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U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

Program Evaluation

Bureau of Resource Management
November 15, 2010


Advancing an ambitious foreign policy agenda requires a sustained focus on global outcomes and trends that are most meaningful to the interests of the United States. Nuclear proliferation, hunger, climate change, the global economic crisis, terrorism, pandemic disease, conflict in the Middle East, and transnational criminal networks are just some of the pressing issues the Department faces. To meet the many challenges, the Department strategically uses performance metrics and program evaluation to achieve results for the American people while maximizing the impact of every dollar spent.

Program evaluation and performance measurement are critical to the success of the Department’s foreign policy goals. Program evaluation is essential both for prospective planning of programs and for retrospective assessment of effectiveness. Rigorous, independent program evaluations are a key resource in determining whether the Department’s programs are achieving their intended outcomes. In FY 2010, the Department continued efforts to make program evaluation integral to managing its programs at all stages of their development — from planning and implementation through data collection, performance analysis, and budget formulation. The Department strengthened the connection between strategic planning, evaluation, and strategic priorities through the use of Country Operational Plans and Bureau Strategic and Resource Plans. The evaluations noted in these plans support the success of programs and initiatives linked to the Department’s strategic goals and High Priority Performance Goals (HPPGs).

In FY 2010, the Department implemented a new policy to expand the use of rigorous evaluation and assessment. The new evaluation policy lays the groundwork for a coordinated and robust evaluation function in the Department and provides a framework for the ongoing and systematic analysis of programs and policies. The policy requires grant- and contract-funded programs/projects to be evaluated at least once during their life cycle and more closely integrates the Department’s strategic planning processes with evaluation planning. Further, together with tools developed to help design and implement quality evaluations, this policy advances the Department’s efforts to build capacity to assess program impact, learn and share information about effective practices in our programs, provide evidence for policy and planning decisions, and increase accountability to the American people.

The Department’s successful June 2010 conference on program evaluation further highlighted its commitment to evidence-based decision-making and to using evaluation to inform U.S. foreign policy and development goals. The conference, New Paradigms for Evaluating Diplomacy in the 21st Century, provided a forum for foreign affairs officials from the United States and abroad, including Denmark, Japan, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, and Belgium, to confer about the capacity of evaluation to affect change in foreign affairs. Panel discussions and workshops — on such topics as evaluating trade-capacity building and peace-building activities, interagency efforts to combat transnational crime, cultural diplomacy, gender and evaluation, and food insecurity — provided opportunities for a lively exchange of ideas on effective practices, methods, and approaches for examining the challenges that our nation and the world faces in the 21st Century. The Department’s conference serves as the starting point for an ongoing exploration and discussion of evaluating diplomacy as one of the pillars — with development and defense — of an effective foreign policy framework.

In the next fiscal year, the Department will pursue full implementation of the new evaluation policy and the integration of evaluation as an inherent part of management and oversight of programs. This includes the establishment of guidelines and tools around evaluation scope, methods, resources, policies and procedures, independence, planning, and dissemination of public accountability results. Further, in consultation with program stakeholders, the Department will focus on strategically identifying evaluation priorities and planning and developing a body of evaluation work.

Climate Change

Photo showing President Obama addressing the COP15 U.N. Climate Change Conference, Copenhagen, Denmark, December 18, 2009.

President Obama asserts that the world’s will to address climate change “hangs in the balance” and insists any deal must include transparency among nations. U.N. Climate Change Conference, Copenhagen, Denmark, December 18, 2009. ¬©AP Image

Climate change is one of the century’s greatest challenges, and promoting low-carbon, climate-resilient growth is one of the highest priorities of both our diplomacy and our development work. Under President Obama, the United States, through domestic and international action, has done more to combat climate change than ever before. In December 2009, aided by U.S. leadership, the international community took a meaningful and unprecedented step forward in international climate negotiations. The resulting Copenhagen Accord outlines key elements that are essential to a long-term solution to the climate change challenge: a recognition of the scientific view that the increase in global temperature should be below 2 degrees Celsius; actions by all major economies to mitigate climate change; transparency to see that those actions are taken; and financing and technology support to help the poorest and most vulnerable developing nations.

To respond to the profound threat that global climate change poses to development, the United States has also launched a Global Climate Change Initiative (GCCI) to spur global greenhouse gas emission reductions in the energy and forests and land-use sectors and to promote climate change adaptation in vulnerable countries and communities. As part of this effort, the United States has committed to contributing our share of a sum approaching $30 billion over the 2010–2012 period, as called for in the Copenhagen Accord, for “fast-start” funding to assist developing countries address climate change. These funds include support for the Administration’s Copenhagen announcement that it would dedicate $1 billion for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) from 2010-2012.

Complementing this significant increase in financial assistance, President Obama launched the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate (MEF), establishing an enhanced dialogue among 17 developed and developing economies, representing 80 percent of global emissions, to help support the multilateral negotiating process and devise new ways to advance the development and deployment of clean energy technologies. Experts from these countries have since developed action plans covering 10 key clean energy technologies, and ministers at the July 2010 Clean Energy Ministerial launched a suite of initiatives aimed at implementing these action plans.

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