This week Member States meet again in New York to discuss the Sustainable Development Goals, specifically on “follow-up and review” - how will we collectively ensure we achieve the goals, see where we are failing, who is being left behind, and hold duty-bearers accountable. Here we identify the key issues at stake and our recommendations.
The post 2015 agenda should be monitored and evaluated not just by governments but by people themselves - including young people. Without a clear role or model for citizen and civil society participation in accountability mechanisms for the SDGs, there is a significant risk that this agenda, like the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), will happen to citizens - furthering disempowering impoverished communities. There will be less incentive for decision makers to deliver their commitments, and ultimately these goals will not be realised.
For the Post-2015 agenda to go beyond the MDGs and fulfil the promise of ambitious and transformative change that leaves no one behind, we need robust and inclusive accountability mechanisms underpinning all seventeen goals. This will encourage credibility, ownership and effectiveness of the post-2015 agenda from all stakeholders. We support the call for a monitoring and accountability framework, spanning from the local to the global levels, that is people-centred, inclusive, transparent and participatory.
We want to see global monitoring and accountability framework for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that makes specific provision for youth leadership, and citizen partnership, and is supported by open and verified citizen-generated data.
YOUTH-LED & PARTICIPATORY ACCOUNTABILITY
WHAT IS AT STAKE: There are 1.8 billion young women and men globally, with 90% of 10-24 years olds living in developing countries. It is young people’s right to be involved in decisions that affect their lives, and they have unique perspectives and experiences that are crucial to understanding the impact of SDG implementation, and providing solutions to improve outcomes. Young people have demonstrated the ability and willingness to engage in the design of the SDGs - 58% of respondents to the MyWorld survey are aged 16-30 online, and young women and men have engaged with the High Level Panel, through to the Open Working Group. Youth should not be excluded when things get ‘technical.’
There are examples and pilots of youth-led accountability programmes that the SDG accountability framework should draw on and learn from to ensure youth-led and youth-inclusive participatory monitoring and accountability. If youth are not meaningfully involved in all stages of development, including accountability and review, they risk being left behind with policies that do not cater to their unique needs and experiences.
- Youth need a clear leadership role in the monitoring and accountability for sustainable development at the national level and it should be enshrined in policy. Young people consistently demonstrate skills and a commitment to driving social and political change, and they have been at the forefront of every major social movement. But these efforts are often channelled outside of legitimate processes because no meaningful space is provided to youth to contribute.
- Citizens, and young people in particular, need practical, user friendly and accessible tools, resources and information to review progress of the SDGs. Most citizens, and young people, do not know who they can go to or how they can access support for seeking accountability at the local or national level.
- At the global level, youth should have space, time and resources to participate in the High Level Political Forum (HLPF).
WHAT IS AT STAKE? We need an accountability framework that is participatory and links different review and feedback mechanisms, this requires a thought-through accountability architecture that clearly links and communicates the local to the global - allowing space and voice to the most marginalised.
- We include our voice in the civil society call for an accountability framework, spanning from the local to the global levels, that should be people-centred, inclusive, transparent and participatory.
- Citizen-led accountability initiatives are rarely joined up within a structure that makes space for all stakeholders and processes. Individual accountability activities, actions and initiatives should be linked to increase impact, and identify areas of overlap and gaps in accountability, within an overarching accountability framework.
- National reviews of progress and implementation should address trends in countries’ efforts and progress.
- At the regional and global level, this should help to identify which approaches have worked and which have not, fostering learning among all stakeholders.
THE DATA REVOLUTION & ACCOUNTABILITY
WHAT IS AT STAKE: The data revolution, the rapid increase of new forms of data, their proliferation, and their usage, is well underway; businesses, public institutions and many citizens are interacting with data in new and interesting ways. However, there are and growing inequalities in access to data and information and in the ability to use it. Low quality data, the inaccessibly of data and low capacity of national statistical services has had a significant negative impact on the ability of states to get a clear understanding of local challenges, measure the impact of developmental initiatives and achieve the MDGs. Without this it is hard to understand who is being left behind and effectively review programmes.
If the data revolution for the SDGs does not engage adequately with civil society and citizens, there is a danger that narrow, technical perspectives on the data revolution will prevail; reinforcing inequalities in data engagement and resulting in improved data that has little relevance to people’s lived experiences and fails to be transformative, leaving millions behind. Directing energy and resources into a data revolution that is genuinely inclusive is key to review and accountability.
- If the post-2015 framework is to be truly transformative, it must harness the unique ways young people are generating data, by investing in close collaborations between data specialists and young leaders, youth organisations and youth-led start-ups.
- A data revolution for accountability must foster a culture change not only among development specialists and statisticians, but also among citizens, through user-friendly tools for community reporting, which in turn can foster active citizenship, supporting citizens to be more accountable to their communities and provide a counter narrative to the focus on the statistical improvement.
- Data literacy. Any set of standards of practice for the use of data must be matched by a concerted and comprehensive effort to build the capacity of the stakeholders who can generate and use this data.
- The Inter Agency and Expert Group on SDG indicators (IAEG-SDG) should ensure their recommendations include use of diverse data sources, including the space for citizen-generated data for reviewing progress at the national level.
INDICATORS & DISAGGREGATED DATA
WHAT IS AT STAKE: Data on youth is scarce. The data that exists is of questionable quality and generally inaccessible to those making decisions about young people and to young people themselves. Youthpolicy.org reports that in its most recent cycle of producing country by country factsheets it found that; for 17 countries (49%), there is no data on the budget of the youth ministry; for 16 countries (46%) there is no data on unemployment rates of young people; for 15 countries (43%), there is no data on the prevalence of HIV among young people.
A critique of the MDGs has been their focus on national averages and global aggregates as measures of progress. This has sometimes masked slow or stagnant progress among the worst-off sections of societies and growing disparities at subnational levels. Though there have been historic advances on aggregate towards some of the MDGs, there remain many millions of people, such as young people or other marginalized groups, “who have been rendered effectively invisible to policy-makers by the dominant use of averages and aggregates.” For the SDGs data will need to be disaggregated and published in a timely fashion.
We need to learn from MDGs and design an SDG indicator framework that is fit for purpose and can meaningfully monitor the progress of the SDGs, this means:
- Data should be easily accessible and available to all in a timely fashion.
- There should be a global level indicators on participatory decision-making which can apply to target 16.7
- The IAEG-SDG group should also push for an indicator framework that is ambitious at the global level, and use the SDGs as an opportunity to fill long identified data gaps, such as participatory decision-making.
- All people-focused targets should have a global level indicator that is disaggregated by age
- The indicators should use a mix of diverse data sources, including third party data. A more nuanced understanding of people’s lives can be derived from the intersection of ‘official’ data and the lived experiences of citizens, particularly the most marginalised.
 Independent Expert Advisory Group on a Data Revolution for Sustainable Development, “A World That Counts”, November 2014.