Outline of the

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                                                                                                                   29 June 2010

                                                                                                                   English only

Annual session 2010
21 June - 2 July 2010, Geneva
Item 13 of the provisional agenda
Field visits

         Report of the field visit of the Executive Board of
         UNDP/UNFPA to the Syrian Arab Republic (17-22 May 2010)


    I.   Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .     2
   II.   Overview of the situation of cooperation with the Syrian Arab Republic . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .                                 2
  III.   Support to the implementation of the national development agenda . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .                               4
  IV.    Ownership, coordination and coherence . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .                    6
   V.    Impact of the cooperation between UNDP/UNFPA and the Syrian Arab Republic . . . . . . . . . . . . .                                            9
  VI.    Recommendations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .         10
 VII.    Observations and conclusions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .            11
         Annexes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
         I.     List of participants in the UNDP/UNFPA Executive Board field visit to the Syrian Arab
                Republic . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   12
         I I . Meetings held and main points of meetings Annexes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .                           14

           I.      Introduction

           1. Consistent with its mandate of organizing periodic visits to programme countries with a
           view to obtaining a first-hand assessment and appreciation of the work of the United Nations
           Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Pop ulation Fund (UNFPA), the
           Executive Board arranged a field visit to the Syrian Arab Republic for Board members, from 17
           to 22 May 2010. The mission consisted of an 11-member team, accompanied by the Secretary
           of the UNDP Executive Board secretariat and the Chief, Executive Board and External
           Relations Branch of UNFPA. The list of the participants is contained in annex I to the present
           report. The Permanent Representative of the State of Qatar, H.E. Mr. Nasser Abdel Al-Nasser
           was elected Team Leader, while Mr. Sulay Manah Kpukumu of Sierra Leone was elected the
           Chief Rapporteur by group, assisted by Messrs Matthias Bachmann of Switzerland, Asif
           Garayev of Azerbaijan and Rodrigo Pintado of Mexico as rapporteurs for the mission
           2. The objectives of the mission are in keeping with Executive Board decision 94/4 and
           subsequent guidelines that provide for observations to stimulate the discussions of the
           Executive Board with a view to enhancing contributions towards the increased effectiveness
           and efficiency of UNDP and UNFPA in discharging their mandates in programme countries.
           3. In its bid to achieve these goals, the team had wide-ranging interactions with the staff of
           UNDP, UNFPA, other members of the United Nations country team; officials of the
           Government of the Syrian Arab Republic; the business community, as well as representatives of
           the diplomatic community present on the ground and members of civil society. The team visited
           the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees/World Food Programm e (UNHCR/WFP)
           refugee registration centre, as well as a number of projects in different parts of the country to
           get first-hand insights into the operation of UNDP and UNFPA and the impact of their work on
           development in the Syrian Arab Republic.
           4. Officials and project participants expressed appreciation for the visit of the mission and the
           opportunity it offered for sharing their perspectives on the work of the respective organizations.
           The programme of work of the mission with respect to key meetings an d project visits is
           contained in annex II to the present report. Upon the conclusion of the mission, debriefing
           sessions were held with the Resident Coordinator and colleagues of UNDP/UNFPA to discuss
           the main findings of the mission as described below.
           5. The visit provided an opportunity to observe first-hand the role of UNDP and UNFPA in
           supporting the Government in its efforts in the implementation of the national socio -economic
           reform strategy for growth and the attainment of the Five -Year Development Plan, based on the
           Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The Executive Board would like to express sincere
           appreciation to the staff of UNDP and UNFPA for organizing a thoroughly stimulating,
           insightful and eventful field visit to the Syrian Arab Republic.

           II.     Overview of the situation in the Syrian Arab Republic

           6. Syria is a middle-income programme country with a population of 23 million inhabitants
           and a gross domestic product (GDP) per capita of $4,620. In 2006, the Government embarked
           upon an ambitious reform programme intended to transform the country from a centralized
           socialist economy to a social market economy. The change momentum triggered in the country
           since then has remained fully on course, especially within the context of the ongoing public
           sector and socio-economic reform initiatives. Implementation of the socio -economic policy


strategies outlined in the tenth Five-Year Plan continued, although not as rapidly as envisaged.
The Government finalized the mid-term review of its tenth five-year development programme,
and is in the process of finalizing the next five-year programme for 2011-2015.
7. This transformation is being pursued against the background of the regional situation , its
challenges and the context of the specific circumstance of the Syrian Arab Republic as a key
player in the region, particularly with the challenges posed by influx of refugees into the
country from within the region and internally displaced persons. The situation has further been
exacerbated by the severe repercussions of the drought that the country experienced in the last
three years, coupled with the implementation of a set of economic reforms. In addition, the
removal of subsidies on basic services and commodities hitherto intended to alleviate some of
the economic pressures on the vulnerable sectors of the population further heightened the
challenges the country is currently facing. Nevertheless, 2008 witnessed a détente in the
regional situation, with several countries opening up to the Syrian Arab Republic. In 20 09, the
country recorded an economic growth rate of 5.5 per cent. Population dynamics, however, pose
yet another challenge. In the Syrian Arab Republic, young people aged 10 to 24 years represent
36.3 per cent of the total population and youth aged 15 to 2 4 years constitute 22.2 per cent. Due
to the projected trends in fertility and mortality, the proportion of the population in the working
age is expected to increase at the expense of the under-15 population over the next decades,
especially under the low and medium variant of population growth. The population of youth
aged 15 to 24 is projected to increase from 4.2 million in 2005 to between 5.11 million and
5.17 million in the year 2025. This trend will translate to an annual increase in the number of
new entrants into the labour market, estimated at 200,000 per annum, posing an intractable
challenge in securing job opportunities and the financial burdens arising there from in order to
benefit from the so-called demographic “dividend” or “window of opportunity, i.e., a growing
segment of the working-age population relative to the dependent population.
8. The ongoing reform initiatives particularly focus on poverty reduction, addressing regional
disparities, supporting rural development and meeting the nee ds of vulnerable groups,
including women and children. As economic reform is gradually transforming the Syrian
economy from a centrally planned to a market economy, that involves creating an active and
socially responsible private sector while also seeking to tackle the endemic problems of
governance and efficiency of the public sector.
9. Clearly, the authorities also recognize the Herculean task of reforming the public sector so as
to serve as a driver of change and in support of the implementation of the ambitious reform
initiative of the Government. This includes, among other things, the establishment of the
appropriate regulatory framework and enabling environment for all stakeholders, including
government. Also crucial for public sector reform is delib erate and targeted human and
institutional capacity development to enable it to cope with the demands of the transition and
reform process.
10. In addressing public sector reform, the Government is also pursuing a number of
privatization policies to attract private capital investment to the country. This is being handled
cautiously to ensure that the transition process is smooth and sustainable and that the sector
functions with greater freedom.
11. In the last decade, the oil revenue declined, which has forced the Government to take
decisive steps to diversify the economy, particularly in areas such as agriculture, trade and
industry as a more viable alternative to the heavy dependence on the oil industry. The grim
reality is that the Syrian Arab Republic is expected to become an oil importer by 2015, a fact
that makes economic reforms an inevitable option in the light of its rapidly growing population.
12. Recent surveys undertaken by the National Bureau of Statistics as well as the United
Nations and other donors estimate the level of unemployment as high as 20 per cent.


           Recognizing this fact, the Syrian Government has made job creation, through investment
           promotion and more private sector opportunities, one of its priority areas of concern. Thus, the
           need to promote and undertake measures required to accelerate investment and harness both
           human and physical capital cannot be overemphasized. Small and medium enterprises (SMEs)
           and the private sector are recognized as playing an indispensable role to ensure rapid and
           sustainable GDP growth in order to reduce poverty, particularly in the light of the depletion of
           oil reserves and the weaknesses in the manufacturing sector. The Government further
           recognizes that faster economic growth also depends on reforms of the financial sector, which
           currently favours public enterprises and agriculture at the expense of manufacturing, private
           enterprises and SMEs. The Government has also expressed its determination to work with its
           development partners to foster regional integration and trade liberalization as a means of
           moving from an economy dominated by oil and primary export and by promoting import -
           substitution. Some of the steps taken by the Government in this direction include promoting
           South-South cooperation, the signing of a Free Trade Agreement with Turkey, the country’s
           recent accession to the World Trade Organization and the ongoing negotiations with the
           European Union for an Association Agreement in order to give further impetus to trade
           13. Undoubtedly, the global economic downturn has also signaled warnings to Syrian
           economic policymakers that the country was not immune to the hard realities of the global
           recession and, among other things, predictions are that 2010 will be a difficult year for the
           country, particularly in the light of the growing pool of an unemployed and unskilled labour
           force dominated by young people.
           14. In the economic sphere, there is dynamic change process underway. The Government
           conveyed the recognition of the importance of governance reforms, including the civil service
           and the mass media/communication sectors as well as participation of civil society, to match
           the economic transformation.

           III.    United Nations support to the implementation of the national
                   development agenda

           15. UNDP and UNFPA have been able to forge a well-functioning partnership with the
           Government of the Syrian Arab Republic to support the implementation of the country’s
           development priorities, including the national plan for the achievement of the MDGs by t he
           target date of 2015. Currently, UNDP provides technical support at both the policy and
           programmatic levels for the implementation of the country’s tenth Five - Year Development
           Plan (2007-2011).
           16. During the visit, Board members met with highly influe ntial senior cabinet ministers
           including the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister for Economic Affairs, the national
           coordinating authority for UNDP and UNFPA operations in the Syrian Arab Republic, the
           Minister of the State Planning Commission, as well as the Social Welfare and Labour Minister,
           the Minister of Local Administration, the Minister of Information, and Governors of the most
           economically disadvantaged regions or governorates in the north -east as well as the Vice
           Minister of Foreign Affairs.
           17. The Executive Board’s visit also provided a clear view of the United Nations system
           engagement with the country, which involves, among other things, concrete programmes such
           as the provision and/or facilitation of regional and international expertise to support the State
           Planning Commission in the formulation, coordination and execution of the short - and long-
           term socio-economic strategies for the country’s economic transformation agenda.


18. Responses and interventions undertaken by the United Nations system in the Syrian Arab
Republic within the context of government priorities across the country encompass such
programmes and projects as:
(a) MDG scaling-up initiative
     The Government launched an initiative entitled “100 poorest villages in Syria” and called for the
development community to focus on poverty eradication in those villages. The United Nations system,
led by UNDP, and including UNFPA, WHO, UNICEF, WFP, ILO and FAO, secured a joint response
to the initiative through developing and launching a project on “Integrated Community Development
for Up-Scaling the MDGs”. The initiative seeks to improve MDG-related service delivery through an
integrated community development-based approach for poverty reduction, capacity development,
education, environment sustainability and health-care delivery, among others. The Board visited, for
example, a project in Kabajeb, one of the 100 poorest villages in the north-eastern region of the
country, selected by the Government during the poverty mapping conducted in collaboration with
UNDP, and particularly areas affected by drought in the past four years. Also worth noting was the
rehabilitation of 35 ancient Roman wells in the three governorates of Deir Zor, Raqqa and Hassakeh to
increase community access to clean water for household use, irrigation and livestock herding, while
safeguarding environmental sustainability. This rehabilitation is part of a project funded by the Spanish
Agency for Development and the United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund;
(b) Local governance reform
     The United Nations system has also been assisting the Ministry of Local Administration in
supporting a number of local governance interventions like the One Window Citizen Centres, devoted
to the enhancement of efficiency in local governance, transparency and accountability, effective basic
social services delivery in local administration and disaster and risk management; The Board witnessed
the inauguration of a One Window Centre in the city of Raqqa. The Government of Spain sponsored
the project with the technical assistance of UNDP with a view to improving municipal services and
stemming graft through a simple, coherent and effective automated system, which could set the
example for local administrations in the country. The Syrian Government is highly supportive of the
initiative of digitalizing and simplifying administrative processes;
(c) The role of the private sector: the Global Compact Network
     A session with representatives of the Global Compact Network for Syria revealed a classic case of
the Global Compact at work. This was made possible through UNDP support to bringing the
Government, the business community, and civil society closer as complementary partners in wealth
creation and development by establishing the Global Compact Network in the Syrian Arab Republic.
That has contributed to an increased role of the growing private sector in the country's socio-economic
development process. It aims at achieving inclusive growth through enhancing civic engagement and
utilizing corporate citizenship. UNDP is also finalizing three assessments studies on the impact of
private sector practices on the environment; human and labour conditions; and anti-corruption and
transparency in trade activity in the context of the Global Compact. The studies will provide
recommendations for the Government to incentivize the private sector to adhere to the principles of the
Global Compact;
(d) Youth development
   The Youth Peer Volunteers Network (supported by UNFPA) and the Business Innovation and
Development Centres (supported by UNDP) have been another of the innovative challenges that
UNDP and UNFPA recently undertook;


           (e) Increasing access to information
                Efforts are well under way to promote and improve access to information, through media reform
           and young journalists’ training with the aim of empowering them to actively participate in the
           development process and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. UNDP has
           supported media reform and media development in the Syrian Arab Republic, aimed at institutional
           and capacity development for media institutions, as well as enhancing the role of media in the national
           dialogue on development issues, and more importantly, as a means of enhancing access to information,
           linking policymakers to citizens for increased transparency and accountability, in line with the national
           strategy. The members of the Board met with the Minister of Information, as well as with a group of
           young journalists members of the Young Journalist Network established by UNDP, and now sponsored
           by the Ministry;

           (f) Gender mainstreaming
                The Women Empowerment Project (UNDP) and Community Mobilization Campaigns (UNFPA)
           are at the heart of the United Nations country team's operation in the Syrian Arab Republic. The
           Women Empowerment Project, designed with the technical assistance of UNDP and implemented by
           the Ministry of Social Affairs, seeks to provide poor women with conditional access to financial
           services through micro-finance in order to increase the household's financial security and help women
           own assets, and reduce their vulnerability to risks. Empowering them in this way helps them to become
           entrepreneurs and raise their awareness on a range of issues, such as reproductive health, education,
           governance, population, gender issues and gender-based violence.
           (g) Humanitarian issues: support to displaced Iraqi populations in the Syrian Arab Republic
                Since 2007, UNFPA has been rendering support to the Reproductive Health Clinics at the
           UNHCR Registration Centres for Iraqi refugees in the Syrian Arab Republic. The Board visited the
           UNHCR Douma Registration Centre for Iraqi refugees, where it met with reproductive health staff and
           beneficiaries of the UNFPA- supported Reproductive Health Clinic. While addressing general health
           concerns of Iraqis, the clinic personnel offer reproductive health counselling and services, including
           family planning and antenatal care, as well as secure necessary referrals to the free government health
           facilities available for Iraqi refugees. The Board witnessed the implementation of the WFP Electronic
           Vouchers System pilot project aimed at providing food assistance to the Iraqi refugees registered in the
           Syria who require such aid.

           IV.      Ownership, coordination and coherence
           19. Meetings with government officials and other stakeholders confirmed a significant sense of
           government ownership and leadership of the development process as well as the enhancement
           of strong partnership with UNDP and UNFPA. The UNDP/UNFPA-sponsored programmes
           visited are generally well aligned with the priorities identified in the tenth Five -Year Plan
           (2005-2010), which is the national development strategy and focuses primarily on the transition
           process of the economy.
           20. UNDP played a central role in supporting the Government to de velop this strategic
           framework, during which process it provided, among other things, the necessary technical
           support for poverty analysis and mapping within the context of the attainment of the MDGs.
           The United Nations country team is playing a critical r ole in enhancing the government
           attention to the MDGs and to socio-economically marginalized regions, particularly the
           governorates in the north-eastern part of the country. The country team has further sought to
           align the UNDAF planning cycle with that of the Government.
           21. The authorities see the United Nations agencies on the ground, in particular the UNDP and
           UNFPA, as trusted and reliable partners whose agenda are more practical and in support of the
           national development priorities. While this is an advantage in itself, it does, however, risk


presenting the challenge of maintaining a healthy balance between responsiveness and strategic
22. The Government has also increasingly demonstrated ownership and leadership through an
equal cost-sharing collaboration with the United Nations system. The main focus of both
agencies is on partnership with the Government. However, the involvement of civil society
and/or the private sector in decision-making is still in the nascent stages. The agencies are
endeavouring to go beyond “government ownership” by involving and empowering these
stakeholders in many of their programmes. UNFPA does so, inter alia, through promoting
demand-oriented services and its “culturally sensitive approach”. UNDP supports the Syria
Trust for Development to establish a platform for development non -governmental organizations
in the country; such a platform would provide technical assistance to and act as a forum for
coordination among non-governmental organizations. Another noteworthy case in point is the
evolving collaboration with the Syrian private sector and non -governmental organizations in
promoting the Global Compact initiatives, particularly in the areas of corporate social
responsibility and respect for human rights.
23. Significant policy dialogue between the Government and the United Nations country team
is taking place on socio-economic matters, including some governance issues. In areas such as
human rights, the need for strengthening the on-going dialogue was recognised. It is hoped that
the eleventh five-year plan and the new UNDAF (2011-2016) will provide opportunities for
enhanced dialogue on such issues. it is mainly through an “incremental” approach and “quiet
diplomacy” the country team can engage on such matters.
24. Both agencies work through “national execution”, in the case of UNFPA exclusively, and in
the case of UNDP for all interventions except for the Global Fund (direct execution) and the
NGO Platform (non-governmental organization implementation). However, the agencies do not
make significant use, as of now, of national systems (e.g., audit, evaluation, procurement, etc.)
and UNDP still seems to be directly employing some staff for/through specific programmes and
projects. Use of national systems may increase for instance with the introduction of the
harmonized approach to cash transfer (HACT), the HACT micro -assessment being foreseen for
2010. Increasing efforts to build capacities of national systems and to use them would certainly
be beneficial to enhance the effectiveness of the contribution of the agencies to the
development of the Syrian Arab Republic.
25. Regarding coordination, UNDP supports, at the national level, the State Planning
Commission, the focal ministry responsible for overall donor coordinati on (with central and
sectoral coordination mechanisms) for the establishment of donor coordination mechanisms,
including a donor assistance database. Coordination among development partners is relatively
incipient. In view of its central role in donor coordination, the need to further strengthen the
capacity of the State Planning Commission to discharge its coordinating responsibility
effectively cannot be overemphasized.
26. The United Nations country team in the Syrian Arab Republic consists of nine resi dent
agencies, namely, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), UNDP,
UNFPA, UNHCR, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations Relief
and Works Agency (UNRWA), WFP, the World Health Organization (WHO), the Int ernational
Organization for Migration (IOM), the rest including the United Nations Development Fund for
Women (UNIFEM), the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization
(UNESCO), the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHC HR), the Joint
United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), the United Nations Conference on Trade
and Development (UNCTAD), UNEP/UNRWA, the Economic and Social Commission for
Western Asia (ESCWA), the United Nations Industrial Development Organizatio n (UNIDO),
the International Labour Organization (ILO), the International Fund for Agricultural


           Development (IFAD), and the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) are non -
           resident. The common strategy is the first UNDAF (2007 -2011). The Resident Coordinator,
           who is at the same time the Resident Representative of UNDP and the Humanitarian
           Coordinator, leads the country team.
           27. The country team coordinates on a regular basis, particularly through monthly coordination
           meetings, thematic working groups (e.g., HIV/AIDS, youth and adolescents, community
           development and MDG up-scaling), chaired by corresponding lead agencies as well as joint
           retreats, the first of which was held in March 2009. A joint retreat with the United Nations
           country team in Jordan was held in November 2009 to enhance coordination and cooperation at
           the subregional level. The resident coordinator puts a great deal of emphasis on the collegial
           functioning of the resident coordinator system with the resident coordinator in a coor dinating
           function but leaving leadership space to heads of agencies in their specific fields. Other
           members of the country team express appreciation of the resident coordinator’s leadership and
           management style. “Good chemistry between personalities” is id entified as a key ingredient for
           successful collaboration.
           28. The country team is increasing the number of joint initiatives and programmes with the
           prominent examples of the MDG scaling-up initiative and the intended joint programme for
           youth development. The country team generally does not pool funding for these undertakings
           but employs the “parallel funding” modality (with the exception of the national social welfare
           fund, managed through pooled funding by UNDP and UNFPA). It does, however, agree on
           common outcomes the achievement of which is to be evaluated together. In addition, in some
           joint programmes UNDP is transferring its own core resources to other participating United
           Nations agencies. The process of agreeing on common outcomes and modalities i s described by
           some members of the country team as time consuming, coordination also having its transaction
           costs for the team.
           29. The country team agencies are beginning to harmonize business practices. They meet on a
           monthly basis within the operation support group. Thus far it has been decided to harmonize:
           logistics (led by WFP), publications (UNICEF) and travel (UNDP). The country team recently
           identified a location for common premises. Because of minimum operation security standards
           (MOSS) requirements no pre-existing building was found suitable. The country team found
           land on the premises of UNWRA and the country team is now looking for private financing to
           start building the house, which is intended to be eco -friendly. It is crucial that non-Executive
           Committee agencies also join. Once located in the same premise, the country team may seize
           the opportunity to further harmonize business practices in order to decrease transaction cost
           and enhance effectiveness.
           30. The United Nations country team, including UNDP, appeared to continue to handle quite a
           substantial number of small-scale projects and programmes - albeit at the possible risk of
           fragmentation and atomization (“spreading thinly”). UNDP is aware of this challenge and has
           in the last two years already considerably reduced the number of projects. The proliferation of
           projects is not least due to the increasing level of support for non -core financing. In a few
           instances, it is also questionable whether projects, while probably useful per se, figu re within
           the UNDP core mandate or if they should be prioritized from a national development
           perspective (e.g., support to English-language newspapers in Damascus, or training of
           diplomats). There certainly is potential to further decrease the number of pr ojects, thereby
           increasing strategic focus. In addition, smaller- scale interventions require mechanisms for
           replication, institutionalization and scaling up. For example, the MDG scaling -up project will
           be piloted in 6 villages, with the intention of extending it to 24 additional villages in the north-
           eastern region. Then, a mechanism must be found to scale up lessons learned to the rest of the
           poorest 100 villages or so. The mechanism employed by UNDP in several projects is to pilot
           and show success, and only replicate through government or donor funding.


V.      Impact of the cooperation between UNDP/UNFPA and the Syrian Arab
31. The delegation visited a number of projects around the country launched and sponsored by
UNDP and UNFPA, which among other things, are targeted at governance reform for
efficiency, accountability and transparency at the national and local levels, poverty reduction,
scaling up the MDGs, capacity-building in the public service and the local government
machinery, gender mainstreaming, reproductive health, raising awareness against gender-based
violence and promoting youth issues, as well as the provision of catalytic funding to advance
the empowerment of women , and media development. Understandably, evidence of the impact
of cooperation between UNDP/UNFPA and the Syrian Arab Republic is not immediately visible
in the short term. In some cases, the impact can be felt while in others, it takes longer. The
value-added, however, is that there exists a close collaboration between the Unit ed Nations
country team and the Government of the Syrian Arab Republic, owing significantly to the
catalytic role the agencies play in the development aspirations of the country. UNDP and
UNFPA enjoy considerable trust with the Government and are serving a s a kind of clearing
house for the facilitation of interventions and responses of other development partners.
32. UNDP and UNFPA efforts to reinforce national and local governance capacity to tackle
poverty through policy advice and technical assistance to the Government are generating
greater awareness concerning these issues. The focus of the UNDP projects on employment
creation and income generation for the poor, especially among youth and disadvantaged groups,
is gaining momentum and is projected to facilitate economic growth and reduce the high
unemployment rate. Furthermore, despite challenges along the way, the Syrian Arab Republic is
making good progress towards the implementation of the social market reform measures aimed
at promoting inclusive, sustainable social and economic growth in the country, including the
attainment of the MDGs.
33. With the support of UNDP and UNFPA, the Syrian Arab Republic has been able to improve
its national institutional capacity for data collection, analysis and util ization. A typical case in
point is the national effort in producing two major policy documents namely, the State of Syria
Population Report, 2009 and the National Report on ICPD at 15 (UNDP), and poverty
assessments, inequality studies and labour market studies (UNDP). The two documents
supported by UNFPA have helped the Government to break former barriers to improved
advocacy and communication on such issues as population growth, reproductive health
information and services leading to the introduction of reproductive health-related standards of
care and bringing cutting edge technical and scientific developments. The agency has been able
to facilitate the establishment of, and operationalize 1,700 health -care centres around the
country. The documents produced by UNDP are used as the basis for the elaboration of the
National Development Strategy for the country and the ensuing eleventh Five -Year Plan.
34. Despite the support that the United Nations country team has provided to the Iraqi
refugees, including the current and earlier groups totalling more than a million, the influx of
these refugees has been weighing heavily on the country’s overburdened social services.
35. UNFPA support, including the United Nations country team on the ground, especially
UNHCR, UNICEF and WFP, to the Syrian population and growing refugee community, has
resulted in scaling up the HIV/AIDS response and prevention; promoting partnership
modalities in support of youth development and participation, as well as reducing the level of
maternal mortality; and enhancing strategic support to the national gender machinery and
coordination system.
36. Given its specific circumstance as a key player in the region, coupled with being a middle -
income country, the Syrian Arab Republic has been grappling with serious difficulties in


            dealing with the drought of 2007. Thus, in addition to support from the United Nations
            agencies and other partners, the country also had to rely more heavily on partners in the South
            for development cooperation in its efforts to address the humanitarian situation that confronted
            the Government following the drought in 2007. In this regard, the Syrian Arab Republic
            provides compelling evidence for strengthening and deepening South -South cooperation. The
            efforts of the United Nations system in the country to mobilize and coordinate this support have
            also been particularly crucial and represent good practice to be transposed to in similar
            37. Finally, UNFPA financial and technical contributions to enhance mater nal health
            programmes among people, particularly with respect to the link between traditional healers and
            midwives and the formal medical system, have had a considerable impact on reducing maternal
            mortality in some municipalities that recorded the highest rates in the country in the past two

            VI.     Recommendations

            38. The Government has implemented several important social and economic reforms; new
            laws have been enacted and existing ones have been modified; key players in the Government
            remain highly focused on economic reforms as well as the enhancement of the role of the
            private sector in overall development as a strategy for sustainable development and poverty
            reduction; informed management of population dynamics as well as the approach in tackling
            the challenges of biodiversity and climate change as a matter of immediate attention. Lending
            more support to the Government in its efforts to tackle the problems facing the people of the
            Syrian Arab Republic is a critical necessity.
            39. While the United Nations support in middle-income countries like the Syrian Arab
            Republic certainly should aim at upstream policy advice and advocacy, practical questions arise
            such as how costly such an engagement is, who finances it (the Government, regular resources)
            and whether in addition to upstream activities some contributions to concrete pilot field
            implementation are required in order to enjoy acceptance by governments in policy dialogue
            and capacity-building. The Syrian country team clearly would welcome more resources,
            whereas a few government partners mentioned that what they need is more advice and dialogue
            with assistance.
            40. While these promising examples of United Nations agencies “delivering together” are
            increasing in the Syrian Arab Republic and have to be further encouraged, there is potential for
            working together more strategically and systematically and/or in a coordinated fashion across
            different programmatic areas (e.g., gender, governance) beyond specific joint programmes. The
            new UNDAF provides the opportunity to advance on this path. For that purpose, the
            establishment of additional working groups (governance, gender and women empowerment,
            climate change and environment) which would in turn coordinate among themselves to avoid
            sectoral silos may help.
            41. The new UNDAF results framework (2011-2016) can be made more solid than the existing
            one. For instance, the 2009 mid-term review of the UNDAF acknowledges that the UNDAF
            monitoring and evaluation framework “is rather weak, because indicators are n ot always
            measurable and/or verifiable for all outputs, and baselines and targets are not provided”. Hence
            the difficulty for the country team to systematically discuss and manage its contribution to
            development results. UNDP/UNFPA are also aware that it i s crucial to further foster their own
            evaluation capacities, to address monitoring and evaluation systematically from the planning
            stage, as well as the challenge to rely increasingly on national capacities. In this context, it is


good to note that UNDP intends to support the State Planning Commission monitoring and
evaluation/results-based management capacities in the framework of the eleventh five - year
plan and that the UNFPA vision is to secure a comprehensive and participatory approach, also
relying on national capacities, rather than merely adhering to a conventional “monitoring and
evaluation expert driven” approach. Joint evaluations have not been done so far but are
foreseen in the case of initiating joint programmes.

VII.    Observations and conclusions
42. Following the Executive Board members extensive interface with the UNDP/UNFPA and
the United Nations country team and other stakeholders, including the Government, the team
observes that:
(a) Ensuring a healthy, secure and competitive business climate, investment promotion and the
    diversification of the economy are observed as some immediate key priorities for the revitalization
    of the economy;
(b) Governance reforms, especially public administration reforms, remain crucial for a meaningful or
    groundbreaking realization of the ongoing transformation to a market economy, if the Government
    is to be relieved of the burden of the under-employment and overstaffing syndrome that affects
    several programme countries;
(c) There is a need to generate pro-poor growth to ensure youth employment, while also addressing
    regional disparities by developing the nation's knowledge-social capital within the context of the
    prevailing global system;
(d) There is a need, as in every developing country, to urgently address environmental sustainability
    issues in the light of the periodic drought and increasing water demand, taking into account water
    availability and its governance.


       Annex I
       List of participants in the UNDP/UNFPA Executive Board field visit to
       the Syrian Arab Republic – May 2010

            Regional Group                                                          Previous
               Country                           Name and title                   participation
                                                                                     if any
 African States

 Democratic Republic of the       Mr. Zénon Mukongo
 Congo                            Second Counsellor
                                  Permanent Mission

 Sierra Leone                     Mr. Sulay-Manah J. Kpukumu
                                  Permanent Mission
 Asian and Pacific States

 Qatar                            H.E. Mr. Nasser Abdul Al-Nasser
                                  Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary
                                  Permanent Representative

 Pakistan                         H.E. Mr. Amjad Hussain B. Sial
                                  Deputy Permanent Representative

 Pakistan                         Mr. Muhammad Ayub                              Kazakhstan
                                  First Secretary                                (2008)
                                  Permanent Mission
                                  Vice-President of the UNDP/UNFPA Executive

 Yemen                            Mr. Abdullah Alsaadi
                                  Minister Plenipotentiary
                                  Deputy Permanent Representative

 Eastern European States

 Russian Federation               Mr. Mikhail Savostianov
                                  Envoy Extraordinary and Minister
                                  Deputy Permanent Representative


Azerbaijan                      Mr. Asif Garayev
                                Third Secretary
                                Permanent Mission

Latin American and
Caribbean States

Mexico                          Mr. Rodrigo Pintado
                                Third Secretary
                                Permanent Mission

Antigua and Barbuda             H.E. Mr. Conrod Hunte
                                Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary
                                Deputy Permanent Representative

Western Europe and Other
Switzerland                     Mr. Matthias Bachmann
                                First Secretary
                                Permanent Mission

    The team was accompanied by Ms. Rekha Thapa, Secretary of the Executive Board, and
    Mr. Kwabena Osei-Danquah, UNFPA Chief, Executive Board and External Relations


       Annex II
       Meetings held and main points of meetings
      Timing                       Participants                                         Comments
    Sunday 16 May
    14:55       Arrival                                            RC, UNDP and UNFPA to meet

    15:30       Check-in Hotel                                     Rotana Suites Hotel
    17:00-18:00 Meeting between the UNDP/UNFPA                     Rotana Suites Hotel- conference room
                Executive Board secretariat (Team) and SAR
                organizing team
    20.00       Meet in Lobby of the hotel
    20.30       Welcoming dinner hosted by RC/RR and               Restaurant Ahla Talleh- Qasion Mountain
                UNFPA Rep
    Monday 17 May
    8.45        Team to meet in lobby                              Rotana Suites Hotel
    9.00-10.00  Briefing with RC, UNDP and UNFPA in the            Rotana Suites Hotel- conference room
                hotel                                              Overall introduction to the country context, review
                                                                   of visit programme, outstanding issues
    11.00-12.00    Deputy Prime Minister, HE Abdallah Dardari      Meeting to concentrate on the overall socio-
                                                                   economic reform process (to which UN Agencies
                                                                   are contributing through the UNDAF) and
                                                                   UNDP/UNFPA contributions

    12.15-12.45    Rest in Hotel                                   Rotana Suites Hotel
    13.00-14.00    Minister of Information, HE Dr Mohsen Bilal     Within the reform process, the Ministry of
                                                                   Information is trying to initiate several interventions
                                                                   that aim at increasing access to information (within
                                                                   the nationally accepted standards). UNDP is
                                                                   supporting several initiatives towards that end,
                                                                   including for media reform, and capacity
                                                                   development for young journalists. In addition,
                                                                   UNFPA is supporting training for journalists for
                                                                   advocacy and awareness raising.
    14.00-15.30    Lunch (hosted by the Minister of Information)   Venue- La Fontana Restaurant- Mazzeh

                                                                   Invitees include MoFA Minister, Deputy Minister
                                                                   and Head of International Cooperation Department

    15.30-16.30    Internal meeting of the Team                    Rotana Suites Hotel- conference room
    16.30-17.00    Rest in Hotel                                   Rotana Suites Hotel
    17.00          Team to meet at the lobby and depart to old     Rotana Suites Hotel
    17.00-20.30    Tour in the Old City                            Guide from Ministry of Tourism will be provided
    20.30-22.00    Reception (hosted by the RC)                    Invitees: government counterparts, donor
                                                                   community, NGOs, private sector organizations,
                                                                   UNCT, UNDP and UNFPA staff
                                                                   Venue- Khan Asaad Basha (old town)
    Tuesday 18 May
    9.15        Team to meet at the lobby                          Rotana Suites Hotel
    10.00-11.00 President of the State Planning Commission,        SPC is the main counterpart for UNDP and
                HE Dr Amer Lotfi                                   UNFPA. In addition to their overall coordination
                                                                   role, they are implementing a number of important


                                                                activities supported by UNDP and UNFPA,
                                                                including the MDG Scaling-up initiative, aid
                                                                coordination, among others.
12.00-13.00    Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs, HE Dr Faisal   Courtesy visit
13.00-15.00    Business lunch with members of the Global        The Private Sector in Syria has been steadily
               Compact (hosted by the UN Global Compact         growing in importance since 2005; however, its
               Network in Syria)                                involvement in the socio-economic reform process
                                                                is still picking grounds. UNDP supports the
                                                                establishment of the Global Compact Network in
                                                                Syria, which has been the fastest growing network
                                                                in terms of memberships in the world.
                                                                Venue- Four Seasons Hotel, Halabi Rest.
15.30-18.30    Internal meeting of the Team and free time       Rotana Suites Hotel- conference room
18.30          Meet in lobby                                    Rotana Suites Hotel
19.00-20.00    Minister of Social Affairs and Labor, HE Dr      MoSAL is an implementing partner for a number of
               Diala Hajj Aref                                  UNDP and UNFPA supported projects, including
                                                                on social protection (joint project between the two
                                                                agencies), women empowerment, labor, gender
                                                                and youth
20.30-22.30 Dinner in Old City with selected Ministers          Narenj Restaurant- Old Town Straight Street
            and UNCT (hosted by RC/RR and UNFPA)
Wednesday 19 May
8.00        Check out from hotel                                Rotana Suites Hotel
8.45        Meet in Hotel Lobby                                 Rotana Suites Hotel
            Departure to Douma Registration Center
9.30        Arrival at Douma Center                             Similar to approx 1300 similar health centers
                                                                nationwide supported by UNFPA, this RH clinic
                                                                was established in close coordination with UNHCR
9.30-11.15     Visit to Center                                  and Syrian Red Crescent to provide services to
                                                                Iraqi refugees upon arrival.
11.15          Departure from Center
12.00- 12.45   Minister of Local Administration, HE Dr          Decentralization and local governance reforms are
               Tamer Hajjeh                                     prominent in the reform agenda of the country.
                                                                UNDP has been supporting different initiatives with
                                                                the Ministry, including on local governance
                                                                reforms, municipal decentralization, and Disaster
                                                                Risk Reduction.
13.00-15.00    Business Lunch with donors (Hosted by RC)        Kiwan Palace Restaurant- Mazzeh area

15.00        Departure Damascus                                 By Land
17.30        Arrival Palmyra
17.30-18.00  Check in Hotel                                     Zanoubia Cham Palace- Oasis
18.30-22.30  Visit to Palmyra-sightseeing and dinner (paid      Guide from Ministry of Tourism will be provided
             by mission members)                                Dinner in a traditional Bedouin tent
Thursday 20 May
8.00         Team to meet at the lobby                          Zanoubia Cham Palace- Oasis
8.30         Departure from Palmyra                             By road
10.30        Arrival in Kabajeb village
10.30-12.30 Field visit in Kabajeb village                      - The MDG Scaling up initiative is being initiated in
                                                                Syria as a joint UN programme to eradicate poverty
                                                                in the 6 poorest villages of the country. Initiative led
                                                                by UNDP with participation from UNFPA, FAO,


                                                                 UNICEF, WHO, WFP and ILO
                                                                 - The visit also includes the opening of one of the
                                                                 Roman Wells rehabilitated by UNDP, funded by
                                                                 Spain in response to the drought (present- Spanish
                                                                 Ambassador and SPC President)
    12.30          Departure Kabajeb village to Deir Zor         By road
    13.30          Arrival in Deir Zor and check in hotel        Forat Cham Palace
    13.30-15.00    Lunch break                                   (hotel restaurant recommended)
    15.15          Meet in Hotel Lobby                           Forat Cham Palace
    15.15-16.45    Visit to Deir Zor- Community mobilization     Al-Nahda Center (Non-Governmental organization)
                   campaigns on Gender/RH – Interactive
                   theater performance; dialogue; etc. (UNFPA)

    16.45-18.00    Visit to Deir Zor- BusinessInnovation and     BIDC premises
                   Development Center (UNDP)
    18.00-19.00    Internal meeting of the Team                  Forat Cham Palace
    20.00-22.00    Dinner hosted by Deir Zor Chamber of          Invitees include the members of the Chamber of
                   Commerce and Industry                         Commerce, Governor and selected community
                                                                 leaders, in addition to Spanish Ambassador and
                                                                 President of State Planning Commission
    Friday 21 May
    7.00           Check out from Hotel                          Forat Cham Palace
    7.30           Team to meet at the lobby to depart to        By land
    7.30-9.00      Drive to Masrab village                       Women Empowerment initiative/ meeting with
    9.00-10.00     Visit to village and meet with local          women beneficiaries in one village (UNDP)
    10.00          Departure from Masrab                         By road
    10.30          Arrival in Raqqa                              By road
    10.30-11.30    Opening of the Business Innovation and        An initiative implemented by UNDP to enhance
                   Development Center                            youth employability and entrepreneurship through
                                                                 skills development (center newly established)
    11.30-12.30    Opening of the One Window Facility in         UNDP supports the Ministry of Local Administration
                   Raqqa Municipality                            in local governance reforms, through the
                                                                 simplification of processes most used by citizens.
                                                                 The One window is expected to increase
                                                                 transparency and accessibility and efficiency of
                                                                 services. This is one of 8 pilot centers established
                                                                 by the Ministry with the support of UNDP
    13.00-15.00    Lunch (hosted by Governor of Raqqa)           Al-Assad Lake
                                                                 Invitees include the Governor, community leaders,
                                                                 and Spanish Ambassador
    15.00          Departure from Raqqa to Aleppo                By road
    18.00          Arrival in Aleppo and check in hotel          Dedeman Hotel –Aleppo
    18.00-22.00    Free time to visit Aleppo
                   Free dinner in Aleppo
    Saturday 22 May
    6.00           Team to check out hotel                       Dedeman Hotel –Aleppo
    6.30           Depart Aleppo
    10.30          Arrival Damascus
    10.30-11.30    Check in and rest in Hotel                    Rotana Suites Hotel - conference room
    11.30          Team to meet at the hotel lobby               Rotana Suites Hotel


11.45-13.00   Roundtable discussion with young journalists   Tawasul network for young journalists was
                                                             established by UNDP (incubated within the Ministry
                                                             of Information). The Network is designed to
                                                             function as a meeting form for the exchange of
                                                             ideas and resources for young media professionals
13.00-14.00   Lunch break

14.00         Meeting Prime Minister

              Meeting with Youth Peer volunteers- UNFPA      Sheraton Hotel, Damascus
16.00-19.00   Report writing                                 Rotana Suites Hotel Conference Room
19.00-20.00   RC, UNDP and UNFPA                             Country office debriefing
                                                             Rotana Suites Hotel Conference Room
20.00       Dinner Hosted by Deputy Minister of Foreign      Boulevard Restaurant
Sunday 23 May
4.00        Check out from hotel                             Rotana Suites Hotel
4.15        Departure to Damascus Airport


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