The value added of a participatory, human rights inclusive evaluation. The case of an anti-human trafficking project in Myanmar.
Becker-Thierry, Sabine (2016). 'The value added of a participatory, human rights inclusive evaluation. The case of an anti-human trafficking project in Myanmar.' Paper presented at the annual conference of the HDCA, Tokyo 2016.
The Universal Declaration for Human rights (1948) and the Declaration of the Right to Development (1986) underlined the link between human rights and human development. And yet, for a long time, human rights were rather seen ‘outside’ the development domain. As a consequence, international Organizations placed little to no emphasis on the promotion or protection of human rights. Since the end of the Cold War, economic development and human rights have been re-converging (Gready and Ensor, 2005). Also, globalization has challenged traditional economic development thinking that failed to resolve global injustices and eradicate poverty. Thus, the international community emphasized human rights principles: voice, equality, non-discrimination, and accountability (Uvin, 2002). Today, most development interventions include human rights in programming – either as a so-called cross-cutting theme, by ‘mainstreaming human rights’ into an intervention, or by applying a human-rights based approach with the intention to positively contribute to human rights development either of rights holders and/or of duty bearers.
However, less progress has been made on systematically considering human rights when assessing results. Despite growing demand from the development practitioners’ and the researchers’ side to better understand the effects of human rights support, few evaluations so far have incorporated human rights as assessment criterion. Other crosscutting themes, e.g. gender equality and equity seem to be more “en vogue” than a human rights focus.
In the evaluation theory, human rights are discussed among scholars that belong to the ‘valuing’ branch of evaluation (Alkin, 2013). They see evaluation as a vehicle leading to social justice as in John Rawl’s social justice theory. Hence, their understanding of evaluation is that it helps transform society. Greene (2000) conceptualized the value-engaged approach to evaluation that incorporates elements of responsive evaluation and provides as reasons for including stakeholder views that this is pragmatic, emancipatory, and deliberative. Mertens (2009) uses an inclusive approach; it is unique in its emphasis on diversity and adding inclusion of diverse groups. Evaluation becomes a tool to confront social inequality and to promote equality (inclusive transformative model of evaluation). Conceptually, their theory can be seen as focusing on the ‘duty bearers’ and their capacity to guarantee and fulfil human rights within a system. Differently, a few scholars of the ‘use’-focused evaluation theory (Patton, 1998) implicitly refer to human rights and rather emphasize the rights holders’ perspective. For example, Fetterman underlines the potential of evaluation for empowerment (1996) and Cousins and Whitmore benefits of the participatory approach (1998). However, assessing human rights can neither look at the duty bearers’ capacity to guarantee nor focus on the rights holders’ ability to claim rights: rather, such evaluation needs to consider both spheres.
When it comes to evaluation practice, the debate on practical and field-tested guidance on monitoring and evaluation of human rights remains scattered and less explicit. Guidance remains focused on evaluating gender equality and equity. “Despite the potential of human rights to inform […] policies and programs, evaluations methods and indicators that specifically capture human rights concerns are not well developed and those that exist are often used inconsistently.” (Gruskin and Ferguson, 2009). Also, the value added of conducting evaluation considerate of human rights to the stakeholders is further worthwhile exploring in that regard in order to conclude under which conditions human rights inclusive evaluation is meaningful (or not) to which group of stakeholders.
In current Myanmar, many human rights are facing considerable challenges not least because of an increase in human trafficking to the neighbouring countries. While the country is engaging in various national and regional initiatives to fight against human and other kinds of trafficking, the numbers of trafficked persons in particular in the Northern Shan State region towards China has been increasing. Through so called community-based groups, the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) through funding by Norwegian Church Aid (NCA) has been engaging in various awareness raising and rescue activities in the Lashio area in Northern Shan State to combat human trafficking. The author has been conducting an evaluation of these activities. Throughout the assessment, the author applied a strongly participatory approach and tried to also specifically include human rights, in other words the author conducted a field test of one path of a participatory, human rights inclusive evaluation.
The aim of this paper therefore is to examine the “value added” or the “stakeholder benefits” of an added human rights component in a project evaluation. After a brief explanation of the wider study, of which this research question is an important part of and therefore a brief summary of the methodology used for this study, this paper will present the feedback and reflections from the author and those gained from the various evaluation stakeholder perspectives – beneficiaries, authorities, international and local non-governmental organizations involved in the project activities as well as religious and village leaders throughout and after the evaluation was conducted.
More specifically, the paper will respond to the following questions: What, if any, value did the various evaluation stakeholders – project beneficiaries, implementers, managers, donors, etc. – perceive after having participated in a project evaluation that included a human rights perspective? How did they experience that evaluation process? And what challenges as well as limitations still remain?
Overall, this paper intends to make a case for including human rights in development evaluation and adding to the practical guidance on capturing cross-cutting themes in evaluation.