Evaluating Projects and Programs in Fragile, Conflict-Affected, and Violent Contexts

Blog Date:

Blog Authors

  • Ella Stack, Research Associate, Environmental Law Institute
  • Amanda Woomer, Senior Consultant on Nature & Environment, Oxford Policy Management
  • Carl Bruch, Senior Attorney; Director, International Programs
  • Shaadee Ahmadnia, Environmental Specialist Consultant, World Bank Group

With violent conflict on the rise around the world, the contexts in which international institutions-including the World Bank, UNDP, FAO, and the GEF-support environmental and development interventions are increasingly characterized by fragility, conflict, and violence or FCV. Worsening climate change and natural resource degradation exacerbate existing insecurities as competition for natural resources increases, institutional fragility is amplified, and economic, social, and political systems are put under pressure. FCV dynamics can negatively affect project implementation and effectiveness, and traditional approaches to evaluation often prove insufficient for assessing the influence of those dynamics. Yet there is a critical need for evidence both on how environmental programming is affected by FCV contexts and how these projects can contribute to peace objectives.

These challenges posed to and the potential approaches to the evaluation of environmental and climate work in FCV contexts were the focus of the FCV session at the GEF IEO 4th Conference on Evaluating Environment and Development. The panel, which was moderated by Carl Bruch (Environmental Law Institute), included presentations from Amanda Woomer (Oxford Policy Management) and Shaadee Ahmadnia (World Bank), Vijayalakshmi Vadivelu (United Nations Development Program), and Ana Paula de la O Campos (Food and Agriculture Organization). Tracy Hart (World Bank) and Lauren Kelly (World Bank Independent Evaluation Group) provided commentary. The panelists drew on some important recent publications, including the Environmental Law Institute and Environmental Peacebuilding Association's 2023 Toolkit on Monitoring and Evaluation of Environmental Peacebuilding, the World Bank's 2022 Defueling Conflict: Environment and Natural Resource Management as a Pathway to Peace, and UNDP's 2021 report Climate Finance for Sustaining Peace. It also included insights from an ongoing study on M&E in FCV contexts for the GEF Independent Evaluation Office.

One key theme that emerged from the panel's discussion included the importance of enabling environments and institutional incentives that can create conditions conducive to designing programming and evaluation approaches that are responsive to FCV contexts. Programming approaches are often fragmented and reactive, and institutional structures may disincentivize the incorporation of conflict-related objectives and indicators or flexible approaches to theories of change that can influence perceptions of a project's success. As a result, opportunities for learning are often limited.

In response to these challenges, panelists discussed the benefits of diversifying indicators and other monitoring approaches. This includes, for example, the incorporation of spatial and remote sensing data, which can be combined with other types of survey data to better understand on-the-ground realities. One presentation remarked on the importance of integrating various levels and types of indicators, such as structural, local, and project-specific indicators as well as the Everyday Peace Indicators methodology. Expanding use of safeguards and adaptive management were proposed as ways to integrate good evaluative practices into existing mechanisms. Echoing comments from a plenary session earlier in the day, panelists also called for a collaborative approach between different GEF Agencies to assess the collective impact and risks of projects.

More work is needed to understand the linkages between environmental and climate work, on the one hand, and FCV dynamics on the other; this drives home the need for improved approaches to evaluation in FCV contexts. The insights raised in the session illustrate that there are areas of ongoing work that can already serve as a starting point from which to build.

Disclaimer: The blog presents the views of the authors and does not necessarily reflect the official position of the GEF IEO.