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Working better together for results

At a time of increasing pressure on public finances and competing demands for funding, development organisations have moved in the past two decades towards a more solid focus on results, aiming at setting up results-based management systems that allow for accountability, communication, steering and learning.

Within the European Commission, this focus on results has been progressively integrated into the strategic planning and programming cycle and activity-based management. The Strategic Plan for 2016-2020 was developed for each directorate general service and agency, while the Annual Management Plan and action templates have been modified to integrate clear general and specific objectives, and identify results and a set of indicators for measuring progress towards their achievement.

The EU's Budget Focused on Results initiative was launched in 2015 with the aim of supporting the commitment towards better spending and performance, and increased accountability and transparency. Under the guiding principles of 'focus, speed and results', this initiative invited all services to:

  • develop a streamlined and realistic results framework;
  • ensure effective communication, providing understandable information on results;
  • identify quality indicators which are backed by quality data.

Since then, the 2017 Better Regulation methodology has been developed to enhance the results-based approach within all Commission services. Its agenda relies on evidence and a transparent process involving citizens and stakeholders. Reliable evidence of results achieved should be provided for accountability and communication purposes, for supporting sound adaptative management and policy decision-making at all levels, while taking risks into account and reducing them to acceptable levels through effective mitigating actions.

The emphasis on results and development effectiveness principles has been enshrined in the 2017 New European Consensus on Development , where the EU and its Member States jointly committed to working together towards the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs. The Consensus emphasises the following.

  • Joint programming, as a strategic, open and participatory process undertaken by the EU, the Member States, development and country partners. Joint programming starts with a joint analysis of the challenges/opportunities of a partner country, through which a joint response at the country level is developed in support of the partner country's national development plan. This joint response is then agreed upon by the EU and participating Member States. Joint programming is the preferred approach of the new Neighbourhood, Development and International Cooperation Instrument (NDICI). This preference is expected to translate into a higher number of joint programming documents replacing bilateral ones. A detailed overview of joint programming is available in the Joint Programming Tracker, which displays information on country progress, participating donors, and synchronisation, as well as statistics by region, partner country and donor.
  • Joint results frameworks are based on existing country results frameworks. They help make the agreed-upon priority areas of European intervention in the joint response more visible, credible and accountable.
  • Joint implementation promotes coordinated, coherent and effective European action at the country level. The Consensus highlights that joint implementation can be both financial and non-financial.

In parallel, the Court of Auditors is conducting an increasing number of performance audits on the methodologies used to collect monitoring data and report on the achieved results, alongside its regular financial audits.

Frameworks for measuring development results

As per the OECD definition, a country results framework includes any form of government-led planning instrument that defines a country's approach to development, sets out its development priorities and establishes the results expected to be achieved. It also outlines the systems and tools that will be used to monitor and evaluate progress towards these targets, establishes the indicators of progress and determines the baseline against which results will be measured.

The 165 governments endorsing the 2011 Busan Partnership Agreement committed to rely on country-led results frameworks to guide their support to partner countries and, as far as possible, avoid parallel systems for monitoring and tracking the results of their development interventions. In 2016, the Nairobi Outcome Document reiterated the importance of country-led results frameworks by development partners.

In line with the Busan Agreement and the new Consensus, the EU is committed to supporting transparent, country-led results frameworks as a common tool to assess performance based on a manageable number of indicators drawn from the development priorities of a particular developing country, and to minimise the use of additional frameworks and performance indicators that are not consistent with national development strategies.

Although most partner countries have national results frameworks in place, the need to strengthen their results-based budgeting and M&E systems remains a challenge. EU support to national systems and capacities for measuring, monitoring and reporting on results delivery is a priority in this regard.

As with the Commission in general, the question of what results INTPA is regularly achieving is a fundamental one. In this regard, several initiatives have been adopted during the previous decades and are being undertaken in 2020 by INTPA, building the momentum for the eventual establishment of a full-fledged INTPA performance framework.