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This article is taken from the September 2002 Phatlalatsa newsletter

 

HIV/AIDS Monitoring and Evaluation Workshop

UNAIDS and the World Bank hosted a workshop aimed at "Building a Sustainable Monitoring and Evaluation Technical Resource Network in Eastern and Southern Africa"; S&T partner Jowie Mulaudzi attended and filed this report.

Held from May 6th to 10th at the Piggs Peak Hotel in Swaziland, the workshop drew attendance from monitoring and evaluation specialists, HIV/AIDS practitioners, members of the "Telling the Story" project and World Bank's Multi-Country AIDS Programme (MAP). Participants came from Angola, Botswana, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Norway, Swaziland, Switzerland, South Africa, Turkey, Uganda, United States and Zambia.

The three objectives of the workshop were to:

  • identify regional priorities in Monitoring and Evaluation;
  • create a Technical Resource Network of M&E in the region; and
  • devise a plan of action detailing a way forward in M&E for both Telling The Story (TTS) and MAP.

Telling the Story is an umbrella organ for co-ordination of HIV/AIDS projects undertaken by the various UN organs in Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, South Africa and Swaziland. Each of these countries has a minimum of three UN-funded country-specific HIV/AIDS programme falling within TTS.
Each of the sub-Saharan countries mentioned above was either in the process of finalising their country-specific projects or developing indicators (M&E) for proposed HIV/AIDS projects. TTS's main function in this regard is to develop a common M&E framework for the region and the workshop was designed to explore how this could be achieved.

TTS is the vehicle for co-ordinating similar projects of the various UN organs in the region and is geared towards synergising UN programmes and activities. Synergy and co-ordination of activities is part of the transformation of the UN system supported by Ted Turner's $100billion performance-based funding over a period of 10 years.

ROLE OF MONITORING AND EVALUATION

The first two days of the workshop comprised lively debates and discussion instigated by presentations and discussions on the use of monitoring and evaluation data/information as well organisation's experiences in bidding for and/or implementing monitoring and evaluation projects. The workshop engendered an appreciation of the role of monitoring and evaluation amongst project planners and practitioners and how M&E can be used to improve/strengthen, adapt and/or re-direct projects.

More specifically, the workshop brought into sharp focus the importance of projects developing and maintaining a 'culture of monitoring' - of collecting relevant information about/for projects at all levels including planning, budgeting and implementation review - instead of undertaking monitoring activities as donor-driven add-ons to projects. Despite the importance of M&E primarily as a management tool, it was clear that organisations utilising donor funds did not have a choice on whether or not to undertake M&E. The result is that monitoring continues to be seen (not necessarily incorrectly in this instance) as a policing tool.

The workshop itself was necessitated by the need for UNAIDS and MAP programmes to develop a common M&E framework rather requests from organisations involved in programme delivery. This is because the two responsible organisations require performance based reporting, necessitating M&E activities to be set up for the projects.

A trend emerging from the Ted Turner's funding and the MAP programme suggests that donors are moving away from simple humanitarian funding to outcomes based programme funding. Both require that funded programmes demonstrate impact and or tangible outcomes encouraging the monitoring and evaluation of projects and programmes.

Discussions regarding programme experiences showed that it was both possible and affordable for organisations to develop M&E activities that would yield important information in the implementation and management of projects, which would to a greater extent be useful in undertaking the donor required impact assessment and evaluations.

Whilst it was not possible for participants to develop M&E activities for each of the projects, the practitioners (projects) spent two thirds of the time in Swaziland developing M&E frameworks for their country programmes and will be continuing with the process in their respective countries.

AN M&E TECHNICAL RESOURCE NETWORK FOR HIV/AIDS

M&E specialists and practitioners together with funders spent much of the time exploring funding criteria and marketing strategies. It was clear that there was a need for a technical resource or network where M&E practitioners involved in HIV/AIDS could engage with each other and with donors to strengthen capacities of countries to undertake effective M&E.

The decision to establish a network was unanimously agreed to albeit with reservation about amongst other things the type of network, its operational scope and mandate, and the benefits members would get. UNAIDS headquarters (in Geneva) was given responsibility for turning the discussion points of this group into a business plan for the network which would be adopted by members at a later stage.

To a large extent the workshop raised a lot more questions than it answered especially for HIV/AIDS practitioners. Two things stood out: the seeming futility of developing countries having to borrow money for life-saving HIV/AIDS work and the seeming eagerness of the World Bank to give (supposedly) reduced interest loans that commit endless generations of developing countries populations to the Bank. Whilst I am sure the issues are not as simple as that, still it felt good to know that the South African government is not a recipient of such loans and our efforts in dealing with HIV/AIDS - conflictual as they are - are not at the expense of fiscal freedom for coming generations.

 

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