Rome, 3 June 2022 – The period 2010-2020 has seen a steep and continuous worsening of the performance of national governments in IFAD-supported. The latest Evaluations Synthesis Report (ESR) of the Independent Office of Evaluation of IFAD (IOE) reveals this negative trend, clarifying that the information currently available through corporate monitoring and evaluation (M&E) systems does not allow to explain why and how government performs in the context of IFAD-supported interventions. As a result, the reasons for this lagging government performance are not well documented and understood, and there are significant knowledge gaps with regard to the factors driving government performance. These and other related findings were discussed during the course of a public virtual learning event, on 3 June 2022.
“We all recognize that government is the key player in IFAD’s effectiveness. This means that we have to better understand how government performs, and what are the differences in performance in varying contexts. Government performance is not something that can be addressed through a top-down headquarters-based approach. This is something that needs to be addressed, first and foremost, at the country level. We need to emphasize the importance of having the right personnel on the ground, working in the local context and having a proper analysis of the institutional and political frameworks”, stated Johanna Pennarz, Lead Evaluator, IOE.
Government is the key player in IFAD’s development effectiveness. IFAD-supported programmes are owned, managed and executed by governments and their agencies in collaboration with other stakeholders. The data show, however, that government performance has been lagging for many years and that there are no signs of improvement. Between 2010-2020, the deteriorating government performance observed by the ESR can be linked to the increasing share of projects led by ministries of agriculture, which reflects IFAD’s closer focus on agricultural and value chain projects. At the same time, the performance of local governments – the ‘traditional’ IFAD partners for local development projects – remained consistent, but their share in the overall portfolio decreased.
“This is a partnership and IFAD can only deliver so much of this partnership. Real success happens when both sides of the partnership – IFAD and government – have full ownership and are fully involved in these projects. IFAD has only limited influence on some of the key challenges identified, such as ownership and in-country capacity. Despite this, we do all we can, and will continue to do so to support countries to build capacity and ensure the success of projects”, affirmed Donal Brown, Associate Vice President, Programme Management Department, IFAD
Organized and hosted by IOE, the on-line virtual workshop was a fully public event that drew interest from a broad variety of attendants. Over one hundred participants joined the event, which was opened by Indran Naidoo, Director, IOE. This was followed by a presentation on the key findings, lessons and conclusions from the ESR by Johanna Pennarz. Donal Brown provided the perspectives of IFAD Management on government performance. Thereafter, two discussion panels took place, on IFAD’s support on government performance in fragile and conflict situations, and on IFAD’s approach to working in decentralized context. During the discussion, IFAD’s country programme staff shared context-specific perspectives on government performance.
The synthesis focused on the performance of government in IFAD-supported operations. It covered the period 2010–2020, when government performance deteriorated. For this decade, performance data were available from 421 evaluations, including 57 country strategy and programme evaluations and 364 project level evaluations. The synthesis selected 15 countries as case studies. These drew evidence from 38 country strategy and programme evaluations as well as project performance evaluations, together with 46 project completion report validations and three impact evaluations covering 71 IOE-evaluated programmes or projects since 2010. The ESR was complemented by a Learning Note on ‘Working in the context of government decentralization policies’, which was made available to participants prior to the event.
“This synthesis takes a broad approach to review government performance in the context of IFAD projects. It looks at government actions in terms of its institutional efficiency, prevailing enabling conditions, and the structures, capacities and processes involved. It identifies the variables of government performance, and the links between those variables. The focus is on the inner workings of government action, together with the underlying dynamics and drivers”, explained Dr Naidoo.
Workshop participants recognized that in most countries there were positive government performance drivers such as ownership, leadership and resources committed, but that these were often offset by instability, weak capacities and unfavourable policies, and institutional processes. The synthesis report identified a smaller number of countries that have shown consistently good performance, driven by strong government ownership and leadership. For these countries, the institutional and policy contexts are very different.
On IFAD’s side, there were also positive and negative factors affecting government performance. On the positive side, there was good alignment with government priorities. Long-term partnerships and continuous support – together with increasing country presence – have built sustained government trust and ownership over many years. On the negative side, workshop participants noted insufficient consideration of government capacities and institutional and policy frameworks, as well as lack of suitable incentives to keep government staff engaged.
Looking ahead, there is no panacea to reverse the trend at corporate level. IFAD has to build on its strength to identify and address drivers of government performance after careful analysis of institutional and policy frameworks at country level. The organization must become an enabling environment for country management by providing critical support for effective engagement with government, such as technical advice, predictable resources and incentives for durable relationships.
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