Hitting a Moving Target: Evaluating the ‘Exit’ from State-building Missions

  • Georg Frerks
Part of the NL ARMS book series (NLARMS)


Why is it so difficult to say something meaningful about the exit from state building missions? Or to put it otherwise: why is the evaluation thereof so problematic? In this article I reflect on the nature of exit from state-building missions and the challenge of evaluating it. I do this by first discussing the growing importance of evaluation and the conditions required for a proper evaluation as exposed in the professional evaluation literature. I refer here to the notion of evaluability. A key problem is the very basic question of establishing proper evaluation criteria and procedures. It is difficult to determine against what criteria state-building missions need to be evaluated. This is complicated by the dichotomy observed in reality between exit when particular end states have been achieved or exit at a particular end date. Comparing the praxis around the exit from state-building missions with the conditions of evaluability reveals several complications either in relation to the subject of evaluation, the research process needed to collect and analyse the required data, or the context of violent conflict. Improvements of evaluation practice in state-building operations can be achieved by working on a number of the preconditions outlined, by improving the formulation of the objectives and intervention logic of state-building operations. Investing more in narrative types of research endeavor, qualitative case studies, ethnographic approaches and the use of everyday, bottom-up indicators may help understanding the exit from state-building better, in a way that is grounded, and contingent on the local situation, while taking into account the multiple perspectives of the different stakeholders involved.


evaluation evaluability exit intervention logic state-building 


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Copyright information

© T.M.C. Asser Press and the authors 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Netherlands Defence AcademyBredaThe Netherlands

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