Towards More Meaningful Evaluation of Aid for Trade Investments

By Abdel-Malek, Talaat | International Trade Forum, October-December 2011 | Go to article overview

Towards More Meaningful Evaluation of Aid for Trade Investments


Abdel-Malek, Talaat, International Trade Forum


Measuring the impact of Aid for Trade (A4T) development programmes, and analysing how they might have been implemented differently to achieve better results, is fundamental. High-quality monitoring and evaluation (M&E) provides insights that can lead to programme enhancements or to more successful outcomes of similar projects elsewhere.

The Third Global Review of Aid for Trade organized by the World Trade Organization (WTO) in July was the most comprehensive and evidence-based review so far. Sessions attracted contributions from many of the most experienced A4T practitioners, policymakers and recipients who discussed a wide range of issues, including M&E.

Likewise, the recent OECD Monitoring Survey and the Independent Evaluation Report on aid effectiveness provided a rich database of experiences in nearly 80 countries and several bilateral and multilateral development assistance institutions. Interestingly, the key findings of these reviews are nearly identical, stressing the relevance of the principles of the 2005 Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness and the positive impact of stronger partner country ownership and leadership in managing development cooperation. They point to the importance of outcomes rather than inputs, call on assistance providers to speed up reform of their systems and practices, and underline the need to strengthen M&E capacity in partner countries.

It is worth noting that the global economic environment is currently such that some decline in official development assistance (ODA) is to be expected in the foreseeable future. There are growing concerns about how long it will take the major sources of ODA--traditional and emerging--to overcome recent slowdowns, mounting deficits and higher unemployment levels. The fact that non-Western economies have shown signs of slowing, particularly China and India, is not reassuring. These rather gloomy prospects make it all the more important for the international community to extract more value from every A4T dollar, euro or yen.

With these points in mind, how can M&E mechanisms and practices be made more effective?

Improved monitoring and evaluation

Evidence of the impact of A4T assistance gathered through case stories and surveys by the WTO and OECD is a step forward in understanding what works and what does not. Econometric models and other forms of quantitative analysis have also contributed some interesting findings. Some have gone as far as estimating the added value of every A4T dollar spent in terms of additional exports, etc.

Nevertheless, there is room to improve how A4T effectiveness is measured. As was well recognized during the Global Review sessions, case stories are not created with the same rigour as in-depth case studies. Stories tend to highlight the positive results and, understandably, pass lightly over any negative aspects. …

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