A - Implementation of the fund programme in 1977
351. In considering agenda item 10(a), the committee had before it the executive director’s report on the implementation of the fund programme for 1977 (UNEP/GC.6.13), with an addendum of fund programme activities and status of voluntary contributions as at 31march 1978 (unep/gc.6/13/add.I).
352. Introducing the agenda item, the assistant executive director, bureau of the environment fund and management, recalled that three problems had occupied the attention for the governing council at its fifth session: slippage, ie. The difference between commitments and expenditure; the gap between appropriations and commitments; and the utilization of non-convertible currencies. Tow of those problems, slippage and the shortfall in commitments as opposed to appropriations, wee now under operational control. With the visit of the executive director to Moscow and the subsequent approval of projects utilizing roubles, progress had also been made regarding the future use of non-convertible currencies. However, another problem had risen: the fund was approaching a position of financial restraint, in that pledges made thus far were insufficient to meet the target figure of $ 150 million for the period of the medium-term plan 1978-1981.
353. Commitments for 1977, amounting to $28.1 million, or 78.7 per cent of the appropriation, had been kept below the $30 million figure established s the “cruising speed” for fund operations; the purpose had been to ensure a smooth transition from regular annual increases to a high stationary level of commitments. Expenditure for 1977 was $ 22.3 million, the highest level for any year so far, representing an implementation rate of 78 percent. Although commitments and expenditures had not kept the same pace in all subject areas, the executive director was not requesting any changes in the appropriation; any new decision of the governing council, however might require corresponding changes in budget line allocations.
354. Many delegations expressed concern that the fund programme was constrained by the current lack of resources. One problem noted was the paucity of contributing countries: less than half of the states members of the united nations had announced pledges for the period 1978-1981. Another was that some countries were not contributing in amounts commensurate with their potential. Some delegations suggested that other sources of funding should be investigated. One delegation expressed the view that the target figure for 1978-1981 represented a modest increase in real terms over the target for 1973-1977; its government’s contribution had been raised in a corresponding percentage with the new target, and it hoped other Governments would do likewise. Another delegation said that, unless morepledges were forthcoming, the level of activities would have to be reduced accordingly: several delegations hoped that that eventually could be avoid. The following pledges to the Fund were announced by delegations: $ 2,000 by the Government of Bangladesh for 1978; $3,000,000 by the Government of Japan for 1978; Z1 1.5 million per annum by the Government of Poland for 1979 – 1983; and $25,000 by the Government of Zaire for 1978.
355. Questions were raised concerning the geographical distribution Fund-supported projects. Several delegations noted that the Asia and Pacific region did not receive a sufficient share of regional projects; in that connexion, two delegations emphasized the importance of the proposed Comprehensive Environmental Management Plan for the South Pacific. One delegation suggested that UNEP should examine the possibility of co-operative ventures with United Nations University. A number of delegation expressed deep concern over the phsing-out period for Mediterranean activities, suggesting that the phasing out should be gradual and noting that the Mediterranean region’s share of projects was lower in 1977 than in previous years. One delegation mentioned that the geographical distribution of projects might not appear so disproportionate if the regional elements of global projects were taken into account.
356. Some delegatiojns supported the excutive directors proposal to increase the committed balance of the Revolving Fund (Information) to $200,000 at ! January 1979. Others expressed concern at the proposal, several inquiring whether the revolving Fund was to be replenshed annually to that level. Some cautioned that due attention shoulld be paid to the commercial viability of projects sponsored. One delegation requested details of planned activities, in order that the necessary level of the Revolving Fund could be determined. Some delegations pointed out that changes would be required in the rules of the Revolving Fund if the Executive Director’s proposal was accepted. Several delegations queried the apprropriateness of financing the Revolving Fund from Fund programme reserve activities, rather than the Information budget sub-line. Two delegations expressed reservations regarding the proposed increase in the level of the proposed increase in the level of the Revolving Fund (Information).
357. The improvements in Report to Governments in line with the annex to Gerning Couincil decsions96 (V), were generally welcomed. It was suggested that the breakdown of projects budgets should be treated in greater detail, and that the specific objectives of projects be made more precise. One delegation asked whether it would be possible for Goverments to comment on projects described in Report to Governments. Another delegations stressed the value of short-term projects, as developing countries in particular had immediate needs to which such projects responded.
358. The assistant Executive Director welcomed the support expressed by delegations for his call for increased contributions on border basis. He particularly commended the that pledges should be increased in line with tnew target. New activites; however, programme priorities would be discussed in plenary meetings and in Sessional Committee 1.
359. The Deputy Director of the Fund pointed out that only those activities which took place in a given region and exclusively for its benefit were listed as regional activities, and that global activities were not broken down into their regional components.
360. The Deputy Assistant Executive Director explained that the gestation period of activities financed by the Revolving Fund (information) had proved longer than expected, and that lack of available resources had prevented the approval of new activities which were felt to be commercially viable. Certain proposals for the production and distribution and of audio-visual materials were particularly promising in that respect. Originally the Revolving Fund, as an unforeseen expenditure, had properly been financed to decide the source from which further financing was to take place. He gave details from the rules of the Revolving Fund (information) on the disposition of income accrued from activities financed under it. Ultimately, the Revolving Fund was intended to become self-supporting; should further replenishments be required, the Governing Council would be requested to authorize necessary allocations as and when the need arose.
361. The Assistant Executive Director assured the Committee that commercial viability had been and would continue to be a chief concern in the selection of projects to be financed by the Revolving Fund.
362. At the conclusion of the debate on the implementation of the Fund programme in 1977, the Committee recommended for adoption by the Governing Council a draft decision on the implementation of the Fund programme. One delegation reiterated it reservation (information) contained in paragraph 6 of the draft decision.
Action by Governing Council
363. At the 14th plenary meeting of the session, on 24 May 1978, the Governing Counci; adopted by consensus that draft decision recommended by sessional Committee II (decision 6/13A). 71/
2. Project evaluation
364. Introducing the Executive Director’s report on the evaluation of Fund projects (UNEP/GC.6/14), the assistant Executive Director emphasized the importance of clear project objectives to permit meaningful evaluation of results. Progress had been made in the development of methodologies for evaluation of UNEP supported projects, and evaluation had begun of projects in some sectors which would be the subject of in-depth review by the Governing Council at its seventh session.
365. Delegations generally welcomed the progress made in the project evaluation programme since the fifth session of the Governing council. Several speakers recognized the inherent difficulties of evaluating projects which aimed at Catalysing and co-ordinating the activities of a large number of actors. In particular, the need for clear project objectives was appreciated , and project design and appraisal were recognized to be import elements of project evaluation. Many delegation pointed out the need to keep the responsibility for project design, appraisal and implementation separate from evaluation although several also recognized the importance of feedback from evaluation to project design. One delegation said that if evaluation could produce a positive impact on the programme, it might favourably affect levels of contributions.
Most delegations supported the principle that in-depth evaluations should be formed by outside consultants in order to ensure greater objectivity. One delegation, however, expressed the view that use of such outside consultants should be minimized, since UNEP staff would be sufficiently objective. Many delegations thought that whenever possible, outside consultants should be recruited from the region in which a project was being implemented, although one delegation stated that that practice need not be strictly adhered to, since the best expertise on the subject concerned might not necessarily be available in the region. One delegation suggested that UNEP staff in the various regions could serve as a link between project personnel and UNEP headquarters. Another said that a greater number of critical comments might be forthcoming if outside consultant were used on evaluations, and that in their reports to management for internal use, the evaluators should comment candidly on all aspects of projects, including Government participation; UNEP should be expected to submit the highlights of such reports to Governments.
367. Many delegations welcomed the guidelines for project evaluations as clear indication of the Executive Director’s thought on the subject. Some delegations suggested that the Executive Director should prepare apaper on methodology for UNEP project evaluations. Others felt that the UNEP methodology might usefully be applied by developing countries to their own project evaluation.
368. A number of delegations offered assistance to UNEP in the development of the evaluation programme. Some suggested that the United Nations joint inspection Unit could assist in the process. The use of a group of experts was also suggested. Some delegations advocated that the evaluation function in the secretariate should be strengthened and given the necessary independence from programme design and project implementation, and that adequate resources be allocated to it from existing resources. One delegation made a number of suggestions for more detailed information on project evaluation to be included in Report to Governments.
369. The Assistant Executive Director again emphasized the important relationship between project appraisal and evaluation and the requirement for clear project objectives. He stressed three key elements of UNEP’s project evaluation methodology: project contribution to programme strategy, the co-ordinating and catalytic role of a project, and a review of the projectwithin its own framework. The first two elements might not be relevant for counries’ development programmes, but were vital for UNEP, Independence of appraisal and evaluation units was an integral part of UNEP policy. Regarding the advantages of using outside consultants, as opposed to UNEP staff, in the evaluation programme, the secretariat believed that there should be no rigid application of either alternative; rather, an optional involvement would be reviewed for those projects having regional components. The linking of certain project evaluations to in-depth reviews would assist Governments in assessing the impact of the UNEP programme. Report to Governments was now dissemination information on the results of evaluations, so that Governments would be kept informed of progress made.