used to guide desk officers, Embassy Staff, and country counterparts in the programming process. In general, very little emphasis has been put on strategic planning at the country (national) level. This has further meant that the annual consultation and negotiation mandates have not been very explicit, nor gone into much depth of analysis, regarding in particular the overall rationale and objectives of development co-operation for the entire country. The issue of coherence and cohesion has also not been addressed thoroughly. The consultation mandates could be used to better effect to help steer the programming process, perhaps through a series of annual country programming papers.
The role of external evaluation in providing an unbiased, objective review of the programming process, and the resulting country programmes, could be further developed and strengthened. In addition, the role of the Advisory Board for Relations with Developing Countries (KESU) in the programming of development co-operation could also be strengthened, to allow for timely exploitation of its expertise in the programming process.
Programming would also benefit from increased participation of both Finnish and Namibian NGOs in the programming process. Feedback from the stakeholders, NGOs, and experts in the field would bring new points of view and certainly contribute fresh ideas to the process. It is also worth considering how better the aid channelled through Finnish and Namibian NGOs could be integrated into the programming process, always being wary of government encroachment into the territory of the NGOs. Any such integration should focus upon co-ordinating the services being provided by the NGOs with similar services being provided through the GoN.
A problem common to all Finnish country programming also appears in regard to Namibia, namely that Finland has no clear exit strategy. Other countries involved in development co-operation in Namibia seem to also have this problem: some two years ago Sweden suddenly stated that it was about to exit Namibian development co-operation. However, implicitly if not explicitly, this decision has been revoked.
Finland must stand firm in her determination to place recipients in the driver's seat of their own development. However, Finland's better access to advance tools of programming would allow for some experimentation in Finnish programming of development co-operation. In those cases where the use of such advance tools has had positive results, there should be consolidation of country assistance strategies which would benefit from similar applications. This would be especially useful in a determination of which tools Finland decides to use to support co-operation with development partners, and would also aid in keeping Finland out of the problematic area of trying to propose country strategies for countries that already have development plans of their own.
The MFA on its part should remain vigilant in ensuring that the desk officers have sufficient capacity for the task of development co-operation, and sufficient familiarity with the specific country circumstances, especially during periods of desk staff turnover. Continued training and redistribution of work loads, along with other methods of enhancing the capacity of desk officers are constantly needed.
6. Evaluation According to Specific Evaluation Criteria
It appears that the Namibians generally regard Finnish development co-operation projects as being of high quality. Currently the programming of development co-operation between Namibia and Finland is reasonably efficient in regard to administration. Further, the excessive role played by ad hoc projects during the first stages of Namibian-Finnish development co-operation has been considerably reduced. Despite this improvement, constant vigilance should be maintained to control the tendency for ad hoc projects to appear.
Cost efficiency requires that Finland keep a close watch on the number of sectors in which development co-operation is carried out. Any decision to add a sector should be carefully scrutinised. In all sectors, the values of democracy, equality, human rights, and good governance have been promoted, and should continue to be promoted, as important values in themselves. By promoting these values, Finland has also contributed indirectly to increased efficiency in Namibia, by underpinning stability and the predictability of social and economic development, thus further aiding in ensuring the success of the national programmes planned by the GoN.
Minimally, 'effectiveness' means that the official objectives set for a programme or project have been achieved. In this respect, the programming of Namibian-Finnish development co-operation is doing well. However, the present situation has been reached through a learning process, recovering and learning from the early period when objectives and goals were not always successfully met.
Becoming effective in achieving official objectives may have negative side-effects which officials should always be on the lookout for, and which should always be taken into account in future programming processes. Development co-operation has always had the side-effect of stifling some of the initiative of the recipient for the sole reason that the recipient is not the complete master of the resources the donor contributes. This may lead in the worst case to a situation in which existing co-operation perpetuates itself in those sectors where it is most prominent. This could happen in Namibian-Finnish development co-operation unless it is watched for and controlled or eliminated. This harks back to the need for a coherent exit process policy. Aid dependency is another side-effect which needs to be watched for and controlled in all development co-operation, also in the case of Namibian-Finnish programmes.
In the opinion of the evaluating team, it appears self-evident that, if income opportunities and wealth were as evenly distributed in Namibia as in Finland, there would be no need for Namibian-Finnish development. This is because Namibia is overall a medium-income country with a wealth of natural resources and many well-developed infrastructures. The problem is primarily one of enormous disparities in income and wealth. In this sense, Namibian-Finnish development co-operation has a huge potential for redress, not through any attempt to fill the abyss of needs directly, but through contributions to social, political, economic, and cultural capacity building within the constraints of environmental sustainability. In recent years, programming of development co-operation between Namibia and Finland has moved more and more away from projects attempting to build a bridge across an ocean, as it were, toward capacity building to find other ways of getting everyone safely to the other shore. This is a positive trend and should be encouraged.
Sustainability originally referred to 'environmental' sustainability: in this area, Finnish development co-operation programming has performed well and continues to improve. In regard to 'fiscal' sustainability, however, there is a need to do better. The challenge arises from problems in the development of Namibian management of public finances, a lack of co-ordination between the Namibian MoF and the NPC, and situations in which development co-operation bypasses the Namibian systems of public financial management. Finnish support to enhancing capacity in the Namibian MoF is beneficial to finding solutions to these problems. During discussions at the end of the evaluation mission, a Namibian proposal was made for Finland to support increased capacity for Namibian national planning, as part of a joint effort co-ordinated by the Delegation of the Commission of the European Union in Namibia.
The Namibian-Finnish partnership, including the aspects of capacity-building and ownership, has been in a position to evolve positively since the beginning of Namibian-Finnish development co-operation. The conditions for positive growth grew from early contacts with Finland in the form of the missions to Northern Namibia of the Finnish Lutheran Church, and were expanded and strengthened through Finland's support for the Namibian struggle for independence. Possibilities for enhanced development co-operation increased considerably when Mr. Martti Ahtisaari, who had acted as the Deputy Secretary of the United Nations in negotiations for a peaceful independence process, became the President of Finland in 1994. Unlike many countries involved in development co-operation, Namibia and Finland could rely on exceptional, close, personal contacts between Namibians and Finns on many levels. This is particularly the case in Northern Namibia, but this has not led to that part of the country receiving more than its share of the bilateral co-operation being evaluated here.
The general trend in Namibian-Finnish co-operation has been towards further improvements in capacity building and in the area of ownership. Nonetheless, there is a need for increasing the numbers of people involved in the process, both on the Namibian and the Finnish end, and expanding the role of local community participation. More persons could be also be involved in the assessment of the programming of both development co-operation and the country programme.
KESU should have a stronger and more active role than at present, supported by providing it with relevant information in a more timely fashion than has been the case. There are definite limits to what KESU can contribute, but in the absence of any other, comparable body, enhancing KESU's role in development co-operation programming is a good option.
Finally, although the overall picture is generally good, room for improvement remains in certain sectors, projects, organisations, and localities. There is always room for improvement, and future evaluations should continue to survey problem areas and make recommendations.