Understanding our evaluation function

The Evaluation Office conducts various types of evaluations and management studies in accordance with the requirements of the United Nations General Assembly, the United Nations Environment Assembly and the Norms and Standards for Evaluation of the United Nations system.

Evaluations are conducted in an independent manner and the Evaluation Office reports on evaluation findings without interference. To give it independence from substantive Divisions and operational sub-programmes, the Evaluation Office Director reports to the Executive Director, and through the Executive Director, to the Governing Bodies—Committee of Permanent Representatives and United Nations Environment Assembly.

UNEP's evaluation system
Figure: UNEP's evaluation system


The mandate for evaluations in UNEP covers all programmes and projects of the Environment Fund, related trust funds, earmarked contributions and projects implemented by UNEP under the Global Environment Facility (GEF), the Green Climate Fund (GCF) and under partnership agreements. The mandate for conducting evaluations derives from UNEP Governing Council decisions,  the UN Secretariat’s Administrative Instruction on Evaluation ST/AI/2021/3 and several UN General Assembly Resolutions, summarized in the regulations and “Rules Governing Programme Planning, the Programme Aspects of the Budget, the Monitoring of Implementation and the Methods of Evaluation” (ST/SGB/2018/3). 

Evaluation Policy

The UNEP Evaluation Policy guides the work of the Evaluation Office. It explains the objectives, roles and functions of evaluation within UNEP, the institutional framework and processes by which it is operationalized. The policy seeks to increase transparency, coherence and efficiency in generating and using evaluative knowledge for organizational learning and effective management for results, and to support accountability. A new evaluation policy will be issued in late 2021.

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Roles and Responsibilities of Evaluation

The Executive Director of UNEP is guardian of the evaluation function and responsible for ensuring that the evaluation policy is implemented on behalf of the Secretary-General and Member States, oversees the overall evaluation function, and ensures the function is adequately resourced.

UNEA/ CPR reviews the Biennial Evaluation Synthesis Report encompassing findings of all UNEP evaluations.

The Evaluation Office reports directly to the Executive Director and is responsible for implementation of the evaluation work plan by conducting and managing independent evaluations at MTS/ PoW, sub-programme, portfolio and project levels. It ensures quality in evaluations conducted, provides analysis of findings and lessons for management, prepares the Biennial Evaluation Synthesis Report and disseminates evaluation findings and results to UNEP, Member States and stakeholders. In addition, the Evaluation Office promotes uptake of lessons and tracks compliance with evaluation recommendations.

UNEP Senior Management Team discusses and comments on evaluations, ensures management responses to evaluations are provided and that findings are incorporated in the design and implementation of programme activities. The Senior Management Team also provides input into the the evaluation work plan. Other key roles are held by Divisional and Regional Office Directors to ensure that accepted evaluation recommendations are implemented, and Sub-programme coordinators to identify upcoming evaluations, coordinate review of evaluation reports and preparation of management responses, and ensure that evaluation findings inform strategic planning processes. 

Types of Evaluation

Types of evaluation take four main forms: i) strategic and cross-cutting thematic evaluations including sub-programme evaluations, ii) impact evaluations, iii) programme / portfolio evaluations, project evaluations / validations, and, and iv), joint evaluations with other United Nations agencies, donors and partners.

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Evaluation Coverage

The selection of evaluations is driven by the need to evaluate the performance of the Programme of Work and represent its key features in terms of: themes, sub-programmes, operational divisions / offices, geographic distribution of efforts and funding sources. As such, all UNEP sub-programmes are evaluated across a six-year period and a sample of projects reaching operational completion are selected by the Evaluation Office for independent evaluation. The factors that inform purposeful selection are set out in the Evaluation Operational Strategy and Manual. Projects that are not selected for independent evaluation and exceed the financial threshold specified in the Evaluation Operational Strategy and Manual qualify for a management-led Terminal Review.