PCM is the system for project development, funding and evaluation used by the EC for all its development co-operation. PCM incorporates two important ideas: the concept of a project proceeding through various stages from planning to evaluation, forming an identifiable cycle of development; and, secondly, the need for management of the project cycle through all its various stages. Central to PCM is the idea of managing a process, rather than contributing to a one-off event – such as a construction – with a beginning and end. This may be a characteristic of funding, but not of the larger process of development to which projects are intended to contribute. Although the word ‘Project’ is part of PCM, it is worth bearing in mind that this term tends to carry restrictive connotations, and that the phrases ‘programmes and projects’ or ‘water-related activities’ have been preferred in these Guidelines. The word ‘project’, therefore, should be interpreted as broadly as possible. It might include the construction of a major installation or of multiple constructions such as boreholes or catchment dams; but equally it might not. Project components might be confined, for example, to research, systems assessment and institutional capacity building. In PCM, the term ‘project’ is primarily used for convenience and simply means the collection of related activities for which a contribution is provided to meet a specified objective.
The strategic approach presented in Part I of the Guidelines provides a framework of policy principles and programming contexts for waterrelated interventions. Planners, officials, and development workers are expected to use it as a guide to decision-taking. Part II of the Guidelines is designed to enable users to put the strategic approach into effect.
The application of the strategic approach entails identifying problem areas and appropriate responses at every stage of the programme process. Thus the main content of Part II consists of checklists to assist users to put into practice the policy principles set out in Part I, at each of the different stages of the programme process, in each of the Focus Areas.
The user should bear in mind at all times that this is not a manual: these checklists are not meant to be exhaustive, but to act as pointers. Each situation, each problem area for any given Focus Area and any stage of the PCM, not to mention the course of any project, is subject to so many variables that to produce a definitive set of checklists would be impossible. It would, in addition, be neither efficient nor user-friendly.
The whole emphasis of these Guidelines is to avoid prescription, and instead to facilitate a questioning mode of project development, in which sensitivity to changing trends, local variety of economic, social and environmental circumstance, and especially the input derived from stakeholder and user participation, can be reflected.
It is anticipated that the issues identified, and the possible responses described, will lead the user to pursue the most appropriate line of enquiry, and to perceive problems as soluble if all permutations of possible responses are systematically explored. Technical aids supplementary to the checklists which users can draw upon to assist this process are provided in Part III. In addition, initiative and imagination to put all pieces of the puzzle together, and bring the project to effective fruition, will certainly be needed.
The application of the strategic approach takes place at different stages of the programme process, which is identified here according to the Project Cycle Management (PCM) model used for EC development cooperation. (The next section contains a full description of PCM).
In some parts of the PCM process, the problem issues and possible responses are similar for all Focus Areas, whereas in others they are different.
For some checklists, therefore, the material is generic and applicable for all Focus Areas, whereas for others, each Focus Area is presented separately.
The EC Approach to PCM
The EC practice of PCM is described in the 1993 manual, Project Cycle Management: Integrated Approach and Logical Framework. The project cycle has five stages: programming, identification, formulation, financing, implementation & evaluation.
For every project, a logical framework is prepared (see figure, at the end of this section) showing the intervention logic of the project as it evolves gradually through its various stages; it is a key part of all project documents.
The approach is therefore constructed around the idea of carefully planned phases leading logically from each other, each with mechanisms of assessment and verification.
The adoption of PCM by the EC is designed to improve and streamline its programmes of development co-operation, and make them more effective in realising their development objectives, including that of producing lasting benefits (sustainability).
Key concepts have been identified by PCM practitioners to improve the quality of judgment and decision making at all stages of the project cycle.
These key concepts are:
- Relevance: Are the project proposals relevant to the problem it is designed to address and to the beneficiaries?
- Feasibility: Can the project idea be realised in practice?
- Sustainability: To what degree will the assets (physical structures, institutional systems) created by the project continue to produce benefits after project funding is completed?
These three criteria are important measures of the quality of the project, and should inform judgments and decisions of managers and advisors not only during the planning stage, but at points during the project cycle when amendments and course corrections are indicated.
PCM and EC Funding Instruments
Projects in which the EC co-operates are subject to administrative variation according to the funding instrument under which project support is provided. EC funding instruments allow for a range of different kinds of support, including the traditional study or project approach, sector investment programmes, fiscal support measures and policy or strategy development.
In the case of most funding instruments, the legal basis for such support requires that the agreement is between the EC and the central government of the partner country. However, some budget lines have been devised to allow for funds to be remitted directly to institutions of civil society, including NGOs, and semi-formal administrative entities at local level such as Community or Village Councils. These include the budget lines for micro-projects, NGO support, and Decentralised Co-operation (to which reference has already been made); thereafter in these Guidelines these forms of funding will be referred to as extra-governmental funding.
The two Directorates-General, DGIB and DGVIII, have different roles and procedures. Similarly, each partner country will have its own mechanism for managing externally funded support programmes. Such differences must be taken into account during the programming phase. Care is needed to ensure that the support to be provided satisfies all the players before proceeding to the identification phase.
A description of EC funding support for co-operation in water resources development and management through agreements with partner country governments is provided in Part III.