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Four key challenges to developing national evaluation capacity for the SDGs

What are the key challenges for governments looking to develop their national evaluation capacity to support implementation of the SDGs? 

How can governments ensure they have the capacity to address the challenge of effectively implementing the SDGs? photo: we collaborate via flickr.com, creative commons licence.

Four key challenges must be addressed if governments are to ensure they have the national evaluation capacity need to address the challenge of effectively implementing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), according to a new briefing from IIED, EVAL SDGs and EvalPartners.

Transforming our World: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development highlights the need for “rigorous, high-quality, accessible, timely and reliable” evaluations of progress on the SDGs and identifies four essential dimensions: strengthening institutional frameworks, enhancing individual capabilities, nurturing an enabling environment and addressing the interlinkages between these.

The briefing identifies four key challenges which lie at the intersection of these four dimensions (see Figure One below):

1.       Developing a National Evaluation Policy (NEP) to fit with the national development agenda;

2.       Ensuring adequate evaluation capabilities, which means getting the right people in place (eg an Evaluation Commissioner, or Champion, or Advocate);

3.       Strong institutional processes – supported by policies implemented by individuals with the appropriate skills and capacities; and

4.       Engaging wide-ranging partners.



A national evaluation policy

Committing to evaluating the SDGs requires a political decision, as well as support for evidence-based policymaking and improved national development outcomes, and these can be expressed by developing a national evaluation policy, or legislation that creates a system to evaluate the SDGs (safeguarding independence, credibility and utility).


Ensuring capabilities

There is also a need for national leadership, often through a political champion (perhaps a parliamentarian or a government executive), who can promote the evaluation policy and ensure it becomes an integral part of implementing the SDG agenda. Recruiting an evaluation commissioner to be responsible for procuring and managing evaluations is also important.

The existing evaluation community (perhaps represented through a Voluntary Organisation for Professional Evaluation), can support the development of a national policy, as well as context-specific national evaluation competencies and guidelines, and provide professional experts to carry out evaluations.


Institutional processes

Processes must be established to ensure evaluations are carried out and followed up on, and a culture needs to be developed that recognises the importance of evaluative evidence in informing national development decisions.

These evaluation functions can be either be centralised or at sector, or department level, depending on the political or development context. An over-arching centralised structure can be beneficial, the briefing argues.

Within the institutional framework, it is important to look at how SDG evaluation processes can feed into on-going planning around SDG implementation; how evaluation can inform the budget process, building outcome-based and participatory budgeting processes; how existing data collection can feed into the evaluation process; and how the independence of the evaluators can be guaranteed.


Engaging partners

The 2030 Agenda calls for wide stakeholder engagement and strong partnerships, and this consultative approach must equally apply to evaluation. This requires engaging donor agencies, civil society and advocacy groups, the private sector and the general public, and this wide engagement can help to create a national culture of evaluation.

Academic institutions can also help in developing this culture, as can using innovative consultation platforms and channels (eg social media), building the facilitation skills within the public sector, designing a strong communication and dissemination plan, and engaging evaluation professionals.


An inter-linked process

Kassem El-Saddik, vice-chair of EvalSDGs and lead author of the briefing, explained that these four challenges work together:

“It is important not to look at the four challenges in isolation. For example, political championing will support the development of an evaluation policy and can also help engage a wider range of partners. So building evaluative capacity is not a linear process – there is no single prescription – but there are opportunities to work in many different ways, depending on the national context.”


To read the briefing in full, see:

Developing national evaluation capacities in the sustainable development era: four key challenges

Previous briefings:

Realising the SDGs by reflecting on the way(s) we reason, plan and act: the importance of evaluative thinking

Five considerations for national evaluation agendas informed by the SDGs

Counting critically: SDG ‘follow-up and review’ needs interlinked indicators, monitoring and evaluation

Evaluation: a crucial ingredient for SDG success

For more information contact stefano.derrico@iied.org