Refugee policy has featured prominently in evaluation of international development policy for decades. By most accounts, the issue will only increase in urgency as the climate crisis motivates further migration and geopolitical tensions show no sign of abating. This blog provides a useful framing of the institutional network and series of agreements that collectively organise refugee relief efforts. It also illustrates just how overstretched those resources have become in the face of an expanding challenge across the globe. Highly localised problems limit the scope for generalisable lessons learnt and compound other challenges. The blog explains how UNHCR in particular has adapted by boosting development capacity, cultivating in-house expertise and fortifying partnerships. The piece asks important questions about meaningful partnerships in the development space when material results are so pressing, and when any failures are so public. The blog is clear that sluggish decision-making, unable to efficiently navigate the international institutional structure through which refugee policy works, is an enduring problem. Its solutions are not generic and will probably not be shared by all practitioners, but the themes of this blog will be of interest to working in the sector.
The 7th National Evaluation Capacity (NEC) conference was held in Turin, Italy on 25-28 October. Organised by the Global Evaluation Initiative (GEI) and UNDP’s Independent Evaluation Office (IEO), the conference theme was ‘Resilient National Evaluation Systems for Sustainable Development’. Resilience has become one of the watchwords of post-pandemic recovery; alongside confronting the direct impacts of the pandemic, resilience envisages recovery with future shocks in mind, systematically identifying institutional fragility and efficiently rectifying it. As with previous NECs, the breadth of stakeholder attendance is the strength of the conference and the principal means of achieving its aims: drawing particularly on GEI’s network, the conference endeavoured to regenerate the innovative partnerships needed to both respond to emergencies and meet long-term goals.
Historically, one of the fiercest debates in the international development sector has been whether policies have inappropriately motivated developing country economies to focus on specific agricultural products. National government and international support for such products can have a profound and enduring distortionary effect on local economies, in some cases transforming communities. For some time, this prescription has been under scrutiny as practitioners argue that it limits diversification and presents dangerous longer-term liabilities, especially in the context of increasingly frequent climate shocks. This blog goes further and suggests, drawing on a recent decade-long evaluation from the IEG, that diversification is closely linked to sustainability and inclusion. As well as supporting incomes for farmers over a longer timespan, diversification can meet the need for healthier, more nutritious foodstuffs locally and more widely. The blog goes into detail on how this opportunity can be seized by overcoming the familiar barriers: constructive policy environments, infrastructure, accessibility of finance and international quality standards.
As COP27 approaches, climate concerns will of course be front of mind for many evaluators. COP27 is being held in Egypt, at its Sharm El Sheikh resort. While some attendees and commentators have raised the issue of the country’s human rights record and limited scope for activism, Egypt is also at the forefront of climate change’s impact. The country has a well-documented history of water scarcity and associated challenges that the climate crisis promises to aggravate year on year. This blog, which summarises a seminar on the subject of ‘evidence-informed insights on tackling climate change’, unsurprisingly mentions Egypt’s burgeoning youth population as an essential part of their climate response. It is at its most insightful in explaining the evidence base for a behavioural approach to climate mitigation. The blog goes into some detail on how populations can be incentivised to reduce their carbon footprint. Usefully, the studies cover a wide range of regions and not merely the OECD. As ever, the focus on granular ground-level studies is a welcome characteristic of J-PAL’s work. The blog underscores, even if not explicitly, the tremendous diplomatic challenge for Egypt in organising climate commitments that substantively build on those made in Glasgow.
The South African Monitoring and Evaluation Biennial Conference was held between September 21-23. From accounts such as this blog, this conference follows many others in the M&E in trying to rebuild professional relationships and revive research dynamism in the wake of pandemic-related disruption and the additional burdens that the pandemic has placed on societies and economies. The value of this blog lies in providing a brief insight into these developments in Africa, the activities of the African M&E community and the most pressing topics for it. Otherwise, the emphasis on new methods of monitoring, strategies of data management, and technological adoption will be familiar to any attendees of recent conferences.