It does not seem so long ago that I worked on a multimillion pound project to provide support to the Romanian Ministry of Development on ways of integrating Sustainable Development into their Regional Operational Programme, regional development funds known as EU Structural Funds.

The programme to 2013 was to be worth a staggering €19.8b. On contract to WYGInternational and ESEP Global, I was called in as the Sustainable Development Key Expert. Bureaucratic delays meant that I eventually had only 8 weeks to complete a task which would have taken place over a period of 72 weeks, concentrated at the tail end of the project. Nothing like an impossible deadline to concentrate the mind.

The upside is that I didn’t get bored once in Bucharest, the downside that missed out on visiting anything much beyond the capital as work took precedence over everything (ie. except occasional evenings out for very cheap classical concerts and the occasional opera.)

My final report included:

  • recommendations for integrating the Horizontal Themes (with particular reference to Sustainable Development) into the current working Regional Operation Programme processes and procedures
  • specific recommendations for integrating the Horizontal Themes (with particular reference to sustainable development) into the appraisal and selection processes and procedures
  • an assessment of the training and mentoring needs
  • a practical guide on integrating sustainable development

Taken together the recommendations should provide a robust basis for improving the available toolkit for delivering the Horizontal Themes throughout the Regional Operational Programme.

Special thanks are due to WYGInternational for their unstinting support and my colleagues from ESEP Global, and the Romanian project office and the interpreters especially. One should not neglect all the very good people that offered to me help, insiders and hangers on. Last but not least all the IBA staff whose friendly and cheerful manner made the closing workshops very worthwhile. I never sent them my pictures of the gathering, but will reproduce them here at some point when I retrieve them.

If anyone would like to see my report, feel free to contact me or download the last working draft of the sustainable development for regio projects guide.

Integrating the Horizontal Themes: Report Structure

Analysis and recommendations for integrating Horizontal Themes – high level policy

  • Recommendation 1. Elaborate a meaningful conceptual framework for encouraging Sustainable Development in the Regional Operational Programme
  • Recommendation 2. Develop Sustainable Development pilots / exemplars
  • Recommendation 3. Develop national and regional Memoranda of Understanding between Competent Authorities

Analysis and recommendations for integrating Horizontal Themes in core business processes

Organisation & Functioning Regulation Of The Monitoring Committee

  • Recommendation 4. The Monitoring Committee should extend it’s strategic role and guide action in relation to the Horizontal Themes

Nurturing Horizontal Theme Networks

  • Recommendation 5. The Managing Authority, under guidance from the Monitoring Committee should consider networks or task forces as a means of advancing Horizontal Theme issues.

Growing capacity through partnership

  • Recommendation 6. Managing Authority should examine whether it’s interpretation of partnership is too narrow and develop a more inclusive approach to programme policy development and implementation

Analysis and recommendations for integrating Horizontal Themes in appraisal and selection processes

Improving integration of Horizontal Theme issues in the application process

  • Recommendation 7. Add supplementary sub questions to the application to separate compliance issues from value adding ones

Encouraging applications that address Horizontal Theme issues more explicitly

Improving Integration of Horizontal Theme issues in Project Evaluation processes

  • Recommendation 8. Increase the pool of Horizontal Theme evaluators from 1 in 5 of the available pool of evaluators to 1 in 4 while ensuring that Intermediate Bodies utilise the additional capacity
  • Recommendation 9. Investigate further the reasons for the low draw down of Horizontal Theme evaluators and examine critically whether thematic evaluators feel they have enough time to consider a single financing request per day.
  • Recommendation 10. Provide basic mandatory training or induction for evaluators with special reference to the importance of the horizontal themes.
  • Recommendation 11. Develop a means of benchmarking evaluator assessments of the horizontal themes, initially using training exercises.
  • Recommendation 12. Develop a feedback mechanism so that evaluators are able to add value to projects without compromising the independence of the process.
  • Recommendation 13. Develop a single consistent scoring grid across each priority and consider supplementing this, if necessary, with detailed evaluation measures for each priority

Building capacity to deal with Horizontal Theme issues

Arrangements for monitoring the Horizontal Themes (Environment) in the Regional Operational Programme

  • Recommendation 14. That most of the high level environment indicators are dropped and the recommendations by the Twinning Short Term Expert adopted or modified, as appropriate
  • Recommendation 15. Widen the number of project level indicative indicators for Sustainable Development
  • Recommendation 16. Include a number of high level programme indicators from the project indicative indicator list
  • Recommendation 17. Adopt the proposed monitoring visit checklist

Training and mentoring support

  • Recommendation 18. Mechanisms should be explored to encourage sharing of experiences and practices with other Sectoral Operational Programmes, e.g. Environment and HRD
  • Recommendation 19. The draft Sustainable Development brochure should be adopted as soon as is practical and published on the web in a form that it can be easily and quickly updated or modified