Over the years there has been a shift in the use of evaluations, from a donor dominated space to, in recent years, an increased use by both governments and parliaments. Parliaments represent the bridge between the state and its citizens, so the use of evaluations by Parliamentarians for increasing accountability can be seen as the next frontier, as evaluation systems bring together monitoring data and information to provide deeper insight into what works and what does not work. To enhance the use of evaluations by parliamentarians, an enabling environment needed to be created through learning exchange platforms and networks such as Twende Mbele, the CLEAR-AA initiative and APNODE.
The Global Parliamentarians Forum for Evaluation (GPFE) together with EvalPartners, the Sri Lanka Parliamentarians Forum for Evaluation, Prime Minister’s Office of Sri Lanka, Parliament of Sri Lanka, and the Sri Lanka Evaluation Association, hosted EvalColombo2018, a three-day forum from 17-19 September 2018 in Colombo, Sri Lanka, to promote demand and use of evaluation by parliamentarians through dialogue and exchange, and to generate innovative approaches to tackling challenges facing Parliamentarians at a global level.
Participants at the forum included parliamentarians from across the globe committed to evaluation, evaluation experts, and other international delegates to ensure a rich discussion on developing stronger monitoring and evaluation frameworks for evidenced-based decision-making and accountability in government. Some of the highlights of these discussions are captured below, including insights in the use of evaluations for development goals; the benefits of a National Evaluation Policy (NEP) although not sufficient but still important; the professionalisation of evaluation practice through standardising and building capacity of evaluators; and African countries commitments to Colombo declaration.
Evaluations can help countries become masters of development outcomes
Evaluation is recognised as a crucial component towards realising the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Parliamentarians can address the SDG’s by driving the oversight processes forward to ensure that nobody is left behind, especially the most vulnerable. Solutions to SDG’s are required at country level, therefore partnerships between different sectors are important. As Parliamentarians are one of the leading catalysts in terms of crafting national policy and exercising oversight over government, they can be the leading voices for citizens.
National Evaluation Policies are important but not essential or universally applicable
Very few countries have policies on evaluation however this does not mean that parliamentarians and the executive can’t engage with evaluations. National Evaluation Policies (NEPs) are neither necessary nor sufficient but they are useful for political buy-in, especially in countries that struggling to set up a foundation for learning and improvement. More important, however, are the systems countries put in place and the resources allocated to evaluations. Not having a NEP can sometimes create setbacks for a country in terms of improving a system, as Dr Mulu, from the Kenyan Budget Appropriations Committee says:
“The lack of a National Evaluation Policy (NEP) [has left] leaves gaps / challenges in terms of strategic direction and buy-in from all of government as well as adequate budget allocation and commitment.”
Evaluations must be technically sound/relevant
The need for professionalisation of evaluation practice was also highlighted at the conference. Clear-AA through its Collaborative Curriculum program is one of these initiatives which looks to harmonise M&E competencies and curriculum in Africa. The creation of a common language for evaluation can enhance understanding and use.
Capacity development of both evaluators and commissioners is important to enhance the credibility of evaluations within parliaments, so evaluators will need to work hard at building professional skills and ensuring that evaluations follow ethical practices. Having more evaluators who produce useful, ethical evaluations that are credible will address both supply and demand side of evaluations.
African countries commitments to the Colombo declaration
Delegates representing varies African countries made commitments to the Colombo declaration at the conference, but the general commitment by these delegates was to promote and increase APNODE membership, as APNODE was seen to be a key instrument for learning and advocacy. The following points highlight the commitments by some countries:
- Kenya committed to enact a law on M&E and to involve more MPs in National Evaluation Week in which took place during the month of November (in 2018);
- Uganda committed to creating a Parliamentary caucus linked to national evaluation association and APNODE, and also to creating awareness with MPs on holding government accountable to using more evidence;
- Tanzania committed to taking the NEP agenda to Parliament, while UNWomen will support women caucuses to use evaluation;
- Nigeria made a commitment to sensitise members of parliament and build their capacities for M&E;
- Zambia made a commitment to evaluate indigenous communities as a follow-up to the commitments made in parliament in previous sittings;
- South Africa, Ghana and Zimbabwe made commitments to promote the use of evaluations by their parliaments through their Speakers of Parliament;
The closing ceremony was held at the Parliament of Sri Lanka and included a panel discussion and inputs by various delegates referred to as “the voices of global parliamentarians”. This was followed by a vote of thanks to the organisers and participants. The conference itself had reached its objectives of which include raising awareness on the role of parliaments in driving the SDGs agenda, reaffirm the importance of using evidence as part of good governance, promote dialogue between parliamentarians, government, evaluation practitioners, and civil society to encourage their joint use of evaluations for decision making, last but not least, agree on way forward by compiled in the Colombo Declaration which included commitments from many countries including those from Africa.