Rome/Beijing, 24 October 2023: In celebration of the UN day, The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) organized a seminar at the UN compound in Beijing aimed at sharing knowledge for effective monitoring and evaluation of South-South and Triangular Cooperation.
While the importance of South-South and triangular cooperation to advance development is broadly acknowledged and conceptually integrated in IFAD’s business model, how to systematically assess the contribution of South-South and triangular cooperation to food security, nutrition and rural development remains an area with space for improvement.
The seminar brought together more than 70 seasoned experts from the development community to share approaches, methodologies and discuss key challenges. Participants included representatives of Chinese ministries, experts from academia and think tanks and evaluation specialists from IFAD, UNICEF, and the OECD.
Participants of the Special Events on UN Day in Beijing
Mr Ron Thomas Hartman, Director of Global Engagement, Partnerships and Resource Mobilization at IFAD, highlighted in his opening speech that IFAD has funded development projects in more than 100 countries worldwide and has accumulated rich experience in project monitoring and evaluation. He introduced IFAD’s undertaking South-South and triangular cooperation evaluation at three levels: the corporate level, the country strategy level, and the project level.
Mr Tian Lin, Director General, Department of Supervision & Evaluation, CIDCA, stressed China’s role in development aid since the 1950s and the continuous development of supervision and evaluation since then. CIDCA’s supervision covers the whole project cycle, is problem oriented and focuses on preventative treatment as a means of risk prevention; evaluation refers to post-project evaluation, after a project has completed, to evaluate the impact.
Mr. Siddharth Chatterjee, UN Resident Coordinator for China, delivered a video message in which he pointed out that the entire United Nations system recognized the importance of monitoring and evaluation as a management tool. Establishing a robust monitoring and evaluation system can help to detect problems in a timely manner and adopt corresponding adjustments to ensure that South-South cooperation projects achieve set goals and expected development results.
Welcome remarks from Mr Ron Hartman, Director of Global Engagement, Partnership and Resource Mobilization Division, IFAD
Remarks by Mr Lin Tian, Director-General, Supervision and Evaluation Department of the China International Development Cooperation Agency
Video message by Mr Siddharth Chatterjee, UN Resident Coordinator to China
Participants of the seminar
Key take-aways from the seminar regard the challenges of South-South and triangular cooperation evaluation and potential solutions for improved monitoring, evaluation, and mutual learning.
Challenges in Evaluating and Monitoring South-South and Triangular Cooperation
Firstly, the evaluation of the core principles of South-South and triangular cooperation – solidarity, mutual learning, equality – is complex and difficult to assess with standard evaluation methodologies, as pointed out by Professor Xiaoyun Li, Dean, College of International Development and Global Agriculture, China Agricultural University. The evaluation of these key principles requires the participation of partner countries, which are not necessarily available to participate in the evaluation process.
Professor Xiaoyun Li during his presentation
Ms Savastano presenting IFAD’s evaluation methodology
Secondly, rigorous impact evaluation is costly and often unavailable for small-scale South-South and triangular cooperation interventions. Self-monitoring and evaluation by country offices has its own challenges due to lack of quality of data and lack of capacity.
Thirdly, evaluation reports are often long and time-consuming to produce, which renders them less accessible to stakeholders and does not allow for timely and straight-forward recommendations on policy improvement that policy makers are most keen to learn.
Solutions for Meaningful Evaluation and Monitoring of South-South and Triangular Cooperation
Panellists agreed that South-South and triangular cooperation needs a different framework for monitoring and evaluation which places emphasis on evaluating the quality of learning and ownership building. While there is no gold standard for M&E in South-South and triangular cooperation because of the need to develop context specific evaluation tools, some overarching principles still apply, such as the need to evaluate relevance, efficiency, and sustainability of South-South and triangular cooperation activities.
Furthermore, international organizations need to invest into capacity building for quality monitoring and evaluation at several levels. First, at the national level regarding the quality of data collected and shared by national statistics offices, and second, at project level. IFAD is strengthening the capacity of operations teams to conduct self-evaluations at the project level. New technologies, such as remote sensing which has been used for real-time monitoring of IFAD projects, according to Mr Ron Thomas Hartman, can also improve quality and availability of data.
Finally, evaluation results need to be made more accessible and their communication better targeted. This can be achieved by involving different stakeholders in the evaluation process right from the beginning (at the design stage of the evaluation methodology) and by sharing short documents with lessons learned on platforms with relevant stakeholders, including policy makers and civil society.
While monitoring and evaluation of South-South and triangular cooperation is a challenging task, finding the ideal trade-off between simplicity and complexity is key for meaningful evaluation of South-South and triangular cooperation, as pointed out by Ms Sara Savastano, Director of Research and Impact Assessment at IFAD.
Panel discussion moderated by Ms Xiaozhe Zhang, Regional SSTC Manager, IFAD. From left to right: Professor LI Xiaoyun, Dean, College of International Development and Global Agriculture, China Agricultural University; Ms Sara Savastano, Director of Research and Impact Assessment at IFAD; Mr ZHOU Taidong, Deputy Director General, Centre for International Knowledge on Development; Mr Rahul Malhotra, Head of Reviews, Results, Evaluation and Development Innovation Division, OECD; and Ms Xin Xin Yang, Multi-Country Evaluation Specialist at UNICEF (online).
Monitoring and evaluation practices enable institutional learning, but these practices themselves also need to be continuously refined through exchange across institutions. Ms. Wei Wang, Chief Partnership Officer and Special Advisor to the President at IFAD, acknowledged the importance of strengthening partnerships between institutions in the field of monitoring and evaluation of South-South and triangular cooperation and remarked in the workshop conclusion that IFAD will benefit from the experiences and practices that were shared during the seminar.