Outgoing UN evaluation chief urges evaluators to “tell it as it is”

August 12, 2010 at 9:04 am Leave a comment

Below is an extract of the farewell speech of Ms. Inga-Britt Ahlenius, Under-General Secretary Oversight & Evaluation of the UN. I particularly like her statement that if evaluators do not “tell it as it is” – then no one else will…

“I am aware that some of you are facing challenges to the independence of your work; management in some cases would like to continue to maintain control over the ambit of your work. They want good news, not bad news. So when you have bad news, you learn to tell the bad news in clever ways. Let me tell you a little story.

There is the old story of the Lion King who calls all his subjects to his rather smelly cave and asks them to tell him how his room smells. Nobody dares to do anything, until the dog steps up, sniffs the room and tells the King honestly that it smells. The King devours the dog for his insolence. The monkey then decides to be smarter and tells the King the room smells like roses. The King devours the monkey for his dishonesty and sycophancy. Lastly, with all else in the room trembling with fear, the sly fox steps up and tells the King that he has had a cold for the past few days and cannot smell. The King rewards the fox by making him Prime Minister of his Kingdom.

Now, regardless of the moral of this story – we in this room are NOT to be sly foxes. We are mandated to be dogs! So the question is – how do we survive as dogs when the King asks you if his room smells?

To those of you who are facing hard challenges to your operational independence, and to your professional integrity as evaluators, I would like to remind you of a quote by Dag Hammarskjold which I now and then have reason to repeat. You will find it engraved in the pavement of Dag Hammarskjöld Plaza at 47th Street and First Avenue –

“Never for the sake of peace and quiet, deny your own experience or convictions”.

Because if you, in your position as the United Nations’ evaluators do not “tell it as it is”, what you believe to be correct, then it is unlikely that anybody else in the UN will. I urge you – do not deny your convictions as evaluators!”

Entry filed under: General.

The theory of change explained… 2010 Claremont evaluation debate – webcast – 21 August

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