Let’s bring Evaluation & equity lens in VNRs

(I had the opportunity to attend a session Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) during recently held #EvalColombo2018. Florence Etta facilitated the panel comprising of Oscar A. Garcia, Soma De Silva, and Stefano D’Errico)

I did not know much about the VNRs. After the session I decided to read about the VNRs. Here is what I have read including what I learned from the panelists. Thanks a lot to all the four in the panel and those who responded during Q&A from whom I learned!

What are VNRs? VNRs serve as a basis for international review of progress of SDGs. As stipulated in paragraph 84 of the 2030 Agenda, regular reviews by the HLPF are to be voluntary, state-led, undertaken by both developed and developing countries, and involve multiple stakeholders. https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/vnrs/ Stefano said that –VNRs can help track the country’s theory of change. Read his blog https://www.iied.org/evaluations-reviews-assessments-are-key-embedd... Briefing papers on VNRs IIED and EVALSDGs are publishing a series of briefings about evaluation designed to help promote effective conduct and use of evaluation in SDGs implementation, follow-up and review.  They are a must read!

Few good practices are there The paper  at http://pubs.iied.org/17446IIED/analyses 43 ‘Voluntary National Reviews’ (VNRs) of progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Sporadic good practice is emerging, such as: linked National Evaluation Policy and action planning (Nepal); recognition of the SDGs’ complexity when considering evaluation (Czech Republic); learning through evaluation (Ethiopia and Kenya); and drawing on findings from past evaluations (Belize).

What are the challenges?

  • The above report finds that monitoring is strong but evaluation systems and processes often remain missing or misunderstood. Ms Soma noted that VNRs are focused currently on describing processes and monitoring targets and indicators, data collection challenges...the evaluation aspect is missing
  • The above report notes that only two countries reported use of qualitative data. VNRs should complement the focus on quantitative indicators with more qualitative methodologies. This is an
  • opportunity to include different data sources and tools for analysing and reporting progress
  • The answer to understand progresses on equity and equality, cannot come only from numbers and survey data. Oscar stressed on getting gender and equity lens in VNRs. We need to pay attention to vulnerable populations and environments so that no one is left behind

What is the way forward?

  • Soma- Parliamentarians and policy makers can be the one to drive this process forward, if they participate and embed evaluation in national decision making, chances are high that countries can achieve SDGs.
  • Ian Goldman- capacities on evaluation in different countries have to be build
  • Evaluation is largely missing in VNRs but can be a tool for VNRs to understand how and why of the issues. VNRs should shift from monitoring to evaluation perspective. Evaluation asks why did it happen and can help get inter-connected dimensions of SDGs – economic, social, political etc. Soma said that evaluation starts at the beginning. She said that we have identified some of the issues but some remain. Ingredients of the cake are missing she added on a lighter note.
  • We need to include qualitative aspect in VNRs. Numbers are important but tell only half the story.
  • Ziad Moussa emphasised that we also need to study what is not working in EvalSDGs. Parliamentarians can ensure that this process is impartial and the real picture can help us improve and address what is not working. For this we need to consult a broad range of stakeholders.
  • Oscar- putting the concept of sustainability in central of development agenda is key. 17 SDGs look overwhelming and not all are priority of all nations-five key elements: People, Planet, Prosperity, Peace and Partnership of SDGs are ways of identifying if our national plans are on track.
  • Gender and equity lens are extremely important in VNRs and my colleagues Svetlana Negroustoueva and Alexis Salvador Loye in EvalGender+ are contributing to a paper. Keep an eye out for it !

How will I apply this learning? Communities particularly youth have a role to play
A large part of my work is with communities where I am trying to build ownership, action and self assessment by communities on how they respond to an issue.

In future, I will regularly read the VNRs of India and see how I can link with my work in communities. I have read the report from India http://niti.gov.in/content/voluntary-national-review-report I also think communities have a large role to play in SDGs. I am working with a community on Tuberculosis. In the village there was a health worker whose role was to link the villagers on DOTs treatment. I worked on community taking responsibility of its health and assess their response to health particularly TB. Community realised that the health worker being of higher caste does not visit homes of those from lower castes. People belonging to lower caste are poorer and are more likely to have TB. The community approached the local government and got a person appointed as health worker from a caste who would visit homes of all castes. Youth particularly adolescent girls have played a key role in community response to TB.

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Comment by Rituu B Nanda on September 25, 2018 at 9:43

Please find enclosed for your reference a link to the presentation I gave during the session.


Oscar A. Garcia, Director, Independent Office of Evaluation

International Fund for Agricultural Development

Via Paolo di Dono, 44

00142 Rome, Italy

Comment by Rituu B Nanda on September 21, 2018 at 20:27

Concise, precise lessons on VNRs from Marco Segone,  Director of Evaluation at ; former UNEG Chair; founder/former Chair 

Three key lesson learned from 111countries’ national reviews on . 1. Evaluation should inform them; 2. Ensure inclusiveness ; 3. Be oriented towards supporting national implementation

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