Talking truth to power, uncensored: the raison d'être of evaluation
Oct 4, 2023
Jeddah, 4 October 2023 – “Evaluation works well when it has the ability to talk truth to power – uncensored”, affirmed Dr Indran A. Naidoo, Director of the Independent Office of Evaluation of IFAD (IOE), in his keynote address during the 5th Evaluation Symposium organized by the Independent Evaluation Department of the Islamic Development Bank (IEvD). “Evaluation creates a demand for candid reflection and honest reports,which must tackle the root causes of inequality and address all facets of sustainable development”, the IOE Director emphasized. “Let us move away from the notion that development is something that's a preserve of one part of the world, and that everyone else needs to follow suit”.
Held in Jeddah, on 2-3 October 2023, the IsDB symposium was titled ‘The future of Evaluation: Adapting to a Changing Landscape’. The event mobilized worldwide-known development experts, who shared their knowledge and insights. Representatives of multilateral development banks, international organizations, and evaluation networks joined Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) senior managers and Saudi-based partners in a joint effort to enhance the learning culture within the evaluation community.
The symposium leveraged future innovations in development evaluation that will likely contribute towards accelerating development effectiveness within institutions and at country levels. The event also enabled the dissemination of evidence-based best practices that should promote development effectiveness and assimilation of innovations in key functions. These include data analytics, corporate performance, country strategy, operations efficiency, and results management.
Dr Naidoo delivered the keynote address during the sixth session of the symposium. In his opening remarks, the IOE Director highlighted the challenges for evaluation in the coming decade, and spoke about the pathways to tackle them. Paramount among these is the need to embrace an independent evaluation culture.
“Transparency and accountability must be built. Doing so can take decades”, noted Dr Naidoo, explaining what it takes to establish an independent evaluation function. “Having good policy that protects independence is important. Having skilled evaluators is critical. Knowing how to communicate results is essential. Focusing on transformative evaluative practice is pivotal”.
One of the pitfalls inherent in the independence construct is isolation. This hurdle must be overcome, given that evaluation is increasingly called upon to influence decision makers and to measure whether development interventions are transformative.
“How do we measure whether interventions are really transformative in changing the overall quality of life? – Dr Nadioo asked – Firstly, methodological sound practice remains, but we must ensure that complexity and scale are integrated. Secondly, there must be engagement with all stakeholders. Every voice matters. If you don't bring people on board, at the beginning, through the process and in the end, you are likely to become almost isolated. You're independent but isolated and hence you can have no influence. That is, of course, a challenge which you need to deal with”, the IOE Director underscored.
The keynote address was followed by an insightful panel discussion and a lively questions and answer session, during which participants learned about what multilateral development banks (MDBs) and development organizations can do to make evaluation more innovative in order to face the most pressing challenges in the coming decade. Panelists included Dr Jos Vaessen (Deputy Head, Global Evaluation Initiative), Dr Emmanuel Jimenez (Director General, Independent Evaluation, Asian Development Bank), Dr. Mohammed Alyami (Director, Development Effectiveness Department, Islamic Corporation for the Development of the Private Sector), Ibrahima Dit Thierno Lo (Principal Executive Assistant, Executive Office of the President, IsDB), Hamdi Ahmedou (Senior Manager, Monitoring and Evaluation, International Islamic Trade Finance Corporation), and Dr. Abdel Hameed Bashir (Evaluation Advisor, Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa).
Dr Naidoo also contributed to other sessions of the symposium. On the first day of the event, the IOE Director chaired the session titled ‘Country-Level Development Solutions’, in which IEvD presented a thought-provoking summary of its recent evaluations of country programming and strategies. Dr Naidoo also participated as a panellist in sessions one, titled ‘Future Solutions of Development Operations Efficiency’, in which IEvD presented its recent evaluations of operations efficiency; and session four, titled ‘Looking Forward- Future Frontiers of Development Evaluation in MDBs’. The latter focused upon how the independent evaluation functions of MDBs may confront the development challenges that they will face over the coming decade.
“Evaluation criteria must not be looked at in isolation. Pursuing efficiency may impact adversely on effectiveness, most certainly on sustainability and on impact”, warned Dr Naidoo, in his panel intervention during session one.
The mission of IEvD is to support IsDB to become a knowledge-based organization that continuously improves its operations, drawing lessons from the evaluations to enhance the development effectiveness of its interventions in Member Countries and in favor of Muslim communities in non-Member Countries. IEvD collaborates closely with peer institutions and engages in outreach activities with various stakeholders in order to strengthen the evaluation practice and to promote evaluative thinking through evaluation capacity development, knowledge sharing, and leveraging its networks. Overall, IEvD strives to enable learning, support better policy decisions, and enhance accountability with the aim to uphold the highest standards of corporate governance.
For further information, please contact Dr Alexander Voccia [here]
To access Dr Naidoo’s keynote address, please click here.
To access Dr Naidoo’s presentation, please click here.
To access the livestream recording of Dr Naidoo’s keynote address, please click here.
To access the livestream recordings of the sessions in which Dr Naidoo served as a Chair and panellist, please click here,here and here.