Evaluation of development programmes

DAC Criteria for Evaluating Development Assistance


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The DAC Network on Development Evaluation is currently exploring how the DAC Evaluation Criteria can be adapted to the new development landscape and the 2030 Agenda. 

Global Consultation on Adapting the Evaluation Criteria

The Evaluation Criteria were first set out by the OECD Development Assistance Committee in 1991 and later defined in the Glossary of Key Terms in Evaluation and Results Based Management. The five original criteria are: relevance, effectiveness, efficiency, impact and sustainability.


  • • They focus on results instead of (input and activities)
  • • They are the cornerstone of evaluation practice
  • • They act as broad guides to help us think about and explain changes occurring because of an intervention
  • • They are normative: they describe the desired attributes of an intervention
  • • Why is it relevant?
The DAC Evaluation Criteria are widely used by many organizations and actors in the evaluation of development programs. They are currently reflected in policies, manuals and in the terms of reference in a wide range of individual evaluations by development ministries, agencies, banks, partners, NGOs, etc. They consequently have a strong influence on current evaluation practice.


The DAC Network on Development Evaluation started a process to adapt the DAC Evaluation Criteria to the 2030 Agenda and the new development landscape. The Network’s overall goal – in line with its mission – is to support better evaluation, which will in turn play a role in helping to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

What is new?

  • The adapted evaluation criteria carry new and improved definitions of the original five criteria while retaining conceptual clarity and keeping the definitions as short and simple as possible.
  • One major new criterion – Coherence - was added to better capture synergies, linkages, partnership dynamics, and complexity.
  • To support the use of the adapted criteria further sections on the intended purpose, guiding principles for use, and an accompany guidance to explain further the criteria and how they apply to different types and contexts are provided.
  • The guidance and principles for use promote a more interconnected approach to the criteria, including examination of synergies and trade-offs.

The adapted criteria have been drawn to reflect the integrated nature of sustainable and current policy priorities and are useful for evaluating interventions aimed at achieving the Sustainable Development Goals as set out in Agenda 2030 and the Paris Agreement. The criteria are high-level enough to ensure they will be widely applicable, and will remain relevant as policy priorities and goals change.

The adapted criteria ensures applicability across diverse interventions by recognising the diverse range of development and humanitarian activities and instruments subject to evaluation – and the use of the criteria beyond development co-operation.

What was the process?

The DAC Network Evaluation carried out a round of consultation from March to October 2018 that included:

  • Interviews with key stakeholders;
  • A consultation workshop (March 2018);
  • Discussions at international meetings/seminars in Asia, Africa and Europe;
  • Discussions within meetings of our sister networks UNEG and ECG;
  • OECD DAC Network member survey; and
  • Public survey with stakeholders (691 responses).

While there was broad agreement on the strengths of the criteria (their simplicity, clarity and broad applicability were especially appreciated), respondents also saw room for improvement and clarification. Many perceived challenges that were raised have to do with how the criteria are applied, more so than with the criteria themselves:

‘The criteria are useful; the problem resides in the way the criteria have been used.’

‘One cannot blame the tools when they are misused.’ 

 ‘The main problem with the criteria is when people treat them as a checklist…. If they are approached in humility as a preliminary guide about what constitutes worth and merit, then they work fine.’ 

Building on these learnings, the Network decided to:

  • Draft updated definitions for the original criteria and further sections on intended purpose and use;
  • Consider adding criteria;
  • Develop a guidance on how to use the criteria;
  • Explore what other steps are needed (beyond adaptation of the criteria) to support better evaluation in today’s context.

What's next? 

This work is ongoing, in close collaboration with our members and external partners. Follow the debate on Twitter and sign-up to our newsletter. For further questions you can contact us at .