Can we settle for evaluation alone to ensure that the SDGs are achieved?
In recent years, evaluation has become both an essential discipline and a practice to assess the achievement of development goals around the world: an academic discipline firmly rooted in the best universities; a fairly well-established practice among development practitioners, in particular because of the great support on the part of major donors, including the World Bank.
The institutionalization of evaluation in the development sphere has been encouraged since the launch of the first specialized evaluation training courses, such as IPDET or PIFED. Paradoxically, national systems and practice of monitoring development actions have been the subject of much criticism among development practitioners, particularly towards the end of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) period: the gap had widened between the practice of evaluation and the practice of monitoring development actions.
The launch by the United Nations of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) highlighted the need to improve and promote national monitoring-evaluation systems, particularly in less developed countries.
A few years later, where are we? It would appear that the practice of evaluation has developed well with regard to development actions financed by donors, in particular because of the conditionalities imposed, but that the same is not true for national systems for monitoring development actions. I am concerned then that a certain "ideology" is circulating among experts and practitioners of evaluation suggesting that evaluation could be self-sufficient or easily replace the practice of monitoring.
Some questions are worth asking in this regard:
- Are evaluation and monitoring mutually exclusive practices, or are they complementary and both necessary for assessing and correcting the performance of a development action?
- If monitoring is of any importance for the assessment and correction of development action, what makes it not receiving as much attention today as evaluation?
- Although efforts have been made in some less developed countries to improve national monitoring systems and monitoring practice, this remains insufficient and sometimes too much related to donor-imposed conditionalities. So what needs to be done to upgrade national monitoring systems and promote the practice of monitoring development actions?
- If we are to continue to talk about monitoring and evaluation at the institutional level, to what extent should our discourse and attention be about monitoring and evaluation, not just evaluation?
Thank you for your reactions,