This evaluation assessed progress under a 10-year Partnership arrangement, signed in March 2014, that aims to bring together Pacific Community's and Australia's comparative advantages to advance regional development, and to shift the relationship to one that actively supports organisational reform within the Pacific Community. The evaluation examined what benefits the Partnership approach delivered, with questions focussed on relevance, effectiveness and efficiency.
The SPC's strengthened performance management capability, supported by sustained, flexible funding and technical advice from Australia, was a significant achievement. In response to improved performance management, Australia has progressively increased its proportion of flexible funding. This has brought a number of benefits including better funding predictability and a focus, in discussions, on outcomes and high-level issues rather than detailed project implementation matters.
Progress has been less than might be expected regarding clarity of SPC's mandate in relation to some other Pacific regional organisations, with donors playing a mixed role in this. SPC's latest strategic plan was also found to have done less than it might have in terms of prioritising activities within its mandate, which spans sustainable economic development, sustainable natural resource and environmental management, and human and social development.
The evaluation found that SPC has control over less than 25 per cent of its financial resources. While Australia has shifted a substantial proportion of its funding to flexible funding, this will not yield sufficient dividends unless other large donors follow suit. There is also an urgent need for SPC to complete cost recovery work so that the true cost of corporate functions and program delivery can be accounted for and secured.
With the Partnership entering its third year, the evaluation found overall progress positive but modest. Enhanced progress will require deeper engagement and more strategic discussions, pursued with openness and energy.
Senior DFAT and SPC representatives participated in a joint recommendations workshop in June 2016, and in the spirit of the Partnership, they provided a joint response to the evaluation.