Many Governments in the Latin America and Caribbean (LAC) Region have gained an increased understanding of the value of monitoring and evaluation (M&E) to help both governments and donors alike better understand what public investments and interventions work well, which do not, and the reasons why. Monitoring and evaluating the performance of public programs and institutions can help increase their effectiveness, providing more accountability and transparency in how public monies are used, informing the budgetary process and the allocation of public resources, and assessing their effectiveness in attaining their desired objective such as improving welfare, reducingpoverty or enhancing the equality of opportunities.
To further promote the institutionalization of M&E systems, the World Bank, in partnership with the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB), organized a regional conference on June 6-7, 2005 to take stock of the lessons learned. The participants represented finance and sector ministries from eleven countries, as well as experts from academia, bilateral donor agencies, consulting firms, and various sectors of the host institutions. Experiences from five countries, namely Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Brazil and Peru, were shared during the conference, and served as input to determine lessons learned in institutionalizing systems of monitoring and evaluation. The conference also served as a springboard to launch a regional network of policymakers and M&E practitioners to allow such national experiences to be shared much more widely and systematically throughout the LAC region.
It was evident from the country experiences presented that there is no single "destination" for countries in terms of what a well-performing M&E system looks like. Some countries stress a system of performance indicators, while others focus on carrying out evaluations (program reviews or rigorous impact evaluations). And while some countries have created a whole-of-government approach driven by finance or planning ministries, others are more focused on sector M&E systems. Yet the shared experience of these countries has led to some collective wisdom about the development of solid M&E systems, and these lessons are outlined in these proceedings. One key characteristic of most of the systems that are now at different stages of implementation in LAC, is that they reflect country-led — rather than donor-driven — efforts to institutionalize M&E.
It was evident from the June conference that a growing number of LAC countries are initiating efforts to strengthen and systematize their M&E functions. Senior officials from the eleven countries represented at the conference found highly valuable the sharing of their country experiencesin institutionalizing M&E. They were impressed by the substantive progress achieved in several LAC countries in this field.
The proposal was, therefore, made at the conference to create a regional network of key stakeholders, to focus on the institutionalization of M&E and to facilitate South-South learning throughout the region. It was proposed that the network, which will be the first of its kind in the developing world, will be open and flexible, attracting decision-makers, practitioners, experts in and outside the government; high-level officials from sector ministries, finance ministries, and planning departments; parliamentarians and their advisors; academics; consultants and experts; multilateral organizations and interested bilateral donors. Network activities are likely to include a virtual discussion space,staff secondments, joint training on M&E, study tours to neighboring countries, and follow-up regional and sub-regional conferences.