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12.12.2019 - “Coherence” added to evaluation criteria for development cooperation

Measuring the success of development cooperation has long been guided by five evaluation criteria of relevance, effectiveness, efficiency, impact and sustainability (in the sense of continuation of the results over time). What was known as the “big five” are now to become the “big six”, as the Development Assistance Committee of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD DAC) adds “coherence” to its list of evaluation criteria.

This reform is the result of an increased debate about the usefulness of the original “big five” after the adoption of the 2030 Agenda. Evaluating development cooperation now necessarily means examining its contributions to the goals and principles of the 2030 Agenda.

DEval-Director and Evalnet Vice-Chair Jörg Faust: “The addition of “coherence” is an important step forward in a policy field that has been plagued by proliferation and fragmentation. The reform process has wisely maintained the core content of the former five criteria, adding guidelines on how to use them.”

The criteria are one of the most visible and important harmonization achievements in the field of development evaluation. In a 2018 DEval Policy Brief, Jörg Faust and Ida Verspohl highlighted four functions of the criteria catalogue:

1) The criteria provide a framework of comparison committed to neutrality (reference function);

2) They create incentives to design and implement interventions along key criteria of development (incentive function);

3) They allow for comparing and aggregating evidence for strategic learning (learning function) and

4) They allow for a comprehensive evaluation of an intervention from its relevance to the sustainability of its results (in-depth function).

With this reform, the OECD DAC improves the definition and strengthens the existing advantages of the criteria while increasing their usefulness in evaluating development in the era of the 2030 Agenda. Thus, the criteria will remain a highly important instrument for evidence-based policy-making in the development cooperation.

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