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© Portrait of San Patten, the delegation’s representative in UNAIDS’ evaluation commitee

San Patten exits the Expert Advisory Committee on Evaluation after five years of excellence

In 2019, San Patten was presented with an opportunity to co-run an independent external Expert Advisory Committee on Evaluation for UNAIDS. The UNAIDS Programme Coordinating Board had approved the establishment of an independent evaluation function reporting directly to the UNAIDS Board. The function would comprise evaluation experts appointed by Member States, civil society, and UNAIDS Sponsors. Patten was nominated by the NGO Delegation to represent civil society in the committee. This seemed like a natural progression of Patten’s career, as she had been working in the field of HIV/AIDS for more than two decades at that point. 

Her nomination for the role was quite apt as she has a wealth of experience. She has provided global research, evaluation, and organizational development services to numerous NGOs. Furthermore, she has worked extensively with people who use drugs, GBMSM, indigenous communities, youth, and sex workers, building capacity for program evaluation, community-based research, and participatory action research. 

The independent health research and evaluation expert from Halifax, Canada, runs a consulting practice specializing in HIV/AIDS policy development, program evaluation, facilitation, capacity building, and community-based research. “Some of the organizations that I have had the honor to work with include the Stephen Lewis Foundation, World Vision, UNICEF, the Canadian Public Health Association, the Global Forum on MSM & HIV (MSMGF, now known as MPact), as well as the Dallaire Institute for Children, Peace and Security,” she shares. 

The Expert Advisory Committee on Evaluation advises the Director of Evaluation and the Executive Director on implementing UNAIDS’ evaluation policy and developing and implementing UNAIDS’ evaluation plan. It aims to enhance the use of evaluations, organizational learning, and alignment with the UNAIDS Strategy, the Unified Budget Results and Accountability Framework, and UN Evaluation Group norms and standards for evaluation. 

Since its inception five years ago, Patten and the rest of the Expert Advisory Committee on Evaluation have relentlessly sought ways to improve the functionality of the UNAIDS Evaluation Office. “A unit with an integral function such as the UNAIDS Evaluation Office requires the support of well-versed experts on the subject of evaluation,” explains Patten.

The Evaluation Office plays a vital role in bringing together evaluation offices of all the other co-sponsor UN agencies to deliver high-quality joint evaluations. Additionally, the Office identifies valuable evaluation questions and areas of focus, leading quality evaluations that provide essential learning and quality improvement functions across UNAIDS programs at global and country levels. 

“Our role as the advisory committee is to provide guidance and advice on the evaluation functions while maintaining the independence of the Evaluation Office. Our work includes reviewing various proposals, plans, and reports where we provide suggestions for improvements. My particular role within the committee is to ensure that the voices of the civil society are included and that how the evaluation is done is useful to them,” says Patten.

One of the numerous highlights of Patten’s tenure in the Expert Advisory Committee on Evaluation is when she spearheaded a collaborative letter with other committee members to address the underfunding and limited resourcing of evaluation functions: “In 2022, we collectively wrote a letter to the Executive Director of UNAIDS, calling for urgent intervention regarding the severely under-resourced Evaluation Office.  We expressed our concerns regarding the continuous budget shortfalls and how that was threatening the evaluation function. In doing that, we highlighted the importance of the Evaluation Office, which is often undervalued, especially during budget planning.” 

The work of the Expert Advisory Committee on Evaluation does not go unnoticed. The NGO Delegation is eternally grateful to Patten and the rest of the committee for their efforts. In the last five years, they have been able to bolster the position of evaluation with UNAIDS and helped give a sense of legitimacy and importance to evaluation functions within the UNAIDS system.  The NGO Delegation seeks a suitable replacement for San when she steps down from her role in March 2025. Interested members of civil society can fill out the contact form below.  

Are you civil society's new monitor and evaluation expert representing the NGO Delegation on UNAIDS' evaluation committee? Get in touch!

News | 27 May 2024

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Our NGO Delegation

The Programme Coordinating Board (PCB) was created to serve as the governing body of UNAIDS. The PCB includes a Nongovernmental Organization (NGO) Delegation composed of five members and five alternates that represent five geographic regions: Africa, Asia and the Pacific, Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean, and North America.

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UNAIDS and the UN

UNAIDS was established in 1994 through a resolution of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and made operational in January 1996.

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