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Decade of Evaluation for Action: Regional Consultation on Influential Evaluation to Accelerate Sustainable Development in the Arab States

With only ten years left to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the UN Secretary General has called on all sectors of society and people everywhere to mobilize for a Decade of Action to deliver the SDGs. Given the crucial role that evaluation plays to accelerate the achievement of the SDGs, the UNFPA Evaluation Office, the EvalYouth Global Network and the Global Parliamentarians Forum for Evaluation joined forces to launch the Eval4Action campaign. The campaign aims to galvanize action at global and local levels to strengthen national evaluation capacity and produce high quality evaluations and evidence to achieve the SDGs.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development puts follow-up and review processes at the centre of global, regional and national efforts to achieve the SDGs. These processes require strong national evaluation systems and capacities to generate robust evidence to inform policy-making for sustainable, inclusive and equitable development. While progress has been made in strengthening national evaluation capacities, greater speed, ambition and scale is needed to enhance the supply of high-quality, country-led evaluations. Analyses of the Voluntary National Reviews presented at previous High-level Political Fora suggest a lack of evaluative evidence at country level and demonstrate a limited understanding of the role of evaluation in guiding the implementation of the SDGs. However, strong national evaluation systems are critical to determine what works and what needs to be done better to ensure that no one is left behind, paving the way for more effective action to achieve the SDGs in time.

Against this background, the UNFPA Evaluation Office, the EvalYouth Global Network and the Global Parliamentarians Forum initiated the Eval4Action campaign to garner widespread recognition for evaluation as a powerful tool to catalyze the achievement of the SDGs by improving accountability, supporting evidence-based decision-making and fostering learning. In line with the Decade for Action for the SDGs, the campaign particularly seeks to:

Raise awareness of the important role that evaluation plays to accelerate the delivery of the SDGs by 2030, especially by including evaluative evidence in progress reporting through the High-level Political Forum and follow-up and review mechanisms at regional and national levels.

Mobilize commitments from governments, parliaments, civil society, academia, evaluation units of multilateral organizations and bilateral donor agencies, evaluation associations and other stakeholders to invest in the strengthening of national evaluation systems and capacities, to develop national evaluation policies, and to produce high-quality evaluations and evidence for the SDGs.

The campaign is based on an inclusive and participatory approach to spur collective action at global, regional and national levels. It emphasizes the meaningful participation of young people in evaluation and the capacity development of young and emerging evaluators (YEE) to drive sustainable development at all levels. To date, over 80 partners from across the world have joined the campaign, including Voluntary Organizations for Professional Evaluation (VOPEs), parliamentary fora, young and emerging evaluator networks, United Nations agencies, civil society organizations and the private sector.

The Global Marathon of Engagement, which took place on 10 June 2020, marked the official launch of the Eval4Action campaign. During the Marathon, the UNFPA Executive Director, Dr. Natalia Kanem, delivered a keynote address highlighting the importance of high quality data and evidence to achieve the SDGs, meet the three transformative results of UNFPA, and realize the vision of the Nairobi Summit on ICPD25. In her opening remarks, the UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, Ms. Jayathma Wickramanayake, noted the campaign’s relevance to the UN Youth Strategy 2030 and the importance of strengthening youth-led accountability processes. At the same time, a wide array of partners made commitments to accelerate progress on national evaluation capacity development and the use of evaluation in decision-making.

The UNFPA Arab States Regional Office (ASRO) is proud to be a partner of the Eval4Action Campaign and is committed to driving the initiative forward in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), with a particular focus on YEEs. Together with EvalYouth MENA, UNFPA ASRO has spearheaded efforts to develop the capacity of YEEs in the region and to integrate them in the evaluation community. In 2019, UNFPA ASRO and EvalYouth MENA signed a Memorandum of Understanding to further consolidate their strategic partnership, to leverage the multiplying effect of youth participation on the relevance and quality of evaluations. In the framework of this Memorandum of Understanding, UNFPA ASRO and EvalYouth MENA organized the first-ever Winter School for Young and Emerging Evaluators in the Arab States at the end of 2019. The training workshop brought together 21 young evaluation professionals from ten Arab countries. UNFPA ASRO and EvalYouth MENA are planning to replicate the success of the Winter School in 2020.

UNFPA ASRO also pledged to recruit YEEs for Country Programme Evaluations, to provide them with an opportunity to gain practical experience in evaluating complex development interventions. Preparations are underway to provide for the participation of local YEEs in Country Programme Evaluations in Algeria and Morocco, which may require largely virtual engagement due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, UNFPA ASRO conducted a number of assessments of national evaluation systems and capacities in recent years. It seeks to expand these assessments to provide a solid basis for advocacy and action to strengthen national evaluation capacity across the MENA region in the context of the Eval4Action campaign.

To maintain the momentum generated by the Global Marathon of Engagement, the Eval4Action campaign will organize a series of regional consultations to provide a platform for dialogue and partnerships on influential evaluation among diverse regional and national stakeholders. The purpose of these consultations is to identify concrete regional and national commitments to strengthen national evaluation systems and capacities. Following the successful first regional consultation in the Asia-Pacific region, the second regional consultation of the Eval4Action campaign will be held in the MENA region.

The MENA regional consultation will be held virtually on 10 July 2020, at 4 PM Jerusalem time. The consultation will focus on generating regional commitment and action to enhance the supply, demand and use of evaluation in the region to accelerate the achievement of the SDGs. The interactive event is organized jointly by EvalYouth MENA, EvalMENA (along with its member VOPEs) and the UNFPA Evaluation Office, in partnership with UNFPA ASRO.

The UNFPA Arab States Regional Office invites evaluation practitioners, YEEs, government officials, parliamentarians, development partners, civil society organizations and other stakeholders to join the regional consultation. A plenary session with speakers from the leading organizations of the global Eval4Action campaign and key stakeholders in the MENA region will introduce the regional consultation. This will include a keynote address by the Regional Director of UNFPA ASRO, Dr. Luay Shabaneh. The plenary session will be followed by breakout group discussions on different evaluation topics, to collect ideas and solutions that will shape the development of an action plan for Eval4Action in the MENA region. More information on the MENA regional consultation and registration for the event can be found here.

Without strong evaluation systems to assess whether development interventions are relevant, sustainable and achieving equitable results, too many people will continue to be left behind. The Eval4Action campaign offers a unique opportunity to collectively advocate for strengthening national evaluation capacity and enhancing the use of evaluation in decision-making. As countries in the MENA region battle the COVID-19 pandemic, a coordinated push for influential evaluation is now more important than ever before, to ensure that response and recovery are based on credible and reliable evidence.