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Evaluations in international development

Iceland regards evaluations as a critical tool for learning, informed decision-making and enhanced accountability in international development cooperation. This is clearly reflected in Iceland’s official policy for development cooperation for 2019-2023, which places high importance on a results-based approach to development and using evaluations to keep track of and demonstrating results.

Iceland‘s Evaluation Policy 2020-2023 outlines evaluation principles and criteria, in accordance with OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC) criteria and quality standards for development evaluations.

Evaluations are initiated, prepared and managed by an independent Results and Evaluation Unit within the Directorate for International Affairs and Development Cooperation of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs and International Development.  The process for evaluations is transparent and shall be independent from programme management and policy making. To ensure this independence, the unit reports directly to the Permanent Secretary of State. The cross-cutting priority issues of gender equality, human rights and environment are addressed in all evaluations.

Iceland participates in international collaboration for evaluations, within the venue of Nordic+, DAC and the COVID-19 Global Evaluation Coalition. Iceland‘s evaluations are published by the DAC Evaluation Resource Centre.

Evaluations in 2021

Evaluation of the Icelandic CSO Strategy was published in February 2021. The evaluation’s scope encompassed support granted to Icelandic CSOs since 2015, with special focus dedicated to the framework agreement for humanitarian interventions between MFA and the Icelandic Red Cross (IRC). Nearly 100 development, humanitarian, and communications projects were funded 2015-2020, in addition to 19 projects funded under a framework agreement with IRC. These efforts involved 18 Icelandic CSOs with projects in 32 countries that had a strong poverty focus and targeted marginalised and vulnerable groups to a great degree. Results indicate that MFA made important efforts to establish a comprehensive administrative system for CSO support during the Strategy period. Recommendations call for an updated strategy; a more extensive use of framework agreements that not only extend to humanitarian assistance, but also to development cooperation; increased integration of human-rights based approaches; streamlining work procedures, and enhanced coherence.

The COVID-19 epidemic has an impact on evaluation fieldwork, but an ongoing formative evaluation of collaboration with academia will be completed in the first quarter of 2021. During the year, a number of evaluations are planned. These include an evaluation of Buikwe Basic Services Programme in Uganda; an impact evaluation of Iceland´s development cooperation within the fisheries sector in Sri Lanka 2005-2009; an evaluation of Iceland’s humanitarian and emergency assistance 2010-2020; and an evaluation of Iceland’s national action plan for women, peace and security 2018-2022.

An internal review of Iceland’s participation in the UN Junior Professional Officer (JPO) programme 2005-2015, will be conducted in 2021, as well as a review of Iceland’s COVID-19 support 2020-2021.

Iceland also participates in two evaluation review groups for multilateral projects in 2021. The former is a mid-term evaluation of UN Women’s project for Promoting Women and Girls’ Effective Participation in Peace, Security and Recovery in Mozambique and the latter is a joint evaluation of the UNFPA-UNICEF Joint Programme on the Abandonment of Female Genital Mutilation: Accelerating Change, Phase III: 2018-2021.

Evaluations in 2020

A mid-term review of Phase II of the Mangochi Basic Services Programme 2017 – 2021 was completed in June 2020. Iceland works with District authorities to improve the livelihoods of rural populations by contributing to the health, education, water and sanitation, and gender and youth sectors.  The specific objective (outcome) of the programme is improved provision and use of basic services in maternal health and family planning, primary education, water and sanitation, and community development, for men and women living in rural Mangochi District.

The evaluation findings indicate that the programme is already generating some impacts based on trends in impact indicators. Maternal deaths are on the decline, school drop-out rate in Standards 5 to 8 has slightly fallen, and the incidence of water borne diseases is almost non-existent due to improved access to safe water. The evaluation also finds that overall the project is soundly managed, and that in particular that local ownership of the project has contributed to its sustainability and success.

In light of delays in implementation, however, the evaluation recommends that the programme be extended by a year. Further, it recommends that the Ministry for Foreign Affairs and International Development considers an extension of the programme span for District Programme-Based Approach (PBA), considering that the programmes work towards a long-term impact of beneficiary livelihoods.

OECD DAC mid-term review was completed in October 2020. The review took stock of the status of Iceland‘s development cooperation in light of the findings from the DAC peer review in 2017. The results were positive and the team encouraged by the progress made by Iceland, the ability of its system to adapt to new opportunities and take decisive action.

The team was pleased to note that Iceland has already taken steps to address 9 out of 13 of the DAC‘s 2017 recommendations, in particular related to focusing development cooperation in areas where it has a comparative advantage and maintaining a poverty focus; establishing and working towards an interim target of 0.35% of GNI; and increasing the number of staff with development cooperation expertise. The next DAC peer-review will take place in 2023 which will be a crucial time after a number of important evaluations have taken place, and will allow a more in-depth assessment of progress on implementing a number of new and forthcoming strategies, how Iceland manages for results and links to the SDGs, as well as exploring the results of new private sector instruments and country partnerships. 

Börn á leik, skóli, Afríka, Þróunarsamvinna 


UNFPA - United Nations Population Fund

IDA (International Development Association)

MOPAN Assessment of the World Bank

ESMAP (Energy Sector Management Assistance Program)

PROFISH (The Global Program on Fisheries)

Umbrella Facility for Gender Equality

Human Rights and Development Trust Fund

Iceland participated in a joint Nordic Evaluation of the Nordic Development Fund in 2019. Key findings were positive and indicated that the NDF is well-functioning and has good future potential. At the same time, the evaluation also concluded that if the NDF´s programs are to continue, its owners need to contribute more capital and the Fund´s system for monitoring, evaluation and learning to be improved.

In 2019, an external, final evaluation of the Geothermal Exploration Project was conducted.  The main objective of the project was to assist countries in the East Africa Rift System (EARS) to increase their knowledge of geothermal potential by conducting reconnaissance and surface exploration studies and to build capacity and expertise in the field of geothermal development and utilization. The project was jointly funded by the MFA and the Nordic Development Fund (NDF) with a total budget of € 10 million and was implemented in collaboration with several partners, including UN Environment, the World Bank and the African Union.

Key findings of the evaluation indicate that project has clearly led to an advancement of geothermal development in partner countries and their capabilities to take further action. Relevant contributions were made, both towards individual countries achieving their overall goals, and in strengthening their organisational and human resource capacities to achieve progress. It is recommended that Iceland continues its collaboration, using a demand-led approach.

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