Evaluating Peacebuilding: Not Yet All It Could Be
Assesses the quality of peacebuilding evaluation work being undertaken in a rapidly professionalizing field. The author gives several examples of good and bad practice and suggests that current evaluation practice is failing to foster accountability and learning quite as well as it could. She explores reasons why evaluation may fall short of established quality standards or stray from its explicitly stated purpose, offering recommendations for improvement to researchers, practitioners and donors alike.
Many in the peacebuilding field operate from the assumption that peacebuilding evaluation differs from evaluation of other fields in that it is more complex and challenging (Church/Shouldice 2002). This assumption is mirrored within each peacebuilding sector. As a result, there has been a proliferation of sector-specific evaluation manuals in the last two years: peace education, security sector reform, transitional justice, peace mediation, rule of law, and so on. In many ways this is an achievement for the field of peacebuilding, because sector-specific evaluation guides could galvanise greater adoption and integration of evaluation. That said, it has also contributed to the idea that each sector (and peacebuilding in general) is fundamentally different – which has, for some, led to a barrier of entry. From the outside (before delving into the guides) those who have learned the basics of design, monitoring and evaluation are led to believe that these frameworks are irrelevant when it comes to peacebuilding.
Although this assumption of difference is reasonable, it also needs to be appropriate in its emphasis. At present, there is a tendency within the field to focus far too much on the unique elements of peacebuilding and not enough on the basic processes that enable adherence to core evaluation standards. What is needed is clarity in terms of where peacebuilding is different, so that peacebuilding evaluations can develop unique responses to those differences, whilst capitalising on good practice from the evaluation discipline where the difference is not relevant.
Three lenses have been used to reflect on where peacebuilding evaluation differs from other fields: process, content and context. Within each lens, peacebuilding presents notable differences as well as issues where the difference is a matter of degree.
In any evaluative process one must understand what issues or questions are to be explored: commonly called the evaluation criteria. Though there are no international rules as to what those should be, there is an increasing tendency to use the ones put forward by the OECD-DAC for all foreign assistance. The DAC posits six core criteria for all fields; peacebuilding included:
The definitions of each of these are then tailored to the field in which they are to be applied – such as humanitarian aid or peacebuilding.