Three lessons that prepare the aid administration for crises
These lessons are drawn from a number of evaluations that were launched during the last twelve months, including an evaluation of Norwegian efforts in South Sudan, of Norwegian aid to private sector development and job creation, and of Norway’s multilateral partnerships.
‘Keeping an overview of and understanding documented experience and previously accumulated knowledge should always be part of good preparatory work before new aid interventions are initiated,’ says Per Øyvind Bastøe, evaluation director in Norad.
Several evaluations undertaken this year as well as previously point out that the preparatory work before the launch of new initiatives has been insufficient. Knowledge and use of context are crucial for aid to be relevant.
‘The evaluation of Norwegian efforts in South Sudan identified the absence of conflict analysis as a weakness in the planning. Context and conflict analyses could have contributed positively to alignment of efforts at the country level,’ Bastøe continues.
Coordination makes for better results
There is often an intention for several aid interventions jointly to achieve more than each one individually. One way to ensure such coordination of the efforts is to use portfolio management. This implies managing a group of projects actively to achieve pre-defined joint objectives.
‘A precondition for succeeding in this is linked to the first lesson learned, that knowledge is collected before implementation and used during the implementation process to inform management, learning and decision-making,’ says Bastøe.
The need to coordinate a greater part of the efforts was also found in an evaluation of Norwegian aid to private sector development and job creation. By seeing the different instruments used in this type of aid as a whole, there is a higher likelihood of selecting the best interventions to achieve the desired development.
Cooperation expands the knowledge base
Norad‘s evaluation department also participates in joint evaluations and studies alongside other international aid agencies. This helps produce a broader knowledge base regarding what kinds of aid efforts are effective or not, compared to what a single organisation can do alone. In this way, different aid agencies obtain better insights that can be used in the planning and implementation of projects.
Similarly, an evaluation of Norway’s multilateral partnerships through the World Bank and the UN showed a number of examples of how international cooperation brings mutual benefits. This form of partnership is a valuable tool to both promote multilateralism and mobilise efforts in areas of special interest to Norway in a way that we would be unable to achieve by ourselves.
‘One of the preconditions for international cooperation and coordination to succeed is to have sufficient capacity and competence in Norwegian aid administration,’ Per Øyvind Bastøe states.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the aid administration in Norway – and other countries – has had to restructure quickly to meet new needs. The lessons in the annual report from the evaluation department have been highlighted with exactly this in mind.
‘The lessons that we highlight in the annual report are not new, and for some they may appear quite obvious. However, they are important to have in place when crises arise and a rapid response is crucial. The evaluation department therefore wishes to emphasise that in light of the COVID-19 crisis, these concerns are now especially important.’
Better planning and coordination of aid interventions can better equip us to learn from – and make use of – key experiences when a crisis strikes.
Because of the COVID-19 restrictions, the evaluation department’s seminars have been moved online. Recordings of debates held in connection with the launch of the report this spring are available at norad.no/evaluering. A number of evaluations are scheduled for launch in the autumn of 2020. See the overview of evaluations that are under preparation.