A synthesis of exit strategies from the Environment and Climate Change Window

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Each of the Joint Programmes in the Environment and Climate Change window was initiated with a vision for long term change. While programs such as those conducted through the MDGF have bounded life spans due to budget and time restrictions, a well-informed exit strategy can help ensure continuity and sustainability of activities and impact even after formal program closure.

The 17 Joint Programmes in this Environment and Climate Change Window are designed to advance environmental sustainability and climate change adaptation, at a range of institutional and spatial scales. Each of the programs in the 17 countries set out a vision that identified some aspect of increased environmental sustainability, reduced societal vulnerability and increased future adaptability or combinations thereof. An exit strategy is a tool that allows program stakeholders to express how and through what measures that vision will be fully achieved. The exit strategy is needed so that all stakeholders understand where the role of the programme or project (in this JP case) ends, when it is a good time to let other stakeholders take more ownership and to hold themselves accountable for achieving it, and when to fully hand-over the responsibility for work that has been agreed to continue beyond the closure of the programme. It also serves to identify specific actions and actors intended to achieve the original vision. It will be highly preferable that the hand-over happen during the life of the project; early development of an exit strategy will advance that goal.

The purpose of this paper is to present an analysis of the exit strategies prepared Joint Programmes by in the Environment and Climate Change Window, seeking commonalities and offering a synthesis to help others build more effective exit strategies of their own.

The UNEP/IISD Knowledge Management (KM) Team has worked with each of the Joint Programmes to encourage them to develop and implement an exit strategy. The Team hosted an online Week-in-Focus on exit strategies in July 2011, providing the community an opportunity to discuss the need for, structure of and process for implementing an exit strategy for a JP. The Team then used the JP inputs, available literature and professional experience to develop an Exit Strategy Checklist which is comprised of 16 key elements. Finally, the Team used the checklist to review exit strategy documents made available by Joint Programmes and to develop this synthesis.

The synthesis follows to the degree possible the 16 key elements identified in the Exit with Impact document. Thwo caveats are useful in framing this analysis:

  • These 16 elements are strongly inter-linked; typically no single element functions in the absence of several others.
  • Some of our Joint Programmes developed exit strategies very early in their history, as discussed below. Others developed their exit strategy later (e.g., after their Week-in-Focus sessions, after the KM project’s mid-term meeting or even close to project completion). As a result, there was a wide range in focus and degree of maturity among the exit strategy documents.

The 16 elements of an exit strategy and the ways they were addressed by the 17 Joint Programmes on Environment and Climate Change

Exit with Impact contains 16 key elements that describe the concept of developing and implementing an exit strategy. The rest of this paper represents a synthesis of the ways each of those elements was represented among the JP exit strategies.

  • Selection of activities
  • Selection of partners
  • Funding & resources
  • Timing
  • Communication
  • Gender
  • Lessons learnt
  • Roles and responsibilities
  • Capacity development
  • Knowledge transfer & IT
  • Risk assessment & management
  • Asset management
  • Monitoring & accountability
  • Administrative Procedures
  • Legal & contractual obligations
  • Implementation

Selection of activities as related to spatial scale and scope

All exit strategies are contextual; they are intended to guide post-project actions to sustain some series of changes related to the original project. However, every project will have some activities intended to be completed during the project and others that have a sustainability component. Not all project activities will be represented in an exit strategy because they will be complete at project-end. However, understanding the contribution of these Environment and Climate Change exit strategies requires having some understanding of the impacts the Joint Programmes set out to achieve. At the national scale, the Joint Programmes focused primarily on influencing national policy with regard to climate change adaptation and mitigation. For example, the Afghanistan JP developed guidance for mainstreaming a range of environmental issues into sector policies at the national level. The Ethiopian and Panamanian Joint Programmes advanced mainstreaming climate change mitigation and adaptation into national policy. Efforts in Turkey focused on assisting with a national strategy to combat climate change, and on strengthening current and existing national policies with regard to climate change. The JP in China led development of a national Basic Energy Law, and the Egyptian JP led national energy policy reform, especially in the areas of energy efficiency and renewable energy.

Many JP activities also focused at the provincial or regional level. Planning in most jurisdictions is a governmental function, allowing governments to act in a timely and effective way. It also creates opportunities for interaction with citizens on issues that are of concern to the public and where successful implementation may require multi-stakeholder collaboration. Strengthening planning at the provincial or regional level was an important aspect of JP activities in several cases. For example, the Afghanistan JP worked closely with the Provincial Environmental Advisory Councils (PEACs) in coordinating climate change adaptation. The JP in China championed weaving climate change adaption into the 12th 5-year plan of Zhejiang Province. The Ethiopian JP developed tools to mainstream climate change and adaptation into regional planning, and is moving forward to build an adaptation model in each region of the country. The Nicaraguan JP worked to strengthen the administrative plans of five territorial governments, helping them include climate change resilience in provincial plans. The Turkish JP worked to assist the formation and functioning of 21 District Environmental Subcommittees. The JP in Colombia advanced the incorporation of climate risk management into territorial scale planning. As illustrated by the cases of Turkey, Ethiopia, Afghanistan and China, provincial/regional scale work complemented work at the national level.

In the interest of successful outcomes, planning needs to recognize and use adaptive measures to address vulnerabilities. A major aspect of climate change is increased variance in climate regimes including changed intensity of climate events, and altered spatial and temporal patterns (e.g., storms, droughts, heat waves). If society is to recognize and act in an anticipatory way to accommodate new, more variable conditions (i.e., to be more resilient), governments must work purposefully towards increasing resilience. In some cases, work towards increased resilience and adaptive capacity began with vulnerability analysis, such as the Yellow Basin vulnerability assessment led by the JP in China, or the Participatory Vulnerability Analysis that the Turkish JP led in 11 Provinces. As a further element of adaptive capacity building, the JP in Mozambique trained national government staff in climate proofing to increase resilience to climate related disasters, and the JP in China led development of Local Environmental Health Action Plans (LEAHPs) in four Provinces.

Actual responses to climate change require changes in practices on the ground that are developed and implemented at the regional or provincial scale. For example, the Colombian JP worked to advance sustainable production systems, to facilitate environmental conservation, and to develop regional-scale action to increase vegetative cover to ensure water supply safety; those activities occurred throughout the provinces where the JP worked. The Egyptian JP is joining UNDP GEF in a project on regional scale climate change adaptation in the low-lying lands of the Nile Delta.

The most direct interaction between citizens and climate regimes is often perceived to occur at the local level; that is the scale at which people gather water, plant crops or interact with biodiversity. As would be expected, much Environment and Climate Change JP activity occurred at the local level, often as a model or pilot for ways other localities might learn and behave. Local scale adaptability begins with local government planning. The Afghanistan JP has worked closely with District and Community Development Councils to help them incorporate climate change adaptation into their planning. The JP in Mozambique has assisted with Integrated Water Resource Management plans and with community agroforestry plans. The Ethiopian JP has developed tools that are specific to the local scale and are useful in mainstreaming climate change adaptation into local planning. Similarly, the Turkish JP has focused on capacity development allowing local governments to assess and react to climate change risks to rural and coastal development.

Beyond planning, local governments and citizens must adapt behavior and practices to increase resilience. The China JP has brought climate change resilient and environmentally sound agricultural practices to hundreds of local farmers. The Nicaragua and Panama Joint Programmes have focused on watershed- and municipality-scale changes; the focus in Nicaragua is in the buffer zone of the Boswás protected area and the focus in Panama includes indigenous communities. In the same way, the Guatemala JP focused on one exemplary micro watershed in each of six municipalities in the dryland corridor. The JP in Ethiopia has developed integrated rangeland management schemes designed specifically for local adaptation, with a focus on water availability, sanitation, and water hygiene. In Colombia, the JP effort focused on recovering traditional knowledge and targeting lessons to high mountain ecosystems, indigenous towns, and rural communities. Mozambique’s JP focused at the District scale, assisting with climate proofing against disasters; the Egyptian JP has worked with three Agricultural Research Centers in field testing drought resistant agricultural production techniques.

Choosing activities and matching them to specific spatial scales are the first major factors that guide any exit strategy; these choices clearly illustrate the strong interlinkages among key elements of the checklist. For example, the spatial scales of the activities implemented by the Environment and Climate Change Joint Programmes have clear repercussions for the selection of partners, funding & resources, roles & responsibilities, and capacity development. From the wide range of exemplary activities conducted by the 17 Environment and Climate Change Joint Programmes, it is clear that the scope and scale of activities, and their matching and related cross-scale linkages should be clearly addressed when deciding which elements should be considered in the formulation of an exit strategy.

Selection of partners

Our 17 Joint Programmes represented a wide range of institutions and institutional types. Each JP implemented a number of projects (nearly 150 projects among the 17 Joint Programmes) and chose to specify a wide range of activities in their exit strategies. Affiliations in exit strategies were driven by two principal factors: funding and sustainability. Funding for environment and climate change projects generally is supplied by UN partners (e.g., UNDP, UNIDO) and host government agencies (e.g., Ministries). In many cases, a funding agency became a core partner in the implementation of the project. It is clear that UN agencies are viewed as central to the success of all the JP efforts, and that all UN funding flows through the Resident Coordinator. As such, keeping the UN Resident Coordinator informed during development of an exit strategy improves the probability of sustainability.

UN organizations represent a special class of potential partners in a JP. Because part of the MDGF’s mandate was to demonstrate ways both resident and non-resident UN agencies can advance the One UN program through working together on an issue as much in need of agency-wide collaboration as climate change. Although that was an implicit pillar in the MDGF work, One UN itself was mentioned explicitly only once (in China’s exit strategy).

Sustainability was addressed more implicitly than was choice of partner. Only a few JP exit strategies stated explicitly that affiliations with a local community or a governmental agency were selected strategically to enhance sustainability. It appears that the need for these kinds of affiliations is obvious but implicit. If a JP intends to influence long-term management of a major protected area or local-scale catchment management in a landscape, it is obvious that there must be in close collaboration with the individuals who make those decisions. Governments are typically also the most natural partners of UN agencies. Although this variable was only implicit in the exit strategies, it is apparent that it played a significant role in the ways projects were conducted.

Based on the above, we suggest that making the logic of partner choice and responsibilities explicit in an exit strategy will advance transparency and sustainability, and result in wider acceptance of the projects goals and achievements after project closure. We also suggest that choice of partner(s) in an exit strategy is an iterative process; partners chosen for an exit strategy may differ from those involved early in a project.

Funding and resources

Funding and other resources are relevant in an exit strategy because they are often required if project-related impacts are to be sustained. The Environment and Climate Change Joint Programmes often chose a strategy of empowerment, helping their partners develop fund-raising skills and in some cases developing a grants program to help provide future funding. For example, the Turkish JP led a large project (~$2 Million) that will focus on a wide range of agricultural and natural resource practices in the Seyahn River Basin. They also participated in development of a new program called “A systematic approach to regional adaptation to climate change” in which the central government is making grants to local communities. The Afghanistan JP helped the government prepare proposals for future work and the China JP hosted a national forum on funding for future work in climate change adaptation. The Joint Programmes in Colombia, Mozambique and Panama all worked on longer term funding streams to assist local communities or watersheds obtain resources to ensure the ability to invest in adaptation to climate change. The Ethiopian JP also developed a financial support program but that was sector-focused (i.e., on pastoralists) rather than spatially targeted. The Egyptian JP linked its sustainability to securing new international funding at a large scale (i.e., GEF and UNIDO work on national scale energy issues).

In sum, continuation of funding and resources after project closure should be explicitly considered early in the project life cycle to ensure sufficient time to allow partners to develop self-sustaining finances. Failing to do so is likely to constrain activities even if the will and interest exist. Developing funding proposals for new adaptation projects or integrating adaptation criteria into already existing funding mechanisms are two possible strategies to achieve this goal.


In reviewing the exit strategies of our Joint Programmes, we attempted to assess the life stage of the project in which the exit strategy was developed. That was not explicit in many cases, so data for this variable are limited (i.e., we have data from 6 of 17 Joint Programmes). Two developed their exit strategy within the first quarter of the project life. The other four developed an exit strategy in the last quarter of the project. It was apparent that exit strategies developed early tie more closely to the overall project goals and can play a larger role in influencing project activities. Exit strategies developed late can play a role in drawing together major players to focus on the subset of activities that the group feels should be maintained. However, that is less influential in terms of long term sustainability than a strategy developed early and used throughout the project.

An exit strategy is most effective and most influential when it is developed at the start of or very early in the history of a project, and then serves as a touchstone to be referenced as programmatic changes are considered. In this way, the original project goals are tied to long-term sustainability.


It is widely understood that communication about project activities has a strong influence on sustainability. As people in government, local communities and other target groups come to understand the goals and results of the project, they are more likely to be willing to develop ownership and participate in on-going activities beyond the project lifecycle. However, it is relatively uncommon to see efforts to communicate elements of an exit strategy in the form of a specific handover plan to partners that are supposed to carry on with the work.

Communication can take many forms (e.g., direct face-to-face engagement of specific stakeholders, working through journalists and media, developing and distributing outreach materials or a combination of strategies). Among our Joint Programmes, Afghanistan developed an awareness campaign in schools, villages and the mass media to publicize project activities, attempting to increase both awareness and buy-in. Similarly, the Colombian JP engaged journalists in climate change adaptation training and local community members in discussions about environment and climate change. The Turkish JP’s exit strategy addressed communication most explicitly. That program developed a documentary film on management practices in the Seyhan River basin and a series of shorter video clips on climate change adaptation. They also held discussion panels in 11 provinces and built a sustainable plan through which they host and maintain a national web site focused on climate change adaptation.

A subset of our communication analysis was focused on development and communication of a hand-over plan (i.e., the specific institutional arrangement the JP developed with its local partners to carry on with specific JP activities). For example, the Ethiopian and Egyptian Joint Programmes focused on energy use and efficiency and in both cases, the JP will be converted into and sustained as a national energy office. The Afghanistan JP has developed MOUs specifying which future activities will be supported and conducted by local, provincial and national governments. Only three of our Joint Programmes developed clear and explicit handover plans; we are aware that implicit plans are relatively widely developed.

While communication for and about a project is more commonly recognized as an important element of ownership and sustainability, there should be an added emphasis on developing specific hand-over plans, formalized in explicit agreements, to ensure that all stakeholders are kept on the same page, clarifying expectations among stakeholders.

Dynamics of gender, age, power

Diversity and stratification by age, gender, income, health status and many other variables is an inherent reality of all societies, including of course in those countries participating in the Environment and Climate Change Window. Such diversity is important from the adaptation point of view, because social status and background drive differences in climate change vulnerability. Children and the elderly may be less tolerant of extreme heat waves; women in charge of securing food may be vulnerable to disruptions in agro-ecological systems; and men in charge of animal herds may need to cope with and adapt to changes in rangeland conditions. Understanding and systematically addressing these contextually specific conditions through a long time frame is a key element of successful adaptation.

As we analysed the JP exit strategies, we looked for specific actions intended to last through time that would explicitly target youth, the elderly, women, the disempowered, or any other typically disadvantaged group. Although many UN programs have targeted such groups, language addressing those differences was not evident in the exit strategies.

There were, however, interesting examples where JP action specifically targeted disadvantaged groups. Nicaragua focused much of its work on micro-watersheds, developing and deploying Best Management Practices for local communities. More than 40% of the participants in the training programs were women. The Turkish JP explicitly discussed the role of women in local scale climate change adaptation efforts and targeted women as recipients of small grants to change local practice. The Turkish JP also funded and assisted with the distribution of a traveling exhibit of photos taken by girls age 7-14, using the exhibit to build awareness of the topic (climate change) but also awareness of the capabilities of youth and women. While these are good examples of how Joint Programmes worked with disadvantaged groups, those components were not explicit in exit strategies. It is not clear now, and will not be clear for some time how lasting the effects of these interventions will be on these disadvantaged target groups.

When vulnerable or minority sub-sets of a population are targeted through a program, the exit strategy should contain explicit reference and specific program elements aimed at these groups in order to ensure that these targeted populations receive attention over the long term.

Lessons Learned

Perhaps the most important aspect of an exit strategy is capturing and communicating lessons learned. Being reflective about any development project is a core responsibility of project implementers. Carefully analysing and reporting the original goals, actions taken, and results achieved allows transparency and improves future projects. Every exit strategy should contain explicit language about how project activities will be analysed, how lessons learned will be captured, and how those lessons will be reported.

Our UNEP Team has been very active in communicating with the Joint Programmes to help them capture lessons and UNEP has published in electronic and hard copy form a summary and analysis of more than 50 lessons learned by the Joint Programmes and their partners. This analysis of exit strategies is one more way of examining lessons learned. This paper addresses the need for and the practice of exit strategy development, as one of the lessons learned in the Environment and Climate Change Wndow.

Capacity development

Development activities often can be described as hard options (e.g., changes in physical infrastructure or supply of IT hardware) versus soft options (e.g., capacity development, changes in policy). Not surprisingly, capacity development, a soft option typically focused on development of specific skills and practices that will allow communities and governments to adapt to climate change was the aspect of exit strategies that was most thoroughly developed in the exit strategies of the Environment and Climate Change window's Joint Programmes.

The Ethiopian JP trained local veterinary staff in animal health and established livestock marketing cooperatives which will allow greater adaptability in times of high climatic variance. The Mozambican JP had an extensive capacity development effort that reached many people. For example, they trained community members to sustain water availability, improve water quality through developing new sources, improve management of existing rainwater harvesting and develop bore holes. They trained over 100 individuals and 4 communities in rainwater harvesting and more than 100 individuals in biogas generation and solar water pumping. They trained 24 forest guards to advance community forest management and other community members in flood irrigation and cropping practices to improve water management. It is expected that these changes will make significant difference in the resilience of local communities.

The Afghanistan, Chinese and Nicaraguan Joint Programmes each worked extensively on technical capacity development at the local level. In China, the JP instituted a program for climate change awareness and climate resilient agriculture, reaching hundreds of local farmers. In Afghanistan, the JP trained nearly 160 people in technical support areas such as use of Global Positioning System (GPS) tools and water quality monitoring. The JP also worked with the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock (MAIL) to establish kitchen gardens, rangeland rehabilitation, backyard poultry operations, pistachio orchards and fruit gardens. The Nicaraguan JP focused on several micro-watersheds with attention to techniques for ecosystem restoration, watershed rehabilitation and protection of water sources. They also worked to strengthen capacity in seven different communities in the areas of solar water, public health and water supply management. The Chinese JP developed and supported a national-scale groundwater quality monitoring program. The JP in Panama developed a local climate monitoring system that assists people in preparing for and reacting to climatic variance, and the Turkish JP instituted national-scale training on drought monitoring and adaptive practices. Technical capacity development efforts are replicable and strengthen the ability of people, communities and institutions to function effectively as climate change occurs.

The Turkish JP invested in increasing the ability of institutions in the Seyhan River basin to assess climate change risks to current and future rural and coastal development. The JP in Mozambique trained people at the national scale in climate proofing to increase national policy resilience against climate related disasters and at the regional scale, assisted in development of farmer associations to strengthen local agricultural and forest management and to increase farmer resilience. The Ethiopian JP developed training for national, district and local partners to increase sensitization to climate change adaptation for pastoralist communities. The Nicaraguan JP developed and trained 15 communal energy committees. Capacity development at these national and regional scales are explicitly part of exit strategies intended to leave behind a stronger and more resilient suite of communities and institutions.

Finally, several of the JP exit strategies identified the need for and the support of formal education as a way of having a long-term positive impact. Some programs functioned locally. In Colombia, the JP supported recovery of traditional knowledge, working through rural schools. Similarly, the Turkish JP developed a training toolkit for use in primary schools in the Seyhan River basin. Other Joint Programmes targeted educational programs at the national or regional scale. For example, the Nicaraguan JP focused on sustainability of a Biosphere reserve, including support for research, training, education and communication. The Turkish JP worked with FAO and UNEP to implement thematic training sessions for climate change adaptation, and developed a university curriculum on climate change adaptation. The latter has a goal of 34 professionals receiving certificates, and having several national and local government representatives, university faculty and NGO members trained in the use of climate modeling. One focal area of the Turkish training program supported by UNIDO staff was eco-efficiency, including offering a certificate in applying eco-efficiency related methods. In Colombia, the JP trained journalists to help them inform community members about climate change adaptation.

Capacity development is usually a well-substantiated part of exit strategies, and both ‘hard’ (e.g., physical changes such as infrastructure.) and ‘soft’ (e.g., capacity development, individual and institutional skills, policy changes) approaches should be explicitly recognized and addressed as crucial to the continuation of efforts started by project partners.

Knowledge management and IT infrastructure

When multiple agencies collaborate in adaptation activities, there is co-generation of knowledge between the implementers (the JP in our case) and the beneficiaries (in our case, the national partners). Impacts are more likely to be sustained over the long term if the parties are able to document, archive and make available the knowledge generation process and its results. This requires both an intellectual effort and information technology (IT) hardware and software. The exit strategies to which we had access rarely explicitly mentioned knowledge management and its underlying IT components. Exceptions include the Colombia JP’s exit strategy, which developed a system for transferring knowledge management practices for risk mitigation in agricultural systems, community health and water management. The Guatemala JP developed a catalogue of all tools and resources relevant to climate change adaptation and distributed that to local communities. The Turkish JP published and made available climate prediction scenarios based on three GCMs, with an accompanying operational data delivery system and a software package for flood and drought management. In each case, these Joint Programmes recognized in their exit strategies that these disparate but related elements required a knowledge management approach to achieve sustainability. Although KM and its associated IT were rarely explicit in the exit strategies, many of the lessons learned, and much of the capacity development discussed above carries implicit KM transfer and will be associated with at least some IT support.

With the increasing awareness of its importance, KM (knowledge management) should be given explicit attention within exit strategies to help ensure systematic capture of, and transparent presentation of knowledge that was generated during the course of program activities. In many cases, a core component of KM will be investment in hard (IT infrastructure) and soft (capacity development) aspects that support long term change in the ways information is managed.

Risk assessment and management

In the context of climate change, risk assessment and management deals with the handling of events whose occurrence is uncertain in time, space, character and magnitude. However, when such events do occur, the consequences and costs can be deeply disruptive for a country or community. Under normal conditions, such events are assumed to occur with relatively predictable patterns of frequency. However, due to climate change, the patterns of risk are changing. Approaches to risk assessment, disaster management and preparedness all need to be adapted to that increased uncertainty.

Often the most dramatic aspect of climate change in any location is a shift in the pattern of extreme events (e.g., more floods, droughts, hot or cold spells). Such extreme events place severe stress on infrastructure, economies, conservation and management practices and communities. A development program working on environment and climate change by necessity must consider the extreme events to which their stakeholders are and will be exposed. Risk management, both in the classic sense of disaster preparedness and in the less traditional sense of increasing climate resilience in agriculture and other daily tasks, is an important aspect of that. The dilemma is that because of the dynamic nature of climate change (in combination with other dimensions of global and local change) individuals involved in risk management cannot simply adapt to present, already understood risks. Rather, they must try to anticipate and respond to future risk patterns. This, of course introduces conceptual and methodological challenges with regard to handling uncertainty.

Our Joint Programmes have made substantial contributions to their governments and communities in the area of risk management. For example, at the local scale, the Colombia JP implemented a knowledge management program specifically for risk mitigation in agricultural systems, public health and water management, increasing the depth of knowledge community members can use to prepare for and respond to extreme events. That knowledge base is being used to develop and strengthen climate risk management plans in territorial scale planning. The Nicaraguan JP conducted risk management planning in its six micro-watersheds, increasing community resilience. The Ethiopian JP developed a government-supported funding stream that balances income variance among pastoralist communities, increasing the degree to which communities are buffered against extreme conditions.

Other Joint Programmes focused at the regional and national scale. The Turkish JP developed an early warning system for floods in the Seyhan River basin. The China JP developed a vulnerability analysis and early warning system for the Yellow River basin and the Egyptian JP developed a Regional Climate Model (RCM) housed in the Nile Forecast Center in the Ministry of Water, to assist with early warning. The Mozambique JP worked to develop resilience against climate related disasters nationally. The Panama and Turkish Joint Programmes supported development of national risk alert and disaster preparedness systems. The Ethiopian JP strengthened national liaisons in the area of disaster preparedness and prevention. All of these linkages strengthen interconnections and help reduce the magnitude of unforeseen negative consequences of climate change.

The importance of risk management is enhanced due to the severity and unpredictable nature of climatic changes, and is therefore receiving increased attention by programs targeted at climate change. Risk management includes being explicit about dealing with uncertainty, disaster preparedness and increasing community resilience in many ways. Planning under conditions of high uncertainty and the need for increased resilience should be an explicit part of exit strategy formulation. Risk management must be informed not only by present, but future risk patterns as projected by future scenarios.

Asset management, administrative procedures, and monitoring and accountability

Development projects bring outside resources to bear on a problem at the local, regional or national level. Project staff and beneficiaries develop administrative procedures within the context of the project to address issues such as accounting, personnel management, budgeting and accountability. At the conclusion of the project, most projects will have accumulated a series of assets. The administrative procedures that were developed represent a soft asset, as do the procedures for quality control, monitoring and accountability. Those assets might be returned to the funder or might be transferred to stakeholders. Physical resources such as monitoring or IT equipment represent hard assets. Preserving all of those elements is part of a sound exit strategy; being explicit about their distribution helps individuals, communities and institutions better understand, communicate and plan for a range of possible futures.

Few of the Environment and Climate Change exit strategies were explicit about asset management. The Ethiopian and Guatemalan Joint Programmes developed formal MOUs that coordinated inventory and hand-over of program assets. In both cases, assets were passed to national government, improving long-term sustainability or program impacts. The Mozambique JP developed an accord with the provincial and district forest services to transfer assets for sustainable agroforestry. Several of the Joint Programmes invested in capacity development and technical support for monitoring, but that was a technical issue, not monitoring in the sense of project transparency and accountability.

Our experience suggests that project planners and implementers should be explicit early in a project about how physical assets (e.g., IT infrastructure, sampling equipment) as well as soft assets (e.g., administrative procedures) will be handled at project completion.

Legal and contractual arrangements

Explicit contracts and MOUs ensure clearer communication and straightforward lines of accountability, as seen in a number of the Joint Programmes’ exit strategies. Some of the MOUs developed for asset management and handover were discussed above (e.g., Afghanistan, Ethiopia and Guatemala). More specifically, the Afghanistan JP signed MOUs with local governments, spelling out local responsibility (nearly all remaining activities) versus government responsibility (only monitoring and extension). The Ethiopian JP developed a formal structure through which the Wereda (Ethiopia’s third administrative level, below national and province) handed over all duties to a local community with binding duties and responsibilities. The Guatemalan JP developed formal agreements at the community scale, working with mayors, NGOs and others to ensure clarity about future actions. The Nicaraguan JP worked in six micro-watersheds, establishing political agreements for community water management and developing a tariff system that will allow sustainable energy supplies. Finally, the Panama JP developed an advanced monitoring system and a maintenance plan for local water systems, and then worked to ensure that sustainability of those efforts fell within the annual work-plans and budgets of local communities.

To be successful, an exit strategy should be formalized with legally binding conditions in order to ensure transparency, clear communication and accountability. In that way, all parties will be at the same level of understanding to avoid conflict and/or miscommunication at program closure.


The Environment and Climate Change window has worked with Joint Programmes in 17 countries. The >150 projects completed by Joint Programmes and their stakeholders have made significant contributions. In general, however, members of the Environment and Climate Change JP community have not been very explicit about exit strategies or exit actions. This chapter has used the Environment and Climate Change Exit with Impact document as a reference to examine the exit strategies developed by the Environment and Climate Change Joint Programmes. We found congruence between Exit with Impact and a range of activities designed and conducted by our JP members. Several key messages, highlighted at the end of sections above, will be useful to people planning future projects. This document and the Exit with Impact checklist will assist future project managers in designing and implementing an exit strategy within the first 25% of a project life span, and ensuring that the exit strategy is agreed upon by all stakeholders.

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