Evaluation is essential for effective policymaking, helping to ensure that policies and programmes have the desired effect, provide value for money and do not bring negative unintended consequences. The value of evaluation has been recognised in all EU drug strategies and in the strategies of many EU Member States. Today, the EU drugs agency (EMCDDA) launches a new package of online resources designed to inform and support those considering, or involved in, drug policy evaluation.
The new web area provides access to a wide range of materials, including Evaluating drug policy: a seven-step guide to support the commissioning and managing of evaluations. A timeline of EU drug strategies and action plans and their evaluation (1990–2017) is also presented, along with an overview of national drug strategy evaluation in 30 countries up to 2016 (EU 28, Turkey and Norway). The web area, which links to additional resources, is targeted at EU and national drug policymakers and planners as well as researchers and professionals working in the drugs field.
Evaluating drug policy is a challenging task. The EMCDDA supports the European Commission in its evaluations of the EU drug strategies and action plans. It is also increasingly called upon to assist governments in evaluating national drug strategies. The resources released today reflect the aims of the EMCDDA Strategy 2025, which promises to provide the agency’s customers with tailored products and services to help them achieve their goals (including evaluating policies and strategies).
The seven-step guide states its aim as being ‘to assist people in choosing the best approach to suit their circumstances and to maximise the value of any evaluation’. It stresses that ‘the choice of approach depends on many factors, including timing, objectives and the availability of resources’. The guide begins by discussing the need for preparing the ground (e.g. leadership buy-in, stakeholder engagement), choosing the type and scope of the evaluation and building the evaluation team. It goes on to explore evaluation design (e.g. research questions and methods, logic models and data requirements), monitoring progress and finally making use of results and building an evaluative culture.
The current EU Drugs Strategy (2013–20) underlines the role of evaluation as a key element in strengthening the EU approach to drugs. The EU Action Plan on Drugs (2017–20) requires the EU Member States, European Commission and the EMCDDA to promote scientific evaluations of policies and interventions at national, EU and international level (Action 47)(1).