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Programme Based Approach for Foreign Aid Coordination and Delivery

Programme Based Approach (PBA)

During global economic crisis and limited resources for investment, it is of crucial importance that the official development assistance offered by the donors and the international financial institutions is utilized in a highly coordinated manner and streamlined towards precisely determined priority sectors for fulfilling the strategic development objectives of the country. The Government of the Republic of Macedonia considers that the concept of coordinated foreign assistance in the frames of sectoral or thematic programme areas will enable efficient management of the overall external support in the determined sectors or programme areas, exceeding the conventional approach of managing large number of projects for various objectives. In this context, it is of utmost importance that foreign assistance is managed through strengthened national mechanisms and directed towards specific sectors crucial for the country’s development, with predetermined results.

In the beginning of 2009, the Secretariat for European Affairs (SEA) took the initiative to introduce the Programme Based Approach (PBA), as a mechanism for strengthening the aid management. Introduction of the PBA was a joint commitment of the Government and the international community led by the UN, the World Bank and the European Union. The process was led by the Secretariat for European Affairs (SEA), the Government’s national coordinative body for foreign assistance and implemented with involvement of the line ministries and international community in the country.

The Republic of Macedonia is a first EU-accession country that has introduced PBA. The main goal of introducing the PBA was to further improve the aid effectiveness, by focusing the external development assistance to a few priority sectors (mutually agreed with the international partners) and by ensuring systematic strengthening of national programming and implementation capacity. By strengthening the national capacity and institutional mechanisms, a significant contribution to the successful European Integration process of the country and its economic development and growth is made. In long run this is expected to result in:

  • a more integrated response to national program/sectoral priorities
  • better preparedness for the EU IPA programming and
  • meeting the global principles of the Paris Declaration

The process begun in early 2009, when the Government of the Republic of Macedonia identified five broad programme areas which were acknowledged by the international partners and begun with the preparatory activities for introduction of PBA approach. Those were:

  • Business environment, competitiveness and innovation;
  • Human capital (comprising labour and social policy, education and health);
  • Agriculture;
  • Environment;
  • Good governance (comprising decentralization and local self-government, justice and home affairs, public administration reform).

Following the detailed assessments by the joint programme working groups that took into consideration the institutional and human capacity of the involved institutions and readiness for introduction of PBA in the recommended program areas, more narrowed sub-areas (scopes) were determined. The Government reviewed the recommendations of the PBA WGs on the scope of PBA area coverage and the following priorities by the working groups were adopted:

  • Within the area “Business Environment, Competitiveness and Innovation”, the sub-area industry;
  • Within the area “Human Capital”, the sub-area employability (employment);
  • Within the area “Agriculture”, the sub-area rural development;
  • Within the area “Environment”, the sub-areas water management and integrated waste management. It is recommended that with the implementation of the PBA in these two areas, the climate change to be taken into consideration as a general multi-sector priority;
  • Within the area “Good governance”, the sub-areas public administration reform, justice and home affairs, local self-governance and decentralization were determined to be further developed as individual sectors.

PBA Institutional (organizational) Framework

Since the beginning in 2009, a task oriented institutional framework was established to support the activities of the PBA concept. The organizational framework has hierarchical structure of six levels that are horizontally and vertically connected, interactively (see picture below). The process is led by the Secretariat for European Affairs (SEA), as a national coordinative body for foreign assistance of the Government, implemented with comprehensive engagement of line ministries and the international community in the country.

Key Achievements

The key factors leading to successful implementation of this approach have proven to be:

  • Strong ownership and leadership of the process by the country
  • Establishing a functional organizational structure which includes the key stakeholders in the sectors, led by national authorities
  • Having a clear vision of development priorities on mid and long term, including operational strategic documents for the sectors
  • Adapting a pragmatic and feasible approach, especially during the programming and setting of priorities, as well as addressing arising challenges
  • Fostering a close and efficient cooperation and dialogue with all development partners

Overall, the following key achievements are made:

  • A new task oriented institutional framework has been established to support the PBA implementation
  • The Government’s (SEA) leadership in donor coordination and setting the development assistance agenda enhanced
  • Strengthened and regular dialogue and cooperation between the donor community and the national institutions (several high level donor coordination meetings held)
  • Awareness among donors about the national priorities increased
  • An action plan, guidelines and materials for launching the PBA prepared
  • General action plan comprising activities, competences, timeframe and responsible parties prepared regularly on an annual basis
  • Following detailed comparative analyses, PBA was initiated in seven priority programme areas: Business Environment Competitiveness and Innovation; Human Capital Development; Agriculture; Environment; Local Governance and Decentralization; Public Administration; Rule of Law
  • Seven working groups have been established and tasked to prepare detailed assessments and elaborated on a set of recommendations for each of the priority programme areas;
  • The PBA Working Groups have worked on alignment of national priorities with donor strategies on a program/ sectoral level (7 PBA priorities)
  • Detailed ToR for the entire organizational framework for PBA was created
  • Capacity and training needs assessment was conducted and initial trainings were held for the participants in the process
  • More balanced coordination and interactions between EU accession and other donors development goals ensured, as EU accession is not covering the whole range of development goals


The Macedonian experience with the PBA has been presented as success story on many regional conferences. It has been recognized as a best practice in the region by the EU. It proved to be a useful and valuable concept of aid coordination that will continue to be applied in the future programming of EU (starting for the period 2011-2013) as well as the post 2013 IPA 2 instrument.. Tailoring the assistance according to the specific needs of the country is essential, having in mind the different level of readiness and the specific challenges related to each of the sectors. .

Overall, the advantage of the lessons learnt and achievements is great. Nevertheless it is important to pragmatically continue to increase the benefits of the development cooperation, to focus on the remaining building blocks of the sector/programme approach and readiness for our EU membership.

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