One of the critiques of the Millennium Development Goals was that the selection and monitoring of targets and indicators was a top-down process largely driven by international agencies. Building on that learning, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have been approached in a more inclusive and participatory way.
In that context, Equal Measures 2030 was one of several civil society participants last week in Ottawa, Canada, at the fifth meeting of the Inter-agency and Expert Group on SDG Indicators (IAEG-SDGs). Created by the UN Statistical Commission, this body of national statisticians from several countries was tasked with developing the indicator framework for the SDGs and supporting its implementation. The Statistical Commission formally agreed to the framework in March 2017.
Last week’s meeting of the IAEG focused on how to move that framework forward, as the clock ticks on achieving the SDGs. There was tangible movement made during the meeting towards clarifying the role of the agencies responsible for tracking various indicators and promising presentations on how to ensure data is disaggregated. However, it was also clear that a tremendous amount of work remains, especially when it comes to ensuring that data truly captures the lives and stories of those who are most marginalized.
“We continue to call for the creation of a pluralistic data ‘ecosystem’ of data producers and users, which harnesses both official and non-official data,” said World Vision’s Arelys Bellorini delivering a statement on behalf of civil society.
Explaining that many indicators will not be tracked, partly as a result of capacity challenges faced by National Statistics Offices, Bellorini continued: “It is in this context where we are convinced that non-official data can highly complement and support official data systems.”
This was a viewed echoed — encouragingly — from other civil society participants at the meeting, including representatives from large NGOs and coalitions, youth representatives and academia.
Many organizations spoke of the need to acknowledge that data can come from a range of sources, including from citizens themselves. We know that the ambitious and powerful 2030 Agenda was created as a citizen-centred agenda, meant to put individuals at the heart of its creation and implementation. This was demonstrated by placing a strong emphasis on citizen participation throughout the agenda. Arguments were made at last week’s meeting that as a consequence of this participatory ambition, citizen-driven data should also play a significant role in monitoring the SDGs, as a complement to official data.
Breaking down sectoral boundaries and making data accessible, inclusive and powerful are themes we stand for at Equal Measures 2030. Leaving the meeting in Ottawa, we are reinforced and energized to continue working with civil society and the private sector to measure progress, using strategically selected priority targets and indicators, but layering these with complementary data from other sources, including citizen-generated data and perceptions-based primary research.
There’s a lot of work ahead between now and 2030, and we can’t do it alone. But as we learned in Ottawa, there is a strong network of allies, collaborators and experts ready to join us. We invite all to join us in building a tool that can play an important role in tracking progress for girls and women.