The Crucial Role of Independent Evaluation
On Monday, 3 December, 2012, the AfDB Evaluation Week was launched by Donald Kaberuka, AfDB President; His Excellency Tertius Zongo, Former Prime Minster of Burkina Faso; Executive Director, Samy Zaghloul, Chair of the Bank’s Committee on Development Effectiveness (CODE); and Rakesh Nangia, the Director of the Operations Evaluation Department.
President Kaberuka stressed the importance of independent evaluation, for evidence-based policy making, for accountability and also crucially for knowledge and learning. H.E. Zongo emphasized how crucial evaluation is for improving development effectiveness. The CODE Chair and the President also stressed how important it will be to strengthen OPEV and its resources, going forward.
A distinguished panel – comprising Donald Kaberuka (AfDB President), Caroline Heider (World Bank), Rajat Nag (Asian Development Bank), Shehu Yahaya (ED AfDB), Mustapha Nabli (Former Governor of Tunisian Central Bank) – spoke about key challenges and opportunities faced in evaluation, in a Davos-style discussion moderated by Jim Adams (former World Bank Vice-President). Issues covered in this lively discussion included:
- The importance of evaluation being independent – so that it can be impartial and credible. However, independence should not mean isolation. Engagement with stakeholders is crucial. Engaging with stakeholders early in the process can support both the relevance and learning potential of evaluations;
- How we can ensure that knowledge from evaluations has a real influence on policy and programming, that recommendations are implemented. As the President of the Bank said: “Evaluation is crucial, yes, undoubtedly, but we also need to look at how we feed back the lessons from evaluation into what we actually do.” He explained how the evaluation of the Bank’s assistance to Fragile States was one example where management had already taken decisive action to address the recommendations. ED Yahaya added that one of the reasons that evaluation had an impact was that management and operations were not defensive. Rather, they were open to learning and improving what they do, based on an independent assessment and solid evidence.
- The role of “just in time advice” and learning across countries and different experiences. For example, the former Governor of the Bank of Tunisia explained how evidence-based assessments of macroeconomic policies in times of transition was so needed in Tunisia after the revolution but was not available in time to be useful, despite the fact that other countries’ experiences are relevant.
- That evaluations need to be challenging, the Bank needs to be challenged. Evaluators should not self-censor for fear of upsetting any stakeholder, be they internal or external.
- How to support the development of an evaluation culture in RMCs. This has implications at political and other levels and OPEV can play a role in supporting this and evaluation capacity in RMCs. And this is important as there is a “multiplier effect” in supporting RMCs to play a more central role in evaluating their policies and programs.
- There is no simple formula or silver bullet for development. Development it is not a science. But we know some things that block development and we know we need to use what lessons we have to adjust what we do and do things differently if necessary, to challenge the business-as-usual approach, which may be based as much on custom as on real evidence about what works. Evaluation can help in delivering greater development effectiveness, in partnership with policy-makers and operations.
Lunch and Book Launch: Multilateral Banks and the Development Process: Vital Links in the Results Chain
This book review session for the 2012 Evaluation Week took place at the Novotel in Tunis on Monday, December 3, 2012 from 12:30-2:00 p.m.
The session was chaired by Moegamat Khan, the AfDB Executive Director representing South Africa. The following distinguished panelists commented on the book:
Valerie Reppelin-Hill, who serves as an adviser in the Independent Evaluation Department (IED) at the Asian Development Bank (ADB); Annette Brown, the Deputy Director, Advancement and Impact Evaluation Services, and Head of the Washington, D.C. office of 3ie; Alejandro Soriano, a Principal Evaluation Officer with the Office of Evaluation and Oversight at the Inter-American Development (IDB); and Steve Kayizzi-Mugerwa, the Director of the Research Department of the African Development Bank.
The book underscores that connecting the dots can achieve better results. Achieving better development results is a complex but constant goal of independent evaluation. Many lessons have been learned in decades of evaluation of Multilateral Development Banks’ support to developing countries. But one in particular is assuming increasing importance for achieving more effective development outcomes. A wealth of evaluative evidence points to the crucial role that result-chain links play in the patterns of development, and how building synergies into project and program designs across sectors and players and times can magnify development outcomes. These result-chain links broadly fall into three categories:
- The first is the horizontal link, across sectors.
Seeking development interactions across sectors, such as health, education, sanitation and roads, can markedly improve country outcomes. Here, development partners and governments pool resources to support integrated development in project designs to multiply their effectiveness. Unfortunately, the value of coordination and collaboration across sectors and among partners remains a weak and under-recognized link in the development process.
- The second link is vertical. This is a development strategy that shifts the focus from inputs or initial interventions to more complete outcomes.
In other words, immediate objectives in project designs should also connect to more lasting development outcomes. The impact natural calamities have on perpetuating poverty and undermining hard-earned development gains vividly illustrates the value of vertical links.
- The third link is time-based and aims to strengthen development processes in a rapidly changing global environment. Replicating what worked in the past – even for highly rated projects and programs – is no guarantee for future success. When conditions change, innovative and maybe even riskier approaches need to be applied given the prospect of development practitioners operating in more difficult circumstances.
Conclusion: Dealing with them requires cross-cutting approaches, although investments clearly do not need to cover all aspects, nor can one agency do it all. But it is important to connect the dots; first in planning processes, then ensuring they stay connected during implementation through provisions for monitoring evolving outcomes. Deepening our understanding of how these three links (horizontal, vertical and time-based) can achieve wider and more lasting development results is among our most imperative knowledge goals, according to the authors of the book.
Other Activities on Day One:
- A Special Board Session for the African Development Bank’s Executive Directors on Regional Integration: Lessons from the Asian Perspectives presented by Rajat Nag, Director General of the Asian Development Bank.
- Launch of the new OPEV website.
- Presentation of the OPEV Lessons Learned Database by Mohamed Manai and Souleymane Dieye.
- Presentation of the Asian Development Bank Evaluation System and Management Action Record System by Jocelyn G. Tubadeza, Evaluation Expert at the Asian Development Bank.
- Dinner for Distinguished Guests, hosted by the Chair of the CODE, Samy Zaghloul.