Independent Evaluation of the Global MIA project
An Independent Evaluation of the “Strengthen National Decision Making Towards Ratification of the Minamata Convention and Build Capacity Towards Implementation of Future Provisions” project was published in October 2019. Using a mixed-methods approach that was gender and human rights sensitive, the evaluation included a review of documents, survey, interviews and focus group discussions. The evaluation faced several limitations, namely no mid-term evaluation that was originally foreseen, no country visits, unavailable information and survey constraints. The degree of subjectivity in interpreting the rating scale for the evaluation criteria was also a limitation.
Key Evaluation Findings
The project proved to be overall relevant to respond to the international environment and development agendas and to support the countries in developing a Mercury Initial Assessment. The project was initiated with little knowledge about mercury use in the five countries, which had low capacities to undertake an inventory and develop a MIA report. Project countries found the training and advisory support provided by UNITAR to be relevant. However, the evaluation found limited relevance in the design of the project which was set as a global initiative compared to implementation approach towards carrying out five national projects. The project governance structure foresaw the setting up of Global and National Project Boards, and National Project Managers reporting to UNITAR. This setup was not realized, despite being potentially relevant to mitigating the lack of country presence from the executing agency.
The project’s effectiveness was found to be satisfactory in achieving the intended outputs and outcomes. Mercury inventories Level 1 were conducted in Guinea Bissau, Mauritania, and Samoa, and a Level 2 inventory in Bangladesh. The project document referred to five Level 2 inventories, however. The MIA report was completed in Samoa and was submitted to the Convention’s Secretariat. The MIA report was finalized in Guinea Bissau and Mauritania and in the process of being formatted at the time of project completion. The MIA report for Bangladesh was at the final stage of revision. Finally, Mozambique was at an intermediate stage of producing the MIA report. The MIA reports that have been finalized or drafted and the process towards their development were found to effective in building a first rough baseline in each country, in delivering assessment studies, and in raising awareness among decision makers and the general public on the risks of mercury and mercury-associated impact on human health and the environment. Further awareness and outreach activities were reported as being required across the five countries, which is likely to be considered when implementing the Convention. UNITAR’s training activities, remote advisory support and technical
assistance were found to be effective in equipping a core community of national partners with the skills and knowledge necessary to own and conduct the project. The trainings delivered by UNITAR equipped target partners with the knowledge and skills to conduct the inventory and develop the studies forming the MIA report. Simultaneously, evaluation informants reported additional learning needs, either in terms of depth, scope, scale or periodicity of trainings that may inform future interventions.
The project was delivered within the budget but implemented over a period of 46 months compared to the originally planned duration of 23 months. This additional delay stems from a range of factors such as politics and changes in leadership in some project countries, institutional, administrative and technical issues and/or competing priorities at the national level. Despite the efforts deployed by UNITAR, the lack of country presence and a project governance structure not implemented as designed likely reduced the opportunities to mitigate these constraints more swiftly. Direct financial contribution to national partners to implement the project amounted to 42.5 per cent of the total budget, the remainder being committed to international level technical assistance, project management and support. Project countries indicated that increased direct funding would have helped to conduct additional field audits to improve the accuracy of the inventories and awareness raising campaigns to reach larger numbers of communities.
The objectives of the project did not leave room to identify real differences that were made with regards to environmental and health impacts of mercury. The project was about developing a MIA report that would contain priority actions and not about implementing them. In addition, medium to long term health and environmental impact would be difficult to assess in such a short timeframe.
The sustainability of the project outcomes was found to be likely, supported by the implementation of the Convention that was ratified by Guinea Bissau, Samoa and Mozambique.
 As of the end of the project (30 June 2019), the MIA report was still in draft version.
- UNITAR should strengthen its knowledge management practices.
- UNITAR should establish a community of practice on mercury and the implementation of the Convention.
- UNITAR should more systematically and methodologically assess the learning needs of project beneficiaries, define learning objectives to training programmes and events, define baselines and measure/monitor short- and medium-term achievements of learning outcomes.
- UNITAR should consider better scaling and institutionalizing technical support at the national level, either during project execution or by adding room to exit strategies in project documents that devise opportunities for future actions and collaboration in support of country partners.
- UNDP and UNITAR should consider better maximizing their comparative advantages on the mercury portfolio, with UNITAR focusing project support on the provision of technical expertise or installing adequate project management capacity at country level when acting as Executing Agency, and UNDP by making the most of its country presence and closely engaging its Country Offices.
- Engaging high-level national leaders, policy makers, and senior officials through specific activities such as tailored capacity building and learning events seem effective to gain buy-in and accelerate project implementation.
- Global projects offer a platform to engage in south-south cooperation activities, either between project countries or by tapping the larger network of UNDP and UNITAR partners to seek the best possible synergies.
- Scaling and sustainability of a national inventory and awareness raising campaign remain bound to complementary funding.
- Using a global project approach does not seem most appropriate to the development of national MIAs, particularly given variations in capacity among targeted countries, and such projects should consider a longer period of time for implementation.