Better criteria for better evaluation?

Criteria helps us measure the results of our interventions and progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals.

By Riccardo Polastro*
Maynor Federico Ahilón Ramírez (9 years old) and Yury Elidia Ahilón Ramírez (7 years old) from the indigenous community of Todos los Santos, Huehuetenango, smiling outside their home.
UNICEF/UN0547908/Patricia Willocq
13 December 2022

When used systematically, evaluation evidence triggers learning and accountability across the development spectrum. To properly capture evaluation evidence, criteria are needed which can be used as a framework. When properly used, this ensures evaluation quality. The 2021 OECD DAC guidance Applying Evaluation Criteria Thoughtfully outlines how to apply these criteria and helps understand their interrelation. It provides a wealth of examples of how they can be applied to different types of topics and interventions. Examples range from simple units of analysis, to more cross-cutting ones – such as gender – and system wide evaluations related to the SDGs. Finally, the guide outlines both overall challenges and specific ones each criterion pose, showing ways how can both evaluators and managers overcome them.

These Better criteria for better evaluation provide us with a framework which helps us measure the results of our interventions and progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals. They can help us measure whether our interventions are successful in advancing the rights of every child. Evaluation evidence guides the effective design and implementation national government policies and development partners strategies. It helps us measure equity, gender equality and the imperative to "leave no one behind".

UNICEF applies these criteria in both its regular country programme evaluations and real-time assessments to measure the effectiveness of its response to C-19.

It also uses them to assess progress on the 2030 agenda, for example in the UNICEF-led global evaluation synthesis of UN System and Development Banks work toward SDG 6 (related to the Water and Sanitation goal). While we face great challenges with this pandemic, in the words of our Secretary-General "this is the Agenda 2030 decade for action", our collective efforts, guided by evaluations, will undoubtedly improve the future of our planet.

Since the conflict between gangs in Cité Soleil in July 2022, some of the population have taken refuge in Hugo Chavez Square. Thanks to the efforts of UNICEF and Solidarity, these families were able to benefit from toilets and running water.
UNICEF/UN0735175/Georges Harry Rouzier

Now, 17 years after the Paris Declaration, we have a common framework which allows us to determine whether or not our individual or collective interventions, whether at programmatic, thematic or sector, or system wide level are being effective or not in achieving their objectives. This also helps us to identify good practices as well as corrective measures when needed. This framework is no longer only used to measure development aid projects of bilateral or multilateral donors, but also the results of national government social and economic policies through country-led evaluations. In the Latin America region, these are currently being led in an exemplary manner by Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica and Mexico among others. With these criteria, both national governments and their development partners, as well as the private sector, can assess the coherence of their interventions.

Finally, at UNICEF, we are convinced that these criteria will help us to improve our responses to humanitarian, migration and climate crises. They already allow us to strengthen access to social policy and social protection, reduce poverty, improve education and nutrition, protect against violence and improve access to water and sanitation for every child in this region among others.

Together we can reduce the inequalities that have been exacerbated by the pandemic. It is a long road, and to get there we need to join forces and keep working towards a common goal.

We now have a common framework to do so, so let’s evaluate to progressively realize the rights of every child, especially the most disadvantaged!

* Riccardo Polastro is the Regional Evaluation Advisor at UNICEF Latin America and the Caribbean.


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