United Nations Human Settlements Programme Evaluation Office
United Nations Human Settlements Programme Evaluation Office
The General Assembly established the United Nations Centre for Human Settlements in 1977.2 In its 2001 resolution 56/206, it transformed the Commission on Human Settlements and its secretariat, the United Nations Centre for Human Settlements (Habitat), including the United Nations Habitat and Human Settlements Foundation, into the United Nations Human Settlements Programme, or UN-Habitat. UN-Habitat is the lead United Nations agency responsible for human settlements.
Pursuant to its mandate, UN-Habitat aims to achieve impact at two levels. At the operational level, it undertakes technical cooperation projects, such as the construction of water and sanitation facilities, shelter and other works. At the normative level, it seeks to influence governments and non-governmental actors in formulating, adopting, implementing and enforcing policies, norms and standards conducive to sustainable human settlements and sustainable urbanization.
UN-Habitat envisions well-planned, well-governed, and efficient cities and other human settlements, with adequate housing, infrastructure, and universal access to employment and basic services such as water, energy, and sanitation. To achieve these goals, derived from the Habitat Agenda of 1996, UN-Habitat has set itself a medium-term strategy approach for each successive six-year period. The current strategic plan spans from 2014 to 2019.http://www.unchs.org/categories.asp?catid=516
In 2012, a dedicated Evaluation Unit, whose Head reports directly to the Executive Director of UN-Habitat was established as a separate unit from the agency’s monitoring function. The Evaluation Unit is located at the UN-Habitat Headquarters in Nairobi. The Evaluation Unit is staffed with 2 professional staff, 1 UN volunteer and 1 general staff.
In order to clarify and strengthen the role of the evaluation function with the agency, UN-Habitat published its evaluation policy in January 2013. The policy is based on UNEG norms and standards for evaluation in the UN system and it designates the Evaluation Unit as having the overall responsibility for evaluation. In addition to enhancing the function’s independence, the policy also seeks to increase the agency’s use of evaluation – including for accountability purposes, thanks to an established follow-up mechanism that requires a management response.
At $1.1 million in 2010-11, i.e., 0.33 percent of the programme’s overall budget for this period, UN-Habitat’s evaluation budget is above the average of 0.14 percent for other UN Secretariat entities. That said, funding for evaluation relies predominantly on extrabudgetary funding.
Two main types of evaluations are conducted in UN-Habitat: Centralized/ corporate level evaluations that are managed by the Evaluation Unit; and decentralized evaluations that are managed by project managers with technical support of the Evaluation Unit. Corporate level evaluations focus on strategic evaluations of organizational policies, strategies, and themes with a global perspective. This includes mandatory external evaluations requested by the UN-Habitat Governing bodies, donors or other interagency body or discretionary external evaluations requested by UN-Habitat. Decentralized evaluations of projects and programmes focus on operational performance in terms of efficiency, effectiveness, relevance, impact and sustainability of UN-Habitat interventions.
Most evaluations are conducted by external consultants. The 2012 Professional Peer Review of the Evaluation Function in UN-Habitat considered “the current practice of externally recruited professional staff for the evaluation function appropriate. Moreover, evaluations are conducted transparently, are assessed as impartial and are conducted independently without interference from management and found to be in compliance with UNEG Norms and Standards.”
Promoting a culture of evaluation in-house
Evaluation is a shared responsibility in UN-Habitat. Programme units and other stakeholders share distinct roles and responsibilities in ensuring that evaluation informs decision making, supports accountability and contributes to learning.
All evaluation reports are circulated to internal and external stakeholders for review of accuracy and technical quality of the information. Where there is disagreement on issues or conflicting views the comments or dissenting views are published with the report. All evaluation reports are available on the UN-Habitat website.
- Head of Evaluation: Martin Barugahare
- Evaluators : Total 2; F=1 and M=1
- Support staff : Total 2 (F)
Evaluations produced per year by the UN-Habitat Evaluation Office: 10-12 evaluation reports
- UN-Habitat Evaluation website. http://www.unhabitat.org/evaluation
The Evaluation Unit is independent of operational branches, regional, liaison, national offices as well as other management functions. To ensure this independence, the unit is located in the Office of the Executive Director, and the Head of the Unit reports directly to the Executive Director of UN-Habitat. This ensures that there is no undue influence and facilitates objective assessment of programme and project activities without interference.
The 2012 Professional Peer Review of the Evaluation Function in UN-Habitat and the 2014 OIOS Evaluation of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) found that the functional independence of the Evaluation Unit was limited. Due to the fact that funding for evaluation relies predominantly on extrabudgetary funding, it means that the evaluation work programme has been largely determined outside the Unit by donors, the Committee of Permanent Representatives or senior management. As a consequence, the Evaluation Unit has limited the independence in the choice of evaluations.
Agenda Setting & Evaluation Planning
A biennial evaluation plan is prepared by the Evaluation Unit in close consultation with all relevant organizational entities. The purpose of the Evaluation Plan is to prioritize and plan for evaluations to be conducted by UN-Habitat as well as other evaluation activities. The plan is updated on an annual basis and is subject to approval by the UN-Habitat Board.
Recognizing the diversity of UN-Habitat projects and programmes, the biennial plan is developed using a priority-setting model for identifying topics to be evaluated. The evaluation policy prescribes a mix of criteria, including size of the project in terms of budget, evaluation requests, cross-cutting nature of the intervention, risk of not meeting objectives, potential contributions to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and relevance to UN-Habitat mandate and policy formulation.
The revision of the UN-Habitat Evaluation Plan 2014-2015 took into consideration findings of the OIOS evaluation of UN-Habitat, which stressed the need for more evaluations of global initiatives and country operations, including long standing operations and those in high-risk setting.
Stakeholder involvement and promoting national evaluation capacity development
Stakeholders are consulted in the planning/design, conduct of and follow-up to evaluations. Reference groups are used in most evaluation processes. The evaluation teams include professionals from the countries or regions concerned and established with consideration for gender balance.
The quality of evaluation reports is ensure through: a) adherence to the UN-Habitat quality assessment check list for evaluation reports; and b) oversight by the evaluation reference group, when appropriate.
All UN-Habitat evaluation reports must meet minimum quality standards. Key questions and areas for evaluation should be clear, coherent and realistic to ensure that information generated is accurate and reliable. Each evaluation shall employ design, planning and implementation processes that are quality oriented, covering appropriate methodologies for data collection, analysis and interpretation. The work plan for evaluation design, data collection and analyses of evaluation findings and recommendations shall be presented in a manner readily understood by target audiences.
Use of Evaluation
A management response to the evaluation and its recommendations is required from the responsible officer of the entity evaluated. A UN-Habitat management response include an overall response to the evaluation; an answer to every recommendation; an action plan to implement accepted recommendations; timelines for implementation; and parties/ unit responsible for implementing the recommendations. The draft management response is reviewed by other relevant entities and finally approved by the UN-Habitat Board.
All evaluation reports of external evaluations undertaken by UN-Habitat are made publically available, except if the reports contain material of confidential nature. All evaluation reports are made public on the UN-Habitat evaluation website: www.unhabitat.org/evaluation.
Evaluation results and lessons from evaluations are synthesized in a biennial evaluation report, which is presented to the UN-Habitat Board and the Committee of Permanent Representatives. The Evaluation Unit provides regular briefings to the UN-Habitat Board on the performance of evaluation in UN-Habitat, including six monthly updates on the progress of implementation of evaluation recommendations.
The UN-Habitat Evaluation Policy states system-wide collaboration, among other things that UN-Habitat is “actively participating in and contributing to inter-agency initiatives on evaluation and other professional evaluation networks so as to advance the credibility, practice, quality and usefulness of evaluations in UN-Habitat” and “maintaining a close relationship with other evaluation offices of the United Nations and affiliated organizations, and contributing to system-wide evaluation”.
Chief, Evalution Unit, UN-HABITAT
Office of Executive Director
Monitoring and Reporting Officer (UNV), UN-HABITAT