Committee on Technical Cooperation
SECOND ITEM ON THE AGENDA
Report of the Working Party on the Evaluation
of the Active Partnership Policy
Appendix I: Fact-finding mission at ILO headquarters -- Interventions
Appendix II: Composition of the Working Party and mission dates
1. In 1993 the ILO adopted its Active Partnership Policy with the aim of bringing it closer to its tripartite constituency in member States and enhancing the coherence and quality of the technical services provided to them, within the mandate of the Organization and in the pursuit of common objectives.
2. The Governing Body discussed the concept of active partnership at length at its 252nd Session (February-March 1992). Three major reasons were invoked for a new policy of relations between the Organization and its constituents. The first was that the major donors and UNDP had proposed national execution, with the transfer of responsibilities for the implementation and management of operational activities to recipient member States. Specialized agencies should therefore focus on their normative functions and their analytical capacity. A second reason lay in the transformation of most countries to a market economy and democratic political regimes. Under these more fluid conditions, constituents need to make rapid decisions, and must have the conviction that the ILO is capable of responding to their needs and of helping them develop their capacities and human resources. The third reason was the need for the ILO to compete in the international market for technical cooperation. In order to do so, the ILO had to project a much sharper image and become more visible, defining its role and improving its products, which should concentrate on the Organization's core mandate and integrate international labour standards.
3. In order to put the policy into practice, the Organization underwent important internal changes. The establishment of 14 (now 16) multidisciplinary teams in the regions was a response to the complex nature of the economic and social problems arising in member States and to the need to offer them a more coordinated response. Area offices were made responsible for developing an active partnership with constituents and drawing up ILO programmes and projects through more extensive tripartite consultations. This new organizational structure was intended to make the best use of the Office's capacity both in the regions and at headquarters. The policy was to be increasingly executed in the field; certain administrative and financial functions were accordingly to be progressively transferred to field offices. Personnel and recruitment policies were revised, and the whole system was to be supervised by the regional offices. The link between the work of the multidisciplinary team (MDT) members responsible for employers' and workers' activities with ACT/EMP and ACTRAV was specified.
4. The Active Partnership Policy has now been in operation for five years. The Committee on Technical Cooperation has monitored the progress of the policy through Office papers submitted to its meetings in 1994, 1995 and 1996. Among the issues discussed have been: the need for a multidisciplinary approach in the services provided to constituents; cooperation and teamwork between headquarters technical departments, the MDTs and the field offices; the need for full consultations with constituents to ensure that their priorities and concerns are fully integrated into the country objectives; the need to implement activities in support of the country objectives and to mobilize external resources for this purpose; the need to ensure and maintain the demand-driven nature of the country objectives exercises and to maintain dialogue with the constituents at the highest level. The members of the Committee also raised the issue of an assessment of the impact of the Active Partnership Policy.
5. In March 1997 the Committee on Technical Cooperation recommended to the Governing Body that an evaluation of the Active Partnership Policy (APP) be undertaken. This was approved and the necessary budgetary allocation was made. A Working Party, comprising three Government, three Employer and three Worker members, was constituted with the Chairperson of the Committee on Technical Cooperation as an additional member to chair its proceedings. It was emphasized that the evaluation should be independent.
6. The Working Party conducted its evaluation through discussions in Geneva, through the study of documentation and through field trips to ILO member States in four regions: Ethiopia and Côte d'Ivoire in Africa; Brazil and Peru in the Americas; Pakistan and Thailand in Asia; and Hungary and Ukraine in Europe. Each mission comprised three members of the Working Party (see Appendix II).
7. In accordance with the terms of reference established by the Governing Body, the main assessment issues that were addressed were the following:
(a) Has the Active Partnership Policy brought the ILO closer to its tripartite constituency in member States?
(b) Have the constituents been increasingly involved in joint action with the ILO?
(c) Have the coherence and quality of technical services provided to constituents been enhanced?
8. Within the framework of the above issues, a large number of questions were posed and provided the basis for the evaluation. The Office prepared a detailed record of all the individual meetings held by the missions at the field level. The members of the Working Party had individual regional group meetings and two general meetings in Geneva during the 270th Session of the Governing Body (November 1997). It was decided that the full Working Party would meet again in Geneva for three days in January.
9. Four regional reports were prepared and sent to all the members of the Working Party for comment and observations. Following the format agreed upon during the November meeting, and on the basis of comments received from members of the evaluation team, the Office prepared a factual synthesis document with conclusions and observations provided by the members of the Working Party themselves.
10. Members of the Working Party met in Geneva for three days in January 1998. The Employers' and Workers' groups prepared a joint paper as their contribution to the final report, which was commented on by the Government group. The workload was such, however, that in spite of great efforts by all, it was not possible to arrive at fully definitive conclusions that would make it possible to finalize a report within the time available. The Working Party therefore requested the Office to prepare a report on the issues raised to facilitate discussion in the Committee on Technical Cooperation.
11. Accordingly, the Office prepared a paper. The joint paper prepared by the Employers' and Workers' groups was also available to the Committee.
12. The Committee on Technical Cooperation met in March 1998 and it was expected that, through discussions at the meeting, the Working Party would be able to finalize a set of recommendations to be presented to the Committee at the present session of the Governing Body.
13. All the Committee members who took the floor regarded the APP as a positive policy, but a number of questions were raised on specific modalities. Topics covered included country objectives, coordination between headquarters and the field structures, the clarification of roles and responsibilities, resource mobilization, the quality and dedication of the field staff, need for their training, filling up of vacancies and use of local staff, redistribution and redeployment of team members, coherence and quality of technical services, need for multidisciplinary approaches, contacts with constituents and other bodies working in areas within the ILO's mandate, information flows, and the need to institutionalize internal procedures to ensure continuous evaluation of the implementation of the APP.
14. It was pointed out that the evaluation undertaken by the Working Party was a valuable contribution towards the implementation of the APP. A large number of issues had been identified, but they were complex and required considerable analysis and reflection; more rigorous examination and professional evaluations were needed to reach definitive conclusions, especially bearing in mind that the APP had been in operation for only five years.
15. Nevertheless, the Working Party had undertaken missions to the regions, acquired first-hand information and views, and formed impressions on a number of issues; as such they were in a position even at that stage to recommend where and how improvements could be made in the implementation of the APP.
16. At the request of the Officers of the Committee on Technical Cooperation, who met in Geneva at a later date, the Government members of the Working Party provided further input for the preparation of the final report.
17. A fact-finding exercise at ILO headquarters was carried out as scheduled (see Appendix I), and after discussing the available information, the Working Party submits the following as its final report.
18. The Working Party found the evaluation exercise useful in presenting the practical aspects of the ILO's work. The exercise, although carried out diligently, was a difficult task in view of the time and resource constraints and the fact that it was the first evaluation exercise of this kind. The report provided here is not a scientific one but rather, on the basis of the terms of reference for the evaluation approved by the Governing Body, presents some practical impressions and views on the implementation of the APP. It presents a reasonably good picture of the present status, clarifies some important issues, provides tentative conclusions and identifies areas for further investigation. It should not be regarded as a final product. The evaluation of the Active Partnership Policy should in any case be a comprehensive ongoing process that involves both headquarters and field structures. The current exercise should hence be seen as a first step in that continuing process.
19. One of the main objectives of the Active Partnership Policy has been to improve the coherence and quality of technical services provided to constituents by better responding to their needs and priorities and through their increased involvement and participation in joint action with the ILO. The value of the APP must be seen not only in what it delivers, but also in the process involved. Not only should it provide a coherent and disciplined programming framework based on the priority needs expressed by constituents and in the ILO's global policies and values, but also provides an important vehicle for promoting tripartism at the national level.
20. The evaluation team noted positive assessments of the policy by all constituents and the general feeling that the APP is an appropriate policy. Based on the limited sample, there is evidence of positive developments as follows:
21. There is much scope to make it work better. It has been implemented unevenly across countries and regions, and the spreading of resources thinly means that it is not always possible to give full effect to its objectives. It needs to be kept under constant independent and objective review and adapted to meet the changing environment.
22. The philosophy that the APP should be demand-driven, i.e. respond to the expressed needs of national constituents, is valid and is respected to a significant extent in practice. Nevertheless, further efforts are required to ensure that constituents at all levels fully understand their role in the APP and are in a position to participate in it effectively.
23. The Working Party considered that it was important that programmes should reflect in a balanced manner overall ILO values, principles and priorities, with sufficient attention to international labour standards.
24. Country objectives exercises have an important role to play in the APP. They help the ILO focus on priorities, promote tripartism in a concrete way, and ensure that ILO programmes are responsive to the needs and priorities of constituents. Social dialogue and tripartism need to be emphasized in the implementation of the APP in all countries. Efforts need to be made to institutionalize tripartite consultations in accordance with Convention No. 144.
25. Constituents should be involved from the start of the country objectives exercise. Country objectives should be flexible so as to be able to adapt to new developments. Programmes based on the country objectives should not be overambitious, and should be in line with the human and financial resources available for their implementation. It is therefore necessary to establish priorities.
26. Clear country objectives also provide the basis for determining the resources required, in terms of both finance and staff. This might include the composition of the MDTs and field staff. With the weakness and incompleteness of country objectives, decisions on resources are based on artificial numbers and assignments that may not mean the best deployment of resources.
27. The evaluation team observed that the country objectives had not been completed in all the countries covered by the mission, and that experience of the formulation exercise and its effects had been varied. In some countries the process had precipitated numerous tripartite meetings and dialogue on important labour and social issues in the country, strengthening the capacities of constituents and obtaining funding for some of the programmes. There had been cases where the process went further and even helped constitute tripartite committees not only for the formulation and implementation of the country objectives, but also to facilitate permanent consultation between the ILO and its constituents. At the other extreme, some constituents had the impression that formal tripartite meetings had been held and a consensus reached; however, although they had been heard, their points of view and interests had not been taken into account and did not appear in the final document. In other cases the process had taken a very long time and by the time the document was finalized, constituents felt that things might have been overtaken by events. In some other cases, the social partners had not been party to the exercise. A periodic review of the country objectives, in consultation with the tripartite constituents, is hence essential.
28. Priority should be given to completing the outstanding country objectives, as well as to putting in place a mechanism to review, update and adjust the completed ones as and when necessary.
29. The APP has raised both the level and the quantity of demands from constituents. It has brought about a shift in the nature of the services that constituents require of the ILO. Governments expect high-quality services delivered with speed and supported by follow-up action. Employers' and workers' organizations increasingly request guidance and assistance in the upgrading of their knowledge base and of their capacity to address major labour market issues arising from the impact of globalization and economic restructuring.
30. The Working Party is aware that ILO field structures have been the subject of recent Governing Body review. However, in the context of the APP it expresses its concern for the role, capacity and interaction of different ILO units.
31. With the APP the functions of area offices have expanded to include a wider consultative and representative role. They facilitate dialogue with governments and the social partners for the formulation of country objectives, prepare the latter in consultation with the MDTs, and maintain dialogue on the issue. They ensure that the work carried out by the MDTs, regional offices and headquarters at the country level are coordinated and focused. They coordinate with donors and other international institutions at the country level, and play an important role in raising funds.
32. It was the experience of the evaluation team that the area offices had not been sufficiently equipped to cope with the new and more intensive tasks relating to country objectives, programming and follow-up activities. Reduced staffing in certain area offices had restricted the scope for better and wider dissemination of the APP and ILO principles, policies and standards at the medium and lower levels of government structures and among employers' and workers' organizations at similar levels. All this needs to be taken into account and the necessary support and training put in place for the new dimensions of the Area Office Director's role.
33. It was felt that the decentralization of financial and administrative functions to the field was imposing work overloads, particularly for area offices. The situation needs to be kept under review and remedial action taken where necessary.
34. Major difficulties are faced by countries where the ILO's field presence is absent. They lack the support normally provided by the area office and the key role of area offices in the APP. This also creates difficulties of access to the ILO for the social partners. The distribution and location of area offices in the regions need to be reviewed and the major gaps filled. Lighter structures such as single representatives or correspondent offices can be envisaged.
35. In many cases the MDTs seemed overwhelmed with demand for their services. The evaluation mission recognized that the coverage and demand for services were much larger than what could be provided by the MDT specialists. As a large number of countries had to be covered by a single specialist, the assistance provided in some cases had to be at a very superficial level. A specialist in one of the MDTs had to deal with 53 countries -- by all standards an impossible task. Furthermore, it seemed that the burden of work had prevented the MDTs from building close working relationships. Limitations on financial resources also created bottlenecks affecting the execution of programmes and projects.
36. The evaluation mission found vacancies in the teams which had been unfilled for long periods. Associate experts, especially in some MDTs, were working on their own in situations where no relevant expert (to whom they should have been attached) was in post or expected to arrive in the foreseeable future. The use of associate experts to cover ILO staff vacancies is an unsatisfactory practice. It is unfair to the experts concerned, and could put at risk the quality of service provided by the APP.
37. The multidisciplinary teams, as presently constituted, do not always appear to match constituent needs. The composition of MDTs is crucial, and it is important that, as a minimum, technical expertise in the priority areas demanded by the constituents of the countries covered by the MDT should be available. A key role is played by standards experts and by employers' and workers' specialists, who should be present in all MDTs. It is important to conduct periodic reviews of the composition of MDTs in order to remain relevant and effective and to fill vacancies without undue delay.
38. Training has a key role to play in ensuring that all field staff have the skills and knowledge required to deliver satisfactorily the services demanded of them. The ILO's own reputation and capacity to compete in the provision of technical cooperation depends on its speaking with coherence and authority on all matters within its mandate.
39. Given the limited availability of human resources in ILO field units, there is a need to examine the issue of using external experts to provide services (criteria for their recruitment, MDT staff time required for their supervision and backstopping, etc.).
40. The role of the regional offices was addressed and on some occasions the presence of three levels of field units (regional office, area office and MDT) in single locations appeared to give rise to some confusion among constituents and accordingly should be examined. It is important to keep the structures under review with respect to clarity of roles and cost-effectiveness and with a view to rationalization where applicable.
41. The role of headquarters in making the APP work was also considered. The evaluation mission noted some problems of communication and cooperation, not only between field units, but also between field units and headquarters. Roles and responsibilities between headquarters and the field structures need to be further clarified, building on the work and review undertaken through the Turin workshops and the observations of the Working Party.
42. Difficulties created by regional and interregional project activities developed or executed by headquarters without adequate consultation with or information to the field units were noted; remedial measures need to be put in place to ensure the proper functioning of the APP.
43. Mixed results were observed by the evaluation team. Some specialists, who had earlier been working in isolation in their own specific fields, were now working within the MDT structure; they now interact with other specializations and have a broader perspective of issues. Missions to draw up country objectives and participation in meetings and workshops involving different disciplines have also helped in this respect. Positive effects could be seen at the level of the recipient country: whereas previously different experts and advisers were seen performing different tasks in a single country with very little interaction, there is now a more consolidated approach. The evaluation team also suggested that specialists, while focusing on their own areas, should also participate in multidisciplinary or joint work where this was not already the case.
44. As for the MDTs as a whole, difficulties had been faced in developing a multidisciplinary approach. The sheer volume and variety of the demand for their services had inhibited the assignment of a number of experts to work on single issues.
45. The Working Party highlights the role of multidisciplinarity as a key element in the provision of high-quality technical services and the importance of MDT specialists' working as a team, so as to ultimately develop a cohesive, coherent and well-integrated approach to socio-economic development.
46. The Working Party observed that the ILO's own resources were not adequate to meet the increasing demands of constituents. The gap between those demands and the capacity of the Office to respond to them was a serious problem for the coherence and credibility of the APP, and needed to be addressed as a matter of urgency. Further work needed to be done to assess and ensure the most efficient use of resources, possible new allocations and reallocations, and the mobilization of more extra-budgetary resources. Only in these ways could the demand-driven nature of the APP be safeguarded in the form of adequate responses to country objectives. Extra-budgetary funding may become available for certain APP activities, but not for others. Where this is so, RBTC should be used to redress any imbalances.
47. The mobilization of extra-budgetary resources is crucial to ILO technical cooperation, and the Governing Body has given detailed attention to it. It is clear that, without external funding, country objectives will not be fully implemented. Field structures found the task of fund raising a major burden and are not well equipped to carry it out. Country objectives should be used and distributed widely as a means of mobilizing resources. Existing financial regulations and practices within the ILO that are cited as obstacles to resource mobilization should also be addressed. The danger exists of a crisis of disappointed expectations, which could undermine the credibility of the APP in the eyes of constituents. Therefore, priorities to be addressed with the limited resources available should be agreed with constituents.
48. The Working Party welcomed the fact that in some cases resources had been provided by national governments and social partners to help implement country objectives, indicating significant potential in this area.
49. The APP will not be effective unless the social partners are strengthened. It was noted by the Working Party that regional RBTC resources tended to be used in some cases to assist only governments or tripartite exercises. These resources should also be made available for use in strengthening the social partners so as to enable them to participate in achieving the objectives of the country plans.
50. The evaluation team observed evidence of greater awareness of the ILO's presence in some member countries and among international agencies at the national level. There were instances where ILO expertise in the field had been used in joint projects and activities with such agencies. However, there were cases where the constituents did not know who to contact in the ILO, and were unaware of the full range of ILO services available to them. Dialogue with the ILO at times tended to be only at senior levels with a limited number of interlocutors. There is a need to further improve the ILO's visibility.
51. The APP operates in a field where other international agencies are donors as well as competitors, and at times they themselves are involved in providing technical cooperation and advice. It is the view of the Working Party that the APP could provide a mechanism to facilitate cooperation with other organizations.
52. The evaluation team did not find any clearly established internal procedures for the systematic evaluation of APP-related activities; this needs to be remedied by establishing evaluation methodology and machinery as an integral part of the APP, involving both ILO units and the tripartite constituency. There is also a need for ongoing monitoring of the APP by the Governing Body.
53. Further efforts need to be made to ensure that constituents at all levels fully understand their role in the APP and are in a position to participate in it effectively. They should be involved as from the outset of the country objectives exercise. There should also be improved contacts between MDT specialists and constituents.
54. There is a need to expand the ILO's country-level contacts to ministries, as appropriate: this includes ministries responsible for planning, social security, finance, etc., whose portfolios are relevant to elements of the Organization's mandate.
55. There is a need to establish partnerships between the ILO and other organizations in the framework of the APP, more specifically with the UN system. This has become even more relevant in view of recent developments in reform of the UN. The marketing function within the APP needs to be developed to provide increased visibility for the ILO. Country objectives should be distributed widely as a means of mobilizing resources.
56. Priority should be given to completing the outstanding country objectives and to putting in place a mechanism to review, update and adjust the completed ones as and when necessary.
57. Relations between the field and headquarters and the specific roles of the different components of the ILO should be further clarified, building on the work and review undertaken through Turin workshops and the observations made by the Working Party. The ILO's own reputation and capacity to compete in the provision of technical cooperation depends on its speaking with coherence and authority on all matters within its mandate; ILO activities should be carried out in a much more coordinated fashion.
58. There is a need to review the distribution and geographical coverage of ILO offices and MDTs, including the lighter field structures currently in use (such as national correspondents, etc.).
59. The composition of the MDTs should be dynamic, and there should be a review of staffing to ensure that the specializations continue to reflect the current needs of tripartite constituencies.
60. Vacant positions in the MDTs should be filled as a matter of urgency. The use of associate experts to cover ILO staff vacancies should be avoided. Local expertise should be used to a greater extent where appropriate.
61. It should be ensured that all field staff have the skills and knowledge required to deliver satisfactorily the services demanded of them. Support and training should be provided to cater for the new and expanded dimensions of the Area Office Director's role. The technical capabilities of MDT specialists should be constantly upgraded through training to enable them to provide quality advice to ILO constituents.
62. MDTs should strengthen multidisciplinary approaches in their work and thereby increase the coherence and quality of their work. A balance should be struck between work at the global level, upstream advisory work and technical cooperation activities.
63. The flow of information needs to be improved, both internally within the ILO and between the ILO and its constituents. The use of MDT newsletters and the Internet to improve information flows between the ILO and its national constituents should be considered where possible.
64. The Office should prepare a comprehensive programme of work for continued assessment and evaluation of the implementation of the APP. In this context, methodology and machinery should be established as an integral part of the APP. There is a need for the continued involvement of Governing Body members in the evaluation process, professional external evaluations in specific areas, and self-evaluations.
65. Having examined the field structure, albeit in a limited manner, and having addressed the questions posed in the terms of reference in the report's conclusions (paragraphs 53 to 64 above), the Working Party also had an opportunity to discuss the APP with certain members of the ILO General Management Committee and headquarters technical and service departments (listed in Appendix I). The Working Party considers that the following overall views on the APP should be offered to the Governing Body.
66. The policy is widely approved within headquarters and the field as being conceptually and in practical terms the correct policy to help address the problems currently being faced by ILO constituents. Accordingly, the Working Party would recommend endorsement of this view.
67. However, it is also clear, both from the examination in the field and from discussions with headquarters departments, that greater resources need to be put to the task of ensuring that the APP meets the needs of constituents. This might best be done by --
(a) strengthening current MDTs and considering the creation of further MDTs;
(b) clarifying the roles and responsibilities of all concerned;
(c) examining the field structures associated with the APP.
While advocating increased resources, the Working Party recognizes that it will be for the Governing Body to determine how such additional resources are found, whether by reallocation or additional overall provisions.
68. Clearly crucial to the success of the APP is the interchange of staff between the field and headquarters. The Working Party therefore believes that the mobility obligation and commitment of staff are essential ingredients in successful implementation of the policy.
69. Mobility policy should be an integral part of a personnel policy that includes competencies, training, career development and succession planning to ensure all posts in MDTs and the supporting headquarters departments are not left unfilled. This requires a greater planning effort and increased collaboration between the MDT, headquarters departments and the Personnel Department.
70. The APP is a vehicle to improve the delivery of ILO technical cooperation and advisory services. Its success will depend on the quality and relevance of technical cooperation policies and programmes. There should be a continuous effort to improve and expand the quality services of the ILO to its constituents.
71. The five years of experience with the APP have shown that it needs particularly strong direction from top management. For this purpose, the Bureau for the Promotion of Active Partnership and Technical Cooperation (PROPAR/TEC) and the Personnel Department need to be strengthened so that they have the necessary authority to fulfil their tasks. In the case of PROPAR/TEC this should also include responsibility for collecting, analysing and disseminating experience with the APP, which should form part of the institutional memory of the ILO. Research should focus on how the APP has worked, strategy planning and the definition of benchmarks.
72. It is essential that ongoing communications, exchanges and dialogue between all participants in the implementation of the APP continue to be enhanced.
Geneva, 28 August 1998.
Fact-finding mission at ILO headquarters -- Interventions
Mr. M. Hansenne
Mrs. M. Chinery-Hesse
Mr. P. Gopinath
International Institute for Labour Studies
Mr. H. Scharrenbroich
ILO Activities in Europe
Mr. F. Trémeaud
Director of the International Training Centre of the ILO, Turin
Bureau for Employers'Activities (ACT/EMP)
Mr. J.F. Retournard
Bureau for Workers' Activities (ACTRAV)
Mr. G. Ryder
Mr. U. Flechsenhar
Financial Services Department (FINANCE)
Mr. D.C. McLean
Employment and Training Department (EMPFORM)
Mr. N. Petrov (Technical Cooperation Team, COTEF)
Mr. G. Rodgers (Training Policy and Systems Branch, POLFORM)
Enterprise and Cooperative Development Department (ENTREPRISE)
Mr. M. Ishida
Mr. M. Henriques
Mr. J. Hofmeijer
International Labour Standards Department (NORMES)
Mr. H. Bartolomei
Personnel Department (PERS)
Ms. C. Cornwell
Mr. F. Eyraud
Development Policies Department (POLDEV)
Mr. Samir Radwan
Bureau of Programming and Management (PROGRAM)
Mr. R. Kirzbaum
Bureau for the Promotion of Active Partnership and Technical Cooperation (PROPAR/TEC)
Mr. D. Duysens
Industrial Relations and Labour Administration Department (RELPROF)
Mr. J. Courdouan (Labour Administration Branch, ADMITRA)
Mr. M. Ozaki (Labour Law and Labour Relations Branch, LEG/REL)
Social Security Department (SEC SOC)
Mr. C. Gillion
Mr. M. Cichon
Working Conditions and Environment Department (TRAVAIL)
Mr. A. Bequele
Secretary to the Working Party on the Evaluation of the Active Partnership Policy
Mr. Iqbal Ahmed
(assisted by Ms. K. Hill) (PROPAR/TEC)
Composition of the Working Party and mission dates
G Government member
E Employer member
W Worker member