H.E. Muyeba Chikonde with Atishay Mathur at Zambia House in London
In a flattering letter to Lorenzo Medici, Machiavelli anxiously offers him one of his greatest possessions – his political critique of the world. What came to be known as ‘The Prince’, a comment on the realpolitik, may be seen as a cheap (yet, clever) act of advocacy. Often, furthering one’s findings and critiques can be a daunting task – finding a foothold in what may seem to be an otherwise slippery rampart. But, every so often, one finds oneself in a situation with the drawbridge lowered and gates wide open.
On the 2nd of November, I presented and submitted my research findings to H.E. Muyeba Chikonde, the Zambian High Commissioner to the UK. The High Commissioner has been contributing to and supporting this research since early 2017, and it has been nothing less than an honour to have his continuous and unflinching support. The research, which aims to offer a new approach to evaluating the effectiveness of small aid programmes, was also presented to the United Nations House, UNICEF UK, Scotland’s International Development Alliance, and Scotland-Malawi Partnership. Furthermore, presentations to UNESCO, the World Bank, DfID, and the Scottish Government are in the pipeline. Finding an audience in the offices of these development powerhouses is a healthy symptom of a system that welcomes fresh ideas and perspectives.
An issue like the evaluation of aid programmes constantly negotiates with ideas of accountability and trust. The research suggests a number of recommendations that ensure that the system remains accountable and can be trusted by all partaking stakeholders – equally. A key recommendation from the research, welcomed by most stakeholders, was the establishment of a Memorandum of Cooperation (MoC) under a Joint Permanent Commission of Cooperation between donor and partner governments. This memorandum aims to establish a mutually beneficial model of development cooperation through high-level (preferably, ministerial-level) exchanges that allow both, the donor and the partner government, to jointly,
Set indicators of success,
Design and conduct joint evaluation,
Analyse results of evaluations, and
Make post-evaluation recommendations.
The research further urges stakeholders to explore local alternatives to independent evaluators (in academia, sister-donors, established networks), create parallel reporting mechanisms (digital and bureaucratic), and practice openness in data collection and dissemination.
Through the support of various individuals and organisations, the research is making its way to the Zambian Government offices in Lusaka, and to the World Bank offices in Washington. More immediately, the findings will be highlighted and discussed on the 29th of November at the UNESCO Global Education Monitoring Report Launch in Edinburgh. In the spirit of openness and transparency, the presentation is accessible to the public.
Atishay Mathur is a TEDx Speaker and works on Governance and Impact Assessment at the United Nations House in Scotland. He was recently awarded an MSc in International Development (with Distinction) from the University of Edinburgh. He is also a member of the Cross Party Group on International Development at the Scottish Parliament and the Sustainable Development Goals Network in Scotland.