Inspectie Ontwikkelingssamenwerking en Beleidsevaluatie

Promoting democracy at Europe’s borders: projects effective, but broader impact unknown

IOB evaluated the implementation of the Dutch Matra programme in the countries of the Eastern Partnership (EaP). Being former republics of the Soviet Union, Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, Belarus, Armenia and Azerbaijan share many characteristics, but have chosen distinctive paths since their independence. The Matra programme aims at promoting democracy, the rule of law and human rights, mainly by strengthening civil society and local government institutions. In addition, it aims at strengthening the bilateral relations between the Netherlands and the partner countries concerned.

IOB found that most projects attained their goals, but their joint contribution to the programme objectives could not be established. This was mainly due to the limited size of the programme and the wide variety of themes that were addressed. Still, because of its accessibility for smaller civil society organisations and its flexibility, the Matra programme had added value in relation to the programmes offered by other donors. IOB noticed that ownership and the results orientation by the ministry of Foreign Affairs decreased during the period of analysis.

Based on the evaluation findings, IOB suggests that Matra should retain its flexibility, but that the ministry should devote more attention to results at programme level, including the strengthening of bilateral relations. Also, given the political developments in the region, it seems logical to differentiate the approaches between the countries that have signed an association agreement with the EU and those that have not. However, new divisions should be avoided, for example by facilitating cross-border projects. In order to increase its results orientation, programme management at the ministry and the interaction between implementing organisations such as political parties, embassies and the International Visegrad Fund, should be increased.

With this report IOB has contributed to the new policy framework of the Matra programme 2016-2020.

For more information about the evaluation findings and lessons, see the report, the IOB Evaluation Newsletter and the annex with an assessment of selected projects.