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A - Implementation of the Fund programme in 1976

346. In considering agenda item 11 (a), the Committee had before it the Executive Director's report on the implementation of the Fund programme in 1976 (UNEP/GC/96), with addenda on project evaluation (UNEP/GC/96/Add.1) and Fund programme activities and the status of voluntary contributions 1 January-31 March 1977 (UNEP/GC/96/Add.2).

347. Introducing the agenda item, the Assistant Executive Director a.i., Bureau of the Environment Fund and Management, said that 1976 had been an atypical year for UNEP in terms of project expenditure. The uncertainty as to the resource flow situation for the year had prompted the Governing Council at its fourth session to adopt decisions urging caution in making new project commitments. As a result, only ,$23.5 million was committed out of an allocation of $34 million, and actual expenditures were even smaller, owing to the climate of uncertainty created by the procedure instituted in September 1975, whereby only actual reported expenditures were considered as expenditures. Accordingly, UNEP had begun 1977 with a larger cash balance and advance commitment than expected. 1977 was thus to be a year of consolidation of Fund programme activities, leading to greater concentration in 1978 and 1979.

348. Six Fund projects, chosen for their different subject-matter and method of implementation, had been evaluated during 1976, by consultants, staff members and a combination of both. Other evaluation exercises had included a consultative meeting in December 1976 in Paris on environmental problems of specific industries. Arrangements had been made for an evaluation of all projects in the environmental education subject area, and an internal evaluation of four areas of UNEP activities had been conducted in response to a decision of the Committee for Programme and Co-ordination to review four programmes of the United Nations, one of which was environment.

349. UNEP-supported projects must not only be meaningful in themselves, but must also play a catalytic and/or coordinating role in the implementation of the over-all environment programme. The concept of evaluation must be broadened to include impact on other projects in the same area and on the Level Two programme as a whole. The secretariat would welcome comments and guidance on the revised set of objectives for evaluation (UNEP/GC/96/Add.1).

350. Two delegations expressed concern that the annex to document UNEP/GC/96 had not been made available in French, and hoped there would be no repetition of such an omission at future sessions.

351. A number of delegations expressed concern at the large shortfall in expenditure as compared with project commitments, and one delegation pointed out that the ratio between the two had decreased between 1975 and 1976. Another delegation was particularly concerned by the long delays in expenditure on particular projects. The extent of unfulfilled commitments raised questions about whether the Fund of UNEP could implement a programme at the proposed level.

352. Satisfaction was expressed at the improvement in documentation on project implementation. Some delegations aid that more financial details would be desirable; information should be provided on annual project expenditure, with a view to pin-pointing the major causes of delays in project implementation. It was felt that the presentation of tables of financial information should be reviewed to ensure that their meaning was clear, and that the nomenclature used should be carefully explained. One delegation suggested that quarterly financial and progress reports should be sent to Governments. One delegation proposed that information on actual expenditures on Fund programme activities by concentration area should be provided in addition to the information on allocations and commitments.

353. Several delegations noted with pleasure the heartening response to the Executive Director's appeal at the fourth session of the Governing Council for prompt payment against pledges. A number of delegations expressed concern at the continuing problem posed by the accumulation of large balances of non-convertible currencies. Some were worried by the possibility that the need to use these non-convertible currencies would distort the programme and reduce its flexibility. One delegation expressed the hope that in future all Governments would make pledges to the Fund in fully convertible currencies.

354. Delegations noted with satisfaction the increase in the average cost of Fund projects, which they felt indicated a greater concentration of the efforts of UNEP. On the other hand, a number of delegations were concerned that smaller projects should not be ruled out, as they could play an important catalytic role. It was felt by some delegations that the catalytic role of UNEP should be better defined. In that connexion it was pointed out that UNEP appeared to be paying too large a proportion of the cost of co-operative projects, and one delegation stressed that

UNEP should phase out its support for projects once its catalytic function had between the two had decreased between 1975 and 1976. Another delegation was particularly concerned by the long delays in expenditure on particular projects. The extent of unfulfilled commitments raised questions about whether the Fund of UNEP could implement a programme at the proposed level.

352. Satisfaction was expressed at the improvement in documentation on project implementation. Some delegations aid that more financial details would be desirable; information should be provided on annual project expenditure, with a view to pin-pointing the major causes of delays in project implementation. It was felt that the presentation of tables of financial information should be reviewed to ensure that their meaning was clear, and that the nomenclature used should be carefully explained. One delegation suggested that quarterly financial and progress reports should be sent to Governments. One delegation proposed that information on actual expenditures on Fund programme activities by concentration area should be provided in addition to the information on allocations and commitments.

353. Several delegations noted with pleasure the heartening response to the Executive Director's appeal at the fourth session of the Governing Council for prompt payment against pledges. A number of delegations expressed concern at the continuing problem posed by the accumulation of large balances of non-convertible currencies. Some were worried by the possibility that the need to use these non-convertible currencies would distort the programme and reduce its flexibility. One delegation expressed the hope that in future all Governments would make pledges to the Fund in fully convertible currencies.

354. Delegations noted with satisfaction the increase in the average cost of Fund projects, which they felt indicated a greater concentration of the efforts of UNEP. On the other hand, a number of delegations were concerned that smaller projects should not be ruled out, as they could play an important catalytic role. It was felt by some delegations that the catalytic role of UNEP should be better defined. In that connexion it was pointed out that UNEP appeared to be paying too large a proportion of the cost of co-operative projects, and one delegation stressed that UNEP should phase out its support for projects once its catalytic function had been discharged.

355. The progress achieved in the development of evaluation processes, in particular the detailed evaluation undertaken for six Fund projects, was welcomed. It was recognized that those efforts were preliminary, and a number of suggestions were made on the future of the evaluation exercise. One delegation stressed that evaluation was a continuous process, which should cover all stages of project preparation and implementation. Many delegations emphasized the importance of programme evaluation and the interrelationship between the results of projects and the advancement of the programme. One delegation suggested that the concept of project networking evaluation should be introduced as a major component of programme evaluation. Two delegations welcomed the employment of outside consultants in some project evaluations, since they would approach the task in a more detached way.

356. The Executive Director's announcement that 1977 would be a year of consolidation was generally welcomed, as was the project review and rescheduling exercise; one delegation said it hoped that a report on the results achieved would be submitted to the Governing Council at its sixth session. Some delegations expressed support for the more equitable geographic distribution of projects, and looked forward to further progress in that respect. One delegation stated that the ECWA region had disproportionately few activities and that projects in the fields of environmental management and administration would be particularly useful in that region.

357. One delegation asked whether the representatives of co-operating agencies could comment on the delays in project implementation. Two agency representatives, responding to the request, said they shared the concern expressed by delegations and pointed out certain difficulties faced, including the necessity for caution in view of the financial problems recently encountered by UNDP.

358. A number of delegations welcomed the improvement in co-ordination achieved through joint programming meetings with co-operating agencies and meetings of the Environment Co-ordination Board. One delegation stressed the importance of sound business principles in managing the Revolving Fund (Information).

359. Replying to the points raised by delegations concerning the differences between recorded commitments and expenditures, the Deputy Assistant Executive Director, Bureau of the Environment Fund and Management, stated that, between 1973 and 1976, that figure had averaged 25 per cent per annum, while in 1976 it had risen to 33 per cent, which he felt was commendable in view of the exceptional circumstances of that year. The programme could never be fully implemented as envisaged and moreover UNEP was not directly responsible for the execution of a large part of it. The review and rescheduling of project budgets and activities was a continuous process.

360. The Assistant Executive Director a.i., Bureau of the Environment Fund and Management, said he hoped that Governments would continue to provide UNEP with information and suggestions regarding evaluation. He fully recognized the importance of evaluation of Level Two programmes, as well as projects; it would inevitably be difficult, but was a necessary part of the development of the UNEP programme. It was the hope of UNEP to move its joint programming discussions from a bilateral to a multilateral basis.

361. The Deputy Executive Director said that the suggestion of quarterly financial reports, possibly in alternate issues of Report to Governments, would be given serious consideration. While geographical distribution of projects was an important consideration, the primary determinant in project location must be the advancement of UNEP's global programme. The importance UNEP attached to the evaluation process was indicated by the fact that one of the few new posts requested was for the division of the Fund responsible for that activity. It would be useful to disseminate more information designed to highlight the catalytic role of project activities; even if UNEP were to pay the total cost of a project, that activity could still play a catalytic role in the Level Two programme. Delegations need not be concerned that small projects might be eliminated from the programme; that would not happen, although UNEP would continue to move in the direction of larger projects in order to increase the effective use of its resources.

362. At the conclusion of its debate on item 11 (a), the Committee recommended for adoption by the Governing Council a draft decision on matters relating to the implementation of the Fund programme.

Action by the Governing Council

363. At its 74th plenary meeting, on 24 May 1977, the Governing Council adopted by consensus the draft decision recommended by Sessional Committee II under agenda item 11 (a) (decision 96 (V)). 29/