February 2010
Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation, Harvard Kennedy School

Executive Summary

Between January and September of 2007, a team composed of Dr. Sarah Dix, Mr. Diego Miranda, and Dr. Charles H. Norchi appraised the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) country office programs, procedures, and management as implemented from 2003 to 2007. During the 2003 to 2007 period, the country program cycle focused on promoting good governance, conflict prevention, community recovery, and fighting HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis. Overall, the office managed more than $500 million for all programs, becoming among the three largest UNDP country operations in the world.

This report examines the organizational dimensions of the UNDP office in the DRC, and analyzes its most important program innovations. Section I describes the difficult country and regional contexts in which the office operated. Section II explores the unique institutional vision and leadership by which the UNDP emerged as a key agent in the DRC. Section 3III analyzes innovation and scope of procurement and delivery. Section IV discusses Security Sector Reform—disarmament, demobilization and reintegration—as keys to post-conflict development in the DRC. Section V offers conclusions based on the findings of the report.

The findings are as follows: The UNDP country office (CO) strategically leveraged its politically neutral image to effectively and creatively act as a behind-the-scenes development partner in the DRC. It operated with a shared vision that enabled managers and staff to meet contextual challenges as they arose. Staff was empowered to make decisions with a common purpose and this became an institutional expectation. Management endeavored to encourage an internal culture of knowledge sharing and substantive skills development, which in turn led to an enhancement of three capacities fundamental for delivering development services: innovative capacity, strategic capacity, and adaptive capacity. An entrepreneurial culture emerged, throughout support services and programs. In fact, some of the most notable innovations came in the area of procurement and logistics.

Overall, the CO demonstrated a remarkable capacity to act strategically and to fully exploit varied windows of opportunity that unfolded as peacebuilding and democratization in the DRC. The CO adapted best practices developed elsewhere to the Congolese context. The office reconfigured itself to become an agent of change. Management and staff designed and implemented programs and procedures that were effective, innovative, and extensive in scope, that included collaboration with government and civil society, and that were transferable to other post-conflict contexts. Based on these findings, the United Nations Development Program Office in the Democratic Republic of the Congo was formally nominated for the Innovations Award in Transforming Government, sponsored jointly by the IBM Corporation and the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

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