project published

ESS-DEVCO Cycle of conferences on evaluation in hard-to-reach areas

Innovative techniques to evaluate interventions in difficult environments including conflict zones - From February to June 2019

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Cycle of conferences on evaluation in hard-to-reach areas

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Michaël POTAR28 February 2019

Evaluating in a fragile world

Around 2 billion people live in countries affected by fragility, conflict and high levels of violence, and around half of the world's poor live in fragile or conflict-affected states (FCAS)[1]. The percentage of the poorest living in FCAS increased from 20% in 2005 to 43% in 2015[2], and the World Bank estimates that, by 2030, their number will rise to nearly 50%[3] while OECD considers that - without action - this number will be higher than 80%[4].

The EU and its Member States have committed to pay particular attention to fragile and conflict-affected states and to support the most vulnerable[5]; this has been one of the key priorities of both EU development and foreign policy over the last decades. In 2016 the EU's development cooperation with countries in situations of conflict and fragility represented EUR 4.970 billion in commitments, or 52.8% of total commitments of DG DEVCO.

In terms of commitments, the yearly engagement in 2016 was 76% higher than in 2015 and 249% higher than in 2014. To limit the analysis to just five fragile countries (Afghanistan, Central African Republic, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen), the EU disbursed over the period 2010 to 2018 EUR 4.195 billion; with 73% financed by DG DEVCO and 27% by DG ECHO[6].


Adapting the evaluation methods to fragile contexts and hard-to reach areas

A traditional approach to evaluation in fragile or conflict-affected states and, more generally, in hard-to-reach areas is destined to fail: the number of professional evaluators available to travel to these countries is limited and the security risks during in-country travel make conventional field missions unrealistic, particularly in the most remote areas.  In response to this, various development partners have started encouraging the use of methods and techniques that are innovative in an evaluation context.  These include use of geo-spatial data, surveys administered by non-specialised local enumerators, phone/tablet voice or data surveys, location tracking, communication through online platforms, etc.


Pioneering actors and techniques in evaluation

It is now time to learn from the experiences of these early pioneers and reflect on some paradigms that are often overlooked, such as the importance of integrating conflict sensitivity as an area of analysis when evaluating in FCAS, and the impact of these techniques on the ethical standards of the evaluation profession.

With this initiative, organised by the Evaluation Support Service of DG DEVCO, the Unit ‘Results, Monitoring and Evaluation’ of DG DEVCO invites interested colleagues in both Headquarters and EU Delegations to reflect on the possibilities offered by innovative evaluation methods to respond to the difficulties that traditional evaluation missions inevitably face in hard-to-reach areas.  It will also discuss the use of such methods beyond FCAS.

This initiative is open to other EC services (notably DG NEAR, ECHO and FPI), other development partners and to professional evaluators working in development cooperation and in the humanitarian field.


Attending the conferences

This reflection began with a cycle of lunchtime conferences that will take place from February to June 2019, from 12:30 to 14:00 CET; the conferences will be hosted by the External Cooperation InfoPoint of the European Commission (43 Rue de la Loi - 1040 Brussels, Belgium).

Interested in participating and not included in the distribution list of the InfoPoint? Please register here to receive a reminder a few days before each conference:


Video recordings and presentations

Click on the conference of your interest on the menu on the left; from its page you have access to all available documentation


Presentation paper

Download the conferences' presentation paper from and check back often, as dates may change. Any change will be published in this Capacity4Dev space, as well.


Final publication

At the end of the cycle, a call-to-action paper will present the key highlights from the conferences.  Stay tuned!


Conception and design of the cycle of conferences:

Marco Lorenzoni – Evaluation Support Service, senior evaluation expert

With thanks to: all the speakers that enthusiastically accepted to share their experience; the entire ESS team; the Sector ‘Results, Monitoring and Evaluation’, Unit ‘Evaluation and Results’ of DG DEVCO; and the different officers of DG NEAR, ECHO and FPI met during the preparation of this cycle of conferences for their ideas and suggestions.   Additional thanks to the European Evaluation Society (EES), IDEAS (International Development Evaluation Association), IOCE (International Organization for Cooperation in Evaluation), EvalPartners and Monitoring and Evaluation News ( that kindly helped us in spreading the voice about this cycle of conferences to their respective communities.


Should you need any further information about this initiative, please contact the ESS at



Footnotes and references


[2] Same as footnote 1


[4] OECD (2018), States of Fragility 2018, OECD Publishing, Paris,    

[5] European Consensus on Development, 8 June 2017,

[6] DEVCO’s Statistical Dashboard, viewed on 12 November 2018 (EC internal)


Michaël POTAR uploaded a new Document 28 February 2019

This is the presentation paper of the cycle of conferences.

It was originally published on 28th Feb 2019, and the file was updated on the 27th of May2019. This document attached is therefore the latest, and most up to date.

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