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A case for counting critically

Do global indicators risk masking sub-national variations? A new briefing from IIED and EVALSDGs looks at the role of monitoring and evaluation in getting the most from indicators. 

photo by Martin Fisch via flickr.com, creative commons licence

Measuring indicators in not enough, when it comes to assessing how effectively countries are implementing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) according to a new briefing from IIED and EVAL SDGs. For indicators to be meaningful, governments and citizens need to understand what the indicators show and this requires proper evaluation. 

The 2030 Agenda includes evaluation as part of the follow-up and review process, and calls for country-led evaluations and data which “are high-quality, accessible, timely, reliable and disaggregated by income, sex, age race, ethnicity, migration status, disability and geographic locat\ion and other characteristics relevant in national contexts…” (Clause 72).

Evaluation has a role in promoting accountability to citizens, encouraging exchange of best practice and mutual learning, and identifying gaps and success factors to inform policy choices (Clauses 73, 74 & 79).

The new briefing looks at the different contributions made by indicators, monitoring and evaluation in this process.

Indicators, monitoring and evaluation

While indicators show progress, they cannot explain why a change has occurred or the significance of that change. Evaluation strategies provide a way of understanding the indicators by asking questions and assessing the evidence.

Stefano D’Errico, one of the authors of the briefing explained:

“Evaluation is a tool and a process. It allows us to shine a light on the reasons behind often complex events to assess the value of policies and programmes. In other words, it is about using critical thinking to answer the crucial questions: are we doing the right things? Are we doing them right? How do we know?”

“As such, it can help us to capture learning from policy changes that can be used to inform the decisions made going forward.”  

Good evaluation requires planning and expertise – which means that countries may need to develop the skills and tools to do this well.

The evaluation approaches taken also need to take account of the local context and should involve key stakeholders.

The full briefing, Counting critically: SDG ‘follow-up and review’ needs interlinked indicators, monitoring and evaluation, is available for download from: http://pubs.iied.org/17363IIED.html