Organisation and remit
The Policy and Operations Evaluation Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands (known by its Dutch acronym IOB) is the evaluation service of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands. IOB evaluates all policy areas falling under the so-called Homogenous Budget for International Cooperation (HGIS). HGIS is a separate construction within the national budget, comprising the foreign-affairs activities of different departments. Organisationally, IOB is directly responsible to the Secretary-General of the Ministry, but it is operationally independent.
IOB carries out high-quality evaluations focusing on the learning and accountability functions. It also advises on Terms of Reference and quality requirements for evaluations carried out or commissioned by others (such as embassies or subsidised organisations). IOB also contributes to the training and supervision of policy officials and prospective evaluators in the partner countries of the Netherlands.
Most evaluations start with a preliminary study of the topic, the data available, the research questions, the remit and the most suitable methodology. The outcomes of this preliminary study – the Terms of Reference – guide the evaluation. They are first discussed in draft form with IOB colleagues and – in the case of a policy review – also always with external experts.
Evaluation is a form of assessment research. The prevailing methods are derived from social science and economics. The Terms of Reference give a general picture of the methods and techniques used. These may vary, depending on the evaluation.
To assure the quality of the research, for each evaluation IOB sets up a group of in-house readers and a separate reference group. The reference group meets to discuss how the research is progressing and gives feedback on the work done by the researchers. The group comprises at least:
- The researchers;
- The director of IOB;
- Staff from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs who are involved in the policy theme;
- At least one but usually two or more independent external experts.
In accordance with the evaluation criteria of the OECD-DAC (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development Cooperation – Development Assistance Committee), in the final report IOB assumes accountability for the methodology used.
OECD-DAC evaluation criteria
Evaluations are always tailor made, yet based on the consistent application of quality criteria. IOB applies evaluation criteria that largely correspond with the five criteria OECD-DAC uses to assess development activities. These are:
IOB also often uses the criterion of consistency. This entails ascertaining whether the intended objectives and the instruments used form a logical whole or whether they counteract eacht other.