VNRs and SDG Evaluations in Anglophone Africa and Latin America: A mapping of common challenges and emerging good practices.

Hoffmann, Dirk
Dlakavu, Ayabulela
Retama, Karina
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One of the most distinctive features of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development lies with its detailed follow-up and review, guided by a global indicator framework and prominently reflected in Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) submitted by governments. This discussion paper has been produced by a cross-continental Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) evaluation working group, constituted by three officials from DEval, CLEAR-AA and the Centre for Learning on Evaluation and Results-Latin America and the Caribbean (CLEAR-LAC). The primary objective of this paper is to assess the extent of use of evaluative evidence by governments when compiling their respective Voluntary National Reviews, the latter an implementation tool used to track countries’ progress and achievements vis-à-vis the SDGs. A second objective is to understand other sources of evidence that feed into the development of country VNRs. Third, the document puts forward key findings regarding evidence sources into VNRs, particularly highlighting best practices and challenges from eight sampled countries in Africa and Latin America. This paper purposively sampled four African countries in which CLEAR-AA undertakes evaluation capacity development (ECD), and four Latin American countries where CLEAR-LAC and DEval (through its Focelac+ project ) undertake or support country ECD initiatives. The discussion paper employed a research methodology consisting of an extensive desktop review of VNR, planning and public policy processes, and the state of evaluation capacities in the eight countries. The desktop review is triangulated by key informant interviews of stakeholders involved in the VNR, planning and public policy processes and national evaluation system of each country. Key findings, relative to the paper’s objectives, are as follows: performance monitoring and statistics are a primary source of evidence for VNRs across the African and Latin American countries; government and non-governmental stakeholders have not internalized the value of SDG evaluation in VNR processes and its value in terms of their own internal assessment of progress toward SDGs; limited integration of SDGs and their indicators in the countries’ public policy and national and sector planning cycles; slow response of national evaluation systems in responding to SDGs. Despite these challenges, the authors highlight key emerging best practices from the sampled countries of Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Uganda, Mexico, Costa Rica, Colombia and Ecuador that can be built upon to integrate SDG evaluation in VNR development, national and sector development planning, as well as national evaluation systems more generally. Lastly, the paper proffers key recommendations for entrenching SDGs in public policy and planning, and promoting evaluative evidence use in VNR development by stressing the value of evaluative evidence in VNR guidelines provided by United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN-DESA).
The German Institute for Development Evaluation (Deval), the Centre for Learning on Evaluation and Results-Anglophone Africa (CLEAR-AA) and the Centre for Learning on Evaluation and Results-Latin America and the Caribbean (CLEAR-LAC) formed a technical working group that undertook this research on the current role of evaluations in informing the drafting of country Voluntary National Review (VNR) reports. This attached discussion paper report elaborates on what the discussion paper found regarding the evidence sources of a typical VNR. This study is an important contribution to knowledge and best practice regarding the position of evaluation in the tracking of SDG progress among UN member nations. There were 8 country case studies: Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Uganda (Anglophone Africa); Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador and Mexico. Read the discussion paper for more on this interesting cross-continental study.
VNRs and SDG Evaluations in Anglophone Africa and Latin America: A mapping of common challenges and emerging good practices. German Institute for Development Evaluation, Bonn.