Theory, Practise and Quality Assurance
Evaluating Sustainable Development series
Edited by Anneke von Raggamby and Frieder Rubik
Chapter 5: Political Challenges in Policy-Level Evaluation for Sustainable Development: The Case of Trade Policy
___________________________________________________ INTRODUCTION Sustainability evaluation should in principle help to achieve sustainable development by giving decision-makers better information on the actual or probable economic, social and environmental impacts of past or future policy interventions. In practice this evidence-based ideal of development decisionmaking faces many challenges. The methodological challenges in undertaking evaluation studies are well known and relate to the problems of establishing the counterfactual or ‘without’ scenario. While the use of experimental and quasi-experiential methods can help in establishing an appropriate comparator reference group, debate continues on the appropriate methodological approach for evaluation studies in the field of development (Ravallion 2009). There are also difficulties in integrating the three dimensions of sustainable development, accounting for system dynamics and long-term risks, achieving adequate involvement of stakeholders, and stimulating institutional innovation (Hardi and Martinuzzi 2007). While these challenges apply across the full spectrum of evaluations at the level of projects, programmes, plans and policies, they can be particularly acute at the policy level. The rational evidence-based approach to decisionmaking in policy that underlies evaluation is often far removed from the reality of decision-making in practice, and the rationality of the political process through which decisions are made may differ from the scientific or technical rationality of a fully objective evaluation process (Turnpenny et al. 2008).1 Policy formulation is an essentially political process, involving tradeoffs between competing interests. The distribution of benefits and costs between diverse social groups may be strongly influenced by close relationships between the economic strength and political influence of 73...
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