Donors visit Lao PDR for first-hand look at PEI in Action

The 8th UNDP-UNEP Poverty-Environment Initiative Donor Steering Group Meeting convened in Vientiane, Lao PDR, on 28 April 2016. The meeting was attended by donor representatives from Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the European Union, as well as the United Nations Development Programme (UNEP) and United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

In her opening remarks on behalf of the Joint Management Board, Mette Wilkie highlighted the unique opportunity to have this Poverty-Environment Initiative (PEI) Donor Steering Group meeting in a PEI country to get a first-hand experience of PEI results and feedback from PEI beneficiaries. Highlights included the usefulness of the PEI tools and the use of an integrated approach developed by PEI and its added value in terms of high level government ownership due to the leadership of ministries of planning and finance to allocate resources to address the poverty-environment nexus. This experience provides important lessons for the implementation of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda.

On behalf of UNDP, Nik Sekhran highlighted that PEI provides a proven model for cooperation with UNEP as one of the most successful collaborations and his wish to see its continuation beyond 2017.

Among the topics of the session, participants discussed challenges in tracking financial flows related to PEI work, the importance of donor visibility, proactively approaching synergies at country level to mainstream PEI’s work into existing donor programmes and influence for aid coherence and harmonization, and how PEI can facilitate collaboration with other UNEP initiatives at the country level.

The Lead Evaluator of the independent evaluation of the PEI Scale-Up Phase (2008-2013), Carmen Tavera, presented the main findings and recommendations of the draft Independent Evaluation of the Scale-up Phase (2008-2013) on behalf of UNDP and UNEP’s Evaluation Offices.

The participants, while expressing caution about significantly expanding PEI, welcomed the main recommendation of the Final Evaluation, “to expand (geographically and thematically) and upgrade PEI as a main (but not exclusive) UNDP- UNEP delivery mechanism of capacity development support and technical assistance to help achieve the SDGs with a focus on inclusive, equitable, pro-poor, climate-proofed sustainable development, building on PEI’s P-E mainstreaming agenda and modus operandi”.

The thematic focus of the PEI programme should remain primarily on the natural resource sector, environmental dimension of poverty reduction and development policies and least developed countries (LDCs). Most donors also expressed support for a strengthening of the environmental and climate mainstreaming work of the PEI.

The collaboration between PEI and the Green Economy and Sustainable Production and Consumption initiatives were viewed as opportunities that could be built into the concept note for PEI beyond 2017.

PEI was tasked to analyze opportunities for technical assistance including through south-south cooperation as part of its exit strategies for some countries. The Initiative will develop criteria to assess which countries need further support and where PEI could expand geographically.

There was commitment for joint UNDP-UNEP poverty-environment mainstreaming beyond 2017, with all participating donor representatives expressing interest to continue PEI’s efforts in recognition of the excellent work that has been done and of the need to enhance poverty-environment mainstreaming to deliver on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement on climate change.

In Lao PDR, the PEI supports the Government in improving its investments guidelines and regulations to ensure that Foreigh Direct Investment is in line with social and environmental standards and thus contributes to sustainable development.  Following the meeting, the Ministry of Planning and Investment hosted a delegation of global donors of the Poverty Environment Initiative along with environmental management experts in Vientiane Province.  

The visiting donors and experts met with the Vice Provincial Governor of Vientiane Province, Ms. Singkham Khoungsavanh to gain insight into the Poverty-Environment Initiative’s support to the province as well as some of the socio-economic and environmental issues related to hydro power, mining and agricultural land concessions. The United Nations Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative, Ms. Kaarina Immonen joined Ms. Singkham and donors on a visit to a rubber plantation owned by foreign investors to see first-hand the impacts on local communities as well as the challenges and countermeasures taken by investors.

The visit involved a meeting with community members to discuss the benefits and impacts of the investment on their lives and communities. Community members were also updated on how they can be involved in the investment approval process.

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