C4D: Define ethical and quality evaluation standards for R,M&E

What is it?

It is important to agree on and be clear about what both the quality standards are for the R,M&E (issues such as rigor, contextuality, gender sensitivity, impartiality and other criteria about the quality of R,M&E), and what the ethical standards are (being respectful, sensitive, transparent and avoiding causing harm or raising false expectations). Quality and ethical standards should be agreed to early on, and adhered to throughout implementation. The ethical standards become particularly relevant considering methods and the workplan. It is also important to ensure there are processes to maintain awareness among all stakeholders about the agreed standards - for example by including a planned review process of the evaluation at key stages (e.g. the design, and the draft report - see Review R,MandE systems and studies (meta evaluation).

General information on quality standards

The Rainbow Framework covers general guidance on agreeing to quality and ethical standards, with links to information on ethical guidelines and quality standards. The UN Evaluation Group (UNEG) (to which UNICEF adheres) offers several guidance documents, including:

There are 13 ‘Norms’ in the UNEG Norms and Standards, ranging from stating that UN agencies should have evaluation policies in place to discussions around impartiality, independence and ethics. There are four ‘Standards’ (which overlap somewhat with the 13 Norms), each with a series of sub-level standards. These pages and resources are recommended background reading before considering methods to apply to C4D.  

General information on ethics in R,M&E

Ethics can feel quite challenging, but it really comes down to being respectful, transparent and avoiding causing harm. Important to identify any ethical risks and develop strategies and processes for managing these. There are many resources available on this topic, with a comprehensive list available on the Ethical Guidelines page on BetterEvaluation.

Applying the C4D principles


The quality and ethical standards for C4D R,M&E should reflect the expectations of all the people and groups we are accountable to (donors and managers, partners and community groups). Defining and following quality and ethical standards is important for maintaining accountability and integrity in RM&E. Ensuring ethical practices in RM&E is a responsibility of everyone involved in the R,M&E.


It is important to question existing sets of standards and their relevance in the local setting. We need to ask: whose interests and expectations are reflected in the quality and ethical standards? what are the assumptions embedded in the standards? what other perspectives are missing from those standards?


Participatory processes can be used to develop and clarify quality and ethical standards with partners, and community groups. This ensures that standards lay out appropriate practices in keeping with local standards and expectations. In terms of ethical standards, participatory approaches to define ethical standards can help ensure these are locally appropriate, especially where participatory methods are used, or where sensitive topics are being explored.


Our expectations and perceptions of quality and ethics are culturally bound. In seeking agreement on quality and ethical standards it is important to understand these in the context of social, cultural, and organisational systems.


In C4D the ethical standards should cover sharing results and findings in accessible ways (especially with marginalised groups and those who were consulted in the data collection and report writing process) as an ethical responsibility. This also helps with promoting a learning-based culture and continuous learning.

Recommended methods and adaptations for Quality Standards and C4D

Independence, impartiality and perceived conflicts


General resources on ethics in R,M&E

  • Below are some relevant resources with a particular focus on children and adolescents.

Specific resources on ethics and C4D R,M&E

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