April 2010 – A team of World Bank specialists from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Region launched an intensive multi-sector capacity building program for Iraqi public sector officials to enhance their knowledge and skills for more effective implementation of development projects. The initiative offers participants a one-year program of activities that includes workshops, one-on-one learning opportunities, follow-up support, and a web space to exchange ideas and share resources.
The March 29-April 2, 2010, workshop, held at the World Bank office in Beirut, Lebanon, was the first activity of the program
It brought together officials from the Ministries of Labor and Social Affairs, Education, Municipalities and Public Works, the National Board of Pensions, and the Mayorality of Baghdad. In all, some 60 Iraqi civil servants involved in ongoing projects covering the Education, Water and Sanitation, and Social Protection sectors attended the workshop.
Specialists from the World Bank’s MENA Region’s Development Effectiveness Unit, together with the task team leaders of the respective projects, engaged the Iraqi counterparts in lively, interactive discussions. The workshop included ample time for the participants to develop preliminary Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) systems for their projects.
The reports developed by the participants will be shared with the intended recipients and adjusted as necessary. In addition, participants will benefit from a one-year follow-up technical assistance so that they can share their work with the World Bank teams to seek advice, assessment and support. The workshop put a special emphasis on the M&E for the achievement of Project Development Objectives regardless of projects’ source of funding.
Hedi Larbi, the World Bank’s Country Director for Iraq, noted that “very often project teams consider that their mission is accomplished when the construction of a school or a dam is completed”. He said: “While it is important to make sure that projects are implemented in a timely manner, and with an efficient and transparent use of resources, there will be no impact on the lives of people if these facilities are unused or only partially used.”
Hoveida Nobakht, Task Leader for the workshop added: “Monitoring and evaluation systems should provide the government with skills and tools to monitor, measure and assess the actual impact of projects on the ground, take corrective measures, and also offer lessons for better design of future projects."
The hands-on approach to the workshop was welcomed by the participants. Waseem Al-Muqdadi, Deputy Leader of the Project Management Team for Education projects, said “It is only when the project was restructured that we realized the importance of M&E. The workshop provided us with a unique opportunity to have extensive discussions with the 22 Directors of Planning at the Governorate level and allowed us to draft two monitoring reports, one at the Ministry level to our Steering Committee and one at the Governorate level to report on the actual progress of projects on the ground”. He added that: “Until now, there was no M&E in the Ministry of Education. Such a program will build our capacity in that area and allow us to establish an M&E system at the Ministry level”.
The idea of the program originated in August 2009, during the restructuring of the Third Emergency Education Project with a request from the Ministry of Education for the Bank’s support to strengthen the M&E capacity of its staff. This was discussed with and also supported by the Water and Social Protection teams. Funding was sought and obtained from the multi-donor Iraq Trust Fund (ITF) through the Multi-Sector Institutional Capacity Building Program to design and develop this one-year capacity development program.
The three targeted sectors – Education, Water and Sanitation, and Social Protection - have received more than one half of ITF resources and more than 40 percent of credits extended by the International Development Agency (IDA) to Iraq in recent years. The program is part of the MENA region’s efforts to ensure sustainability of development results in Iraq.