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UNDP Evaluation Policy

The Independent Evaluation Office abides by the Evaluation Policy of UNDP. The Executive Board of UNDP is the custodian of the evaluation policy. The purpose of the policy is to establish a common institutional basis for the UNDP evaluation function. The policy seeks to increase transparency, coherence and efficiency in generating and using evaluative knowledge for organizational learning and effective management for results, and to support accountability.

I. Introduction

  1. The revised policy of UNDP for evaluation was approved in 2011. The purpose of the policy is to establish a common institutional basis for the UNDP evaluation function. The policy seeks to increase transparency, coherence and efficiency in generating and using evaluative knowledge for organizational learning and effective management for results, and to support accountability. The policy also applies to UNDP and its associated funds and programmes – the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) and the United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme. The policy will be subject to periodic independent review.
  2. The policy responds to resolution 59/250 of 2004, in which the General Assembly required the systematic evaluation of United Nations system operational activities by assessing their impact on poverty eradication, economic growth and sustainable development of programme countries. It further mandates the United Nations system to promote national ownership and capacity development and to make system-wide progress in collaboration in evaluation. The policy draws from and is aligned with the norms and standards for evaluation in the United Nations system approved by the United Nations Evaluation Group (UNEG) in April 2005.
  3. UNDP subscribes to the overarching United Nations goal of reducing extreme poverty and hunger by half by 2015. It supports the efforts of partner countries to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and other development results primarily through its role as a global development network, advocating for change and connecting countries to knowledge, experience and resources to help people build better lives. While emphasizing national ownership and capacity development, UNDP helps countries develop and share solutions to challenges in key strategic development areas. As resident coordinator of United Nations operational activities at the country level, UNDP promotes effective coordination of United Nations system support to national priorities.
  4. Evaluation in UNDP provides an objective assessment of contributions to development results, through assessing its programmes and operations, including advocacy, advisory services, knowledge management, technical assistance, coordination and partnerships. Evaluation addresses what works and why, as well as what does not work, and unintended outcomes. This will support accountability, inform decision-making and allow UNDP to better manage for development results.
  5. Evaluation will improve learning and knowledge for development among UNDP and its partners. Engagement of all key stakeholders will enhance capacity for evaluation as well as its utility. The strengthening of knowledge-management systems, learning groups and communities of practice will increase access to knowledge and enhance knowledge-sharing, collaboration and innovation.
  6. The present policy note establishes the guiding principles and norms; explains key evaluation concepts; outlines the main organizational roles and responsibilities; defines the types of evaluation covered; and identifies the key elements of a system for learning and knowledge management. It also outlines the capacity and resource requirements to enhance excellence in the development of an evaluation culture and a learning organization.

II. Guiding principles

  1. The following are the key principles:
    1. Human development and human rights. Evaluation is guided by the people-centred approach of UNDP to development, which enhances capabilities, choices and rights for all men and women. Evaluation abides by universally shared values of equity, justice, gender equality and respect for diversity.
    2. United Nations system coordination and global partnership. Evaluation draws on and contributes to collaboration within the United Nations system to improve effectiveness and reduce transaction costs for development cooperation. UNDP advocates strengthened professional collaboration under the aegis of UNEG and country-level coordination in evaluation under the Resident Coordinator system. With the increasing engagement of UNDP in global initiatives and partnership programmes with other donors, non-governmental organizations and civil society, the conduct of joint evaluations enhances global partnership.
    3. National ownership. Evaluation should be guided by national priorities and concerns and should be conducted in alignment with national systems. It should be inclusive and take into account diverse national interests and values. Evaluation should strengthen partnerships with governments and key stakeholders. It should build the capacity of national institutions to implement, monitor and evaluate.
    4. Managing for results. Evaluation supports UNDP to manage for results by assessing the extent to which UNDP processes, products and services contribute effectively to development results affecting people’s lives. Through this, evaluation highlights the need for quality in the design of programmes so that results are clear, measurable and can be monitored and evaluated. Through the generation of evidence, evaluation enables more informed management and decision-making for strategic planning and programming.

III. Norms

  1. UNDP evaluations operate under norms based on the UNEG norms for evaluation in the United Nations system, as follows:
    1. Independence. The evaluation function should be structurally independent from the operational management and decision-making functions in the organization so that it is free from undue influence, more objective, and has full authority to submit reports directly to appropriate levels of decision-making. Management must not impose restrictions on the scope, content, comments and recommendations of evaluation reports. To avoid conflict of interest, evaluators must not be directly involved in policy-setting, design, implementation or management of the subject of the evaluation either before, during or after the evaluation.
    2. Intentionality. The rationale for an evaluation and the decisions to be based on it should be clear from the outset. The scope, design and plan of the evaluation should generate relevant, timely products that meet the needs of intended users.
    3. Transparency. Meaningful consultation with stakeholders is essential for the credibility and utility of the evaluation. Full information on evaluation design and methodology should be shared throughout the process to build confidence in the findings and understanding of their limitations in decision-making.
    4. Ethics. Evaluation should not reflect personal or sectoral interests. Evaluators must have professional integrity and respect the rights of institutions and individuals to provide information in confidence and to verify statements attributed to them. Evaluations must be sensitive to the beliefs and customs of local social and cultural environments and must be conducted legally and with due regard to the welfare of those involved in the evaluation, as well as those affected by its findings. In line with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, evaluators must be sensitive to and address issues of discrimination and gender inequality.
    5. Impartiality. Removing bias and maximizing objectivity are critical for the credibility of the evaluation and its contribution to knowledge. Prerequisites for impartiality are: independence from management; objective design; valid measurement and analysis; and the rigorous use of appropriate benchmarks agreed upon beforehand by key stakeholders. In addition to being impartial, evaluation teams should include relevant expertise and be balanced in their gender and regional composition.
    6. Quality. All evaluations should meet minimum quality standards defined by the Evaluation Office. The key questions and areas for investigation should be clear, coherent and realistic. The plan for evaluation should be practical and cost effective. To ensure that the information generated is accurate and reliable, evaluation design, data collection and analysis should reflect professional standards, with due regard for any special circumstances or limitations reflecting the context of the evaluation. To ensure this, the professionalism of evaluators and their intellectual integrity in applying standard evaluation methods is critical. Evaluation findings and recommendations should be presented in a manner that will be readily understood by target audiences.
    7. Timeliness. Evaluations must be designed and completed in a timely fashion so as to address the specific purpose and objectives for which they were commissioned and ensure the usefulness of the findings and recommendations. Balancing technical and time requirements with practical realities while providing valid, reliable information is central to ensuring that the evaluation function supports management for results.
    8. Utility. Evaluation is a management discipline that seeks to provide information to be used for evidence-based decision-making. To enhance the usefulness of the findings and recommendations, key stakeholders should be engaged in various ways in the conduct of the evaluation. The scope, design and plan of the evaluation should generate relevant, timely products that meet the needs of intended users. The interpretation of findings should be grounded in the realities of the country and programme context, and the recommendations made should be practical and realistic.

IV. Key concepts

  1. Evaluation. Evaluation is judgement made of the relevance, appropriateness, effectiveness, efficiency, impact and sustainability of development efforts, based on agreed criteria and benchmarks among key partners and stakeholders. It involves a rigorous, systematic and objective process in the design, analysis and interpretation of information to answer specific questions. It provides assessments of what works and why, highlights intended and unintended results, and provides strategic lessons to guide decision-makers and inform stakeholders.
  2. Monitoring and review. Monitoring and review are distinct from evaluation. Monitoring is a continuous function providing managers and key stakeholders with regular feedback on the consistency or discrepancy between planned and actual activities and programme performance and on the internal and external factors affecting results. Monitoring provides an early indication of the likelihood that expected results will be attained. It provides an opportunity to validate the programme theory and logic and to make necessary changes in programme activities and approaches. Information from systematic monitoring serves as a critical input to evaluation. Reviews are closely associated with monitoring and are periodic, often light assessments of the performance of an initiative and do not apply the due process or methodological rigour of evaluation.
  3. Audit is distinct from evaluation. Audit is an independent, objective assurance and consulting activity designed to add value and improve an organization’s operations. It assesses and contributes to the improvement of governance, risk management and control processes in responding to risks regarding the reliability and integrity of financial and operational information; effectiveness and efficiency of operations; safeguarding of assets; and compliance with regulations, rules, policies and procedures.

    Definition

  4. Development results are:
    1. Output: Tangible product (including services) of an intervention that is directly attributable to the initiative. Outputs relate to the completion (rather than the conduct) of activities and are the type of results over which managers have most influence. An example of an output for a project for judicial reform is the number of judges trained and qualified.
    2. Outcome: Actual or intended changes in development conditions that an intervention(s) seeks to support. The contribution of several partners is usually required to achieve an outcome. When the same example is applied, an outcome is the improvement in the judicial process as evidenced by a reduction in the backlog of cases.
    3. Impact: Actual or intended changes in human development as measured by people’s well-being. In this example, an impact is demonstrated by the fact that more people have access to justice and are better able to exercise their rights.
  5. Attribution: The precise causal link to changes in development results flowing from an individual intervention. For example, the number of judges trained could be directly attributed to a specific intervention.
  6. Contribution: The changes in development results that can be credibly linked to an intervention. Contribution implies a logical cause-and-effect relationship that points to the meaningful input of an intervention to the development result(s). For instance, improvement in the judicial process could result from the interventions of several actors working to train judges, improve administrative processes or bring about changes in legislative policy.
  7. Organizational effectiveness: This refers to more direct, accountable and attributable measures of performance over which the organization has relatively more control or manageable interests.
  8. Development effectiveness: This is the extent to which the intended development goals of a country are achieved through the agency of the government, civil society and development partners. Evaluation assesses the effectiveness of the partners’ contribution in enhancing the factors and conditions that enable countries to achieve their development goals.

V. Roles and responsibilities

  1. All constituents of UNDP, including the Executive Board, have key and distinct roles and responsibilities in ensuring that evaluation supports learning and accountability. Working together, they contribute to a coherent and effective evaluation system. The evaluations conducted by UNDP fall into two categories: independent evaluations conducted by the Evaluation Office, and decentralized evaluations commissioned by programme units and conducted by independent external experts. Roles and responsibilities for each of these categories and for national evaluation capacity development are described below.
  2. The Executive Board of UNDP/UNFPA is the custodian of the evaluation policy. The Executive Board:
    1. Approves the evaluation policy and considers the annual reports on its implementation;
    2. Ensures the independence of the evaluation function by:
      1. Approving annually the costed programme of work for the Evaluation Office;
      2. Reviewing and advising on the appointment, renewal and dismissal of the Director of the Evaluation Office.
    3. Requires management response and follow-up to all evaluations by UNDP;
    4. Uses and draws on the findings and recommendations of evaluations for oversight and approval of corporate policy, strategy and programmes;
    5. Reviews and approves the management responses to independent evaluations;
    6. Requests periodically the Evaluation Office to commission an independent review of the evaluation policy.


    A. Independent evaluations

  3. The Evaluation Office of UNDP is the custodian of the evaluation function under the following aspects of evaluation. The Evaluation Office:
    1. Governance and accountability
      1. Prepares and periodically reviews and updates UNDP policy for evaluation;
      2. Submits annually its costed programme of work to the Executive Board;
      3. Reports annually to the Executive Board on the function, compliance, coverage, quality, findings and follow-up to evaluations conducted by UNDP and its associated funds and programmes;
      4. Maintains a system to make all evaluation reports, management response and the status of follow-up actions publicly accessible;
      5. Regularly alerts senior management to emerging evaluation-related issues of corporate significance, without taking part in decision-making.
    2. Conduct of evaluations
      1. Promotes national ownership and leadership of, and capacity development in evaluation through country-led and joint evaluations, while ensuring the independence, quality and utility of evaluation;
      2. Develops annually the programme of work for independent evaluations, based on consultations with the Executive Board, senior management, the associated funds and programmes and other stakeholders, and in response to emerging issues that the Evaluation Office may identify;
      3. Conducts thematic evaluations, programme evaluations such as the Assessment of Development Results (ADRs) at the country level, evaluations of global, regional, and South-South programmes, and other evaluations as required;
      4. Ensures that independent evaluations provide strategic and representative coverage of UNDP programmes and results and are completed in a timely manner to feed into decision-making;
      5. Conducts independent evaluations in line with best international evaluation standards, including the UNEG norms and standards, Code of Conduct and Ethical Guidelines, and contributes to innovation in evaluation methodology and dissemination of good practices.
    3. Partnership and knowledge management
      1. Maintains a publicly accessible repository of evaluations;
      2. Distils evaluation findings and lessons for dissemination in appropriate formats for targeted audiences;
      3. Supports the development of learning groups and communities of practice in evaluation by establishing and supporting knowledge networks;
      4. Engages in partnership with professional evaluation networks, including UNEG, the Development Assistance Committee Network on Evaluation, the Evaluation Cooperation Group of the multilateral development banks, and regional organizations to enhance quality and credibility.
    4. United Nations reform
      1. Ensures that evaluation in UNDP contributes to and remains consistent with United Nations policy and reforms;
      2. Supports the harmonization of the evaluation function in the United Nations system;
      3. Prioritizes joint evaluations with United Nations agencies;
      4. Contributes evaluative evidence to system-wide evaluations;
      5. Contributes to the annual work programme of UNEG.
    5. Management
      The Director of the Evaluation Office is accountable for: (i) Managing the Evaluation Office budget, including contributions from partners; (ii) Managing the recruitment of the Evaluation Office staff, in line with UNDP recruitment procedures and UNEG competencies for evaluators, taking the final decision on selection of staff.
  4. The Administrator of UNDP is accountable for UNDP results, and:
    1. Safeguards the integrity of the evaluation function and its independence from operational management;
    2. Appoints, renews, and/or dismisses the Director of the Evaluation Office, in consultation with the Executive Board, in line with UNEG standards, and limits the term of appointment to four years, renewable once, and bars re-entry into the organization;
    3. Submits an annual report on the performance of the Director of the Evaluation Office to the Bureau of the Executive Board;
    4. Safeguards the independence of the Evaluation Office by ensuring that the Director has the final say on the contents of all evaluation reports issued by the Evaluation Office;
    5. Provides sufficient resources and capacity for evaluation in the organization, including resources for the Evaluation Office and independent evaluations such as global, regional and country programmes and thematic evaluations;
    6. Ensures that UNDP prepares a management response to independent evaluations that are submitted to the Executive Board;
    7. Ensures that senior management responds to and utilizes evaluation in their operational, strategic, policy and oversight functions and that appropriate follow-up to the findings and recommendations of independent evaluation is taken by the relevant units.
  5. The senior management of practice and policy bureaux, regional bureaux, and country offices:
    1. Ensures the evaluability of programmes by identifying clear results, developing measurable indicators, and establishing performance targets and baseline information;
    2. Ensures the effective monitoring and decentralized evaluation of implementation and performance of programmes to generate relevant, timely information for the conduct of independent evaluations;
    3. Makes all requested and relevant information available to the independent evaluation team;
    4. Draws on evaluation findings to improve the quality of programmes, guide strategic decision-making on future programming and positioning, and share knowledge on development experience;
    5. Promotes organizational learning through analysis and application of evaluation findings across regions, themes and results areas, including through knowledge systems and products.


    B. Decentralized evaluations

  6. The Administrator of UNDP is accountable for UNDP results, and:
    1. Ensures compliance with the evaluation policy as integral to effective accountability across the organization;
    2. Provides sufficient resources and capacity for decentralized evaluations;
    3. Approves any revisions to evaluation plans attached to regional, global and thematic programmes:
    4. Ensures that UNDP prepares a management response to decentralized evaluations;
    5. Ensures that senior management responds to and utilizes decentralized evaluation in their operational, strategic, policy and oversight functions and that appropriate follow-up action to the findings and recommendations of decentralized evaluations is taken by the relevant units.
  7. The senior management of practice and policy bureaux, regional bureaux and country offices that manage global, regional, country and thematic programmes:
    1. Ensures the evaluability of programmes by identifying clear results, developing measurable indicators, and establishing performance targets and baseline information;
    2. In collaboration with stakeholders and partners, ensures the effective monitoring of implementation and performance of programmes to generate relevant, timely information for management for results and evaluation;
    3. With partner governments and key stakeholders, develops a costed evaluation plan attached to programme documents. In the case of country offices, budgets the plan no later than at the time of adoption of the country programme action plan. Periodically reviews and updates the plan to ensure its relevance to national priorities;
    4. Establishes an appropriate institutional arrangement to manage evaluation;
    5. Ensures adequate resources for evaluation;
    6. Safeguards the independence of the evaluation process and product;
    7. Ensures the implementation of the evaluation plan in line with established quality standards, including the UNEG Norms and Standards, Code of Conduct, Ethical Guidelines and UNDP evaluation guidance;
    8. Advocates country-led and joint evaluations to promote national ownership and leadership of evaluation while ensuring the independence, quality and utility of evaluation;
    9. Makes all necessary information available to the evaluation team;
    10. Promotes joint evaluation work with the United Nations system and other partners, while ensuring accountability for the specific contributions of UNDP to development results. In the case of country offices, it contributes to the UNDAF evaluation;
    11. Prepares, in consultation with national partners, management responses to all evaluations, and ensures and tracks appropriate, timely implementation of the agreed evaluation recommendations;
    12. Draws on evaluation findings to improve the quality of programmes, guide strategic decision-making on future programming and positioning, and share knowledge on development experience;
    13. Ensures the transparency of and public access to all evaluation reports;
    14. Promotes organizational learning through analysis and application of evaluation findings across regions, themes and results areas, including through knowledge systems and products.
  8. In their exercise of line oversight and support to evaluations commissioned by country offices, the Directors of regional bureaux:
    1. Ensure evaluability of country programmes, quality of evaluation plans and evaluation practices by country offices and the full implementation of costed evaluation plans;
    2. Support and guide country office capacity in evaluation, including establishing regional expertise and regional evaluation support systems;
    3. Review and clear revisions of evaluation plans attached to country programmes;
    4. Ensure effective use of evaluations for oversight.
  9. The Evaluation Office:
    1. Sets evaluation standards for planning, conducting and using decentralized evaluations, and assesses the quality of evaluation reports;
    2. Disseminates methodology and good practice standards for evaluation management in UNDP;
    3. Provides a roster of evaluation experts;
    4. Supports a network of evaluation practitioners;
    5. Maintains a public depository of evaluation resources to facilitate sharing of evaluative knowledge.


    Mandatory decentralized evaluations

  10. UNDP ensures that planned evaluations assess its contribution to development results at the outcome level. These evaluations should together provide sufficient coverage of programmatic activities, address all outcomes in the programme document, and produce evaluative evidence to inform decision-making and support accountability and learning.
  11. Mandatory decentralized evaluations are the evaluations that have been identified in the evaluation plan annexed to the global, regional, country and thematic and South-South programmes. A comprehensive and strategic evaluation plan should include an appropriate mix of outcome-level, project and thematic evaluations, including joint evaluations. Evaluations when required by a cost-sharing agreement or partnership protocol (e.g., Global Environment Facility) are mandatory, and should be included in the evaluation plan.
  12. Evaluation plans are reviewed as part of the annual programme review process to ensure relevance of the planned evaluations. With the advance clearance by the regional bureau, the evaluation plans for country offices can be revised, with government agreement, for compelling reasons such as major changes in policy, programme or evaluation context. The Administrator approves any changes in the regional, global, thematic and South-South programme evaluation plans.

    C. National evaluation capacity development

  13. UNDP programme units promote and coordinate South-South and trilateral cooperation in support of capacity-building for evaluation at the country level by strengthening communities of practice in evaluation and maintaining regional rosters of evaluation experts and institutes in each region.
  14. At the request of programme host Governments, UNDP provides support to national evaluation capacity development.
  15. In collaboration with UNEG, the Evaluation Office supports national evaluation capacity development and provides a forum for discussion of evaluation issues confronting countries and enables participants to draw on recent and innovative experiences of other countries and facilitates the preparation of the ground for formulation of longer-term initiatives to strengthen national capacities for public policy evaluation through South-South and trilateral cooperation.

VI. United Nations Capital Development Fund and United Nations Volunteers programme

  1. Evaluation units of the associated funds and programmes are the custodians of the evaluation function in their organizations, and for their fund or programme, respectively, they:
    1. Periodically review and revise, as necessary, the evaluation policy;
    2. Contribute to the development by the Evaluation Office of common evaluation quality standards and guidelines;
    3. Support the elaboration of well-defined results frameworks to facilitate the evaluation of programmes and activities;
    4. Submit to their senior management a biennial plan and budget for the evaluation unit;
    5. Develop, in consultation with key stakeholders, an annual agenda of evaluations to be conducted;
    6. Manage and conduct evaluations;
    7. Ensure, whenever possible, joint evaluation work with the United Nations system and other partners;
    8. Quality assure mandatory evaluations outsourced or managed by programme staff;
    9. Ensure the maintenance of a publicly accessible repository of evaluations;
    10. Ensure the dissemination of evaluation findings and lessons in appropriate formats for targeted audiences, and promote their consideration in decision-making and for learning;
    11. Track management response and follow-up to agreed evaluation recommendations;
    12. Alert their senior management to evaluation-related issues of corporate significance;
    13. Provide input to the annual report on evaluation to the Executive Board;
    14. Contribute to developing evaluation capacity;
    15. Ensure consistency with United Nations policy and reforms, and contribute to improving evaluation collaboration, quality and usefulness, including through participation in UNEG.
  2. Mandatory evaluation criteria for UNCDF are:
    1. At least one strategic or thematic assessment per year in response to corporate priorities;
    2. Mid-term or final evaluations of selected projects in critical areas of relevance to the two UNCDF practice areas of local development and inclusive finance;
    3. Project evaluations when required by a partnership protocol;
    4. Participation in evaluations of joint programmes as required by approved joint programme documents.
  3. Mandatory evaluations for UNV are:
    1. One strategic or thematic assessment per year in response to demands identified during a corporate consultative process;
    2. Mid-term or final evaluations of selected projects and initiatives financed from the Special Voluntary Fund, in critical areas and/or areas where there is a need to learn about the contribution of volunteerism to peace and development;
    3. Project evaluations when required by a partnership protocol;
    4. Participation in evaluations of joint programmes when required by the programme design.

VII. Use of evaluation findings and recommendations

  1. All evaluations will have a management response that should be systematically implemented by UNDP. The Evaluation Office maintains a system to track management responses to evaluations. The status of follow-up actions should be updated by management in the tracking system. The Evaluation Office periodically briefs those with oversight function on the status of follow-up to evaluation recommendations and implementation of management responses, and alerts senior management to any areas of concern.
  2. All UNDP evaluation reports are made public. The Director of the Evaluation Office is responsible for authorizing the dissemination of independent evaluation reports and related material. Resident representatives, regional bureau directors, and directors of practice and policy bureaux are required to disclose all evaluations commissioned by their respective units.
  3. To facilitate wider use and dissemination of evaluation findings, the executive summary of all independent evaluations are translated into the three working languages of UNDP. The Evaluation Office is responsible for a communication and outreach programme to expand the effective use of independent evaluation findings and the development of a learning community. Country offices are encouraged to translate a summary of evaluations into local languages and use other means in order to inform stakeholders of findings and for learning.
  4. As a learning and knowledge-based organization, UNDP ensures that constituents of the organization draw lessons from evaluations and internalize evaluative knowledge in programming and knowledge-sharing efforts. Lessons from evaluation should not be limited to the immediate subject matter of evaluation and should be shared across countries, regions and focus areas in which UNDP works. Knowledge generated from UNDP evaluation should be useful to national and international partners in development and contribute to global policy debate and innovation in development.
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