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Introductory Note

Over the last 15 years, governance has been a prominent sector for development cooperation programming internationally. Between 1995 to 2005, the Agency disbursed between $3.4 and $3.8 billion on initiatives coded as governance. A Review was commissioned to assess the management and results of CIDA's governance programming. The Review concluded that the Agency's 1996 Policy for Human Rights, Democratization and Good Governance (HRDGG) was highly regarded inside and outside CIDA. This policy remains in effect today. The Review also concluded that there has been a considerable gap between the policy and implementation. The management and delivery of governance programing has not been as effective as it could have been due to the absence of some of the essential programming tools and weaknesses in the Agency's capacity in the area.

Within the context of the Review, CIDA's approach was benchmarked with the Department for International Development (DFID), the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA). All three Agencies have provided clear direction, developed capacity and tools for programming. Like CIDA, however, these agencies also have challenges demonstrating results at the program level.

The Agency agrees with the findings and recommendations of the Review, and has since started to address the issues raised therein. It has established a community of practice, assessed Canadian capacity, developed tools, and disseminated knowledge within CIDA. The Review and Management Response have been discussed and approved by the Evaluation Committee.

Executive Summary


The Development Cooperation community has increasingly recognized Governance as a key issue to be addressed in programming. In 1996 the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) formalized its engagement in Governance by releasing a Policy on Human Rights, Democratization and Good Governance (HRDGG). The objectives of the Policy were for CIDA to seek to strengthen the role and capacity of civil society in developing countries in order to increase popular participation in decision making; democratic institutions in order to develop and sustain responsible government; the competence of the public sector in order to promote the effective, honest and accountable exercise of power; the capacity of organizations that protect and promote human rights in order to enhance each society's ability to address rights concerns and strengthen the security of the individual; and the will of leaders to respect rights, rule democratically and govern effectively. From 1995/96 to 2004/05, the Agency disbursed between $3.4 and $3.8 billion over 3,000 initiatives coded as "Governance".

In 2005, the Agency's Performance and Knowledge Management Branch and Policy Branch conducted an evaluability assessment in order to: provide an overview of HRDGG investments; assess the availability of data to determine the effectiveness of Governance programming between 1995/96 and 2004/05; and, define a realistic scope/focus for an evaluation. The assessment concluded that the existing data in various Agency systems would not support a cost-effective evaluation.

Based on the conclusions of the assessment, a management review was commissioned to analyze how effectively the Agency planned, implemented, monitored and evaluated HRDGG programming over 10 years (1995/96 to 2004/05).

At the same time, two portfolio reviews (Public Sector Reform (PSR) and Democratization) were also completed, to assess how their lessons and results could inform more effective preparation, programming and delivery in the future. Together, these two "pillars" account for approximately 80 percent of total disbursements of all programming in HRDGG.

In addition, the Agency's approach was benchmarked with a comparative survey of three other development cooperation Agencies—the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the United Kingdom's Department for International Development (DFID) and the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA).

This report synthesizes the findings and recommendations of four reviewsFootnote 1 that were conducted to assess the Agency's programming in HRDGG from 1995/96 to 2004/05. It takes the 1996 HRDGG Policy as a basis and assesses how the Agency has gone about implementing the Policy. The findings and recommendations are highlighted below.


Context and Planning

  • At its inception, the 1996 Policy for HRDGG was viewed as an innovative approach to governance issues, allowing for decentralized flexible programming, linkages to domestic policy through aligning CIDA with other Federal Departments and emphasizing the role of policy dialogue;
  • Changing political and senior leadership within CIDA helped displace key policy objectives;
  • While CIDA program branches indicate that governance is a key factor in their programming; they do not indicate that the policy constrains or guides their decision-making;
  • There is little technical guidance (people and tools) available to guide the planning of institutional and country programming in governance.


  • Governance has comprised a major set of expenditures in the Agency. From 1995/96 to 2004/05, CIDA has provided between $3.4 and $3.8 billion in developmental supportFootnote 2 with annual disbursements growing consistently over the last 10 years. Unfortunately, there are significant problems in the accuracy and reliability of the data;
  • Initiatives funded included: public sector reform, democratization, protection and promotion of human rights, child protection and the promotion of good governance;
  • While managing horizontal relationships related to governance occurs at many levels in the Agency, it is not led at a senior level;
  • A culture that nurtures organizational silos, along with a climate of frustration related to the effectiveness and utility of Agency administrative support systems to programming, including human resources, information technology (coding), communication and so forth, has seriously impeded the effective and efficient management of the policy;
  • Governance is an area characterized by high political sensitivity and considerable risk. There has been a tendency for the program branches to prefer a risk minimization strategy in project design, which has resulted in a project portfolio where the hard issues (e.g. addressing host country dynamics and cross-pressures) are often avoided;
  • Governance is a sector of considerable complexity where local and institutional knowledge is critical as a basis for conceptualizing and designing programming initiatives. There is a requirement for a substantial investment in front-end analysis as a means to facilitate well-informed decision-making. On the whole, by contrast with other leading international development assistance agencies, CIDA has not made investment in work of this kind a priority;
  • Despite much discussion of investment in learning and knowledge-building at corporate level, the portfolio analysis and feedback from CIDA personnel has revealed a lack of incentive for those designing and implementing projects to take into account lessons to be learned from prior programming experience;
  • The standard project vehicle is ponderous as a basis for governance interventions. It often takes as much as two years for a project to be put into action, and such a structure is ill-equipped to meet the requirements of rapidly-shifting governance environments.

Controls: Monitoring and Evaluation

  • The accountability for the implementation and reporting on the results of the policy is dispersed throughout the Agency and thus is unclear;
  • The data systems are not adequate for aggregating data on the two areas of governance in the agency, namely programming and institutional support;
  • It is apparent that there is a poor fit between RBM frameworks, as currently implemented by CIDA, and the realities with which governance programming seeks to engage. Socio-political and institutional change are long-term, multi-dimensional and uneven processes, making it difficult to define outcomes achievable within a five-year term;
  • The feedback loops of monitoring, evaluation and learning have not been adequately developed nor used to improve the governance policy or program;
  • Evaluation at the outcome and impact level can only be done project-by-project, or institution-by-institution—and even that is a challenge.

CIDA and Governance: A Summing-Up of the Review's Conclusions

  • The Agency's performance in management and delivery of governance programs has been ineffective. The 1996 HRDDGG Policy was highly regarded inside and outside the Agency, but there has been an enormous gap between policy and implementation. Once a leader in the sector, CIDA is no longer viewed as an innovator. The problems underlying this state of affairs are, in large measure, structural and institutional in character. Yet, beyond this, it is perceived that there has been little effort at Agency level to come to terms with what might be required to support governance as a priority sector;
  • Governance is a complex, politically charged and inherently difficult field of development assistance, in which the context is continually shifting. A lack of investment in building capacities inside the Agency has resulted in a weakness of institutional readiness to meet head on the challenges of working in this sector. CIDA has lacked the capacity to implement its own policy, to undertake high quality work and learn from experience;
  • At the same time, there are continuing demands from the Government of Canada, and internationally, for CIDA to increase its investments in the sector;
  • CIDA has not made the adjustments to its operational structures, support systems, knowledge-sharing practices, project delivery or performance measurement tools, to enable it to respond to existing requirements, let alone new challenges. These difficulties have been compounded by a lack of clarity in internal accountabilities for managing governance as a sector or theme.

Benchmarking with USAID, DFID and SIDA

  • While these Agencies have approached governance policy-making from different loci in the system, all three have made important strides in improving their approach to governance and governance policy issues. Further, two of the three have a valued, focused, systematic and well-understood approach to governance programming, so that grand, declaratory policy papers are less important. The third (SIDA) is now aiming to rationalize its own proliferation of governance policy papers;
  • Similarly, the implementation strategies and practices of these three agencies appear more advanced than those at CIDA. DFID, for example, has adopted a matrix structure that provides a wealth of specialist support in governance to the country missions. While SIDA does not employ a matrix per se, the agency relies upon country-expert consultation in the phase leading up to the implementation of governance in the field. (These meetings are organized through the embassy.) USAID, on the other hand, with its country focus buttresses efforts to implement governance through the primacy of the assessment process and inclusion in country programs, enhanced by a responsive supply of expert advice, tools and, guidelines from head office;
  • The facilitation of implementation within these comparison agencies is encouraged by the signals that officials at the top of the agency, and in fact governments, clearly value governance highly (DFID and USAID). As well, linkages nurture it across policy and practice groups (DFID, SIDA. There is clarity of roles and responsibilities concerning governance (USAID) and incentives to implement (USAID). This stands in contrast to the present situation in CIDA where linkages seem to have weakened, roles and responsibilities appear less clear than in the early years, and formal inducements to implement governance are not evident. Capacity in all agencies is being built and seen as a critical priority. All three have invested in gathering together and developing the skills of a substantial cadre of governance experts. These individuals are found both in head offices and in the field. Further, in the UK and USA in particular, there appears to be an abundance of external expertise available for hire;
  • What these three agencies seem to have in common with CIDA especially is the difficulty of monitoring and evaluating for governance. Valid results specification and indicator measures are elusive. Like CIDA, monitoring tends to occur mostly on a project basis. However, all three have been applying themselves to finding workable solutions to this problem. USAID has demonstrated leadership on this issue, as its impetus to improve assessment hangs on federal edict. The agency has also conducted a major evaluation of its own governance evaluation practices.


Recommendation 1: Strengthen Leadership

We recommend that the Agency consider providing a top level commitment to a few clear harmonized objectives, highlighting manageable priorities in areas of governance programming. This should be accompanied by attendant incentives to empower managers to respond to the outlined challenges in their country-based, multilateral and partnership program delivery.

Recommendation 2: Improve Accountability

We recommend that the Agency's Executive Committee task a focal point in CIDA which will be accountable for ensuring the coherent planning, implementation and monitoring of all governance programming involving the Agency.

Recommendation 3: Improve Coordination

We recommend that a mechanism be established aimed at identifying ways to support the horizontal management and coordination between the Policy Branch and the Operational Branches related to aligning programming with the governance policy across all branches.

Recommendation 4: Build Internal Capacity in Governance

We recommend that an Agency-wide working group be commissioned to build the Agency's capacity to carry out governance programming. A needs assessment and work plan should be the first order of business. An assessment of Canadian capacity in governance program delivery should also be considered.

Recommendation 5: Operationalize Practice

We recommend that the Agency develop accessible "user-friendly" resources to assist managers identify a viable range of programming options and good practice. This would include the provision of analytical tools and approaches to allow for governance programming to be prominently factored into country, institution and partner programming strategies.


Footnote 1

Management Review of CIDA's Policy on Human Rights, Democratization and Good Governance, Universalia Management Consulting, 2007; Managing Cooperation in Human Rights, Democratization and Governance: A Comparative Study, B. Wood & Associates, 2007; CIDA's performance in Public Sector Reform: A Portfolio Analysis, E.T. Jackson & Associates, 2007; Review of CIDA's programming in Democratization: A Portfolio Analysis, 2007

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Footnote 2

The discrepancy between the two figures is linked to coding differences—the $3.4 billion figure is based on DAC sector coding (151000) and the $3.8 billion is based on the CIDA priority coding.

Return to footnote 2 reference

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Review of Governance Programming in CIDA—Synthesis Report (PDF, 581 KB, 59 pages)