Strengthening sub-national governance in Pakistan

Developing innovative delivery of public services that can be scaled-up and replicated across Pakistan.

Following the successful implementation of SNG-I during 2013-18, we were awarded second phase of the FCDO-funded Sub-National Governance (SNG-II) programme. The programme focuses on support to resolving governance blockages to improve service delivery. It encompasses a substantial technical assistance component as well as the management of a challenge fund. Aside from supporting two provincial governments (Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa), SNG-II works with local governments in six districts of Punjab and twelve districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to improve the delivery of devolved services to communities. The overarching objective of SNG-II is to further strengthen Pakistan’s public financial management & planning systems, raise more revenue and allocate money to improve basic services for the poor and excluded.


Pakistan faces significant social, economic and security challenges. Provision of basic services falls short of international norms, and many groups, especially women, are excluded from access to services. As a result, over a third of the population remains poor, under-educated, and vulnerable to the influence of radical extremists.

Effective governance is restricted by weak planning, poor performance management and a lack of accountability across all levels of government. Past experience highlights that top-down governance reforms alone are failing to address these issues and produce tangible improvements in basic services. The SNG-II programme, therefore, focuses on improving local level governance in two provinces, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab (and 18 focus districts) through building the capacity of sub-national governments to make policy decisions based on robust evidence and to deliver basic services that are responsive to people’s needs. It complements existing development programmes, including FCDO, World Bank, UNDP, GiZ and other donors’ support to both provinces.

Our approach

Drawing on our experience in managing SNG-I and other large, complex programmes, we have established a five-step approach to managing TA programmes:

  1. Establish a strong narrative (ToC) that sets out the objectives of change and can be explained in simple, relevant and compelling terms;
  2. Build a ‘team’ that understands the objectives and tools used in the programme;
  3. Collect evidence to understand the nature of a problem, and the potential impact of change;
  4. Implement iteratively and adaptively, seizing windows of opportunity quickly, and stopping where no progress; and
  5. Monitor, evaluate and learn, ensuring findings are shared transparently with key stakeholders.  

Central to the success of this approach is our three-step, integrated, adaptive management and learning cycle:

  • Step 1: Aligning programme objectives – Relevant stakeholders (i.e. our programme managers, client) are consulted to establish what they hope to achieve, what the main challenges are and how they want to address them.
  • Step 2: Determining information needs – We establish what information is required in order to know whether they are achieving what they set out to achieve.
  • Step 3: Reflection – Programme managers then systematically reflect at regular intervals on whether they are achieving what they set out to achieve.

Outcomes and wider impacts

At the impact level, SNG-II contributes to the high-level objective of helping Pakistan to consolidate its democracy, prioritise economic growth and reduce poverty. SNG outputs contribute to the programme outcome: “Improved provision of basic services and strengthened perception of government performance”. This outcome is monitored through two indicators – local government spending, and citizen satisfaction with basic services. To link programme outputs with higher-level outcome, SNG has identified four intermediary outcomes:

  1. Create a performance-driven culture across the civil service
  2. Enable true fiscal decentralisation on evidence-based local needs
  3. Improve fiscal efficiency and revenue collection to fund those needs
  4. Ensure transparency for citizens to hold government to accoun

In the longer term, this project aims to provide an approach to sub-national governance that can be replicated more widely across the rest of the country.

Pakistan Sub-National Governance website 

Areas of expertise