RBM has its modern day roots in public sector reforms in a number of OECD8 countries in the 1980s and 1990s, in response to economic, social and political pressures, social and political pressures, especially budget deficits and globalization. Lack of public confidence in governments led in demands for efficiency in the delivery of public services and greater accountability. Several high level meetings also called for greater effectiveness, accountability for results and value for money.
A central feature of the reforms was the emphasis on improving performance and ensuring that government activities achieve desired results. Performance management of public organizations was introduced in some industrialized countries in the 1980s, but its emphasis was initially on efficiency or cost-effectiveness in delivering public sector services.
RBM emerged a decade later and shifted the emphasis to effectiveness, which is achieving desired outcomes. Countries such as the United States of America, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the Scandinavian countries adopted RBM in the 1990s, which required their public sectors to measure performance and conduct evaluations as part of a comprehensive approach to RBM.
Some middle income countries, such as Chile, Colombia, Malaysia, and South Africa, developed their public sector performance management systems independently. Most low income countries originally acted at the instigation of the official development assistance agencies (i.e. World Bank and International Monetary Fund).
Despite many challenges, some based on misconceptions, others stemming from genuine concerns about the effectiveness of monitoring and evaluation (M&E) systems, RBM has been flourishing, and has evolved over the last 10-15 years, most notably with increased emphasis on participation.
The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) became one of the drivers of RBM, following a series of international conferences, culminating in the Millennium Summit of September 2000. World leaders committed themselves to a global agenda to reduce extreme poverty and set out a series of time-bound targets.
The concept of the MDGs would have been weakened without the means to measure whether progress was being achieved, and how. RBM was the focus of major international conferences and roundtables on aid effectiveness and managing for development results, outlined in table 1.
As a result of these high level fora, in the last ten years, RBM has been taken seriously by government agencies, international development organizations and large NGOs. The Paris Declaration noted that “the true test of aid effectiveness is improvement in people’s lives”.
8 OECD: Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, whose mission is to promote policies that will improve the economic and social well-being of people around the world.