Public Monitoring of Regional Development Strategies: RGD’s Experience
In recent years, regional development strategic planning has become common practice in Ukraine. With stimulating national policies, international technical assistance and local leadership initiatives, many Ukrainian oblasts and cities now have development strategies in place. However, effective monitoring and evaluation of regional development strategies continue to constitute a major challenge in the participatory strategic planning process. Although many strategic plans contain specific sections on the importance of monitoring the strategy implementation, the monitoring procedure itself is usually missing. Understanding the importance of having an actual monitoring procedure in place, many oblasts have tried to develop it by using a unique approach based on their specific perception and experience.
In November 2011, the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine issued the Resolution #1186 “On Establishing Procedure for Development, Monitoring and Evaluation of Regional Development Strategies”. According to this Resolution, oblast state administrations (OSAs) must designate a person responsible for monitoring and evaluation of the regional development strategy implementation. The Resolution also envisages engaging the public to provide input into the strategy development process (e.g. through conducting public hearings, mass media campaigns, public opinion surveys, etc.), but it does not suggest public participation in the monitoring and evaluation (M&E) component.
The RGD project sees public and stakeholder engagement in regional policy development as one of its main best practices, and has vast experience in engaging local NGOs and active community members into all stages of the strategic planning process in two pilot oblasts – Zakarpattya and Zaporizhzhia. For example, the Zakarpattya Regional Development Strategy, adopted in 2006, includes monitoring of public opinion as an integral part of the entire strategic planning process that is conducted through public opinion surveys and public consultations for achieving strategic goals, as well as updating and adjusting measures required to accomplish established priorities. A Public Council affiliated with the Zakarpattya OSA was established to provide guidance and advice on the public engagement component of the Zakarpattya Regional Development Strategy implementation. Although the Zakarpattya Regional Development Strategy has been monitored, the evaluation of the strategy is yet to be done. According to Olekh Luksha, Vice President, Zakarpattya – ХХІ Stolittya NGO, “the Zakarpattya Regional Development Strategy was adopted 5 years ago. So, more than half of its implementation period has passed, but the results of its implementation have not been evaluated so far. Moreover, strategic planning is not a one-time activity. It is an on-going process, which requires constant attention and adjusting following the impact of various external and internal factors”.
RGD’s support in its other pilot oblast has lead to an outstanding success: Zaporizhzhia become the first and to this date still is the only Ukrainian oblast to complete a full strategic planning cycle, starting from strategy development to its implementation and monitoring. The monitoring mechanism has been developed and fine-tuned due to the on-going operation of the special strategic planning unit within Zaporizhzhia OSA, as well as due to active public participation. This monitoring mechanism, which is meant to control the implementation of the Zaporizhzhia Regional Development Strategy, is institutionalized through the adoption of the official “Procedure on Conducting Monitoring and Evaluation of the Zaporizhzhia Regional Development Strategy Implementation till 2015”. A web-based monitoring system was also developed, put into operation and successfully launched on the Zaporizhzhia OSA website at http://www.zoda-monitoring.com/ that gives access to the public to the monitoring indicators.
In addition, at the end of 2011, two local NGOs – Regional Development Agency “Priorytet” and Center for Scientific Studies “Pivnichne Pryazov’e” – conducted a public opinion survey in order to give local community members an opportunity to evaluate the work of oblast state authorities on the regional development strategy implementation. The Zaporizhzhia OSA, the two local NGOs and the RGD project worked collaboratively to develop the Monitoring Report of the Zaporizhzhia Regional Development Strategy Implementation. This monitoring report was published as a booklet and disseminated among stakeholders at the RGD’s Regional Forum in Zaporizhzhia in November 2011. Based on the successes of the two pilot oblasts, it is expected that lessons learned resulting from continuous monitoring and targeted evaluation of regional development strategies implementation will encourage regional and local authorities to update and adjust their work in order to ultimately enable better life for each female and male community member as well as development of their region as a whole.