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Evaluation of SDC Human rights and Rule of Law Policy

What impact do policy documents have on practice? How can policy guidance be made more effective? Relatively little is known amongst international donors about the key factors that affect how policy guidance can affect practice. This project, in collaboration with the Poverty and Public Policy Group explored the influence of two key policy guidance documents on SDC and their partners' behaviour and practice:

  • Promoting Human Rights in Development Co-operation in 1997 (a binding text).
  • The Rule of Law Concept: Its Significance in Development Co-operation in 1998.

The purpose of the Evaluation was three-fold:

  • to assess the influence exerted by the Human Rights Guidelines and Rule of Law Conceptual Framework in terms of their policy and programmatic guidance;
  • to identify ways of making these specific policy orientations more effective and more relevant;
  • to highlight key factors that might foster or hamper the impact of policy guidance documents.

The study went far beyond an evaluation and included literature reviews, interviews with key SDC and partner staff, surveys, focus-group discussions, country case studies and comparator studies in other agencies. The key conclusion was that guidance documents are only one aspect of a broader process of policy change within development agencies. This is a complex, non-linear process, where policy-making and implementation cannot be fully separated and change can take a long time to become apparent. The study identified the following requirements for ‘successful’ policy change processes:

  1. a supportive international and domestic environment;
  2. a clear, concise and well-communicated policy statement;
  3. policy champions and the commitment of senior managers;
  4. instructions, systems and resources to put the policy in practice;
  5. visible translation into policy dialogue, programmes and projects;
  6. supporting measures, such as staffing, training and communication;
  7. practical guidance, using evidence and lesson-learning to support the policy; and
  8. links and networking.
Laure-Hélène Piron