Under EvalPartners’ Flagship Programme to strengthen National Evaluation Policies & Systems, the Macedonian Evaluation Network (MEN) has created a national partnership comprising civil society, academia and government stakeholders that are committed to the monitoring and evaluation of the SDGs in Macedonia. Vlatko Danilov from MEN shares more about this project in this Q&A 

Give a brief summary of the Flagship 1 programme that EvalPartners supported on Enhancing SDG’s evaluation for sustainable development in Macedonia?

The project aimed to increase capacities for monitoring and evaluation (M&E) of the SDGs in order to promote an integrated approach in providing continuous sustainable development of society.

Project activities focussed on strengthening partnership and coordination among different stakeholders involved in the SDG M&E processes in Macedonia, in order to achieve structured and organized implementation of the SDG development agenda.

The project started in February 2020, at the same time of the Covid-19 crisis. Due to the restrictive measures, some of the project activities were postponed, modified and/or adjusted to be appropriate to the situation.

Activities included a kick-off meeting with project partners; a report mapping and identifying stakeholders’ roles and responsibilities in SDG monitoring and evaluation processes; case studies on SDG 4 & 8; promotion of SDG Evaluation (see the video here); virtual meeting with representatives of UN agencies; a social media campaign for promotion of SDG monitoring and evaluation; a workshop on strategy planning and M&E methods of the SDGs; and the development of a national platform of the SDGs.

The National Partnership (NP) is a group of 20-30 prominent professionals representing different stakeholders from the academic community, civil society and the public sector that are committed to monitoring and evaluation of sustainable development issues in their area of expertise

Do you think evidence is sufficiently used by governments at the national level in Macedonia?

A national system for planning, monitoring and evaluation is not present in Macedonia. Frameworks like policies, strategies, and programs at the national and local level are missing some elements to be considered as evidence-based documents.

National government institutions and the public sector are the main drivers of M&E processes of the SDGs as they are the ones with most influence. Therefore, their involvement is essential in effective M&E of the development processes. However, it should be properly combined with the wider and inclusive participatory approach from the other sectors to ensure the needed expertise for M&E.

Moreover, many organizations operating at national and regional level (development centres, consulting companies, research institutions and individuals) possess the needed capacity and expertise, and most importantly have particular interest in M&E but can’t influence much of the process. Therefore, their availability should be properly channelled in order to effectively drive M&E processes.

What can evaluators do to become evidence champions and promote the use of evidence at national level? And what are the role of VOPEs specifically?

The Macedonian Evaluation Network (MEN) is a network of professionals and consultants with a rich background in management, monitoring, and evaluation of development processes. MEN as a National Voluntary Organization for Professional Evaluation (VOPE) aims to lead the processes for improvement of the evaluation’s use and to raise the evaluation culture at a national level. Moreover, MEN is dedicated to the improvement of the network’s capacities, visibility, and credibility, towards strengthening its own capacities and link, coordinate, and cooperate with government agencies and international organizations, primarily with UN agencies in order to achieve its goals.

MEN is focusing on creating the evidence-based national system for planning, monitoring and evaluation, working on creating partnerships with the relevant stakeholders in the country. The main activities are to promote evaluation as a basis for development processes in the country at organizational, local, regional and national level.

Broadly, what progress has been made in terms of the SDGs in Macedonia?

Macedonia’s first VNR was prepared in June 2020 and the report confirms the country’s strong commitment to the agenda for sustainable development.

The main conclusions from the VNR are the following:

  • In 2015, the Government reaffirmed its commitment to sustainable development by pledging “to leave no one behind” and agreeing to implement the 2030
  • 83% of planning documents were aligned with the full compliance was found for goals 4 (Education), 6 (Water), 7 (Energy), 9 (Infrastructure and Industrialization) and 16 (Inclusive governance). The least degree of alignment – about 50% – was found for Goal 10 (inequalities between and within countries)
  • When taking into account the implementation of the country’s 55 ratified international conventions, the level of alignment with the SDGs reaches 98
  • Most recent data reveal that there is high probability that only 27% of the goals will be met by 2030 and
  • About 29% of the indicators for particular SDGs can be achieved by 2030 with significant policy efforts, whereas the remaining 45% seem to be unattainable with the current development

What should be the priorities to ensure more country-led evaluations take place in Macedonia?

The main priorities for evidence-based policy making in Macedonia are:

  • Evidence-based policy making to become a standard, not an exception
  • To introduce evaluation legislation in the country and regulate its use
  • To strengthen capacities of national institutions, commissioners, the NGO sector and academic community and increase their awareness about monitoring and evaluation
  • To strengthen the capacities of individual, independent evaluators by creation of standardized training modules for evaluation
  • To support establishment of a National Evaluation System
  • To introduce evaluation as a regular course in universities
  • To introduce a country professionalization system that will ensure better quality evaluations
Why does evidence matter in the journey towards 2030?

The effective M&E of the SDGs can be ensured only through the establishment of regular reporting processes both horizontally and vertically among relevant institutions and the availability of needed data to be able to monitor and evaluate the goals. Therefore communication channels and the data availability are crucial.

Additionally, the human capacity and technical knowledge to regularly collect and update the needed information must be enhanced for proper M&E processes. It’s very important to combine the stakeholders, those with higher influence and those with higher interest, to ensure a qualitative representation and inclusiveness aspect (central institutions, public sector, non-governmental sector, private sector, academia, donors, individuals and others) when needed.

This is crucial in order to ensure that countries’ development processes are in line with the Agenda 2030, and thus promote sustainable and harmonized progress.