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Core Concepts - Conducting Evaluations and Reviews

Evaluation is an assessment of either completed or ongoing activities to determine the extent to which they are achieving stated objectives and contributing to decision-making. However, UNDP differentiates evaluation and review based on the persons who conduct the exercise.

UNDP programme units commission evaluations by independent evaluators, at times jointly with other organizations (joint evaluations). The exercise has to meet with following criteria in order to be considered an “evaluation”; it must be:

  • Independent—Management must not impose restrictions on the scope, content, comments and recommendations of evaluation reports. Evaluators must be from outside of UNDP, and free of conflict of interest.
  • Intentional—The rationale for an evaluation and the decisions to be based on it should be clear from the outset.
  • Transparent—Meaningful consultation with stakeholders is essential for the credibility and utility of the evaluation.
  • Ethical—Evaluation should not reflect personal or sectoral interests. Evaluators must have professional integrity, respect the rights of institutions and individuals to provide information in confidence and be sensitive to the beliefs and customs of local social and cultural environments.
  • Impartial—Removing bias and maximizing objectivity are critical for the credibility of the evaluation and its contribution to knowledge.
  • Of high quality—All evaluations should meet minimum quality standards defined by the UNDP Evaluation Office.
  • Timely—Evaluations must be designed and completed in a timely fashion so as to ensure the usefulness of the findings and recommendations.
  • Used—Evaluation is a management discipline that seeks to provide information to be used for evidence-based decision-making. To enhance the usefulness of the findings and recommendations, key stakeholders should be engaged in various ways in the conduct of the evaluation.

In order to conduct evaluations, the relevant UNDP programming unit first needs to assess the readiness of the project for evaluation. Things to look for in this respect, include the existence of a defined results map, the availability of the required date for evaluation, and a favorable political and economic situation. Then, an evaluation manager needs to be assigned, usually the M&E specialist of the unit, who will manage the evaluation process. Other roles, such as the creation of a reference group and quality assurance will be arranged, followed by the ToR drafting and selection of evaluators. See UNDP Handbook on Planning, Monitoring and Evaluating for Development Results and its Addendum for the detailed procedure. For Joint Evaluations visit the Resource Pack on Joint Evaluations which was developped by the UN Evaluation Group Joint Evaluation Task Force. 

Once the evaluation report is finalized, the programme unit is responsible for preparing a management response to key issues and recommendations raised in the report.


A review may be carried out by UNDP or undertaken jointly with another organization. The organizers should determine the scope of the assessment, assign tasks, select the funding modalities and draft the terms of reference. The first draft of the review report should be given to UNDP and the project management unit for comments, and only then passed along to donors and partners for their comments. The review team should in turn incorporate or respond to all comments to the extent possible in the final version of the report.

However, the review process falls within the purview of the programme unit, and a concrete procedure for the review may differ from case to case depending on the needs to the country office and partners as well as the political situation. See also the suggestions for TORs and ANNEX 3 of UNDP Handbook on Planning, Monitoring and Evaluating for Development Results. The biggest difference between an evaluation and a review is that, in the review process, UNDP staff can participate and conduct the exercise together, if needed, with external consultants, while in evaluations, UNDP staff, e.g., policy advisors, usually cannot participate due to the fact that they work for UNDP. Due to the mandate of DPA and UNDP on UN’s electoral assistance, it is also common that joint teams of UNDP advisor(s) and EAD/DPA expert(s) together conduct project “reviews” rather than independent “evaluations”.

In either case, only the evaluation/review team should be involved in analysing the findings and drafting the report. The team is bound by its terms of reference to reporting on certain topics, but it should bring to the attention of UNDP any important issues or aspects of the electoral assistance that were left out.

Knowledge gained can inform future project design and decision-making in electoral assistance, as well as more broadly in democratic governance or other areas. See more on Handbook on Planning, Monitoring and Evaluating for Development Results and its Addendum.

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