Comments on Draft Governance Assessments Global Programme

Date: Thu, 14 Feb 2008 13:14:45 -0500 (EST)
From: Raul Zambrano
To: Noha El-mikawy
Cc: Terence D Jones , Bjoern Foerde , Pauline Tamesis, Joachim Nahem , Veronica Perera
Dear Noha,As mentioned in my previous message, here are some comments on the draft. I will skip all
formalities and get right into the subject matter.

1. I think the draft can be strengthened a bit if two questions were answered from the very start: why do we need this stuff? and what exactly are we going to do? Most of the answers to these questions are in the document but could be presented in a more effective fashion.

2. A partial response to why is given in section 1.2 which essentially highlights three points: 1) increasing relevance of governance work; 2) pro-active citizens demanding better governance; and 3) a proliferation of assessments being implemented at country level combine the country interest in undertaking such work. As I see it, I am not sure why this
is under National Context though. As I see it, all these factors have a global scope. This is then neatly complemented by the 4 challenges that the above creates, also of global scope.

3. As you are aware, we have done some thinking on this subject when we started to think about our e-governance assessments in 2005. And the main reason why we undertook such endeavor was actually quite simple
and based on country experiences with e-governance: we wanted governments and policy makers to “listen” to citizens and be able to learn and identify the need of the latter BEFORE they made related policies and implemented large e-governMENT programmes. The rationale for this was provided by 2004/2005 evidence that showed that close to
70% of e-governMENT programmes do not succeed and most do not reach the majority of people who really need basic services and information. In other words, we wanted them to moved from a pure “supply” (and usually
top-down) approach to a more “demand-driven” (and more participatory approach). Implicitly we were saying that the supply approach was the cause for all those failures. (BTW, the same argument can be made for many other of the governance areas we work on). I think this line of reasoning is entirely missing in the draft, By the same token, this
argument has many implications which I have described elsewhere and is part of the documentation I have shared with you. A paper I wrote on this with a case study will be published this Spring by the International Journal of
e-government research.

4. The closest I found to the above in the current draft is the paragraph buried under UNDP context section that starts with: “For UNDP, governance assessments are most effective as a tool to bring about better democratic governance…” and then goes on to describe what the programme will be doing in overall terms (national ownership, capacity development, and harmonization).

5. My first comment here is to relate national ownership with stakeholder participation. This goes back to 3, above in the sense that the process described there is not a one off (” yeah, we ask people what they want and we implement as we like”) but demands increased stakeholder/citizen involvement in the policy making cycle and other decision making
processes. As I see it this is the only way to prevent the point I raised at the meeting about governments hijacking data and reports which as you know happens more that it should in UNDP and in the UN in general. At the same time, I am aware it can be a very delicate point to bring forward in some countries and should be contextualized
accordingly. As you are aware, we have already done some work along this line using the supply and demand argument in a continuum and governments so far have liked this approach.

6. My second comment related to harmonization. I am not entirely sure this is all we should be doing. As I see it, governance assessment should a) be launched in response to specific issues on overall development in general and governance in particular that both government and stakeholders might hold dear or see as pressing priorities and b)
should be used to then promote policies that reflect such priorities and issues. It is the good old “information for decision makers” that has be raised many times and was integral part of the now forgotten Agenda 21 of the Earth Summit in 92 (and was instrumental in launching our very first ICT for development programme in UNDP!). I thus think that harmonization is just part of the equation. We should also tell governments and stakeholders that the assessments will
provide tools, information and knowledge that will enable them to better interact and make more evidence based decisions. And this approach has also worked very well in the field work we have done so far with the e-governance assessments.

7. Allow now to raise a few issues about ICT and e-governance. Let me start with a little story. At the meeting you presented, I “stole” for a few days the Mongolia report. I was totally amazed that it resembled the work we have done in Brazil and South Africa. But on the other hand I was even more amazed that there was nothing on ICT or e-governance. We have actually helped Mongolia in the past to develop a national ICT for Development strategy and actually the programme office that was working there at the time came to NY in the early 2000s to helps us with our global work (for a summary of Mongolia’s ICT see this for example: and
So when we met Joachim a few days later I asked him about this. His reply was that access to ICT in the country is still in its infancy. That maybe so but should we see this as an opportunity instead of a challenge?

8. Moreover, let us recall that a) development is about gaps, there is indeed a governance gap, an economic gap, and educational “divide”, etc. and our role, at least on paper, is to close such gaps as much as possible; and b) there is also a “digital divide” but UNDP’s approach to it is not to close this gap per se. Rather, it is to use the new technologies to address the traditional development gaps. In other words, it is not and end but rather a means to help address current
development priorities. If you see it this way then I think you can then establish links to governance assessments in general.
9. The other interesting thing about ICT in general and e-gov in particular it that so far lots of work has been done in assessing readiness, etc. plus we have several e-governance and e-participation indexes including those developed by UNDESA. I think we should be aware of these and work with them wherever possible. There are also plenty of indicators developed by the ITU.
10. Miscellaneous comments on the text
– title, not sure you need to have the measurement after governance assessments

– section 1.1 first sentence ‘enabling environment’. to me this sounds like conditionality (the Millennium Declaration does not use this language and speaks of good governance and democracy).

– section 1.1 2nd para. add something about S-S

– 1.2 National context. Text under here is not about this

– 1.2 first paragraph and beyond use democratic governance which is missing from the title of the programme

– 1.2 2nd para “governance indicators”. as mentioned in the FAQ this are different from assessments but sometimes the text seems to be using them as the same. here for example we should refer to assessments

– 1.3 UNDP Context., First 5 paragraphs describe this but from 6 on the document described more the programme strategy. also. under UNDP context  something should be added about the work we have done on e-governance

– Section 2. Programme Justification. here we go back to data. indicators, data gathering, etc. so are we justifying the programme due to the lack of good indicators for governance? Para 4 here is probably better to kick off this section.

– Section 2, para 5. “For UNDP, national ownership goes beyond that to include locally driven, deliberate process of data collection and analysis and locally driven” Not sure why this is limited to data collection and analysis. See point 5 above for related comments.

– Section 2, para 6. “evidence based policy… there is need to understand the role of non-official data”. I do not think this is the issue as it raises all sorts of questions about data quality etc. Maybe the issue to be able to capture information from those groups and sectors that are usually excluded from the official surveys and data…

– Section 3, Strategy. This makes the programme sound more like a trust fun with country, regional and global windows. The primacy here should be on the global and what can it bring to the countries and how can the regions help. Establishing links between these levels in this order will help understand why is this a global programme. This section should be re-arranged accordingly.

– Section 3 Country window bullet. four activities moistly focus on data collection and databases. I think the key here is the use of the data and the integration (or harmonization) into development priorities and public policy making. The content here does not match the 4 bullets presented in 3.1 Country Level

– Section 3.1, last paragraph. It is not clear who selects the 12 countries to be financed by the GP. No reference to this is made in Management Arrangements. And again, this is not a TTF…

– Section 4.1 Project Board What is the connection between the Project Board functions and the project staff?

– Section 5. M&E. I will suggest to allocate funds for impact assessment in the medium term (for example, have the assessment brought any changes in policy making? are policies now more pro-poor or gender sensitive? is
there an increase in participation mechanisms and channels? etc.

– Country Typology. This should be classified according to type of request. For example, it it is sectoral (justice, local governance) or general, if it is for local governments or national governments, etc.

Hope this helps and apologies for the very long email.


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