Unpacking M&E with Vincent Kanyamuna

Global evolution of contemporary M&E

LAST week, I gave a general historical perspective of how monitoring and evaluation (M&E) came to be appreciated as a useful instrument for getting institutional results. Many societies, governments, including other development agencies used and still employ M&E practices to meet their internal and external information needs. In today’s edition, I look at M&E as a globally accepted notion and practice. Before we can consider the critical role of M&E and its evolution in Africa and later to our own country Zambia, I am happy to highlight the M&E trends at global level. Herein I contend that if the globe has embraced M&E as an integral and evident way to achieve the most desired development results, who is Africa in general and Zambia in particular to turn their backs on M&E institutionalisation?

The evolution of contemporary M&E at global level could be traced back to the 1980s and later the 1990s. Globally, the desire to implement results-oriented M&E systems and frameworks emanated from the need to determine a country’s progress towards its development goals. Initiatives such as the UN’s Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP) policies, and Country Assistance Strategy (CAS) mushroomed, each with a focus on results. Through these initiatives, it was desired that citizens of countries should obtain accountability feedback from their governments in terms of evidence from the implementation of public development interventions, especially resource allocation and expenditure and expected results thereof.

For the reasons above, it became common in the 1990s and increasingly in the 2000s for poverty reduction strategies (PRS) to be implemented by many countries, especially among the developing ones. The PRS approach was designed to provide a strong linkage between public sector policies, support from donors and the development outcomes required for meeting the MDGs. One of the key principles of the PRS approach was ‘results focused based on outcomes that would be of benefit to the poor’. Thus, the approach put emphasis on the implementation of the strategy and demanded close monitoring, with the national statistical office (NSO) playing an important role. In that regard, countries were demanded to create, implement and sustain viable M&E systems and arrangements, not only at national level, but at sub-national level too.

Inevitably, the M&E evolution in the 1980s, 1990s and early 2000s escalated in 2005, when the Paris Declaration (PD) was signed by developed and developing countries, including key bilateral, multilateral, civil society and other development agencies. The declaration obligated countries and the donor community to aid effectiveness and strengthen their management approaches towards development results. All these efforts were meant to promote a culture of high-level results (i.e. outcomes and impacts) as opposed to focusing on lower level processes (i.e. inputs, activities or physical outputs). The PD was followed by the 2008 Accra Agenda for Action (AAA), another resolve by the globe to make results orientation through functional M&E mechanisms a stamp of sound practice for good governance and sustainable development. The global development agenda for both the PD and the AAA focused on aid effectiveness. Like the PRS, the AAA stressed emphasis on the managing for results principle.

A more recent global effort to promote strengthened M&E was the Fourth High Level Forum (HLF4) in Busan, Korea, in 2011. Like the PD and AAA, the Busan Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation focused on aid effectiveness under the principles of ownership, focus on results, partnerships, transparency and shared responsibility. The principle of focus on results promoted working towards a sustainable impact, and adopting this as a motivating factor behind investments and efforts in the process of policy making. The current Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a latest commitment by the global community to unite around ‘results’ and M&E. These initiatives set a high tone on the global requirement for functional M&E development, strengthening and sustainability. These efforts have continued to provide a basis for enhancing M&E to even higher levels across the globe. Therefore, the contemporary evolution of M&E can be summed up as follows:

– 2015 to 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): are a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity. Comprised of 17 Goals, 169 Targets, and each target has between 1 and 3 indicators used to measure progress.

– 2011 In Busan, Korea, on the occasion of the Fourth High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness (HLF4), over 3000 delegates met and discussed how to maintain the relevance of the aid effectiveness agenda in the context of the evolving development landscape.

– 2008 Accra Agenda for Action: The Accra High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness set out to reform the way developed and developing countries work together, to ensure that development assistance is well spent and that it helps build sustainable economies that lifted people out of poverty.

– 2005 Paris Declaration: The PD was designed to be a practical, action-oriented roadmap to improve the quality of aid and its impact on development. More than 100 signatories – from donor and developing-country governments, multilateral donor agencies, regional development banks and international agencies – endorsed the Declaration on Aid Effectiveness.

– 2004 Marrakech Memorandum: Better development results required management systems and capacities that put results at the centre of planning, implementation and evaluation.

– 2003 Rome Declaration: Participants committed to specific activities to enhance aid harmonisation mainly through implementation of good practice standards or principles in development assistance delivery and management.

– 2000 to 2015 Millennium Development Goals: In a key effort to promote more effective development, 189 UN member countries agreed to work toward reduction of global poverty and improved sustainable development, comprised of 8 goals, 18 targets and 48 performance indicators.

The discussion above is critical to the holistic development discourse and indeed to M&E practitioners in Zambia and globally.

Dr Vincent Kanyamuna holds a Doctor of Philosophy in Monitoring and Evaluation and is lecturer and researcher at the University of Zambia, Department of Development Studies. For comments and views, email: vkanyamuna@unza.zm

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