Rebeca Grynspan: Statement on the revised UNDP evaluation policy

02 Feb 2011

Executive Board of the United Nations Development Programme and the United Nations Population Fund

Rebeca Grynspan – UNDP Associate Administrator
Statement on the revised UNDP evaluation policy

Mr. President,
Excellencies,
Distinguished delegates,

The revised evaluation policy that you have before you reflects the decisions made by the Board on the 2010 independent review of the evaluation policy and the management response.

In the management response, UNDP senior management affirms its full commitment to address the challenges of evaluation and strengthen results-based management across the organization. As highlighted by the Administrator, we are confident that the revised policy will help us fulfill this commitment - by clarifying roles and responsibilities and by improving the way we conduct evaluations and internalize their findings.

My colleagues, Saras Menon and Judith Karl, gave a detailed presentation on the changes made to the policy at the Board’s informal meeting on 10 December.  Without going into as much detail, I will present the key changes.  

As requested by the Board, revisions were made in five areas:

  • national ownership;
  • national evaluation capacity;
  • the independence of the Evaluation Office;
  • decentralized evaluation - here we refer to evaluations commissioned by programme units at all levels of the organization; and
  • the use of evaluation.

The introductory sections of the policy remain mainly untouched. There were no changes to UNDP’s Guiding principles for evaluation, except to reinforce the importance of national ownership. The Norms for conducting evaluation remain the same and are based on norms adopted by the UN Evaluation Group. The section on Key concepts was revised only to further clarify what evaluation is and is not.   

The policy revisions strengthen national ownership both in principle and practice. The policy promotes evaluation which is country-led and jointly conducted with governments and other national partners – while also, of course, meeting UNDP’s accountability standards and learning needs. The policy also now explicitly elaborates the engagement of UNDP and national governments in the evaluation process, from planning evaluations, to preparing the management responses and using the findings.

A sub-section on national evaluation capacity development has been added which details the distinct roles of the Evaluation Office and programme units. UNDP programme units promote and coordinate South-South and trilateral cooperation in support of capacity-building for evaluation by strengthening communities of practice in evaluation and maintaining regional rosters of evaluation experts and institutes in each region. The policy also makes it clear that, UNDP provides support to national evaluation capacity development at the request of programme host governments. In collaboration with UNEG, the Evaluation Office supports national capacity development, and will continue to provide countries with a forum for addressing evaluation issues and exchanging their experiences.

As requested by the Board, the Evaluation Office’ institutional independence is clarified in terms of budget, staff recruitment and work programme. The role of the Executive Board and the Administrator in the appointment, renewal and dismissal of the director of the Evaluation Office has been clarified. The policy also retains language specifying that to avoid conflict of interest, evaluators cannot be directly involved in UNDP policy-setting or decision-making.

A separate section on decentralized evaluation was added to clarify the roles and responsibilities of colleagues for those evaluations commissioned by UNDP programme units – be they in a country office or bureau. In line with the Board’s decision, compliance will be dependent on completing an evaluation plan, rather than only outcome evaluations. This will give units more flexibility in their discussions with national partners and will enable them to employ the instruments that best match their strategic objectives. Here too, joint evaluations with government, UN or other partners are encouraged as the preferred modality.

To ensure meaningful feedback, the policy requires that planned evaluations provide sufficient coverage of programmatic activities. At the same time, the policy emphasizes ‘quality’ rather than ‘quantity’. Quality decentralized evaluations are indeed critical to enhance management decision-making and learning at the country level, but also to provide reliable information for the broader strategic and programmatic evaluations conducted by the Evaluation Office.

To ensure that adequate evaluation resources are set aside at the planning stage, the revised policy specifies that all new global, regional, country, thematic and South-South programmes must be presented to the Board with a costed evaluation plan. Country offices are requested to budget for the plan when adopting their country programme action plans. The costing requirement complements the policy’s standing emphasis on the responsibility of senior management to establish appropriate institutional arrangements and allocate adequate sufficient resources.

As also requested by the Board, the revised policy reinforces the responsibility of bureaux and country offices to ensure the ‘evaluability’ of UNDP interventions, and consider evaluation at the design stage of programmes and projects. The revised policy clarifies Regional Bureaux’ Director’s oversight responsibility for evaluation, including to ensure ‘evaluability’.

Finally, the section on use of evaluation has been strengthened to underline the importance of drawing on and internalizing what is learned from evaluations. As a knowledge-based organization, it is essential that all parts of UNDP apply the evidence generated by forward-looking evaluations to improve the quality of their programmes and guide strategic decisions on programming and positioning. The use of evaluation for learning has been included as one of the key roles and responsibilities of senior management at Headquarters and in country offices.

The proposed revisions to the policy have benefited from a broad consultation process and a thorough review in UNDP’s two most senior management committees – the Operations Group and the Management Group. Bureaux’ heads relayed the useful feedback of evaluation advisors and programme staff in the field. The Evaluation Office consulted with other UN funds and programmes to ensure our approach to evaluation is as harmonized as possible.

Interim guidance was issued for preparing country programme documents and costed evaluation plans to be submitted to the Board starting in June 2011. Once the Board approves the revised evaluation policy, we will disseminate it across UNDP and make the minor updates needed to bring our procedures and Handbook on monitoring and evaluating in line with the revisions.

Let me close by reaffirming UNDP’s full commitment to strengthening a culture of evaluation and results-based management. As mentioned by the Administrator, the revised policy articulates what we expect and need from evaluation, as well as the roles and responsibilities of all of us, including the Board, in using evaluation to make UNDP stronger and more responsive to increasingly complex development challenges. We trust that the Board will approve it, and continue to support our efforts to further enhance the relevance, quality and usefulness of evaluation in UNDP.