Governance report on Paraguay

Posted on Wednesday 25th January 2012

The United Nations Development Programme, New York and its Oslo Governance Centre   have published a critical evaluation report by Andrew Nickson that examined the ‘lesson learnt’ from a UNDP project that financed a survey of citizen views on governance in Paraguay and that sought to establish an associated regular governance monitoring system.

This report presents the findings of the review of the DGTTFfunded project, System for Monitoring and Evaluation of Democratic Governance in Paraguay. The project took place over 15 months from March 2008 to June 2009 with a DGTTF grant of $100,000 to cover the costs of the preparation and publication of the baseline governance assessment framework. This review assesses the extent to which the project was innovative and catalytic in the Paraguayan context. It considers what has made the project succeed or fail, and why. The project was carried out under the ‘national execution’ modality, with the Congress as implementing agency and the President of the Senate as overall project director. It aimed to support a national process of monitoring and evaluating democratic governance in Paraguay.

The development model in Paraguay is focused on economic growth, which has expanded rapidly in recent years. But that has brought sudden and greater inequality in the distribution of income and wealth. Governmental structures are characterized by high levels of institutional weakness, which has encouraged a donor-driven approach to development assistance in the past. Since 2005, the Government has slowly incorporated social inclusion, environmental protection, and poverty reduction in its development objectives. Assessment frameworks and associated indicators are well established for economic growth, but are only starting to be used for governance. There was therefore a need to develop a Paraguay-specific governance assessment framework to which further indicators can be added.

This project set out to achieve this by:

  • i. Supporting the Congress as national counterpart to lead the initiative. Such leadership was assumed to be strategic for ensuring broad bipartisan political consensus on accepting the evidence for governance reform, and for strengthening the capacity of Congress in its oversight function.
  • ii. Using the National Statistical Office to collect the data. As a respected government agency seen by the media as politically non-partisan, the National Statistical Office may strengthen the robustness and credibility of data, can secure institutionalization of data collection among national actors, and launch the data as a public good.
  • iii. Establishing a monitoring committee representing all major stakeholders. This committee would secure an inclusive process in the development of the governance assessment framework, assisting with validation and dissemination of results.
  • iv. Raising government capacity by recruiting staff. A technical coordinator was charged with managing the Governance and Democracy survey, leading the analysis and working on the report, and communicating and disseminating results.

The project assessment shows that:

1. The project was relevant, with a clear and coherent set of three main governance objectives, and was 8 strategically positioned at the heart of UNDP’s overall country programming in democratic governance.

2. The project was very innovative, as this was the first time that a governance framework had been constructed by an institution of the Paraguayan state. Given its extremely low public standing, the choice of the Congress as lead actor was also innovative.

3. The catalytic impact of the project was limited. There was no evidence of follow-up by government, other domestic governance institutions, or other donor agencies. There are no current plans to scale-up the project and no other public sector body has yet assumed responsibility for continued governance assessment. No measures have been taken during the two years since its completion to ensure the project’s sustainability. A major explanation was the absence of a monitoring committee that could have implemented a dissemination strategy.

4. The overall effectiveness of the project in meeting its three objectives was uneven. The objective of  "developing a national system of governance indicators" was met. The objective of “strengthening capacities of national actors in the use and development of governance indicators” was partly met, but the objective of “starting-up a monitoring and evaluation mechanism for democratic governance” was not met. The project’s efficiency was acceptable, with impressive deliverables achieved with a low financial outlay.

5. The project displayed a high level of formal national ownership, with the Senate as the national lead actor. However, politicians attached little priority to the project and the annual rotation of the Senate leadership led to lack of continuity and delays in decision-making. It may have been expected that the project team’s location in the legislature would enhance the political impact of the governance assessment. However, this ownership modality adversely impacted sustainability, raising questions as to whether it was the most appropriate choice of stakeholder.

6. The governance assessment was clearly aligned with the political priorities of the national government, which emphasize the need for a more inclusive style of development, a focus on poverty reduction, and the need to make the public administration more accountable to its citizens.

7. Although a major target of the project, strengthening the capacities of national actors in the use and development of governance indicators was limited.

8. The project’s impact in strengthening accountability was severely limited by the restricted diffusion of the results of the governance survey.

The following key lessons learned and recommendations emerged from the review:

1. It is very important to take account of the national political and social contexts when setting expectations for governance assessment projects.

2. Broad participation in the design of the assessment framework is crucial in order to build up a strong national ownership that provides the basis for sustainability.

3. An extended time period between project completion and evaluation is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it enabled a more reasoned calculation of the impact of the project. On the other hand, it raised issues of memory recall among interviewees.

4. Technical assistance from the Oslo Governance Centre, and the comparative perspective that this brings, can be especially beneficial in formulating projects in countries with weak governance structures.

5. In countries with weak governance structures, technical support provided by the UNDP Global Programme on Capacity Development for Democratic Governance Assessments and Measurements should not just be available for call-down, but should become standard procedure.

6. It is important to invest time and resources in the project’s design phase to properly analyse and recommend the most suitable counterpart.

7. Special attention should be given to planning a sociallyinclusive dissemination strategy to maximize the impact of government assessment projects.

8. Given the enormous benefits deriving from a comparison over time, government assessment project documents should, wherever possible, include provision for both an initial baseline survey and a follow-up survey after one or two years

The full report is available to download at:

http://www.beta.undp.org/content/dam/undp/library/Democratic%20Governance/Democratic%20Goverannce%20Thematic%20Trust%20Fund/Paraguay-governance-assessment.pdf