Summary of publication
The Strategic Partnership on Sub-national Governance Program is funded by the Australian Government’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) and implemented by The Asia Foundation. The goal of the Partnership is to “promote an enabling environment for the development of strong, effective and inclusive sub-national government in Nepal that benefits all, including women and marginalized groups”. To contribute to this goal the Partnership intends to pursue three main outcomes:
- More informed and inclusive sub-national governance reform initiatives, policy discourse and decision making across local, provincial and federal governments.
- Stakeholders are better equipped to support the transition to federalism through elections, policy making and the implementation of structural and governance changes; and to ensure changes do not lead to escalated conflict or violence.
- Local governments enhance their capacity for effective basic service delivery and economic governance that benefits all, including women and marginalized groups.
The program started in February 2017 and will run until April 2021. The program budget is AUD 20 million.
The Asia Foundation commissioned a team of four experts to conduct a mid-term review of the program between April and July 2019 to: 1) assess the Partnership’s progress to date towards achieving its expected outcomes; 2) suggest, if needed, any adjustments or changes in the Partnership strategy approach, and/or activities; and 3) provide recommendations and options for a potential second phase of the Partnership beyond April 2021.
The Partnership is moving in the right direction and is well positioned to achieve its outcomes by building on the results and learning achieved so far. It is able to be flexible and adaptive, which is critical for operating in a very political, complex and uncertain context, such as the transition to federalism in Nepal. The Partnership is one of the few programs that has been able to work at the sub-national level over the past couple of years and has therefore been able to carve a unique space among different governance initiatives being planned or implemented in Nepal today.
The program has managed a good balance between engaging with government partners and having the freedom to test and experiment with solutions. In doing so, it has rightly adopted a consultative, politically informed, adaptive approach to the program activities, which is sensitive to gender equality and social inclusion. This has been supported and enabled by DFAT. In our opinion, the program could go even further and be more explicit about the adaptive principles that underpin the whole initiative, as well as take a more pronounced problem-driven approach to the design and testing of solutions to the problems identified with program partners. The program could document its experiences and make a relevant contribution to the international debate around the reality of adopting an adaptive approach to programming.
The review team considered 10 activities that represent a considerable proportion (71 percent) of the program budget used up until January 2019.