Evaluation Headlines is an online interview series launched by the Independent Evaluation Department (IED) of the Asian Development Bank IED at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. In these series, which are a response to the huge need for new knowledge for evaluators and the development community on how best independent evaluations can support their organizations respond effectively to the COVID-19 crisis, IED’s Saleha Waseem speaks to heads of offices of independent evaluations. In this edition of Evaluation Headlines, Alison Evans, Director General of the Independent Evaluation Group at the World Bank and Marvin Taylor-Dormond, former Director General of the Independent Evaluation Department at the Asian Development Bank discuss ways in which offices of independent evaluations can support their organizations in strengthening the use and potential of the SDGs which offers a blueprint for building back better from COVID-19 and other crises, with a focus on green, inclusive, and resilient growth.


Evaluation Headlines

Season 2 Episode 2

Moving towards a Sustainable, Inclusive, and Resilient Recovery

Saleha Waseem
Senior Evaluation Specialist
Independent Evaluation, Asian Development Bank

Hello and welcome to Evaluation Headlines, our online series where we speak with heads of independent evaluation offices to try and understand how they’re adapting their evaluations to respond effectively to the COVID-19 crisis. The COVID-19 pandemic was being hailed as this “great equalizer”, but in fact the opposite is true. Throughout history disasters and pandemics have increased inequality instead of levelling it. And the same is true of the COVID-19 crisis as well. Its consequences disproportionately affect the poor and the vulnerable. If the ongoing pandemic has reiterated one fact, it is that we cannot afford to solely focus on economic growth. Patterns of growth matter in ensuring that all segments of societies participate in and benefit from economic growth. The SDG motto of leaving no one behind offers a blueprint for building back better from COVID-19 and other crises, would focus on green, inclusive, and resilient growth.

And to discuss the role of evaluators and evaluations on how best to support their organizations in strengthening the use and potential of SDGs, I have with me today, Alison Evans, Director General, Independent Evaluation Group, World Bank; and Marvin Taylor-Dormond, former Director General, Independent Evaluation Department, Asian Development Bank. Thank you both so much for taking time out to be with us today on Evaluation Headlines.

Alison my first question is to you. How can offices of evaluations such as yours support their organizations in strengthening the use of the SDGs as a framework for inclusive and sustainable growth?

Alison Evans
Director General
Independent Evaluation Group, World Bank

Thanks Saleha. Great question and I do think there a number of important ways in which evaluation functions can help support the focus on green, inclusive, and resilient recovery and getting back on track with the SDGs. Let me just give you a flavor of a few of the things we’ve been doing in IEG. So, the first thing is around the way we structure our work program. And it’s important that we get a balance between on a one hand having enough flexibility in the work program to be able to examine the immediacy of the impacts of the pandemic and the response, but balancing that with a continued focus on the longer term development challenges. Secondly, it’s also about how we scope and focus our evaluations. So, try to tackle more systematically some of the what we call nexus issues. The intersections that exist within the green, resilient, and inclusive development agendas. So for example we had an evaluation recently that looked at the relationship between the efforts that world bank group has been making to support improvements in natural resource management practices and then looking at the implications for vulnerability, for vulnerable individuals in communities who were dependent on those natural resources. And what we found is that actually the nexus, the intersection between those factors was natural resources and human vulnerability was really important area of focus for the World Bank going forward. And we came up with a whole number of important suggestions as how they can strengthen that focus. And then finally we’re investing in our synthesis work. And we see synthesis as a really powerful tool for us to look back into our evidence base. To pull together lessons from the past that have resonance for the future agendas. And to look across some of these domains around green, resilient, and inclusive recovery and of course the complex issues that we need to tackle to deliver on the SDGs. And to really tease out the lessons that will be useful for the agenda going forward. We see synthesis as potentially powerful tool for assisting the institution to focus on what is being learnt in the past that can be useful for the future. So those are some of the areas that we are focusing on and I hope that’s of interest to others.


Absolutely Alison. Marvin, IED’s 2021 Annual Evaluation Review assessed ADB’s response and support for the SDGs and how the pandemic may affect them. What were the evaluation’s recommendations for IFI’s like ADB to ensure that we do not de-link our response from the SDGs while responding the COVID-19 crisis?

Marvin Taylor-Dormond
Former Director General
Independent Evaluation Department
Asian Development Bank

Thank you very much Saleha. Indeed, we just completed our report, recommending three things to ADB that are applicable to the rest of IFIs, that we’re all supporting the achievement of SDGs around the world. The first recommendation is to strengthen the link between the institutional strategic intentions that we have all set up and the actual operational practices, to support outcomes related to SDGs. In the case of ADB, the institution has developed a very sophisticated set of systems and processes that report on the interventions related to SDGs for the institution. But practices on the ground still need to improve and this I am certain that it’s the case of other similar institutions around the world. The second recommendation has to do with deepening the institutional engagement, this time, at the country level. Not only at the national level but also at the local level. Working with local government where action actually takes place. The third recommendation has to do with strengthening our partnership. In the first place, to assess the implications and the consequences of the COVID-19 crisis. Second, strengthen partnership to mobilize resources that are going to be badly needed if we want to have any chance to achieving the SDGs. And thirdly stronger partnership in order to improve the ways that we measure the achievement and progress with respect to SDGs. These systems have suffered badly during COVID-19 and need to be supported, need to be nurtured if we want to understand the level of progress with respect to the achievement of SDGs.


Alison, in development what gets measured is easier to manage. However, limited data availability hampers efforts to measure development outcomes including those enshrined in the SDGs. How can offices of evaluation help countries address gaps in data availability which in fact have widened due to the pandemic? What is IEG doing in this direction?


So I agree entirely I think data challenges are a big issue. And many of the client countries that we’re working with fall on the wrong side, if you like, of the data divide. And the restrictions imposed by COVID have certainly made conventional data collection in particular very very challenging indeed and this poses all kinds of challenges. And at the same time we are actually in an unusual situation of having data generated around us all of the time, you know from mobile phone pings, from mouse clicks, social media engagements. I think that it poses sort of two opportunities and challenges, if you like, in equal measure. The first is that we really as evaluators need to encourage ourselves and our partners to be able to engage with these new sources of data in a, you know, careful and credible way. But to compliment some of the conventional data sources that are available but may actually be somewhat out of date if they’ve not been able to be maintained. But the other really important thing with evaluators can do and I think the evaluation community should commit more to is really committing to building the capacity of our partners in-countries to able to utilize data systematically from a whole number of sources to inform policies and programs. We in IEG have committed ourselves to the global evaluation initiative very much focused on building capabilities in client countries to utilize the data that is available in the best possible way to inform future polices and programs. And I do think this is an incredibly important part of our responsibilities as evaluators to make sure that capacity is there. And that in itself involves expanding the ranges of data that we can use well and use fully to inform future action.


That’s right. Marvin, IED’s 2021 Annual Evaluation Review recommends that country financial requirements for reaching the SDGs in a post-pandemic setting are urgently re-assessed. What role can private sector play in helping to fill the SDG financing gap?


Thank you Saleha. There’s no doubt that without the participation of the private sector the world will not be able to achieve the SDGs. Practically all of the 17 SDGs you can see the participation or the need for a participation of private sector. In fighting poverty, in improving the quality of education, in making sure that we achieve zero hunger, in improving gender equality, in improving practices, consumption practices and production practices, in making sure that we achieve more sustainable cities and communities. Now with respect to finance and that’s precisely also fundamental part of the participation of private sector, organizations have to make their best effort to mobilize these resources such as ADB has done over the latest years. Two and a half billion have been mobilized from private sector sources for financing of SDGs through thematic bonds issued by the institution, and other initiative that ADB has put in place. And in fact, organization such as ADB have been successful in mobilizing these resources from private sector. In a recent report of OECD, we see that over the last seven years approximately 260 billion have been mobilized from private sector sources by official development finance institution. And the good news is that the trend has been growing but of course there have been an impact over the last two years created, generated by COVID. Another issue however with this mobilization is the distribution of these resources. What we have noticed, or the report is indicating that when you look at the distribution by income groups, upper middle-income countries are the ones that are serving the majority of this resources. So, it is fundamental that institutions, IFIs like ADB continue to make an effort to mobilize resources from private sector sources. Without which it would be impossible to achieve the SDGs.


Well, while the pandemic has made SDG achievement more challenging, it has not made it impossible or less urgent. Thank you Alison, thank you Marvin so much for taking time out to be with us today on Evaluation Headlines.


Thank you very much for having me, it’s been a pleasure.


Thank you very much to you Saleha it’s been a pleasure to share this episode of Evaluation Headlines with Alison once more. And I appreciate very much this opportunity.


And for those of you joining us online I’ll be back again with another episode of Evaluation Headlines. Till then, stay safe.