Academic Publication

Anchoring UNICEF’s evaluation function in East Asia and the Pacific

Riccardo Polastro
Publication Year:
  • SDG 2 - Zero Hunger
  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-Being
  • SDG 4 - Quality Education
  • SDG 6 - Clean Water and Sanitation
  • SDG 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions


  • From having to, to wanting to evaluate.
  • Decentralized evaluations are vital to test new approaches and identify solutions.
  • Dynamic, iterative and system wide evaluations yield transformational change.
  • In-house models reflect the capacity to conduct evaluations of quality.
  • Evidence informing policies and budgets advances child rights and equity.



This article explores the key features of UNICEF’s evaluation function in East Asia and the Pacific between 2015 and 2020. It distills lessons learned over this period, explaining how regional and country office evaluations quality, credibility and use surged. An analytical framework is used to understand the external context, internal organizational dimensions and the demand for evaluation evidence.

While much of the analysis is applicable to other development partners, the discussion is framed specifically within the context of UNICEF, its goals, organization, and questions to be addressed. It also identifies some of the areas of comparative advantage, drawing on the author’s personal observations which are grounded on firsthand experience and secondary data available.

Decentralized evaluations are the function’s test ground for new approaches they prompt active learning and accountability. Across diverse evaluands, they continuously improve UNICEF and its partners performance nurturing better results for children. Following the Covid19 pandemic, natural disasters, or conflicts, they provide real time insights steering planning, help adapt programming, and iteratively identify solutions.

When evaluation evidence feeds into national policies and budget allocations, it advances child rights fostering equity. Critical reflection combined with system strengthening helps organizations claim their sphere of influence and become more effective in contributing to sustainable development goals.

Once the function is strategically anchored, it moves away from merely being a compliance driven function to an organizational learning one. Then, senior management stops doing evaluation because they have to and start doing them because they want to.

UNICEF Latin America and Caribbean Regional Office/Oficina Regional para América Latina y el Caribe, Calle Alberto Tejada, Edificio 102, Ciudad del Saber, Panamá, Apartado Postal/P.O BOX 084303045, Panama
© 2021 Published by Elsevier Ltd.

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