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Regional report
Report of the third Regional Advisory Committee
Wednesday 19 November 2003, by Web Team

Session II: Mid Term Review recommendations

Mr. Alain Lafontaine, team leader of the Baastel-led Mid Term Review, presented an overview of the findings of the mission and summarized the recommendations 1) at the regional level and 2) at the national level. These are spelled out in his presentation in Annex 13.

Mr. Bayoumi commended the team for the work done, in particular in terms of highlighting the responsibilities and roles of the project as a whole and those of the regional unit. He regretted though that the recommendations were not consolidated for the national components. He remarked that he was also expecting that the review would go into an evaluation of the quality of the products, e.g. the quality of the management plans, and was disappointed not to find that type of review.

Mr. Hentati Adel, ANPE, noted that the review confirm that practical actions have been taken but asked whether the practical achievements to date could be identified, in particular in terms of results. He further enquired about the difficulties met with regards to regional training initiatives. Finally he asked for the reasons why the national training plans have not been implemented to date.

Dr. Fouda thanked the evaluator for the work done and reminded of the comments already made and further iterated the need to spell out clearly whether the main goal is now half achieved.

The meeting also urged the RCU to help with the translation into French of the executive summary and recommendations of the report in order to ensure full distribution of the document in the French-speaking countries.

Mr. Ben Moussa referred to the document presented at RAC2 concerning the sustainability of the project and pointed out that, in his view, one of the key elements of sustainability is the implementation of the management plans.

Mr. Kouvelis thanked Alain for the work done and confirmed that this report had been a very useful document, noting that it was not very common to find a report of that quality. He cautioned not to put all efforts over the next year towards the implementation of the management plans. He reminded that the focus should be on ensuring that institutional and policy level mechanisms are in place after the project completes and called for carefully considering the options to that end. He also recalled that there is a finite quantity of time and money available. In terms of ’closing of the Mediterranean circle’, he pointed out that, even with the best organisation to lead that process, what is needed is the ’glue’ to share and guide and he invited the participants to reflect and explore options in that sense. He further reminded that the ’closing’ refers to 25 countries and not only 6. In that context, he proposed that regional functions be anchored into existing regional initiatives and suggested to identify those institutions which have a capacity to support policy and institutional aspects in the future.

For ’closing of the circle’, Ms. Al Khatib suggested to look at the commonalities across the countries, possibly in the form of a publication (in terms of policies, approaches, threats, etc). She also suggested to give due consideration to the scheduling of a regional seminar on socio-economic aspects.

Mr. Alain Lafontaine took the floor, offering to respond as best and appropriate to the comments and questions. He reminded that what was expected from the review is one report, one document and pointed out that, for GEF, this is indeed one project. In terms of what has been achieved, he confirmed that key achievements include the preparation of site diagnosis for all countries or most, and the preparation of management plans for some of these. He underscored though that, at the policy level, the challenge remains quite extensive, in terms of ensuring that the relevant wetlands and management policy are in place with their corresponding institutional arrangements. In terms of closing the circle, he granted that there had been ad hoc and some initiatives but least effort on the part of the national projects.

He further remarked that the report has also attempted to analyse the status of achievement in each of the country as best as possible considering the time and resource constraints of the mission and he invited the participants to refer to it. He agreed that there is but few lines on the quality of some of the outputs, e.g. the quality of the diagnosis, the quality of the management plans, but reminded that, in line with UNDP and GEF policies and guidelines, the TORs of the review primarily look at such issues as: relevance, efficiency, progress towards results and impacts, and sustainability. He pointed out that there is a limit as to how far the reviewers could go into analysing the quality of the results. He also pointed out that the problem stems from the fact that the project had not been designed along a result-based approach. In that context, he advised the national projects to revise the LFA, along result-based objectives and identifying measurable results and clear indicators of impacts.

In terms of capacity building, Mr. Lafontaine pointed out that, in all likelihood, the capacity of the national teams to carry out the activities was overestimated at first, e.g. the capacity to carry out site diagnosis. In terms of implementation of the national plans, he listed a few reasons that explain the ineffective implementation of the training plans, including: the skills and capacity of the training Focal Points, the time and resources available to them (i.e. these people cumulate various functions), and possibly the limited national ownership in the development of the training plans.

He further underscored that management plans are tools not end products in themselves. The end result should be, through site demonstration effort, to infuse changes at the policy level. That means that capacity needs to be build in the country to undertake this work and links across the region established or solidified so that new management plans can be prepared, so that policy changes can be effected and so that experiences can be shared.

Ms. Goyet reminded that there is a need to revisit each of the recommendations of the MTR, identifying the nature, scope and modalities to translate these into practical strategic changes and actions at the national level as well as at the regional level.

Mr. Hani Daraghma requested that the MTR recommendations be taken seriously into account. He pointed out that the procedure for monitoring and evaluation (M&E) is becoming stricter and more rigorous for GEF-funded projects, as the GEF is being questioned on the nature and measure of the impacts that the projects are generating. He conveyed his appreciation of the recommendation to engage more in SxS cooperation and remarked that, so far, he has not seen much partnership develop across the countries, but rather more NxS exchange. He also underscored that his institution would like to see more of this networking through electronic tools and exchange programs, between the countries themselves. The bilateral cooperation should be a vital one. He also invited the countries to take a serious look at the sustainability issue, as this is a crucial question for the GEF. Sustainability principles must be part of the national agendas and of the regional agenda. He also suggested that this project could evolve into a program that would be an integral part of an existing regional agenda and network. The question is : how can we make this happen? How to see such a programme evolve and develop across the region. Finally, with regards to indicators and M&E, he asked to what extent the indicators that were developed are used and are useful to measure achievements. He suggested to also consider more effort into developing monitoring systems. In that context, he expressed his appreciation with the database suggestion, mentioning that a standardized and harmonized database that would be shared across the countries has not yet been seen.

The participants broke out in 4 working sessions and reported thereafter. The outline of the presentations are included in Annex 14 and summarized below.

a) Working group on "documenting and reporting"

The recommendations of the group include:
- at the regional level, a concise reporting format be developed by the RCU which would be more impacts and results oriented and a reporting on a 6-month basis.
- in terms of national monitoring and documenting, further capacity building to develop the tools. Egypt offered to take the lead and organize a one-day workshop. Mr. Lafontaine suggested to use a result-based approach, underscoring that the task is not one to be under estimated.
- for site monitoring, the development of a practical guidebook that would tailor to all countries’ use. The group recommended that TdV be entrusted with the development of the guidebook.

b) Working group on "closing the circle"

The group rapporteur pointed out that there exists a number of partners and networks in the region. Over the past, links with these partners have not always been effective and it is suggested to work towards including the MWC objectives in the agenda of these various institutions. Propositions translate into actions at various levels:
- before completion of the regional component, priority must be put on developing these linkages (MAP, and its RACs, MedWet, IUCN, WWF, etc.,), the regional steering committee must be put in place - the group recommended that the committee includes MAP as one key partner and institution. This committee must be playing a key role over the next year to foster greater cooperation and integration.
- after completion of the regional component, one must not create another program or another structure but ensure that sustainability of these functions be assumed by existing institutions. The question is who must take the lead in the coordination and this must be addressed over the next year.
- at the level of the countries, a more pro-active role must be taken by the national projects to look out and take actions. It was reminded that the national units have a responsibility not only towards implementation of their respective national projects but also towards looking out to these other programmes and networks and taking initiatives to anchor the activities in a regional context, i.e. ’closing the circle’.

c) Working group on "capacity building"

The group worked on how to translate some of the recommendations into a workplan in terms of enhancing the impacts of the project, also taking account of the efforts of other Mediterranean networks. Recommendations of the group include:
- further define the role of the training Focal Points and enhance the profile of the function and the responsibility of the Focal Points.
- RCU to propose a framework for analysis to revise and update the training plans in order to ensure greater ownership of the plans. It should also propose TOR and a work plan for the training Focal Points, together with assistance to update the national training needs, with the objective of ensuring a greater ownership of the training plans.
- consolidate at the regional level the national needs and priorities of the national components. The role of the RCU should then essentially be in terms of enabling linkages with partners such as IUCN, MAP, etc. The RCU would intervene as facilitator of the network and tools may include such things as an Intranet forum on the site.
- The RCU would be financing incremental costs for certain regional training (e.g. translation costs).
- Finally the group recommended that the RCU provide support to the projects to design local strategies for communication.

Dr. Fouda pointed out that training is a very expensive undertaking and reminded that the project should look into various options such as partnerships with existing training programmes or distance learning initiatives, quoting the example of the IUCN effort for this second option. Further, he suggested that the project pay more attention to monitoring the effectiveness of the training effort, i.e. what happens to those people who have undergone training and how they use the skills acquired.

d) Working group on "sustainability"

- Overall the presenter confirmed that they are in agreement with the Baastel recommendations and strongly recommends integration of the project in the respective national planning and programming.
- The group further recommended that assurances be given by the Government that there is a budget line in the public accounts to ensure protection and management of the MWC Sites after completion of the project.
- With regards to implementation of the management plans, the group is of the opinion that doing a good work on the management plan will push the Government to take up its responsibility. The example of the particular park where the meeting is held was given as example: the rehabilitation work for the park was first undertaken thanks to external funding, thereafter it is the Government that assumed the tasks of maintaining it.
- At the regional level, the group recommended to collectively identify mechanisms of transfer of the regional functions. One of the proposals is to have a representation per country on a rotating basis to maintain the regional networking function. On the other hand, the group suggested that, collectively, a plan of transfer of the regional functions be prepared within the next 3 months.
- The group also suggested to associate the project with the approach of the PAP/RAC in terms of ICZM.
- At the regional level, the group asked whether one would consider having the countries represented in the steering committee of the regional component. One further suggestion in that regard is to use the website as a forum for voicing countries’ inputs into the work of the Steering Committee of the regional component. Another idea would be that the national projects designate collectively a representative of the countries at the local level to sit in the steering committee of the regional component.

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