Category: Briefings

Who influences whom in the policy arena? Statisticians seek greater voice

By Barbara Adams and Karen Judd
A common theme that ran through the 50th Session of the UN Statistical Commission, March 2019, was the often tense interface between data and policy-making and the asymmetrical power dynamics that shape it. This was evident in the several reports submitted for consideration by the Commission. One from the UN Statistics Division (UNSD) reported on the federated system of data hubs, designed to integrate new data sources into a platform which is accessible to National Statistics Offices (NSOs) and creates comparable data among users. Another was a proposal by the High-Level Group for Partnership, Cooperation, and Capacity Building for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development for a UN Chief Statistician to enhance the voice of statistics in UN policy processes. Read more…

Social Protection: Hot Topic but Contested Agenda

By Barbara Adams and Karen Judd
Social protection has surfaced to the top of multiple agendas, from human rights to the promotion of economic growth, from decent work to economic, social and gender equality. Its champions, particularly at the global level, include a host of different players, with different priorities, institutions and policy streams, all competing to define the concept and own the discourse. Read more…

“You say you want a [data] Revolution”: A proposal to use unofficial statistics for the SDG Global Indicator Framework

By Steve MacFeely and Bojan Nastav
This paper argues that the Global Indicator Framework required to support the 2030 Agenda Sustainable Development Goals will not be successfully populated, using only existing approaches and mechanisms. Official statistical systems must adapt and consider new approaches if only partial success is to be averted. This paper presents a proposal to accredit unofficial statistics as official for the purposes of compiling sustainable development goal indicators. While there may be some reluctance, and there are certainly risks with this proposal, the arguments put forward highlight the potential for collaboration. Read more

Desperately Seeking Indicators: different players, different priorities

By Barbara Adams and Karen Judd
Three years into the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, concerns continue about stalled indicators, missing indicators and proliferating and potentially competing data sources, which makes it difficult to assess progress.
Initiatives abound in the shifting terrain of the generation, validation and use of data to satisfy the demands of a growing market of players. In addition to the work of the UN mandated Inter-agency and Expert Group on SDG Indicators (IAEG-SDGs), these concerns and challenges have drawn the attention of a number of official statisticians and practitioners. Read more…

SDG shadow implementation – hidden in plain sight

By Barbara Adams and the GPW team
The annual UN High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) has a unique role to review progress, define policies and flag priorities at national, regional and global levels for implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and achieving the SDGs. This agenda has also become the premier driver and justification for institutional, financial and data reforms and capacity development.
A number  of decisions have been adopted during the twelve months since the last HLPF that are central to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs, particularly the measurement of progress towards the SDGs and strategies to finance them. They are complemented by or responsive to proposals of the UN Secretary-General on the funding and institutional architecture of the UN system. Read more…

UN SDG progress reports: how statistics play favorites

By Roberto Bissio
As key instruments to assess implementation of the 2030 Agenda, the UN secretariat has published The Sustainable Development Goals Report 2018 and a report on Progress Towards Sustainable Development Goals that should inform the ministers attending the High Level Political Forum of ECOSOC to be held mid-July in New York. Both publications aim to “provide a global overview of the current situation” of the SDGs, “based on the latest available data for indicators in the global indicator framework” and they include the same set of numbers and indicators, only differing in their presentation, the latter being more wordy and text-only and the former a collection of bullet points with ample use of graphs. Read more…

The semantics of partnership

By Barbara Adams and Laraine Mills
Current conventional wisdom has it that partnerships are crucial for the success of the of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
However, the UN approach to engaging in stakeholder partnerships is rooted in pre-2030 Agenda practices and perspectives. It has been shepherded by UN offices mainly concerned with resource mobilization and often amounts to fitting UN development activities into a pipeline of bankable projects.
Read more…

The Ups and Downs of Tiers: Measuring SDG Progress

By Barbara Adams and Karen Judd
After two years of measuring for SDG implementation the emphasis has shifted from the pressure to develop a global indicator framework to the need for capacity development. This has generated a significant increase in interest in national statistical offices (NSOs) for data disaggregation, not only by income, gender and population group but also by municipal and neighborhood levels in an effort to ’leave no one behind’. The shift to implementation and capacity-building has also spawned a host of initiatives and partnerships, designed primarily to enable NSOs to integrate data from non-traditional sources, such as satellite imagery, mobile phones, and social media and scanning data.
Member States at the 49th session of the UN Statistical Commission addressed the work of the Inter-agency and Expert Group on SDGs Indicators (IAEG-SDGs) and the High Level Group for Partnership, Coordination and Capacity-Building for Statistics for the 2030 Agenda (HLG-PCCB), along with a large number of other reports, ranging from household surveys and systems of national accounts to gender statistics, open data and big data for official statistics. Read more…

SDG indicators: The forest is missing

By Roberto Bissio
Almost three years after the adoption of the 2030 Agenda at the highest level of the United Nations, the indicators to assess its progress are still being debated. The set of indicators around which there is agreed methodology and available data (known as Tier I in the insiders’ jargon) shows a great degree of overlap with the existing indicators for the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and misses most aspects of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that make them transformative or represent a paradigm change.
There are 93 indicators in Tier I of the SDGs, of which 42 are either identical to or an elaboration of the already existing MDG indicators. And some important MDG indicators, particularly those related to implementation, have been lost. Read more…

Smallholder Farmers’ Rights are Women’s Rights

Most farms in developing and least developed countries are small, generally plots of less than two hectares of land. Smallholder farmers manage over 80% of the world’s estimated 500 million small farms and provide over 80% of the food consumed in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, contributing significantly to poverty reduction and food security. As much as 75% of global seed diversity in staple food crops is held and actively used by smallholder farms. However, despite their vital role in the global agricultural community, the participation and priorities of smallholder farmers – most of whom are women – are often neglected.  Effective mechanisms giving smallholder farmers a voice in policymaking are imperative to address their needs and interests, to promote the conservation and sustainable use of plant genetic resources and more broadly, to ensure food security. Read more…