New evaluation programme: Knowledge is even more important when there is a global crisis

Development assistance is now facing major challenges that require action. In such times, knowledge is all the more important for making good decisions.

The Evaluation Department launched the Evaluation Programme 2020–2022 at the end of March 2020. The current situation highlights how important knowledge is, even in trying times.

The aim of an evaluation is to provide useful knowledge about whether Norwegian aid is having the desired effect in important priority areas, including during acute crises.

‘An important question at this time is how we can put evaluation knowledge to better use. Crises necessitate a speedy response, and this reinforces the importance of having a good understanding of what is going on,’ says Per Øyvind Bastøe, Director of Norad’s Evaluation Department.

‘There is always the danger that hasty efforts can undermine the long-term effort, so we must try to avoid that.’

Humanitarian assistance

The overarching thematic areas in the last programmes have been continued in the new programme. Several of the upcoming evaluations relate to private sector development, humanitarian assistance, and climate and environment.

Humanitarian assistance is an important priority area in Norwegian development policy and has a total budget in excess of NOK 5.5 billion in 2020. Large amounts are also spent on long-term development efforts in fragile states and regions.

Earlier evaluations have described how good contextual knowledge is crucial to adapting the assistance provided to fragile states.

‘The evaluation of Norway’s involvement in South Sudan, from February this year, showed the difficulty in identifying how learning and knowledge were systematically used in the Norwegian engagement. Going forward, we will continue to look at Norway’s overall efforts in other selected countries, the next being Somalia. We will also initiate an evaluation of Norwegian support for the response to refugees and internally displaced people in the Syria region,’ says Bastøe.

Selected knowledge programmes

One of the thematic areas that will be continued in the new programme is private sector development and public-private partnerships.

‘Norad’s Knowledge Bank is one of the administrators of this support. The Evaluation Department is now undertaking an evaluation of the support for the fisheries sector in ‘Fish for Development’, the first in a series of evaluations of programmes in the Knowledge Bank. We hope that this can provide input to the work on further developing Norwegian efforts in this area,’ says Bastøe.

The use of funds

A large proportion of Norwegian development aid is channelled through multilateral organisations and funds. Evaluating how these funds are used is challenging for the Norwegian aid administration. The Evaluation Department therefore maintains partnership agreements with several of the evaluation offices in selected multilateral organisations.

The new programme also includes an evaluation of the effects of funds at country level.

‘Norway’s recent initiative to launch a multi-donor fund in the United Nations to address the repercussions of the coronavirus crisis illustrates the importance of using knowledge as a tool to shed light on how funds are spent. On what basis are the funds distributed? How can cooperation and interaction be facilitated? How can we avoid rapid responses being based on insufficient knowledge?’ asks Bastøe.

Variation in how the evaluations are carried out

In order to increase the relevance and application of knowledge, the Evaluation Department will assess how the evaluations are carried out. Normally, the entire evaluation is undertaken by external consultants, but in the future, it may instead be desirable to hire consultants to provide smaller and targeted inputs to the evaluations.

‘In future, there will probably be more variation in the way evaluations are done. We need to be conscious about what is the best way to do a specific evaluation so that it provides useful and relevant knowledge,’ Bastøe concludes.

Published 06.04.2020
Last updated 06.04.2020