Further to the joint efforts in monitoring and supervising ongoing and recently launched AFoCO projects, the Secretariat organized an online Consultation Meeting with National Focal Points (NFPs) and Implementing Agencies (IAs) on 2 September 2021. The consultation was to prepare for the upcoming AFoCO Donor’s Meeting with the Korea Forest Service (KFS) that was to cover issues and concerns related to project fund execution. The Secretariat, in consultation with the respective IAs has been implementing alternative activities to mitigate the effects of COVID-19 based on the AFoCO Coping-up Measures. Consequently, a series of pre-inception, pre-implementation, and special technical meetings were organized to facilitate project proposal approval processes and inception arrangements. Despite such extensive efforts, the implementation of project activities in 2022 remained a crucial topic to be covered and discussed in-depth with the NFPs and respective IAs of each project as the ensuing year is most likely to remain heavily affected by the evolving pandemic.
The main discussion points involved the Secretariat’s general insights and observations of the submitted answers to the following questions: (1) the implementability of CY 2022 project activities including carry-over activities from CY 2021; (2) the Project Fund Execution Level, including the need for the development of a catch-up plan; (3) an estimation of perceived savings that will not be realistically implemented in CY 2022; (4) recommendations in the use of savings to ensure achievement of CY 2022 planned budget execution. The Secretariat clarified the difference in definitions and usual usage between Savings and Carried-over budget in the process, upon request from several respective IAs. The later part of the discussion was focused on question No. 4, in which participants provided a variety of useful suggestions and recommendations on how to spend the savings generated. These suggestions included using the savings for publication purposes, especially for projects that lack documentation and promotion; capacity-building activities such as training sessions and webinars to build further capacity; and procurement for communication enhancement, particularly for countries that lack communication devices and technical equipment.
After a fruitful discussion with many practical suggestions from the NFPs and IAs, the meeting agreed upon several actions to facilitate project fund execution at the end of the meeting:
- To update the CY 2021 Work Plan and Budget (WPB) of newly launched projects to make them COVID-19 responsive;
- To identify each project activity in CY 2022 and determine the level of project fund execution in CY 2022;
- To recommend ways and means to utilize projected savings to ensure that the planned budget execution will be realized by CY 2022, and for the Secretariat to initially draft guidelines on the use of the project savings, and
- To organize PSC meetings to finalize and approve CY 2022 WPB including the utilization of the savings before December CY 2021.
In closing, the meeting agreed to finalize the Record of Discussion by circulation and to take the relevant follow-up actions accordingly.