Oberscherli, SwitzerlandOberscherli, Switzerland

Roads to Insight

Yet another year has unfolded, presidents of civilized western societies continue to pretend a world between fantasy and apocalypse, decade-long multilateral and regional bodies of cooperation and integration on the decline and self-centred nationalist tendencies in fashion. This turnaround, even 3 years ago unthinkable and dequalified as doom-mongering has now become almost commonplace. The differentiation between scientifically established evidence, perceived fact and fabricated fact is increasingly blurred with legitimization from politicians who consider their public office as a playground for personal power games. The near past is perhaps the saddest political period I have had the privilege to witness during my entire life, the price is progressive erosion of credit in political institutions and office-holders. When I say that, it is by no means just the ever-gloomy US government in focus. The increasingly totalitarian wave has been pouring over into other parts of the globe, from Venezuela through Russia, Saudi Arabia, Burma to Brunei and into Hungary, Poland or Italy, to name just the prominent places from where depressing news have emerged about oppression, violations of human rights and political disregard of thought-to-be achievements of democratic principles and good governance.

Evaluation professionals are equally exposed to such rapid transformations of the development context. What was believed to be yet another milestone in global progress with the adoption of the SDGs not even 4 years ago, complemented with a moment of political wisdom around the Paris Agreement on Climate Change is fading fast as frameworks for idealist do-gooders around the world. They continue to serve as benchmarks here and there to justify new development credits and to change technology by innovative businesses, but have lost their guiding value in political circles. It is the school-aged youth who have to remind the generation of parents and grandparents about their responsibility towards the future. A mere shame in the era of broad-based knowledge and wisdom that we believed in, with accumulated wealth as never before in history to address also major challenges. 

Let's bank on the inter-generational contract, strengthen the mobilization of young people against the core issue of global warming while respecting that this is a youth movement, in the hands and responsibility of them and not to be pocketed again by corrupted politicians who are seeking yet another electoral advantage. 

Lesson as an evaluator? Capturing people's voices is crucial, documenting their stories remains key to assess whatever kind of results that emerges from well-intended development initiatives. And differentiating these voices along the scale of plausibility and evidence continues to be bread and butter of the evaluators. No matter how skewed the political context around us.
                                                                        Martin Sommer
                                                                        Owner Consultant devolutions Ltd.