Seven Requirements for Successful Third Party Monitoring

Elias Sagmeister     Oct 2015

Over the summer, the SAVE research team met with stakeholders in Afghanistan and Somalia to discuss the use of Third Party Monitoring (TPM) mechanisms. TPMs take a range of different forms in practice, but generally involve the collection and validation of monitoring information using parties external to an aid agency or donor organisation.

In Afghanistan alone, aid agencies invested an estimated USD 200 million annually in TPM in the past three years. Despite its growing use, the debate on the pros and cons of TPM is heated. Based on interviews with aid agencies and TPM providers, as well as a review of (grey) literature, the SAVE project aims to contribute evidence to this debate.

Our initial findings suggest that TPM is neither the new gold standard for monitoring in insecure settings that some of its proponents may argue, nor the costly failure that many fear. Rather, a number of conditions need to be in place to make the best use of the approach:

  1. Commissioning agencies should have capacity to adequately vet, select, train and manage TPM providers. Only then can they ensure quality and provide the basis for a productive long-term working relationship.

  2. Primary reliance on TPM should be limited to exceptional areas with constrained access and not be expanded to an across-the-board outsourcing of monitoring activities.

  3. Commissioning agencies should be aware of the TPM provider’s security procedures. They should exchange with TPM providers on security-relevant information and analysis, and jointly discuss the feasibility of monitoring missions.

  4. Partial field monitoring by own staff and/or implementing partners can and should be conducted in parallel to validate and cross-check data received by third parties.

  5. Commissioning agencies should continue acceptance-building measures alongside their use of TPM, including regular communication between agencies and key informants from the community.

  6. Agencies should closely manage TPM providers and allow for personal exchange through oral debriefings from field missions. Jointly planned monitoring missions of mixed teams should be conducted where possible.

  7. The practice of TPM should be regularly assessed and options for internalising monitoring re-considered on an ongoing basis.

Experiences with and expectations towards TPM are diverse. There is no one-size fits all approach for different contexts. These general requirements will have to be further refined and tested. As we further our analysis on the strengths and weaknesses of TPM, we appreciate your feedback and questions – so please do get in touch.