Evaluations face challenging times - IOE
Rome, 30 March 2022 – The inadequate response of evaluators to COVID-19 and the importance of understanding the eco-system impacts of climate change adaptation interventions were the two salient issues that senior representatives of the Independent Office of Evaluation of IFAD (IOE) brought to the discussion table during the symposium organized by the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB), in close cooperation with the Global Evaluation Initiative (GEI), between 29-30 March 2022.
Titled ‘Reshaping Evaluation through the Lens of Recovery’, the symposium brought together evaluation practitioners from multilateral development banks, peer development institutions, academia, and the CLEAR Centers of Anglophone Africa and South Asia to strengthen and reshape evaluation work, and to forge a roadmap that facilitates progress towards the achievement of the SDGs and sustainable recovery from the global pandemic. Indran A. Naidoo and Suppiramaniam Nanthikesan, respectively Director and Lead Evaluator at IOE, provided important contributions to the discussion.
In a context of crisis, do evaluators stop rendering judgement and start supporting management in doing monitoring, or do they continue to evaluate and support the building of national evaluation capacity? Dr Naidoo placed this question at the centre of debate during the session titled ‘Providing Inputs During Times of Crisis’, noting the limitations of the response provided by evaluators to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“During a pandemic, reliance on national capacities becomes even greater because evaluators cannot fly-in. In the case of the COVID-19 crisis, this reliance was emphasized by the inadequate response rendered by evaluators. This was largely due to evaluators’ particular configuration, and does not mean that they are irrelevant”, stated Dr Naidoo.
While the entire world is tackling the challenge of recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic, examples exist of regional approaches where knowledge and capacities from either the COVID-19 experience or other disaster situations were successfully applied, as well as of evaluative national capacity building.
“The GEI is well-placed to address this situation, insofar as its mandate focuses on building national evaluation capacity. This effort follows in the footsteps of UNDP’s National Evaluation Capacity series, which enabled conversations by national authorities to self-determine their futures. We need to move away from a modus operandi that parachutes-in foreign consultants to render judgement. The real thrust is to facilitate what is already there”, remarked Dr Naidoo.
Another IOE contribution to the event was based on its recent thematic evaluation of IFAD Support to Smallholder Farmers’ Adaptation to Climate Change. In the session titled ‘Approaches and Methods to Climate Change and Environmental Evaluations’ Dr S. Nanthikesan pointed out that ‘Good is no longer good enough’ when it comes to climate adaptation. He underscored the need to assess the eco-system impacts (environmental sustainability) of climate change adaptation interventions. In addition, he noted that:
“We need a conceptual framework of resilience and an approach to capture eco-system effects of agricultural solutions to be able to come up with winning adaptation solutions”.
Holistic win-win solutions are necessary to achieve climate, environment and development resilience together. These call for an adequate knowledge base of evidence-based holistic climate adaptation solutions and sufficient financial resources to enable required changes to existing practices. Evaluations can play a pivotal role in this regard, supporting the significant challenges that governments may face to incentivize sustainable climate adaptation responses.
“Climate adaptation must do no harm to the environment. To date, there is a clearer understanding of mitigation issues compared to adaptation, which is a relatively younger field. In this context, evaluations are critical for the development of an evidence-based knowledge base of sustainable climate change adaptation solutions, and for building awareness of the limitations of anthropocentric agricultural development”. Dr Nanthikesan reiterated the challenge of the context specific nature of adaptation interventions in building useable knowledge base of adaptation solutions.
The symposium helped to shed light on promoting evaluative thinking to enhance development interventions, to inform decision-making processes, and more notably to leverage partnerships in order to accelerate recovery in the context of the post global pandemic.
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