The DataShift team ensured that citizen-generated data (CGD) was on the agenda at this year’s High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) in New York, using the forum as a platform to present the “Making Use of CGD Tool”. Cassia Moraes tells us more in this blog.
From 11-20 July, the United Nations hosted the second High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) in New York. The HLPF is the main global forum for the follow up and review of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, including the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This year the HLPF focused on a core theme of the Agenda 2030 framework; “Ensuring that no one is left behind”. Throughout the ten-day event, the HLPF convened national voluntary reviews of 22 countries, thematic reviews, side events, a Partnership Exchange, and SDGs Learning, Training and Practice sessions for governments and myriad of other stakeholders present.
During the meetings, Member States and several other participants were keen to recognise the need for strong monitoring of the SDGs. As 2016 is the first year of implementation of the 2030 Agenda, it is however important to highlight the role of data in the initial stages of the implementation planning process. To ensure that no one is left behind, a crucial first step is knowing who “no one” actually refers to: Which sectors of society are marginalised? Which regions have social and economic indicators below the national average? Which groups are lagging behind on different SDG areas, such as education and health?
On the other side, different constituencies raised important questions about the HLPF theme. One recurring concern was the possibility of rebranding the SDGs, as they were the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) – the eight goals that preceded the Agenda 2030, and whose focus were mostly social and economic issues within developing countries. Unlike the MDGs, the Sustainable Development Goals are meant to be universal, i.e. to be applicable to developed countries. Therefore, few civil society representatives stressed that the aforementioned slogan cannot be used to divert attention away from developed countries’ accountability and domestic problems, thus raising inequality. Another major difference between the SDGs and the MDGs is that the former are supposed to include environmental issues, which is one of the pillars of sustainable development together with the social and economic spheres. Environmental groups were thus concerned that this years’ theme could also overlook important aspects of such a comprehensive agenda.
Aware of these concerns, CIVICUS launched the new Leave No-One Behind Partnership (LNB) together with Development Initiatives and Project Everyone. The initiative will be guided by the following principles:
- EXAMINE: we will establish a baseline of who the groups that have been left behind are, through a data-led approach; as well as identify those at risk, where they are and monitor their progress annually;
- ENGAGE: we will develop a visual presentation for awareness-raising, built from the real stories of those who are being left behind;
- EMPOWER: we will work together with national partners in at least 30 countries to build local voices for action and accountability to ensure no-one is left behind in their countries.
During the HLPF, the DataShift team worked hard to ensure that citizen-generated data (CGD) was in the agenda, leveraging on several advocacy opportunities to include civil society in the monitoring of the SDGs. Beyond advocating for the importance of using CGD, we looked for interesting projects that exemplify how this can be done in practice. A clear-cut example of the potential of CGD to monitor progress against the SDGs is the Everyone Counts initiative, led by CARE International, World Vision International and Kwantu. Together, they will test the efficacy of social accountability at scale, aggregating CGD to monitor progress against the SDGs in pilot countries. Using existing interventions – like social audits and community scorecards (CSC) – the initiative will address the main CGD challenges, such as comparability and coverage.
DataShift presented the Making Use of CGD Tool at the side event, Data Roadmaps for Sustainable Development, organised by the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data (GPSDD). This tool has been created for all stakeholders interested in fostering effective monitoring and accountability for the SDGs, with focus on the national and subnational levels. The tool also presents advantages of using CGD to complement official datasets, which can identify and fill data gaps and provide a snapshot of marginalised populations and issues, among other contributions. The GPSDD also launched a Call for Proposals on Collaborative Data Innovations for Sustainable Development, a great funding opportunity for organisations working with data production, dissemination and use, primarily in low-income countries and lower-middle-income countries. Grants will vary according to the maturity level of the projects, ranging from $25,000 to $250,000.
Finally, we facilitated the meeting of the Action for Sustainable Development’s Monitoring and Accountability Working Group during a two-day weekend workshop hosted by the platform. Participants discussed challenges such as; considering our audience by using different means of communication (e.g. webinars are not the most adequate platform for grassroots) and increasing awareness levels about the SDGs, especially in the developing world. The audience also stressed the importance of monitoring efforts in the national and local levels, demanding that the working group support members to hold their governments accountable.
Overall, the 2016 HLPF showed both the potential and challenges for the coming years of SDGs implementation. After a successful international gathering, it is now time to go back home and build strong foundations to deliver an ambitious and urgent agenda.