In 2015, the “evaluation torch” celebrating the International Year of Evaluation linked 86 events all over the world to discuss the Global Evaluation Agenda 2016-2020 (EvalAgenda). EvalAgenda, officially launched at the Parliament of Nepal in November 2015 in the presence of the Nepali Prime Minister and Parliament Speaker, 100 Parliamentarians, and 450 leaders of the evaluation community, is a call for action to ensure evaluation is fit for the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda endorsed by 193 Heads of State at the UN General Assembly in September 2015.
The overriding message of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda is “to leave no one behind,” to ensure “targets are met for all nations and peoples and for all segments of society.” How can evaluation help to achieve this commitment? The vision of the thousands of evaluators who took part in the EvalAgenda’s 14-month global consultation is that evaluation is an integral part of all efforts by governments, civil society, and the private sector to improve the lives and conditions of their fellow citizens. The vision is that evaluation will become such an integral part of good governance that a decision-maker cannot imagine notincorporating evaluation into her or his toolbox; that no decision-maker would dare make an important decision without having reviewed all the relevant evaluation information; and that evaluators use whatever methods and approaches are most appropriate to the situation to generate the information needed for those decisions.
At the same time, EvalAgenda envisages that evaluation will help to raise the voice of all stakeholders that are impacted by such decisions, particularly those of the marginalized and disadvantaged. Evaluation should therefore be driven by values of human rights, gender equality and social equity.
EvalAgenda, which builds on the success of the International Year of Evaluation, is a further impetus to the global trends described below.
Rebalance of leadership in the global evaluation community
Until 15 years ago, the best national evaluation systems were in the Global North (i.e. USA, UK, Canada). The big majority of Voluntary Organizations for Professional Evaluation (VOPEs) were in the Global North. The demand for evaluation was in the Global North. Today, this is changing dramatically. Several excellent national evaluation systems are in the Global South (i.e. Mexico, Colombia, Chile, South Africa, Morocco, Benin, Kenya, Uganda, Malaysia). The big majority of the existing 150+ VOPEs are in the Global South. Regional Parliamentarian Fora for evaluation now exist in Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America (but not in Europe or in North America). In the future, demand, supply and use of evaluation will truly be universal.
Stronger demand for evaluation, in particular for equity-focused and gender-responsive ones
The first ever Global Evaluation Event held in a National Parliament is a strong signal of the new trends of policymakers’ demand for evaluation. The official launch of the Global Parliamentarian Forum at the Parliament of Nepal is a clear indication that Parliamentarians are becoming new evaluation leaders. In parallel, the strong call by the 2030 Sustainable Development agenda for leaving no one behind and, accordingly, the positive response by the evaluation community with equity-focused and gender-responsive evaluations, is another positive development. This led to the creation of EvalGender+, a multi-stakeholders movement to ensure evaluation will meet the expectation to inform policies that leave no one behind. EvalGender+, led by UN Women, the International Organization for Cooperation in Evaluation (IOCE), the United Nations Evaluation Group (UNEG), and 33 other VOPEs, UN agencies, Multilateral Banks and the Global Parliamentarian Forum for evaluation, are launching an inclusive process to develop guidance to evaluate the Sustainable Development Goals with an equity-focused and gender-responsive lens. In the future, demand for equity-focused and gender-responsive evaluation will be the norm.
Complexity is the new normal
The 17 goals and 169 targets included in the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda are interconnected and synergic. While this is necessary, it also adds complexity. In addition, the focus on no one left behind means that socio-cultural-political contexts, as well as power relationships, are critical to evaluate sustainable and equitable development. In the future, evaluation theory and practice will decisively move to evaluation of complexity, adopting system-thinking and network analysis.
A stronger movement for professionalizing evaluation
The challenges above will accelerate the need to professionalize evaluation. Several VOPEs (including the European Evaluation Society, the UK Evaluation Society, the Canadian Evaluation Society, the Japanese Evaluation Society, and the International Development Evaluation Association), are leading this process. UNEG is exploring this area too, and UNEG members (i.e. UN Women and the ILO) already launched professionalization initiatives. In the future, evaluation will become a mature profession.
A more and more diverse multi-stakeholder community
In the past, national Governments, the European Union, VOPEs, UN agencies, multilateral Banks and bilateral donors were the main actors in the evaluation community. Today, new stakeholders are emerging. In addition to the above-mentioned Parliamentarian Fora, local governments (at the state and municipal level, i.e. San Paulo in Brazil and Johannesburg in South Africa) are developing and strengthening local evaluation systems. Impact social investment, which generates billions of dollars and is already more significant than the official development aid, is also engaging with evaluation. In the future, the evaluation community will be truly made up of multi-stakeholders.
Multi-stakeholders partnerships will become the most meaningful, influential and impactful approach
To address the new opportunities and challenges of leaving no one behind in a complex world, multi-stakeholders partnerships will become more and more the most meaningful, influential and impactful approach. EvalPartners, the global partnership for national evaluation capacities, brought together IOCE (the network of VOPEs), UNEG (the network of evaluation offices of UN agencies), EvalNet (the network of evaluation offices of OECD/DAC countries) and several other stakeholders. This generated the International year of Evaluation and EvalAgenda, among other things. It is now time to enlarge the partnership to welcome new actors, as well as new challenges.
In the future, evaluation will be an agent of change for the world’s 193 nations committed to achieving the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda. To be sure, EvalAgenda for the next four year is broad and complex. But procrastination is not a sensible option. That is why 2016 must be the year of doing the “right thing,” leaving no one behind.
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