Opportunities and challenges in measuring progress on the Sustainable Development Goals.
July 9, 2016 — In 2015, the UN, its member states, and millions of citizens around the world came together in an unprecedented way to draw up a “to-do list” for the world – identifying measurable goals and targets for addressing today’s biggest challenges. Known as the Sustainable Development Goals, or the SDGs, the UN’s flagship global development agenda aims to change the course of the 21st century, ending extreme poverty, reducing the burden of disease, and protecting our planet.
Yet, the global goals will only be realized if we are able to lift up the poorest and hardest to reach. And to reach those people furthest behind, we first need to know where they are. This means more and better data.
With the premise that good data is the foundation for good policy and that the SDGs will not be realized without a data revolution, the United Nations Foundation teamed up with Southern Voice’s think tank network to launch a new report that assesses the availability and quality of data on key SDGs in a diverse range of UN member states. Surveying Bangladesh, Canada, Peru, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Tanzania and Turkey, researchers from the network, along with the Centre for Policy Dialogue and the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs, analyzed data challenges over the last two years to produce the Post-2015 Data Test report. On July 8, data experts will gather in New York City to share the summary report’s findings with the UN community and discuss where we need to invest in data in order to realize the global goals.
The report and corresponding panel is timely, as ministers and advocates converge at the United Nations next week for the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development. Held from July 11-20, the Forum is the United Nations’ central platform for the follow-up and review of global goals. Just six months into the launch of the global goals, governments are putting the systems in place for delivering this ambitious and integrated agenda. The crisis of poor data and the urgency in investing in better data will be central in discussions at the Forum.
Ahead of the Forum, I’d like to highlight five central findings found in the Post-2015 Data Test and the opportunities we have to make the global goals a success:
- Universality: The global goals can be applied to any and every nation as a blueprint for global development and progress, however they should be adapted by individual countries based on their own national priorities. Permitting countries to make the global goals their own will ensure greater adoption and implementation.
- Data availability: The report tested seven global goals: education; employment and inclusive growth; environmental sustainability and disaster resilience; poverty; global partnership for sustainable development; governance; and infrastructure and energy. Of those areas, the data least available were governance, environmental stability, infrastructure and energy.
- Data quality: Taking a deeper dive into the data available, the report also assessed which goals have the best quality data. As expected given the experience of the Millennium Development Goals, data for education and poverty were the most robust, whereas newer goal areas such as governance, environmental stability and disaster relicense had the largest gaps.
- Disaggregated data: The Post-215 Data Test also reviewed the data available that could be broken down into sub-population making it possible to assess trends and patterns. Significant investments are needed in building out disaggregated data in two key areas: income level and social group.
- Global minimum standards: Without significant investment in resources to change national policies in areas like financial regulation, trade, and climate, the targets cannot be standardized across both developed and developing countries, or high-income and low-income countries.
by Minh-Thu Pham, United Nations | Daily Global