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5. Experience gained

The binational plans and programs and the operational structure and methodological approach used in their formulation have led to important accomplishments:

- They have reasserted the main purpose of border integration, which is to integrate the social, economic, and institutional structures of the area into relatively homogeneous core units, even though they belong to different countries. This approach, besides promoting joint solutions to common problems, has made it possible to identify and implement projects on a larger scale than could be achieved individually by each country in its own border areas. This is based on an understanding of the role that border areas play and on a knowledge of their shared potential,

- They made it possible to improve and harmonize national information about the border area on important matters such as physiographic configuration, geomorphology, and even the mapping of the area,

- They have made more and better information available and created new technical, institutional, and administrative mechanisms for use by the local authorities, with a view to more frequent and productive dialogue with the regional and national decision - making centers.

Similarly, the execution of the studies and the formulation of the binational plans and programs has shown that:

- In some of the countries, the institutions that are supposed to serve as central repositories of the inventories or qualitative information on natural resources either do not exist or are not effectively organized. Where there are several of them, they are not connected with each other in a way that allow studies to be conducted on ecosystems and their interrelationships. It is thus necessary to give priority to strengthening the institutions responsible for this work and to promote specialized training of their research personnel.

- During the preparation of the regional diagnoses, the national technical units conducted important field and office work that gave rise to sectoral reports that were later consolidated into a national report. Perhaps the most important work consisted in collating the national reports to produce the regional diagnosis for each program. In the final stage of the diagnosis, the binational technical committees were essential since the information from each territory regarding individual sectors and the physical description, often varied appreciably.

- The experience gained in the diagnostic phase was a major benefit of integration that is being promoted, since technical experts of different levels from the countries involved participated in the work of the binational committees. A broad spirit of cooperation vital to achieving the regional diagnosis and delineating the policies and strategies for border development was evident.

- At the political level, the diagnostic stage marked an important activity of the Executive Committees, which were responsible for approving the diagnoses and taking action to define policies and strategies. These policies and strategies, in turn, were then translated into concrete programs and projects at the national and binational levels.

- In the phase of project identification and formulation, technical cooperation provided by the OAS Department of Regional Development and Environment played a significant role, both with the sectoral specialists and advisers working with the technical units and with the specialists engaged in consolidating the regional diagnoses and drafting the binational reports.

- This type of technical cooperation project shows that the formulation of specific projects can be just as orderly as the regional diagnostic phase, or more so, due to the greater availability of resources for technical cooperation, as well as the management experience in these programs elsewhere.

- The success of the projects to be conducted from this point on will depend on the willingness of the countries to commit public - sector resources including the necessary finances for their implementation.

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