In 2006, at the landmark La Mancha meeting, MSF agreed to seek active transparency and accountability to improve the relevance, effectiveness and quality of its interventions. The result has been an increased investment in developing evaluation capacity in the organisation. 

Assessing potentials and limitations

There are two overriding purposes of evaluation in MSF. Most importantly, evaluations are a tool for assessing the potentials and limitations of medical humanitarian action. Therefore, the evaluation process enhances the effectiveness of the medical humanitarian act. By means of in-depth analysis, evaluations may help explain why some activities are successful while others are not, and this information can be used to improve approaches and methods applied in MSF’s work. 

The other main purpose of evaluation is to provide MSF governance, donors and beneficiaries with documentation about the use and the results of MSF’s work. This way, evaluations contribute to accountability within MSF.

Learning from action requires reflection 

MSF is renowned for its rapid action in emergencies. Being fast and responsive is the organisation's strength. Systematic and objective evaluation processes are important opportunities to reflect, explore and capture the many experiences teams have in the challenging context MSF works in. Evaluations are therefore a much needed tool for organisational learning.  

Humanitarian Evaluation is the systematic and objective assessment of an on-going or completed humanitarian intervention, its design, implementation and results.” (OECD/DAC 2012)

Independent specialised units

Following the La Mancha Agreement and its commitment to accountability in 2006, formal evaluation processes have become an integral part of MSF’s work. In 2005, MSF established an independent and specialised Evaluation Unit in Vienna. Since then, similar units have been set up in Stockholm and Paris. 

Professional competence 

Ideally, MSF evaluations are carried out by a mixed team of external experts and experienced MSF staff, selected on the basis of their professional competence, independence and experience in the relevant field and in conducting evaluations.

Evaluations complement less resource-demanding monitoring activities such as end-of-cycle reports or reviews. Evaluations are primarily field-focused and may cover one or more field projects, strategies or policies. An evaluation can, however, also focus on headquarters projects, strategies, themes or policies.