As the ten-year countdown toward the Sustainable Development Goals begins, systems to track progress and measure the impact of policies are now more important than ever. Monitoring and evaluation have evolved significantly as professional practices and can deliver invaluable evidence on what is working and what is not, but a major effort is needed to ensure all countries are able to share in the benefits. Many countries, particularly in low-income and lower middle-income parts of the world, still lack the capacity for monitoring and evaluation which risks holding them back and must be addressed if we are all to reach the Sustainable Development Goals together.

In our engagement with partner countries we have witnessed widespread awareness of the urgency of the problem, and a commitment to tackling it. The Independent Evaluation Group organized a conference in September of last year with representatives of 44 African countries to discuss the gap in capacities. Every country represented was keen to learn from global experience, and many sought support for a country-wide diagnosis of their systems of monitoring and evaluation as a first step toward designing plans to strengthen and expand them.  

We have received similar calls for support from countries in Asia and Latin America. Yet while there is momentum, coupled with substantial progress, the stark fact remains that only one third of governments around the world have data and systems to track the implementation of their national development strategies. This is a severe handicap for effective policymaking as it makes it very hard to use evidence to support better public decision-making or to account for the effectiveness of those decisions. It also stands in the way of learning from experience and using the lessons to adjust course, scale or target public policies more effectively.

There are a wide variety of initiatives aimed at supporting better monitoring and evaluation, and some show real promise, but their impact and sustainability can be diluted by a lack of scale, a focus on projects rather than systems, and limited coordination. There is also a need now for more programs of support that look beyond knowledge transfer.

The World Bank Group recently announced a record-breaking US$82 billion in new commitments for its fund that leads the fight against extreme poverty, the International Development Association (IDA). This unprecedented support for the next three-year cycle will allow IDA to start the decade with an ambitious set of goals aimed at building the momentum toward both the World Bank Group’s mission of ending extreme poverty and boosting shared prosperity, and the Sustainable Development Goals. 

The new commitments will fund diverse programs to meet the varied needs of the almost 500 million poor people that live in IDA countries. Many of these countries, however, are among those that lack effective systems of monitoring and evaluation. IDA is committed to supporting institutions and building capacity to reduce gaps in core data for evidence-based policy making and to radically improve results measurement, but there remains a risk that weaknesses in monitoring and evaluation capacity could work against the ambitious commitment to results, and in turn slow the momentum toward the 2030 goals. 

The development community—both local and international—is responding to this challenge. There are a wide variety of initiatives aimed at supporting better monitoring and evaluation, and some show real promise, but their impact and sustainability can be diluted by a lack of scale, a focus on projects rather than systems, and limited coordination. There is also a need now for more programs of support that look beyond knowledge transfer. While transferring experience and knowledge on best practices is vital, effective monitoring and evaluation needs to be adapted to each specific context. What works in one place may not necessarily be applicable or work in another. This is especially true for countries experiencing fragility, where an ability to monitor and assess complex, local dynamics is critical for the design and effectiveness of policies that contribute to broad based growth and ultimately stability.

Even in stable settings, it is essential to understand the heterogeneous needs of diverse populations and to evaluate the impact of policies drawing on, among other things, local and indigenous data and knowledge. Understanding the needs of differently vulnerable populations is particularly important, and regular evaluations are a way of ensuring that no one is left behind; one of the guiding principles of the Sustainable Development Goals. Support for adapting best practices to local contexts will require a focus on country-level systems. Along with building data capacity, developing countries will need help with everything from building the right institutions to training a cadre of evaluation professionals to staff them, to adapting frameworks for monitoring and evaluation for the local context.

In line with its mandate, the Independent Evaluation Group has worked on programs to address the gap in monitoring and evaluation capacity. Together with a group of partners, we established the CLEAR initiative which has been helping share knowledge and build capacity through its network of six regionally embedded hubs spread across the world.  Over the last five years, the initiative has run almost 300 training programs that have reached over 72,000 people. Parts of the CLEAR network have also been working to support a more system-wide approach to monitoring and evaluation. This has involved working directly with governments to respond to their specific requests.

We are also helping to train the next generation of evaluation professionals through the International Program for Development Evaluation Training. Managed jointly with the University of Bern and Saarland University, the program brings together evaluation professionals from around the world for courses on the knowledge and skills that are the foundation of effective monitoring and evaluation. With the Sustainable Development Goals on the horizon, however, we are aware of the need to pivot these efforts beyond knowledge and skills development alone.

The same ambition that IDA will bring toward building the momentum toward 2030 is needed for national systems of monitoring and evaluation. A focused and sustained push is needed to accelerate their development in ways that are compatible with local efforts to understand what works and why. This is a pivotal year for meeting this need, but the demand far outstrips the resources of any single institution. Broad partnerships leading coordinated efforts will be critical for delivering the level and type of support required.  The Independent Evaluation Group is committed to working with partner countries, local and international development organizations and donor countries to build a global partnership focused on ensuring all countries are equipped with the vital tools of monitoring and evaluation.

We will report back on the progress of these efforts throughout this year, so please stay tuned.


UPDATE:   In November of 2020, the Global Evaluation Initiative (GEI) was launched. GEI is an inclusive partnership responding to the global demand for better Monitoring & Evaluation by bringing together government, citizens, and experts to support countries in strengthening evaluation and monitoring systems and capacities. Learn more about the Global Evaluation Initiative.


Submitted by Kennedy Amimo … on Wed, 01/08/2020 - 04:34


Great article!
Regional networks can provide a good platform to run targeted capacity building programs in M&E since regional grouping tend to share similar contexts. In addition to targeted training, regional networks approach is cost effective and sustainable since countries can then build on existing M&E resources for continued engagement.

Submitted by Professor KB n… on Wed, 01/08/2020 - 10:03


Although a good initiation and idea to deal with the SDG goals in safe, quick manner, still many countries not in Fram work for addressing issues. So it's better to initiate invitation to join the team and work.

Submitted by DR VIJAY VALLA… on Thu, 01/09/2020 - 06:32


I am deelply impressed by your work.I t enlightened me and provided new sights for understanding the evaluation process.

Submitted by ARCHANA SHARMA on Thu, 01/09/2020 - 07:05


Ms. Alison Evans article is insightful.
I just thought of sharing my own little experience with the World Bank Group.
I am a Development Professional from India who got an opportunity to participate in the International Program for Development Evaluation Training mentioned by you. Fortunately, I was sponsored by the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, Germany (BMZ ) for the program. It was a great learning experience for me. I would like to know about the process to attend any of the in-person events for learning on evaluation capacity development offered by the CLEAR Regional Centers in the coming months.
In late 2017 and early 2018 ,I was a Co-lead of Society of Gender Professionals - Inclusive Growth Team. Unfortunately, due to time and resource constrains on my part I couldn't sustain that for long.

Submitted by Kirimwa denis on Thu, 01/09/2020 - 07:44


Thanks for the shared knowledge but now what if M & E courses are made cheap and available to everyone more so in African countries

Submitted by Paddy Wilberfo… on Thu, 01/09/2020 - 09:53


Great article.
Many Countries remain poor due to incorrect policies, inadequate implementation but most importantly weak Monitoring and Evaluation of Programmes. Capacity for M&E also is inadequate hence its prioritization is a timely intervention. We at BTC pledge to be part of the crusade.

Submitted by Namubiru Annet on Thu, 01/09/2020 - 15:50


Indeed all governments especially in developing countries need to include M&E on their structure. This will clearly indicate M&E functions in the public sector and thus gearing efforts into achieving the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Submitted by NGOA ELOUGA Yv… on Fri, 01/10/2020 - 03:20


This is a governance problem. Accountability must be put at the heart of the systems. If this condition is fulfilled, monitoring and evaluation will gain in importance and will act as a key instrument for measuring the impact of interventions. It is therefore necessary to define operational accountability frameworks taking account of the contexts, with monitoring and evaluation systems as driving forces enabling these frameworks to be fed.

Submitted by Abdul Jalal Gh… on Fri, 01/10/2020 - 06:19


As you are funding different development projects in Afghanistan, but there is a need for national monitoring and evaluation within the country, as many projects implemented since 2001, but lack of a national monitoring and evaluation system caused to lost the lessons learned, I hope WBG focus on this.

Submitted by Mulatu on Fri, 01/10/2020 - 14:03


I want to express my appreciation on your view.I want to find this journal and I also need your assistance to get policy evaluation training because I have been preparing to develop draft proposal to evaluate rural development policy and strategy of Ethiopia but I have lack of knowledge and skills to conduct this study.

Submitted by Viviana Lascano on Sat, 01/11/2020 - 10:54


Sensitizing citizens to the need to institutionalize a M&E system, especially when there is no political will. Citizens must be involved in the generation of efficient and transparent government management to achieve SDG goals.

Submitted by Aynalem Bekel on Mon, 01/13/2020 - 08:34


Great, the effort will initiate every program and project manager to pay attention the monitoring and evaluation task. I have more than decades experience in monitoring and evaluation for government and non government lead programs and projects. I learn that mostly managers are not concerned for learning and identifying gaps for best achievement unless there is external forces.

Submitted by Scott Bayley on Mon, 01/13/2020 - 22:21


In my view evaluation has failed to deliver on the aspirations arising from North American social action programs in the 60s and 70s. I believe it’s time to fundamentally rethink our ‘theory of change’ for how evaluations are intended to facilitate better programming decisions and development outcomes. The current reactions around the world to climate warming and the political discounting of relevant research evidence serves as a case in point. Capacity building on its own is not the answer when evaluation findings are not valued by the collective political process.

Submitted by Caesar Zino Riko on Wed, 01/15/2020 - 11:30


Dear Alison
It is a great move, I personally appreciate it
The M&E will provide explicit measures that will inform partners about the extend of the impact happened due to World Bank support

Submitted by Rabindra Suwal on Wed, 01/15/2020 - 13:13


Its contrary, I think every nation has financial audit system and chartered accountant are legalized and accepted. Its irony, money spent are checked but not judged for result/value. M&E should be established as professional requirement for any program/projects or government spending just like mandatory requirement for financial audit.

Submitted by Idrissa CHEFOU BALLA on Thu, 01/23/2020 - 06:17


Dear Alison

Putting the focus on the specific context of the country seems to me a particularly important action in your rich and relevant analysis.
In my opinion, the processes of transferring knowledge / skills, of scaling up good practices have a range of possibilities allowing them to be more inclusive and participative, to enhance the value of the local.
I think that in the so-called fragile countries of the SOUTH, the strategies for strengthening institutional and individual capacities in M&E must be directed much more towards the more decentralized administrative entities, civil society and even communities in general.

Submitted by Guido Geissler on Fri, 01/31/2020 - 04:42


Dear Ms Evans,

Excellent article. During my time as ADB and World Bank stuff I noticed how little attention is given in project design to M&E. When I mentioned this to my colleagues in operations, I was told that this is the task of the project implementation unit. Hence, no longer the responsibility of the financing partner. I personally believe that much more can and should be done at design stage - including capacity building at the local level. Maybe if we start to "sell" M&E as an important management task, we might get some more traction within the MDBs and the local partners. At the end of the day, M&E is a key element for decision-making.

Thank you very much for the timely article.

Submitted by Hayatullah Saadat on Fri, 01/31/2020 - 06:24


It was a great article and good idea regarding the develope capacities on M&E through all over the globe to have a reliable data and measurable indicators especially abou the SDG.
Actually I am from Afghanistan and around 8 years working as M&E officer with local NGOs and INGOs projects. These years experiences make me aware of weak M&E support by the Afghanistan Government national wide. Here is only one governmental organisation by the name of Independent Monitoring and Evaluation Committee, which I am sure this committee does not have any national based indicators to scale the Afghanistan's SDGs. I as a low income country citizen strongly appreciates this capacities development plan by IEG and IDA.
The question which I would like to ask whether any individual can participate for such training and capacities building workshop?

Submitted by Engr. Adeyemi … on Wed, 05/20/2020 - 05:58


This is a welcome development as there are no short cut to best way to achieve project objective in a sustainable, prudent and transparent way than by participatory monitoring and evaluation and this can only succeed if all stakeholders play their role in institutionizing m&e at all level, adequate funding and building the capacity of the m&e practitioners.

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