Evaluation Of USAID/Azerbaijan Humanitarian Assistance In Conflict—Affected
The long standing animosity between Azerbaijan and Armenia regarding the territorial ownership and management of Nargono-Karabakh, a predominately Armenian enclave located within Azerbaijan, ignited a war between the two newly independent countries in 1991 following the Soviet Union's collapse. In response to the welfare concerns of internally displaced people (IDPs) fleeing those areas impacted by war, USAID initiated the Azerbaijan Humanitarian Assistance Program (AHAP) as the principle medium for supporting USAID/Azerbaijan's Strategic Objective 3.1, Reduced Human Suffering in Conflict-Affected Areas. The AHAP was implemented through a cooperative agreement with Mercy Corps International (MCI) to award subgrant proposals to US based private voluntary organizations (PVOs) to execute health, community development, and economic opportunity projects which would impact the four USAID conflict-affected areas of Azerbaijan in the Central and South IDP Belt, the urban regions of Baku, and Nacivan.
In cooperation with Management Systems International (MSI), MetaMetrics Inc. (MMI) was charged by USAID to review Strategic Objective 3.1 (S.O. 3.1), observe its associated activities, and evaluate the performance of AHAP as an instrument of project management. The conclusions drafted by MetaMetrics were designed to inform USAID/Azerbaijan and the partner organizations about the effectiveness in fulfilling the strategic objectives and what improvements should be made to strengthen the program's impact. In general, Team members from both MSI and MMI found the AHAP umbrella of partner organizations managed by MCI to be an effective method of mobilizing skills and resources and implementing relevant programming. The degree of cooperation and collaboration between individual partner organizations, and with MCI, provided for the extensive scope of services in economic opportunity, health, and community development to positively impact target communities.
However, despite the successes of the current umbrella, Team members advocated for the employment of a general PVO manager as the logical manager for a future coalition of partner organizations in Azerbaijan. The alliance of shared cultures between MCI and its subgrantees yielded a high quality and relevant program that a for-profit umbrella manager would be unlikely to easily duplicate. Moreover, the limited involvement of USAID personnel with the implementation of S.O. 3.1 by MCI was recognized by Team members as a lack of opportunity for the USAID country mission to adjust its approach in fulfilling the objectives related to S.O. 3.1 and hence the larger assistance program. USAID/Azerbaijan would benefit from the use of a performance monitoring program that not only focuses on qualitative information relevant to the fundamental objectives of S.O. 3.1 but solicits from the future umbrella manager formal reviews of the program's progress. Thus, the umbrella model for service provision in Azerbaijan was recommended against direct administration because of the management efficiencies, but even without intruding onto the existing benefits of AHAP technical assistance, MetaMetrics maintained that USAID will profit from more active involvement in determining the program's agenda.