Although with the improved domestic revenue, government is financing increasing number of investment programmes and projects, but the need to develop the nation’s evaluation capacity has become very critical for prioritisation, effective and efficient allocation of resources.

Gross National Happiness Commission’s (GNHC) secretary, Thinley Namgyel said this while addressing the evaluation conclave at the Le Meridian in Thimphu.

The Secretary said that despite a lot of initiatives and technical capacity from the government to conduct commission and manage evaluation, it is still weak and the demand for evaluation in Bhutan is very low.

“The government has already taken some initiatives to strengthen evaluation capacity in Bhutan, including the establishment of national monitoring and evaluation system in Bhutan in 2006 and considerable progress has been made,” Thinley Namgyel said. “However, evaluation still remains weak.”

The GNHC has carried out evaluation of about eight programmes and evaluations of two government-funded programs are still on-going.

This is why the secretary said that evaluation conclave is timely where the conclave has scholars, specialists and experts from 14 countries to share their knowledge, experiences, evaluation tools, and methods to help the capacity of Bhutanese evaluators.

The four-day conclave is also expected to provide strong basis for formulating a 12th Plan in July 2018.

“Even in Bhutan, evaluation has been one of the important tools for evidence-based decision making while formulating a socioeconomic development programmes, policies and projects,” said Thinley Namgyel.

With the theme “Well-being and Sustainable Development – New Frontiers in Evaluation,” Community of Evaluators (COE), South Asia, President, Mallika R Samaranayake, said the evaluation conclave is appropriate as the governments globally started to implement Sustainable Development Goals agendas.

The president said: “We have to recognise who gets affected in this process; invariably it is the poorer section of the society at the receiving end of the development actions, unless mitigated measures are set in place. All this points shows the need of evaluating sustainable development and ensure the wellbeing of vulnerable communities and safeguard the environment for the future.”

She added that it is in this context that these countries need to be supported to define evaluation strategy and to develop their capacity for evaluation. “The conclave will focus largely on the relationship between well-being and sustainable development. It demonstrates the importance of evaluation in implementing seventeen sustainable development indicators.”

The GNHC Secretariat in collaboration with CoE-SA is organising the conclave, which began from June 6.

The CoE-SA is the largest network of evaluators in South Asia working together to strengthen the field of evaluation as mentioned in the press release. It is also a platform for evaluators to interact and engage with one another, to share knowledge, capacity development, and network advocacy among others.

The press release also mentioned that it would focus largely on the relationship between well-being and sustainable development with a view to demonstrate the importance of evaluations in these areas and to build capacity of evaluators.

About 175 participants from different continents, representing governments, civil society, private organisations, UN agencies, and donors are attending the conclave. The event also provides a rare opportunity to build national evaluation capacity in Bhutan.

Lyonchhen at the inaguaral yesterday said that evaluation is complicated, which cannot be done in one day, but it should start with planning, implementing, monitoring and evaluation, which is quite impossible. “Yet, it is important we evaluate, otherwise, how do we know, if we delivered the result or not. We should start with good plan and start in the beginning.”

Lyonchhen further added that Bhutan can evaluate happiness and if this can be evaluated, why can’t we evaluate other things.

Yangchen C Rinzin 

Aditional reporting by Nima