Knowledge Bank

OECD DAC Criteria

January 05, 2022, Evaluation Observatory

Evaluative criteria provide an overarching normative framework for intervention assessment; and play a vital role in guiding the evaluation questions (UNEG, 2011). However, given the vast thematic areas development projects work across, a standardized criteriai that work across different 'evaluands' (Mathison, 2005) - i.e. different objects of evaluation - is highly useful. Towards this end, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) - a unique international forum of international development aid organizations - developed, the DAC criteria in 1991, to evaluate how effectively their development co-operation efforts and policies were working towards the achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

While used and accepted widely, given the limitations of the criteria; there was a felt need for the criteria to be revised (especially, following the 2015 agreement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.) (OECD, 2019). Pursued by the DAC Network on Development Evaluation (Eval Net), revisions were made to expand the criteria, and were then adopted by the OECD-DAC in 2019. The DAC criteria are used widely by several multi-lateral organizations such as the United Nations, and governments to benchmark their policies and programs (UNEG, 2011).

The updated framework consist of six evaluation criteria, defined by OECD DAC as follows (OECD, n.d.):

  • Relevance: "The extent to which the intervention objectives and design respond to beneficiaries, global, country, and partner/institution needs, policies, and priorities, and continue to do so if circumstances change."

  • Coherence: "The compatibility of the intervention with other interventions in a country, sector or institution."

  • Effectiveness: "The extent to which the intervention achieved, or is expected to achieve, its objectives, and its results, including any differential results across groups."

  • Efficiency: "The extent to which the intervention delivers, or is likely to deliver, results in an economic and timely way."

  • Impact: "The extent to which the intervention has generated or is expected to generate significant positive or negative, intended or unintended, higher-level effects."

  • Sustainability: The extent to which the net benefits of the intervention continue or are likely to continue.

Source: (“Applying Evaluation Criteria Thoughtfully,” 2021)

Also, OECD DAC gives two principles that guide practitioners using these criteria. The website list these principles as follows (OECD, n.d.):

  • The criteria should be applied 'thoughtfully' - contextualized to the evaluation, the nature of the intervention, and the stakeholders involved - to support 'high quality and useful evaluation'. The 'evaluation questions' and 'what one intends to do with the answers', should 'inform how the criteria are interpreted and analyzed'.


List of recommended resources:

For a broad overview

  • This video is prepared by Neerman, and gives a simple overview of OECD DAC criteria. For a written overview of the same, read this Blog post , guiding practitioners on asking the right evaluation questions through the use of the OECD DAC Criteria.

  • Published by the OECD, this research paper guides practitioners using OECD DAC criteria focusing on practical aspects. It explores different approaches to support the thoughtful application of the criteria, in varied institutional settings with differing strategic priorities. It outlines how the criteria can prompt evaluators to consider differential experiences and impacts by applying a gender lens, and support the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals and the wider 2030 Agenda

For in depth understanding

  • Published by the UN Evaluation Group (UNEG), this webinar gives an overview of consultation process to update old OECD DAC criteria and discusses the motivation behind these changes and their significance. Furthermore, it has a detailed discussion on using new OECD DAC criteria and critical principles for its application.

  • Published by ALNAP, this document provides practical support on using he OECD Development Assistance Committee (OECD/DAC) criteria in evaluation of humanitarian action. It provides brief guidelines for good practice in methods for the evaluation of humanitarian action.

Case Study

  • Presented by Megan Kennedy (Senior Policy Analyst OECD) and Rachel Bedouin (FAO Evaluation Office), this webinar discusses the new OECD DAC criteria, the rationale for revisions made to the criteria, its pros and cons, and its’ relevance in the present context. It illustrates this with a case example of the capacity development of the irrigation department in Afghanistan.

Further Reading


Better Criteria for Better Evaluation-Revised Evaluation Criteria Definitions and Principles for Use. (2019). OECD.

Better Criteria for Better Evaluation-Revised Evaluation Criteria Definitions and Principles for Use. (2019). OECD.

Evaluation Criteria. (n.d.). OECD. Retrieved December 16, 2021, from

Integrating Human Rights and Gender Equality in Evaluation-Towards UNEG Guidance Guidance Document. (2011). United Nations Evaluation Group.   Mathison, S. (2005). Encyclopedia of evaluation (Vols. 1-0). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc. doi: 10.4135/9781412950558

OECD DAC. (2018). OECD DAC Evaluation Criteria: Summary of Consultation Responses.

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