Evalutation practitioners, public officers and academics meeting in Morocco were among those calling for greater inclusion of evaluation in institutional policies and processes in order to strengthen development initiatives.
There were among some 200 evaluation experts, researchers and representatives from governments, international cooperation agencies and NGOs who gathered in Rabat for the 7th Conference and General Assembly of the Middle East and North Africa Evaluation Network (EvalMENA), which was held from 27 to 30 November 2018.
The meeting was hosted by the Moroccan Evaluation Association and focused on the theme “National Evaluation Policies in the MENA Region: Institutional Measures and Regional Evaluation Processes".
In the MENA region, there has been a growing recognition of the importance of evaluation of government policies and programs over the last years, with Morocco being at the forefront in starting the first officially-registered Voluntary Organization for Professional Evaluation (VOPE) in 2008, and endorsing evaluation in the country’s revised constitution in 2012.
The Conference offered a platform for the exchange of country experiences in reinforcing national evaluation policies within their specific political and development contexts and for finding common strategies to advance institutionalization of evaluation.
Evaluation is emerging in the MENA region; the presentations and debates at the Conference reflected both participants’ expectations and aspects that need further clarification and debate. At the same time, the Conference highlighted challenges such as the need to expand evaluation capacities among professionals and government officials and to anchor the evaluation culture in public institutions and among stakeholders.
This effort will also require reinforcing a common understanding of evaluation and use of agreed-on definitions and methodologies, to make sure evaluation is clearly distinct from auditing, monitoring and public expenditure-review functions.
The need to adapt approaches to countries in the region emerged, in particular, with regard to some areas hit by conflict and population displacement and the peculiarities of communities and marginalized groups. For instance, the Jordanian VOPE has begun making available evaluation guidance and literature in Arabic and EvalMENA is working on developing evaluation-professionalization pathways that would suit the region.
Regarding the Sustainable Development Goals, countries are aligning their national strategies with the internationally-agreed Agenda 2030 but, as in many cases worldwide, they have not yet integrated SDG-related evaluation in their Voluntary National Review reporting.
Overall, the Agenda 2030 and the evaluation movement are helping to accelerate and reinforce the call for a greater focus on transparency and governance, a process that started in the aftermath of the Arab spring and which is particularly critical for addressing the issues that countries in the regions are facing.
Finally, the Conference visited the Parliament of Morocco to highlight instances of evaluation of public policies and to call for progress towards institutionalization of evaluation.
For more information on the Conference outcomes and takeaways, please listen to the recordings from Rachid Chiriqi of the Moroccan Evaluation Association (in French). More feedback from EvalMENA participants can be found on EVAL-ForwARD soundtrack channel.
Additional resources available are the proceedings of the WFP event on Investing in Evidence to End Hunger, which included a presentation of EVAL-ForwARD, and the summary of the keynote delivered by Ian Davies. A report from one of the pre-conference workshops is also available here.