Summary Minutes of the 2nd Advisory Board Meeting - Rcpar.org

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Summary Minutes of the 2nd Advisory Board Meeting - Rcpar.org

Summary of Minutes

2 nd Advisory Board Meeting

1 April 2009, Athens, Greece

I. Introduction

The meeting opened with a welcome address by Ourania Psomiadou, Director-General of

Administrative Modernisation of the Greek Ministry of Interior. She recalled the start of the

co-operation between her Ministry and various countries in the region 12 years ago, when

Greece volunteered to share the Greek Labour Code for Civil Servants in English, with

countries as diverse as Armenia, Azerbaijan, Slovakia and Romania. The current framework

for regional co-operation was formally launched in November 2006, with the inaugural

meeting in Alexandroupolis and the agreement between the Ministry of Interior of the

Hellenic Republic and the UNDP Bratislava Regional Centre (BRC). The initial agreement

and preparatory work performed in the first phase of the project allowed for the parliamentary

ratification of an agreement securing a total of 7.1 million US dollars for the five-year project

2008 -2013.

One of the benefits of the five-year agreement is that it provides a flexible framework for the

creation of a network of practitioners and experts, for mutual exchange and learning in region.

Ms. Psomiadou extended her thanks to the UNDP/BRC and to all the members of the

Advisory Board for their contribution to the advancement of public administration reform

(PAR) and to the expansion of the network of the Regional Centre for Public Administration

Reform (hereinafter referred to as the Regional Centre). Special thanks were extended to Kori

Udovicki for high-level support; to Dan Dionisie, whose excellent reporting on progress in

the project was commended; to the other staff in the BRC for their technical and

administrative support; and to the staff of the Regional Centre, which recently opened their

own offices in downtown Athens. Ms. Psomiadou concluded her welcome address by

underlining the Government’s commitment to the Project, demonstrated by the presence of

two Ministers at the launch of the Development & Transition newsletter the previous day. She

wished the meeting participants a good continuation of their work and a happy return to their

respective countries.

Thanking Ourania Psomiadou and the Greek Government, Kori Udovicki, UN Assistant

Secretary-General, Assistant Administrator of UNDP and Director of the Regional Bureau for

Europe and Commonwealth of Independent States (RBEC) noted that she has been with the

UNDP for two years, and that she has been aware of the existence of the Regional Centre for

one year. Acknowledging the difficulty in getting a concept like the Regional Centre to work

in practice, she attributed its successful establishment to the commitment of the Government

of the Hellenic Republic, in particular the Minister of Interior Prokopios Pavlopoulos and

Secretary-General Vassilios Andronopoulos.

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Ms. Udovicki also stressed the importance of “underground champions”, individuals committed

to driving the vision forward. She underlined that the needs in the region are great; needs for

building networks through which real co-operation can develop; habits of contributing to mutual

learning; and a knowledge inventory of what really works. She made reference to her personal

experience from the strongly reform-oriented government in Serbia in 2001, which consisted of

highly qualified individuals committed to change. However, the government soon ran into a

serious obstacle: lack of capacity in the government administration. Much was accomplished,

but there was one lesson to be learned: it takes time to build, adapt and change institutions and

mindsets. As such, one should be aware that there is no blueprint for the Regional Centre to

carry its work forward. The framework is excellent, but in order to fully deliver, adaptation and

creativity are going to be needed. Ms. Udovicki also pointed at the difference between the

current financial crisis and the transition of the 90s, referring to the first as a part of a business

cycle; if the fragile economies do not implode, there will be a light at the end of the tunnel soon,

and it is important to convey this message to the region. There is also more knowledge about the

current situation, which will arguably make a huge difference to the countries in the region. She

finished by highlighting the importance of contributing to building capacity to overcome the

crisis, encouraging the Regional Centre to be open-minded when it comes to engaging in new

projects, new means of knowledge transfer and other innovative solutions.

The moderator and acting Chairman of the Board, Professor Demetrios Argyriades, thanked

both Ms. Psomiadou and Ms. Udovicki for their reassuring words, underlining the importance

of building trust at all levels, between a wide variety of actors.

A presentation of all the members of the Advisory Board followed; the two new members,

Professor Ivan Kopric of Croatia and Dr. Rafkat Hasanov of Kyrgyzstan, who both joined the

Board since the last meeting in November, were given a particular welcome. It was furthermore

noted that the third new member, Aleksandra Rabrenovic of Serbia was unable to attend due to

last-minute problems with her visa. Two other members, Florin Lupescu of Romania and

Zhanargul Kusmangalieva of Kazakhstan, were also unable to make it to Athens due to other

professional obligations.

Finally, Professor Demetrios Argyriades informed the Advisory Board that Geraldine Fraser-

Moleketi, Democratic Governance Practice Director in UNDP’s Bureau for Development Policy

was forced to return to New York earlier than expected, and she was therefore unable to attend

the morning session as planned. A written note from Ms. Fraser-Moleketi, with greetings to all

Advisory Board members, was read out loud by Professor Argyriades.

II.

Update on developments since the 1 st Advisory Board meeting

A progress report was presented by Dan Dionisie and Panos Liverakos, covering the following

items:

− Recruitment of the Network Facilitator

− Recruitment of the part-time Webmaster

− Launch of the Advisory Board workspace (preliminary)

− Establishment of the Project Office in Athens

− Establishment of the Joint Implementation Project Unit (JISU)

− Personnel training in Bratislava (Team Leader, Policy Specialist, Administrative and

Finance Assistant, Network Facilitator)

− Dissemination of Guidelines for multi-country proposals to all Network Members

− Identification and development of several multi-country proposals

− Identification and selection of the remaining Advisory Board members

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− Maintenance and expansion of the RCPAR Roster of Experts

− Maintenance and expansion of the network of National Coordinators and thematic focal

points

− Finalization of the annual work plan for the year 2009

− Preparation of the Terms of Reference for two Strategy Papers

− Preliminary concept outline for the 2 nd Survey

− Preparation of the Network Workspace launch strategy

− Participation in the Development and Transition 12 th issue launch

III.

The Network of National Coordinators and Focal Points

Network composition and roles of network members

Some clarifications were provided with regard to the Network of National Coordinators and

Focal Points: the term of “network members” used in the “2007 Study and Recommendations

for the UNDP/RCPAR Programme” (prepared by an external consultant) is equivalent to the

term of Focal Points used currently. All network members serve as Focal Points for one or more

specific thematic area. Although there is an emphasis on recruiting civil servants from the

central government apparatus, the Focal Points also include academics and representatives of

non-governmental organizations. The question was raised whether local government

representatives ought to be included in the network, and Dan Dionisie explained that in the

UNDP, the service line “Public Administration Reform” does not cover local government

reform. UNDP’s work with local authorities is managed through different teams, and it will thus

not be a primary target of the activities of the Regional Centre – as the Centre’s thematic areas

and sub-areas also indicate. Therefore, it is not a priority to include civil servants from the local

government level.

With regard to the role of National Coordinators, it was highlighted that they are expected to

take a lead in assisting in the expansion of the network, and creating country teams which

include representatives of academia and civil society. These teams are expected to provide their

input to the annual survey, which is a useful means of keeping tabs on their commitment and

level of activity. At the same time, the Project primarily aims at stimulating cross-border

networks, which means that it will avoid focusing excessively on the country level.

On the question of whether all Focal Points can propose initiatives, the answer was affirmative,

but they should seek endorsement by National Coordinators (where such exist). It was

furthermore underlined that although the 2007 Study outlines a potential membership level of

up to 1.000 individuals, this is an absolute ceiling, and the project will be careful to manage the

balance between quantity and quality. At the same time, it was remarked that regardless of how

thoroughly the recruitment and screening of potential Focal Points are managed, there is no way

of knowing a priori whether a specific Focal Point will be an active and committed member of

the network. From such a perspective, it makes sense to recruit relatively widely in the current

stage and evaluate the performance of the members at regular intervals. It was suggested that to

validate their participation in the network, Focal Points should be asked to renew password in

the workspace every three months. In fact, the Workspace Strategy proposes various ways of

validating membership, and they will be explored in the process of launching the workspace.

Status of network membership

A brief presentation of the database of National Coordinators and Focal Points was made, and it

was noted that the current membership stands at 65 members, with another 23 having been

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invited to join, pending confirmation on their part. In addition, 83 potential members have been

identified, but not contacted yet. The difficulty in maintaining the database, which currently

contains the names and contact details of 176 individuals representing 124 different

organizations and departments, is partly related to keeping track of developments in the region,

both with regards to the movements of individuals and (re-)organization of departments and

institutions. The Regional Centre has a set of parameters or organizing principles which are

actively used in the expansion and maintenance of the network, but the key to success depends

largely on the feed-back received from resource persons such as the National Coordinators and

contacts in the UNDP Country Offices; in combination with frequent communication with the

Focal Points themselves, through various channels (email, skype, telephone etc.). Investment in

personal relationships was highlighted as a key to the successful expansion, maintenance and

mobilization of the network. Some Advisory Board members (notably Tiina Randma and Emilia

Beblava) have already been helpful in providing suggestions for potential members, and all

Advisory Board members from the region were encouraged to assist in the expansion of the

network in their respective countries. They will be contacted individually in the near future and

asked to propose candidates and/or comment on names proposed by others.

Rafkat Hasanov volunteered to assist in the expansion in Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, in addition

to his native Kyrgyzstan.

Guidelines for Multi-Country Initiatives

With regard to the Guidelines for multi-country initiatives, it was suggested that more emphasis

should be given to developing mechanisms for evaluation of results of activities, stressing

policy proposals and recommendations, or even policy changes, as potential outcomes or results

of projects. It was agreed that the sustainability part of the guidelines should be strengthened in

the planned (autumn) update of the guidelines. The Regional Centre takes a very active role in

the management and implementation of each activity, especially in this initial phase, and its

staff will ensure that the sustainability-aspect is properly addressed in all proposals and

activities.

The Roster of Experts

The role of the members of the Roster of Experts is to act as resource persons in the

implementation of activities, and all members of the Advisory Board were encouraged to

propose relevant individuals from the region. There are currently 37 completed profiles in the

roster - a majority from the region - and although many of them have solid experience from

their own country’s public administration, most lack international experience. Hence,

individuals from the region with experience from more than one country are particularly

encouraged to apply for roster membership. The roster can be accessed through the relevant link

at www.rcpar.org.

IV.

Introduction to the RCPAR Workspace Strategy

The workspace will be developed within the existing online UNDP interactive platform, of

which a new version is to be launched before Easter. The workspace will be a major tool for

connecting members, both, among themselves and with the Regional Centre; for maintaining

membership, and for overall network interaction, including development of activity ideas and

reporting. It is important to recall that although the UNDP has some experience in operating

workspaces, these are, most often focused on UNDP staff. This workspace will be a virtual

networking space for mostly non-UNDP practitioners.

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Several Advisory Board members pointed at risks related to the workspace, such as language

difficulties and whether civil servants in the region will be able to use its tools. Dan Dionisie

responded that the Project does not shy away from a risk-taking approach. Launching the

workspace is consistent with the Project’s overall demand-driven nature and its strategy to

engage with the network. To counter some of the risks, monitoring tools will be used actively.

The strategy proposes to launch the workspace during the planned workshop in June (for which

a separate proposal has been circulated for comments). A simpler version will be rolled out in

the beginning, with more advanced networking tools to be introduced at a later stage depending

on progress.

The minimum measure of success the Project seeks in relation to the use of the workspace is

that people interact in relation to multi-country activities. The possibility of multilingual support

through Google translation was mentioned. One Advisory Board member commented that the

(automatic) Google translation is not of good quality, and that the Project should seek to engage

Russian-speaking facilitators, otherwise, there is a great risk of losing participants from CIS

countries.

Another suggestion made to ensure the viability of the workspace was to choose one subthematic

area where people would be more interested in interacting, such as civil service reform

or EU-integration and try to establish a virtual network around a certain issue. A fourth

suggestion focused on emphasizing the library aspect of the service rather than the interactive

aspect. By combining a possibility to comment on documents with strong gate-keeping in the

organization of the discussion around specific documents, one can succeed in creating an online

documentation and discussion centre which will be useful to the network members in their daily

work.

The discussion concluded by stressing that the Regional Centre strives to strike a balance

between, on the one hand, structuring the network and the workspace and, on the other, ensuring

mutual learning and exchange. A continuous investment in facilitation and interaction with the

participants will be required.

V. Presentation of proposals from the Network

Nenad Rava presented the table of multi-country initiatives, explaining the context and status of

each proposal idea. He underlined that certain activities might be implemented on a recurrent

(annual) basis.

1. Western Balkans Human Resources Management (HRM) Community of

Practitioners

2. Summer Institute Public Administration Programme 2009 (working title)

3. Improving the quality of public management through application of the CAF

model

4. Assessment of the effectiveness of development assistance to public administration

reform

5. Strengthening administrative capacity for European integration (working title)

6. Cross-country comparison of public procurement regulation, practices and culture

7. Administrative simplification for small and medium enterprises in the Black Sea

region

In general, the Advisory Board members commented on the need to have more information on

the various proposals in order to be able to form and express a proper opinion. Nevertheless,

substantive feed-back was provided to each proposal and to some general issues, such as the

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ole and nature of comparative studies, sequencing of activities etc. It was underlined that the

Regional Centre will be actively involved in every stage of the process, which means that one

will be able to safeguard many of the concerns raised in the course of the discussion, including

avoiding duplication with other donor-funded initiatives. Substantive hands-on facilitation will

be combined with an attempt to keep Advisory Board members updated on progress and

outcomes.

VI.

Review of the draft ToRs for the two Thematic Strategy Papers

Dan Dionisie reminded Advisory Board members that the content and modality of the work of

the Regional Centre are embodied in its regional approach and regional networking, and that the

Project is not geared towards large-scale country programmes. As for the Centre’s thematic

niches, the idea to is to identify these more clearly when working on the development of the

strategy papers. The current strategic framework is loose; the Guidelines for Multi-Country

Proposals are mostly for procedural aspects, not for providing strategic framework and

orientation, which will be the role of the thematic strategy papers.

The Advisory Board members provided extensive comments on the current versions of the

ToRs and it was agreed that based on the input from the Advisory Board members, the Regional

Centre would circulate revised versions of the ToRs in the near future.

The following Advisory Board members volunteered to comment on a revised version of the

ToR for the thematic strategy paper on policy-making and coordination: Rafkat Hasanov, Derry

Ormond, Ivan Kopric.

The following Advisory Board members volunteered to comment on a revised version of the

ToR for the thematic strategy paper on organization and staffing: Demetrios Argyriades, Tiina

Randma-Liiv, Nikos Papadakis (in particular the sub-topics HRM and HR development), Ivan

Kopric (in particular the sub-topic organization)

While there was general agreement that the thematic strategy papers should be finalized as soon

as possible, there is also a need to progress with tangible activities in the same period.

It was agreed that the semi-final Strategy Papers should by ready the end of August, for

distribution to Advisory Board members. A proposal for a time schedule and sequencing of the

process of finalizing the ToRs and drafting the strategy papers will be distributed via the

workspace to all AB members in the coming weeks.

VII.

Discussion on the upcoming RCPAR Regional Survey

With regard to the methodology, the Regional Centre proposes to follow the same approach as

for the 2007 survey: a questionnaire will be circulated through the network but participation will

not be limited to network members. Piggy-backing on this year’s survey, the Regional Centre

would like to look at the effect and impact of the economic crisis on PAR, but the objective will

not be limited to this topic only. As in 2007, the survey also intends to assess how regional cooperation

can be leveraged to respond the current challenges.

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VIII. Advisory Board Business

The next meeting will probably take place in the second half of October, possibly a Sunday or

Monday, in another capital in the region. Bratislava is one option; one of the Balkan capitals, for

example Zagreb, is another. Suggestions for locations from the Advisory Board members are

welcome. Several Advisory Board members agreed that combining the Advisory Board meeting

with a conference dedicated to the review of the thematic strategy papers would be a good idea.

---

The meeting ended with a note of thanks from the UNDP/RCPAR staff and from the acting

Chairperson, Professor Argyriades, to all Advisory Board members for their willingness to

invest time and resources in contributing to the success of the Regional Centre.

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