The future of humanitarian evaluation

HDPI staff and affiliates have a joint call every other Thursday to discuss ongoing initiatives and to share knowledge from our diverse fields and experiences. The HDPI call on Thursday, 6th February focused on evaluation.  Krishna Belbase, who joined HDPI recently made a brief presentation and led the discussion on the topic “Evaluation: Emerging Trends and Opportunities.”

As per Krishna’s presentation,  there has been considerable increase in the demand and importance of evaluation especially since the Paris Declaration and more recently since the launch of the 2030 Sustainable Development agenda which calls for use of evaluative evidence for learning as well as reporting on progress through the voluntary national review (VNR) process.  Virtually all UN entities have established an office dedicated to evaluation function  guided by their respective evaluation policy.  The same is true with the World Bank and Regional Banks.  UNICEF staffing and investments has grown significantly since the release of the first Board-approved Evaluation Policy in 2008.  In the Humanitarian field, similar progress is noticed as there has been surge in evaluations of humanitarian actions since the mid-1990s.  OCHA coordinates and manages UN led inter-agency evaluations of major humanitarian responses including selective commissioning of rapid real time evaluations.

The evaluation of the SD Agenda however, remains in its infancy stage as countries are still unclear on how to plan and conduct evaluations using a country-led process.  Recent reviews of the VNRs have revealed major gaps as in almost all national reports it was unclear how the proposed M&E system would support implementation of the SD agenda. Most of the Reviews lacked detail about how evaluation could be used for a more objective reporting on progress achieved.  Increasing investment in evaluation, organizing credible evaluations and using them to inform the implementation and reporting of the agenda remains a major challenge.

Several new initiatives merit attention.  First, the 1991 OECD/DAC Evaluation Criteria have gone through a two year review process leading to a revised set of criteria and new guidance is in progress. Similarly, guidance documents are also being developed on how to plan and organize national country-led evaluations in the context of the SDGS.  The later call for the need to focus explicitly on the evaluation of the transformative agenda which are reflected in the principles of the SD Agenda. These include leaving no one behind; inclusion, equity and inequalities (including gender); resilience; country ownership and integration; and mutual accountability and partnerships. UN Evaluation Group (UNEG) has updated norms and standards on the evaluation function in the UN system and it has also produced guidance on integrating gender and human rights in evaluations and and conducting joint evaluations.   In the humanitarian sphere, ALNAP have produced a comprehensive guidance on the evaluation of humanitarian action which brings learning from the past experience to respond to growing demands to improve credibility and use of evaluations. There is a call for the need to conduct more rigorous evaluations and also focus, where possible, on impact of humanitarian action as this has lagged behind.

About a dozen HDPI associated attended the call and contributed thoughts and ideas inlcuding  opportunities for HDPI to expand its work in evaluation.  It was felt that growing demand and potential for evaluation; use of new technologies for data collection and analysis; synergy among data, monitoring and evaluation; use of rapid evaluation methods; and the growing use of independent institutions (such as HDPI) for conducting major evaluations are key opportunities.  As an institution, HDPI has a particular advantage as it constitutes a capable with professional experience in key sectoral and cross-sectoral themes as well as monitoring and  evaluation.  This is complemented by their programming and real-world adaptive management experience covering both humanitarian and development fields.    It was recognized that to tap the huge potential in the area of evaluation, HDPI would need to gradually expand its network by involving additional evaluation experts and more strategically by exploring possible contracting/partnership opportunities among selected bilateral, multilateral and national institutions.  Thanks to all for a great session!