Evaluation for sustainability and change: the 8th EvalMENA Conference looks forward

©Omar Jatkar

Evaluation for sustainability and change: the 8th EvalMENA Conference looks forward

Public officers, professional evaluators and evaluations users and managers gathered on the Jordanian side of the Dead Sea to discuss and advocate for the sustainability of development initiatives and for change.

Around 150 evaluation practitioners, members of governments and parliaments, of NGOs, international cooperation agencies and UN gathered at the Jordanian side of the Dead Sea for the 8th Conference and General Assembly of the Middle East and North Africa Evaluation Network (EvalMENA), held from the 27th of February to the 1st of March 2020.

The Conference this year was hosted by the Palestinian Evaluation Association (PEA), and the chosen theme was “Evaluation for Sustainability and Change”. In a region characterized by numerous protracted crises, affecting a large number of people and hitting harder the most vulnerable, the evaluation community decided to look forward and reflect together on how evaluation can contribute to sustainability and, ultimately, to change.

The Pre-Conference programme offered professional development workshops in both English and Arabic, an important occasion for talking and discussing evaluation in Arabic. Methods and approaches, visualization and use have been debated, before the opening ceremony animated by the presidents of the PEA and EvalJordan, the chair of EvalMENA and representatives of UN agencies which supported the event.

The Keynote Speaker this year has been Dr. Jyotsna Puri, Head of the Independent Evaluation Unit at the Green Climate Fund, South Korea. The speech focused on evaluation for resilience and sustainability in the context of climate and inequality crises. And in times of corona virus: Dr. Puri gave the speech via skype, since she could not fly from Korea to Jordan.

The plenary on country-led evaluations of the SDGs and MENA country experience saw the sharing of experience of government officers and other actors in the region. Representatives of ministries from Tunisia and Palestine shared their experience in partnering with the World Food Progamme and other actors in the plenary on joint evaluations and studies on social protection in the MENA region, with a focus on food security initiatives and an emphasis on the importance to contribute to building sustainable systems to bring a durable change – even when responding to humanitarian crises. Joint evaluations have also helped the ministries involved strengthen the evaluation culture in their institutions.

The other plenaries explored and debated innovative approaches and methodologies, and evaluators competencies and professionalization in the region.

The parallel sessions hosted experts sharing experience and findings on a large range of topics, from utilization of and the role of stakeholders in evaluation, to empowerment through evaluation and the discussion on feminist evaluation. A session has been dedicated also to the follow up to Colombo Declaration and EvalColombo2018, with Members of Parliaments from the region and beyond.

The Conference closed with the Dead Sea Declaration on Evaluation for a Sustainable Future in the MENA Region. In the document – still in a draft form - the participants representing national VOPEs, government, parliaments, civil society organizations, UN agencies, and others local and international organizations from the MENA region and beyond declare the commitment to continue to support and promote – among others – environmental sustainability, evaluation capacity building – including for the young and emerging evaluators - equity and gender sensitive evaluation, regional and global evaluation networks and global evaluation agenda.

Year after year, the EvalMENA Conferences show that evaluation is a growing field in the MENA countries; at the same time, they provide participants the chance to join forces in promoting and strengthening evaluation practice and culture throughout the region.