By Gabriela Rentería Flores
Chair, EvalYouth Global Network
The year 2020 was marked by a swift departure from all paradigms of normal life; the status quo no longer exists. With alarming speed, COVID-19 deepened existing global challenges and overturned hard-won gains on global development. Through a multidimensional domino effect, it has evidenced deep-rooted vulnerabilities everywhere, even in the more developed countries. No region in the world has been exempt from the global economic shock nor the calamitous effects in every aspect of human life. These effects have been particularly strong on the young, women and other groups under already precarious conditions.
One year into the COVID-19 pandemic, the world is still facing its effects. The COVID-19 crisis was initially a health crisis but has spread its effects to all other dimensions of development. Just for 2021, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimates a global growth of 6.5 percentage points lower than the pre-COVID-19 projections of January 2019, directly affecting low-income households. This has not only pushed back millions into poverty, but it also imperilled the significant progress made in reducing extreme poverty in the world since the 1990s. 
The International Labour Organization estimates that as of April 2020, almost 1.6 billion informal workers faced a 60 per cent decline in earnings, with women over-represented in the most hard-hit sectors. 
For young people, the risks in the fields of education, employment, mental health and disposable income are increasing exponentially. These consequences are not only affecting them in the present, but will have long-lasting effects on their development, and after all, will have an impact on humanity as a whole.
Almost every Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) has been affected by the pandemic. Hard-fought gains are under threat. Unquestionably, this pandemic has become the biggest challenge that the modern world and international development has ever faced; and, indeed, the uncertainty not only keeps surrounding our livelihoods, our social interactions, and our lives, but it will permanently modify and transform them.
Under these meaningful and challenging times, dreaming for a better future is not only possible but desirable, and evaluating for a better future should no longer be an aspirational statement but an opportunity to take action for influential evaluation, to work even harder than originally planned. This pandemic has presented enormous challenges, but as young evaluators, we need to build from this crisis, collect the lessons learned, and transform them into knowledge that contributes to solutions for a better society. One that genuinely leaves no one behind.
Dreaming for a better future is not only possible but desirable, and evaluating for a better future should no longer be an aspirational statement but an opportunity to take action for influential evaluation, to work even harder than originally planned.
The attempts to respond to the current crisis need to consider the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development as a roadmap to development. This will help us to build a better world, providing a stable and prosperous life for every person and ensuring also the health of the planet. Yet, this challenge cannot be dealt with in isolation, but with partnerships. Integrated solutions can lead us to build a greener and more inclusive future that can help every country to meet the SDGs.
A response to the pandemic is not only about amending inequalities, but also about building a better and resilient world, for everyone, everywhere. The 2030 Agenda calls for breaking down silos, so we must work together and redouble our commitment and efforts to ensure that better practices and more evidence are utilized in subnational and national plans, as well as in international assistance.
We have the historic opportunity to reach the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and we can do it by using evidence, by accelerating influential evaluation. We need to promote evaluation that makes a difference, that has a positive impact on the lives of people and that includes youth. Going out of this trap and achieving the SDGs by 2030 requires a generational commitment. While it is the responsibility of everyone to act towards the achievement of the SDGs, young and emerging evaluators (YEEs) should take the lead and contribute to sustainable and equitable development by creating innovative ways of approaching evaluation, building new partnerships, and advocating for a sustainable and resilient world.
We need to promote evaluation that makes a difference, that has a positive impact on the lives of people and that includes youth.
Young and emerging evaluators normally face the common challenge of exclusion and under-representation in the evaluation community and many other organizations. Now VOPEs, international organizations and governments, need to include youth as actors of social change to build a resilient and better future.
Since its establishment, EvalYouth has been about actions and transformational change. Partnering with UNFPA and the Global Parliamentarians Forum in the Eval4Action campaign has enriched and complemented our vision. Eval4Action is about transformational change, actions, focusing on evaluation as a critical tool to accelerate the achievement of the SDGs. Furthermore, it is about opening opportunities, in particular to YEEs to participate and lead the articulation of regional evaluation action plans, for our ideas to be heard. Now it is time to seize these opportunities and demonstrate our ability to make a change, to go beyond commitments, to accelerate influential evaluation.
Now it is time to seize these opportunities and demonstrate our ability to make a change, to go beyond commitments, to accelerate influential evaluation.
I envision reaching 2030 where influential evaluation is widespread around the world to drive positive change, where YEEs are effective drivers of social change, where we can learn lessons from what has been done and integrate them into real action plans. A 2030 where we can commit again as humanity on new and more challenging SDGs, considering youth as key informants, advisors, and decision-makers. None of this will be possible without everyone's commitment and actions.
Gabriela Rentería Flores is the Chair of EvalYouth Global Network and an Independent Monitoring & Evaluation Consultant. She holds a Bachelors degree in Economics and a Masters degree in Development Economics. She has worked in M&E projects for GIZ, UNDP, CONEVAL and subnational governments in Mexico.