UNDP Evaluation to support the “leaving no one behind” agenda: insights from the UNDP NEC Conference 2019

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This blog was originally published on the Evalforward website by Serdar Bayryyev (Senior Evaluation Officer) and Renata Mirulla (Facilitator of Evalforward), Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

Leaving no one behind is the central pledge of the Agenda 2030 and the leading theme adopted by the latest UNDP NEC (National Evaluation Capacities) Conference hosted by the Government of Egypt in Hurghada, from 21 to 24 October.

Over 500 participants from 100 countries joined this 6th NEC Conference to exchange and learn how to advance national evaluation agendas and to discuss the use of evaluation to accelerate the implementation of the SDGs.

Leaving no one behind amid the rise in inequalities in society is a mounting concern in both the developed and developing world. Captured in Sustainable Development Goal 10, addressing inequalities needs to go beyond looking at the increasing gaps between higher and lower levels of income and wealth. Inequalities, in fact, touch on a multidimensional set of social, cultural, geographical, ethnic and other drivers that continue to hold back millions, leaving them exposed to marginalization, vulnerability, and lack of access to rights, services and opportunities.

The NEC Conference participants underscored the key role of evaluation in contributing to the leaving no one behind agenda, by facilitating understanding of intersections between different types of inequalities, by taking into account the realities of the development context through the real-life stories of people, and by disaggregating data and using a combination of new and traditional tools and methods. The discussions explored different aspects of independence, relevance and utility of evaluations in the SDG era, highlighting the need to move “beyond the paved path” of the easier and measurable solutions, to capture diverse dimensions of progress towards sustainable development, while, also, reaching those who are the hardest to reach and often invisible. In this regard, dedicated sessions highlighted recent evolution of national strategies and evaluation work in support of climate change adaptation, opportunities for private sector initiatives, and the crucial role of gender-responsive evaluations.

The NEC Conference benefitted from the first public introduction of the revised OECD DAC criteria, which guide assessments of development effectiveness and focus of development evaluation. The revised OECD DAC criteria provide improved and clarified definitions of relevance, effectiveness, efficiency, impact, sustainability, and introduce the new dimension of coherence (how well does the intervention fit with other development initiatives). Participants highlighted differing and sometimes opposite visions on the criteria and on whose values and voices they should reflect. This dialogue is certainly key to advancing their good and wise use. Asking the right questions can help evaluators to dig deeper and explore the root causes of inequalities.

On the one hand, evaluators should be able to interpret and adapt the criteria to the context, avoiding using them in a mechanical way or perceiving them as a “tight jacket” being flexible enough to add any specific one which could be more suited to the context being evaluated. On the other hand, criteria mark the distinctive approach of evaluation and, therefore, they need to be very clear and easy to understand, they need to be able to speak to and reach a wider public, and facilitate the dialogue around evaluation in the public domain. This goal is reflected in the effort to make criteria as easy as possible to understand and to ensure a wide availability of languages. 

The Conference was also a venue for discussions on progress in developing national evaluation frameworks and systems, exploring their adaptation to the SDG targets and indicators, and underscoring the core values of the evaluation function: independence, credibility, relevance and utility. Several countries presented their approaches in developing National Evaluation Systems, with special sessions organized for discussions on region-specific challenges. These discussions were complemented by sessions focusing on the role of partnerships in enhancing evaluation practice by bringing in different perspectives and actors, and facilitating promotion of an evaluation culture within societies, thus strengthening the demand for evaluation and for evidence-based decision-making.

Recorded highlights from the NEC 2019 Conference by participants are available on the main website.

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