Diary from Delhi | An M & E perspective into Programming

June 29, 2023

Team Samoa | Taupa’ū Joseph Mulipola (Programme Analyst), Jeffery Leung Wai (Programme Analyst), Sita Leota (Monitoring and Evaluation Analyst), Anne Trevor (Programme Officer), Lepale Aussie Simanu (ARR - Environment, Climate Change and Resilience Unit)

Photo: UNDP

It was a logistical nightmare trying to return home at the completion of my studies in 2020 from Boston at the height of the pandemic, so I knew it would be a while before I could fly out of Samoa again. I had not banked however on not moving for almost three years. A nomad at heart, I had never wanted to leave a place so much! Home can be suffocating in the way only people and a place that you know so well can be.

After eight years, I returned to India – the distinctive earthy smell as I stepped out of Customs instantly bringing back memories. The perpetual haze, the noise, the road rules that didn’t seem to exist, and the hawkers were all still familiar, as was the sun – a fiery orange ball that you constantly mistake for a sunset at 7am. However, the 2015 India that saw me walking between a row of cows and through a stranger’s bedroom to get to a seamstress in Noida was different from the India I arrived in this year: G20-ready, cocooned in the safety and comfort of well-to-do New Delhi and limited to tourist-market India, so it wasn't as confronting as the one I first saw and never forgot. 

I spent the first week of May with four of my Programme colleagues in Delhi where we joined our counterparts from other country offices in the Asia Pacific region. Of the five of us, I was the newest to Programming having only moved from Finance recently, so this opportunity was timely for my role. The workshop on Programme and Project Management and Operations ran the gamut of UNDP’s programming structure, from design to resource mobilization, to monitoring and evaluation, to oversight and accountability functions and risk management practices.

We worked often in different groups over various case studies to come up with solutions while always keeping in the back of our minds the contexts of how our own countries functioned. What may work for Bangladesh will not replicate well across the much smaller atolls of Tokelau, and vice versa. We were encouraged to share resources from the connections we formed, and it spoke volumes of the calibre of participants and facilitators who were willing to share their knowledge and experiences with us. Team Samoa had briefings at the end of each day to assess where we were in our multi-country office. “How do we make this better?” was a question we often asked ourselves, especially with the challenges we faced within our four countries with small, dispersed populations and limited resources which often impact delivery. 

As a result, several of the lessons we learned and some of the workshop goals we set for ourselves have been turned into procedures that aim at firming up our own internal processes. As part of the Samoa MCO’s Strategic Unit, my takeaway was to strengthen the place of Monitoring and Evaluation in our programming structure and to clearly define the roles and responsibilities, especially in processes like decentralized evaluations, to better support programme teams from a strategic point of view. M & E’s all-encompassing necessity in project management means working closely alongside Programme teams to enhance the quality of our service delivery and to improve the development impact of UNDP in our countries and communities.

India holds a special place for me, and any traveller will tell you that how we view the world depends on the lens with which we meet people and places that are different from us. My first trip in three years was the best one to shake off the confines of living on a small island where it is easy not to look beyond what we’ve always known and seen. Sometimes we need to decide whether we step back, step away or step into the unknown.

It's not like I didn't already know but this reminder was timely: There is still another bigger world out there.


Sita Leota

Monitoring and Evaluation Analyst

UNDP Samoa Multi-Country Office