International Policy Update - Eyewitness Reports from Three Important Meetings in Bangkok

From Mike Hendricks, AEA Representative to the International Organization for Cooperation in Evaluation (IOCE), with contributions from Jim Rugh, EvalPartners Co-Coordinator

RS - Mike Hendricks.png       Jim Rugh 2010.01.16.JPG

During the last week of October, Bangkok was the site of three important evaluation meetings. Fortunately for us, we have an eyewitness report from each meeting. Thank you to these three experts for generously sharing what they saw and heard.

Dorothy Lucks, IOCE secretary and co-chair of EvalSDGs, reports on the 4th International Conference on National Evaluation Capacities (NEC):

More than 100 countries sent representatives, often senior government officials, to this conference, which was jointly sponsored by the United Nations Development Program’s Independent Evaluation Office and the Royal Thai Government. As the title of the conference makes clear, the question is how to keep developing the national evaluation capacities of countries around the world. The conference theme was Blending Evaluation Principles with Development Practices to Change People’s Lives, and the conference deliberately (and wisely) met at the same time and place as the IDEAS Global Assembly (see below).

Since the U.N. had just adopted the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for the next 15 years, naturally the conference focused quite a bit on how governments – at all levels of development, including the U.S. – can capably evaluate sustainable development. As you might imagine, there were intense discussions about evaluation and the SDGs. Some of the many important points discussed included national ownership of M&E systems, the need to strengthen local monitoring and data systems, innovation in technology and techniques for evaluation, more opportunities for local evaluation capacity development, and greater follow-up of evaluation recommendations.

The NEC conference developed two main products: (1) input into the Global Evaluation Agenda 2016-2020 that EvalPartners will be launching at its Global Evaluation Forum in Kathmandu the last week of November and (2) an important Bangkok Declaration on national evaluation capacities and the SDGs, which was approved jointly by both this conference and the IDEAS Global Assembly.

Jim Rugh of AEA reports on the 5th IDEAS Global Assembly:

The International Development Evaluation Association (IDEAS), comprised of over 700 members, is the world’s largest association of evaluators who do development evaluation (not to be confused with developmental evaluation). (Note that membership in the parallel International Organization for Cooperation in Evaluation [IOCE] is by organizations – i.e., VOPEs.) This 5th IDEAS Global Assembly was held at the same time as the NEC conference described above, and the theme of Evaluating Sustainable Development recognized the growing importance of integrating sustainability in development.

In particular, the conference recognized the need to achieve a balance between social, economic, and environmental domains while also noting that this balance needs to be sustainable over time. Another theme was that the needs of current generations should be balanced with the needs of future generations, including young and emerging evaluators, who deserve more attention paid to their career opportunities and their career paths.

The Global Assembly also made clear that much remains to be done. In his opening speech, IDEAS President Rob D. van den Berg identified two major challenges: (1) “In the new world of the Sustainable Development Goals, allcountries have become ‘developing’ countries. The goals are universal, and all countries have signed up for them. The artificial distinction of a first, second, and third world is behind us; and (2) Sustainability poses an ‘evidence’ challenge to us as evaluators. While the evidence-based movement continues to focus on what works ‘here and now,’ sustainability requires us to also provide evidence on what works ‘there and then,’ for future generations.”

Cindy Clapp-Wincek of AEA reports on the meeting of the Inter-Agency Expert Group (IAEG) to discuss indicators for the new SDGs:

The vitally important task of determining the indicators for the 17 Sustainable Development Goals and 169 SDG targets was entrusted to the Statistical Commission of the U.N. To accomplish this, the Commission formed the Inter-Agency Expert Group (IAEG) from member countries. There have been several rounds of open consultation on candidate indicators between July and October, and this IAEG meeting was to review and discuss the current set of candidates.

All candidate indicators were color-coded. Green indicators currently have general acceptance or only small modifications, yellow indicators were initially problematic but were resolved during the meetings, and gray indicators need more in-depth discussion or methodological development. This meeting largely focused on trying to shift yellow indicators to either green or gray. By the end of the meeting, 159 indicators were classified as green.

If you are interested, here is the process for further developing and completing the set of indicators. The IAEG will present its proposed indicators (the greens) to the Statistical Commission next March. They will then present a refined list to a higher-level U.N. group in June and to the U.N. General Assembly in September 2016.

On a personal note, I, Cindy, have watched over the past several months as the IAEG has heroically struggled with working through several hundred candidate indicators. The members deserve real credit for the incredible progress they have made in a short period. At the same time, even with this phenomenal progress, there are currently no indicators for quite a few of the SDG concepts. Further work will be supported by the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data, as well as others, such as December’s Climate Conference in Paris. The work of these dedicated professionals is not yet finished.

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