Generating synergies to tackle climate change in Guatemala

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A shorter version of this lesson has been featured on the booklet produced by the MDG-F Environment and Climate Change window "Seeds of Knowledge - Contributing to Climate Change Solutions". - Read more about the booklet or download it in English / Spanish / French / Arabic.



In the past, the United Nations System of Organisations and governmental organisations in Guatemala who have taken part in Joint Programmes have traditionally given preference to their own priorities and operational modalities. As a result, the integration of these Organisations with official institutions in order to provide a joint solution to a problem which, as is the case with climate change, affects a variety of sectors (health, education, natural resources and the environment), has proven to be a challenge. In the end, however, the UN System of Organisations (PNUD, FAO and UNICEF) and government organisations Ministry for the Environment and Natural Resources (MARN), Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Food (MAGA), Ministry of Public Health and Social Security (MSPAS), Programme for Rural Development (PRORURAL), Institute of Agricultural Science and Technology (ICTA), Secretariat for Nutritional and Food Safety (SESAN), Secretariat of Planning and Programming of the Presidency of the Republic-(SEGEPLAN)- and others[1] who took part in the implementation of the Joint Programme, realised that this initiative provided a good opportunity to generate synergies, shared learning and complementarities in the securing of Products which would lead to results at the highest level and, as a result, their beneficiaries would be dealt with more efficiently and to greater effect.

The formation of a Technical Programme Committee responsible for operational coordination was a key element in the learning process. This committee was made up of the head of the Resident Coordinator Office, Programme officials from PNUD, FAO and UNICEF and their counterparts in MARN, MAGA, MSAPS and SEGEPLAN, technical representative from AECID (the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation) as well as the Programme's General Coordinator. Thematic Coordinators were also invited to the Technical Programme Committee meetings, depending on the subject under discussion.

The formation and operation of this Committee was conformed to internal regulations. It is important to mention that, initially, the Programme was solely dependent on the Managerial Committee (which is recommended by the Secretary of the Millennium Development Goals Achievement Fund), who incorporated organisational representatives from a variety of levels, including deputy ministers, making it difficult to reach agreements on the operational management of the Programme. The formation of the Technical Programme Committee was a substantial revision which allowed for separation of the political and technical levels, thereby leaving the Programme's Managerial Committee, which was made up of deputy ministers and representatives from the participating UN Agencies, to deal with the political and strategic aspects.

Other important aspects of the Joint Programme were:

  1. working with local people, thereby making it easier to reach agreements and implement planned activities. Furthermore, Environmental policies, Municipal Development Plans, Municipal Water and Sanitation Plans and Integrated Water Use Municipal Plans were formulated with inputs from local stakeholders, especially community leaders and women's groups. This took place through participatory assessments that identified and prioritized environmental problems afflicting the population. An action plan was made to resolve these.
  2. Concentrating operations in a common geographical area, thereby facilitating coordination and improving the impact of the Joint Programme.

Purpose of the activity

Provide a complimentary nature to the Joint Programme while, at the same time, facilitating both decision making on a technical level and joint monitoring of the implementation of the Programme. Separation of the political from the operational levels.

Original issue addressed by the activity

Initially, each component of the Joint Programme implemented their activities at their own pace, motivated by their own objectives. The different operational modalities of PNUD, FAO and UNICEF favoured different working rhythms and gave the impression that they were implementing different projects in a common area of intervention.

At the same time, a Programme Managerial Committee made up of technicians and government employees with decision-making capabilities was precisely what made the decision making more difficult as the discussions mixed strategic and political orientations with those of an eminently technical and operational nature.

Strategy chosen to address the issue

The strategy chosen to address the issue was to implement a fundamental reform of the Joint Programme (11 months after its beginning) with the aim of implementing:

  1. Structural changes to regulations governing management, administration and coordination;
  2. Changes in the results obtained by adapting Products; and,
  3. Budgetary and fund-transfer reforms

In this context, two different coordinating authorities for the Joint Programme were designed and implemented: a Managerial Committee responsible for political and strategic aspects, and a Technical Committee responsible for the technical and operational aspects.

Implementation of the strategy

The fundamental revision was a joint initiative of the participating Agencies (PNUD, FAO and UNICEF) and MARN, the leading national organisation, that came about as a result of the strategic and operational management difficulties encountered ten months after the establishment of the Joint Programme and which became evident in the low levels of economic and technical performance.

This political decision, then, was essential if the Joint Programme were truly to become a Joint Programme. The decision was followed by intense working meetings which led to the formulation of a fundamental revision proposal, which was then presented to the National Management Committee.


There has been a significant delay in the programme implementation. The official start date of the program was the August 3, 2008. However, field operations suffered a delay of almost eight months. This delay was mainly related to the operational design and coordination of the program. A substantive revision adopted on July 29 2009 by the National Steering Committee (NSC) allowed: (a) changes in the management, administration and coordination structure (b) change of the Results Framework, and (c) budgetary review and transfer of funds among years.

Paris Declaration

The programme involves ownership and alignment at the national level. This sometimes means that administrative procedures are slowed down. This affects the pace at which measures are implemented. This is particularly noticeable in the half-yearly report on the Single Account system, which is the new model for transferring cooperation funds in the country.

This is weakest at the local level given that local institutions were not involved in establishing the programme.

The programme is supporting the implementation of the National Policy on Climate Change and is strengthening mechanisms which manage natural resources (Hydro-forestry Round Table). Similarly, it is supporting the implementation of governance policies .It has great potential as a governing force within the country.

One UN

The design of the programme initially caused divisions amongst the authorities. Furthermore it lacked a common overall strategy. Improvements have been made in this respect, seeking more correlation between the different areas and levels of action.

Programme coordination has also been improving.. This was consolidated by the establishment of a Technical Management Committee and other relevant coordination structures which came into being in the second year.

The procedures of participating UN agencies are different. So too are the capacities of participating government institutions. This means that an effort must be made to ensure correspondence, which can sometimes affect initial planning.

This intervention represents a step towards a more unified UN system and a specific mechanism for implementing the UN Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF).

Other factors that caused the delay include external factors such as

  • The Tropical Storm Agatha and the eruption of the Pacaya Volcano
  • General elections in November 2007.

Results and Impacts

The impact of the fundamental revision became evident once the Joint Programme began to develop into a true strategy for creating synergies, shared learning and complementarities and to perform at acceptable levels, as was reported in the intermediate external evaluation performed in 2010, in other words, ten months after the initiation of the fundamental revision. On the 4th of January, 2011, as a result of this situation, the Secretary of the Spanish Millennium Development Goals Achievement Fund granted a six-month extension on the Programme's implementation deadline.

The Joint Programme ended on the 3rd of February, 2012, with the completion of 96% of its financial implementation and 99% of its Products obtained. These performance levels would not have been possible without the reform and reorientation of both the Programme's Results Framework and its administration, thereby converting the Joint Programme into a "joining of forces".

Joint Programme outcomes

  • The programme is supporting the implementation of governance policies and it has great potential as a key element within the country. It could promote mutual understanding between the different authorities and become a trial run for coordinated land and resource management.
  • Priority is being given to activities and results which will speed along the implementation process without diminishing the quality of procedures. A roadmap has been approved by the Programme’s Technical Committee.
  • Contracts are being signed with consultancy firms as and there are now cooperation agreements in order to ensure successful outcomes.

Next Steps

The lessons learnt have already been implemented during the execution of the Joint Programme, beginning with the fundamental revision. Furthermore, the Joint Programme is currently requesting a further three-month extension in order to ensure the sustainability of the Products and processes created during the Programme by transferring these lessons to the new governmental authorities in Guatemala which came into central office on the 14th of January, 2012, and in the municipalities on the following day. During this transfer period, agreements with the authorities will also be sought for 17 municipal and 2 departmental policies, 6 municipal development plans, 6 municipal water and sanitation plans and 2 municipal plans for integrated use of water. These policies have been designed and distributed with the aid of the Joint Programme and should be implemented via budgetary allocations and communication with the local authorities who will be in charge of implementing them.

Potential replication / application

Joint Programmes are a new experience both for the UN System and for the governmental organisations that participate in their implementation. Their implementation, therefore, required a paradigm shift and, as a result, this may reinforce the decision, principally within the United Nations System of Organisations, to approach activities relating to sustainable development from a "Joint Programme" point of view.

In order to assure sustainability the following have been done:

  • Links between the different activities of the programme and other initiatives have been established. These ensure correlation and sustainability of the interventions. For example the owners of reforested areas will receive compensation through the Forestry Incentives for Small Land Owners Programme (PINPEP) or the Forestry Incentives Programme (PINFOR). The latter is the programme which complements the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (ACEID) project in the Copán Chortí community.
  • Strengthening the capacities of the MANCOVALLE project and the towns involved will help to ensure longevity.
  • Links with the Management of the Health Area in Baja Verapaz and with the Special Unit for Execution of Integral Development of Hydrographic Basins/MAGA have been strengthened. These guarantee the continuation of the work that the Programme supports in terms of water and decontamination, the management of natural resources and best practices.
  • The Hydro-Forestry Round Table of Baja Verapaz is strengthened by the participation of representatives of local towns, government bodies dealing with forestry and environmental issues, the private forestry sector and civil society.
  • The establishment of seed funding mechanisms is promoted in MANCOVALLE and community organizations.

Information products

  • End of Project /Programme Narrative report
  • Environment and Governance diagnostic
  • Joint agenda
  • Identification of socio-environmental management tools
  • Program Final Report
  • Lessons Learned, Preliminary Analysis
  • Summary Strengthening Environmental Governance to climate risks in Guatemala
  • Systematization of Successful Community Experiences in Environmental Governance in Guatemala. A guide for action
  • A communication plan on adaption to climate change and its link to the Millennium Development Goals and the design of materials in order to implement it is being formulated.
  • Moreover, measures are being taken in terms of communication in order to publicize outputs produced by the Programme.



  1. University of San Carlos in Guatemala (USAC), Municipality of Rabinal, Municipality of Cubulco, Municipality of El Chol, Municipality of Granados, Municipality of San Miguel Chicaj, Municipality of Salama, National Coffee Association (ANACAFE), QACHUU ALOOM NGO, Community of Towns of the Baja Verapaz Valley for Strengthening and Development (MANCOVALLE).
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