Making evaluation fit for purpose: UNECE and Switzerland join forces
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (A/RES/70/1) calls upon the United Nations to reposition itself to respond to the needs of countries in a number of cross-cutting areas. In particular, it requires that the follow up and review processes for monitoring its implementation needs to be rigorous and based on evidence, informed by country-led evaluations and data which is high-quality, accessible, timely and reliable.
Furthermore, a recent GA resolution of the Quadrennial Comprehensive Policy Review of operational activities for the development of the UN system (QCRP) recognizes ‘the importance of strengthening a high quality, independent and impartial system-wide evaluation mechanism of operational activities for development that enhances coherence and interdependence in the overall evaluation architecture of the United Nations development system’.
But how can evaluation improve the functioning of international organizations? Is the evaluation function of international organization fit for purpose? Are international organizations capable to translate recommendations from evaluations into action?
The evaluation community of Geneva met on 9 December to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Geneva Evaluation Network (GEN) and discuss how evaluation can result in organization learning and lead change. The event was organized by UNECE and the Permanent Mission of Switzerland to WTO and EFTA (UNECE, UNCTAD, ITC) and benefitted from the presence of a large number of evaluation experts from international organizations, including the Join Inspection unit (JIU), the Multilateral Organization Performance Assessment Network (MOPAN), the World Health Organization (WHO), the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), The Global Fund, the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR), The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS), the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) as well as numerous diplomats from UN missions in Geneva.
The meeting highlighted that evaluation is a key tool for evidence-based decisions making. However, this tool remains underutilized both in decision-making and shaping changes in international organizations. International organizations need to reinforce the function’s independence, enhance ownership of the evaluation process and increase participation of stakeholders and decision-makers. Follow up mechanisms also must be strengthened to ensure that lessons learned and recommendations result in action. There is also a need for the demystification of the function, by making evaluations simpler and more strategic.
Through an interactive exercise participants had an opportunity to make suggestions and formulate recommendations on how to enhance the impact of evaluations in international organizations. Inputs of participants will be reflected in the summary of the event, to be presented by the Swiss delegation to the Executive Committee of UNECE and circulated to the Geneva-based international organizations.