There is general consensus that evaluating the performance of public policy is an important instrument for good governance. There is, however, a gap between this general agreement and the actual implementation, use and sustainability of monitoring and evaluation (M&E) systems, processes and tools on the ground. Well-intentioned efforts to develop these systems face obstacles associated with institutional design, political dynamics, poor managerial and/or technical capacity, and resistance to change. At the same time, innovative practices developed within particular contexts in developing nations may yield important lessons worth sharing.
Many governments have improved their understanding of the value of M&E to assess which public initiatives work well, which do not work well and most importantly, why. Monitoring and evaluating the performance of public policies, programmes and institutions can help increase their effectiveness, providing more accountability and transparency in how public resources are used, informing the prioritization in the allocation of public resources and assessing their effectiveness in attaining their desired development results, such as reducing poverty, improving welfare or enhancing the equality of opportunities. When M&E systems and tools emphasize the results of public policy, a virtuous learning cycle generates opportunities for improving the systems, structures and processes associated with successful policy implementation. Many national governments are conducting evaluation of public policies, while others are designing centralized M&E systems for national development plans and programmes. There is great diversity with respect to the functions as well as the models and tools developed, and much variation can be observed in their degree of maturity and institutionalization within each country’s public administration.
Key challenges include setting up appropriate institutional structures and incentives to motivate both the supply of and the demand for solid evidence to inform public decisionmaking; developing managerial and technical capacity to ensure sustainability and the application of robust methodology; and developing a results-oriented public sector culture that embeds the effective use of M&E within the broader purpose of generating credible evidence to enhance understanding and support decisions about development results. While the systems for monitoring and evaluation are conceptually linked, the conference will pay particular attention to evaluation, more specifically, to the evaluation of national development projects, programmes or policies and to the creation of national resultsoriented M&E systems in service of development effectiveness.
In this vein, two problems represent a common denominator to most M&E experiences and tend to slow the institutionalization of results-oriented M&E systems. The first is the low demand for evidence about performance and the scant use of the information generated through evaluation efforts from the part of its expected consumers. Of particular concern are, on the one hand, the poor quality of the evidence generated by M&E systems, and on the other, the lack of interest from legislative bodies and citizens, key players in democracies with the authority to demand accountability for results vis-à-vis public investments. The second problem is the poor integration of institutions and actors associated with the effective evaluation of public policies, programmes and institutions, as well as the lack of convergence among cycles of various public administration processes relevant to broad M&E efforts, such as planning, budgeting and personnel.
Information sharing and collective reflection among peers as well as opportunities for reciprocal learning can support national capacities. The conference brought together national partners, regional experts in evaluation and UNDP professionals. It provided an opportunity to build awareness about the importance of evaluation and to discuss institutional, technical and methodological issues in institutionalizing national M&E systems. The conference provided a good platform to discuss experiences, identify challenges and draw lessons that can later take the form of technical assistance, under the umbrella of South-South or triangular cooperation.