Guide to national-level SDG evaluation launches

A new guide for evaluators and evaluation commissioners working on the Sustainable Development Goals will be launched in New York today. It offers a timely ‘real life’ introduction to assessing progress on the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs at national level.

News, 04 February 2020
A large forest is reflected in the water in the foreground

A forest alongside Lake Inari, in Finland. Finland has pledged to be carbon free by 2035 through sustainable forest use (Photo: Ilkka Jukarainen, via FlickrCC BY-ND 2.0)

The 48-page guide is entitled 'Evaluation to connect national priorities with the SDGs'. It has been co-created by IIED, EVALSDGs, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland and UNICEF, and will be presented to an invited audience of evaluation specialists and national commissioners at UNICEF House.

The event has been organised by UNICEF and the Development Evaluation Unit of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland; it will introduce the content of the guide as well as raising awareness of the role evaluation can play in the context of the 2030 Agenda.

Two speakers from IIED will join key names in sustainable development. Tom Bigg, director of strategy and learning, will make opening remarks, and Stefano D’Errico, head of monitoring, evaluation and learning (MEL), will take part in a panel presentation with other co-authors.

Much-needed national thinking

While evaluation of the SDGs is in its infancy, it's clear that the process presents an opportunity to improve national policies and programmes as well as report back to international peers. Evaluators need to be innovating and testing now to make the most of this potential.

To encourage this, the new guide is built on lived experiences from Finland, the only country to have completed a national SDG evaluation, and from Nigeria, whose assessment plans are impressively advanced. 

Thanks to these pioneers, representing both hemispheres, readers will learn how national evaluators might weigh the effectiveness of different practices, reflect on challenges, and see the possibility of reconciling an assessment of priorities developed in national plans and policies with the 2030 Agenda.

Applying principles in country contexts

The guide was inspired by a workshop Helsinki in March, jointly organised by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland, EVALSDGs, IIED and UNICEF to explore how evaluation could work to connect national priorities with the SDGs.

Cover of publication titled 'Evaluation to connect national priorities with the SDGs'With input from 33 government representatives and evaluation specialists from 22 countries, a strong theme emerged: that if evaluation is to assist in aligning national policy with Agenda 2030, it must be bespoke, built around existing political and assessment systems.

So, rather than a one-size-fits-all manual, the guide looks at how to design a successful evaluation around existing national context and underpinned by the principles of the 2030 Agenda.

To support customised local or national journeys towards sustainable development, this guide:

  • Lays out the main steps involved in scoping, designing and conducting an SDG evaluation
  • Discusses the ways in which SDG evaluation processes and results can be used to support national progress on sustainable development
  • Identifies key SDG evaluation characteristics and approaches, and
  • Looks at how SDG evaluation can be integrated into national monitoring and evaluation systems.

The guide is already being used by national evaluation commissioners and professionals, and Costa Rica, having already started its SDG evaluation planning, is expected to follow suit soon.

More IIED evaluation expertise

EVALSDGs and IIED have been working together since 2016 to co-publish a successful series of nine policy briefing papers on evaluation of the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs, reaching thousands of readers.

More broadly, IIED uses its monitoring, evaluation and learning expertise to collaborate with partners to generate evidence about sustainable development and shed light on what works, for whom and in what circumstances.


Stefano D'Errico ([email protected]), head of monitoring, evaluation and learning (MEL), IIED's Strategy and Learning Group