HLPF: Health in the 2030 Agenda (4)

Major Groups and other Stakeholders position papers: Accountability, data, indicators, transparency

There are recurring themes raised by MGoS in their position papers that relate to accountability and transparency, as well as to data collection and indicators. They impact either directly or indirectly on the effective implementation and follow up of SDG 3 Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages and health-related targets.

Accountability and transparency

On accountability, the Women’s Major Group (WMG) says that “Governments must localize the SDGs, build baselines and creatively collect and analyse disaggregated data”.

The Education and Academia Stakeholder Group (EASG) refer to regular and participatory reviews and citizen participation in accountability at all levels. Existing accountability institutions (eg independent national human rights institutions, parliaments and audit institutions), moreover, should be mandated to monitor government progress towards the SDGs, with input from, and the participation of citizens. Civil society organizations should provide greater technical support to governments to improve monitoring and accountability processes. Regional deliberations should be open and transparent, and reflect the modalities adopted for the HLPF.

Governments should transparently design and share localised targets and indicators with citizens and stakeholders, according to the Asia Pacific Regional CSO Engagement Mechanism (APRCEM). Accountability, moreover, should start with dedicating additional financial and other resources to implementing the 2030 Agenda instead of just rebranding existing activities.

As stated by Together 2030, Governments should report on the creation of clear, open, coherent, transparent and regular spaces for the participation of stakeholders in the planning, implementation and accountability of the 2030 Agenda at all levels. Any country that leaves the most marginalized, vulnerable and disadvantaged ‘outside the door’ of their national discussions cannot be said to ‘leave no one behind’.

Data and indicators

Data, according to the WMG, has become a central feature of the development agenda that requires a purpose-driven data revolution to make “big data” impactful and relevant. Numbers are often used to justify policy action and demonstrate effects of policy decisions. However, this can be politicized to influence the allocation of limited resources under the false impression of “evidence-based” practices. The notion of “objectivity” in data is difficult to defend, as there is always a degree of subjectivity, whether in establishing inclusion/exclusion principles in data or its interpretation.

Tracking progress, moreover, is critical to success of the 2030 Agenda, and if monitoring and evaluation of programmes are taken seriously, then disaggregated data should be easily available and accessible. However, data is lacking or incomplete for many indicators, providing an incomplete picture for women and girls. In addition, many of the most critical indicators for gender equality do not yet have agreed methodology and, therefore, no globally comparable data. This lack of data weakens the ability to monitor SDG progress.

On data collection, the Stakeholder Group on Ageing (ASG) notes that it frequently excludes women aged 50 and above, although they account for 24 per cent of the world’s women.

The Major Group on Children and Youth (CYMG) in the context of SDG 5 Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls, calls for the establishment of best practices for the appropriate collection, interpretation, and reporting of data to minimize bias. Transparency and openness should be promoted to allow users to assess the legitimacy and credibility of the process and the tools used for collecting data, as well as designing technically-informed policy recommendations. In addition, data should be complemented from various sources, including citizen-generated data, and from different knowledge streams, such as traditional and indigenous knowledge systems, including both quantitative and qualitative variables. Sources of data, furthermore, should be validated to screen for conflicts of interest and potential bias. And, statistical capacities should be enhanced at all levels.

According to Volunteer Groups (VG), citizen-led monitoring offers opportunities not only to collect data at a level that is closer to poor and marginalised people, but also, when combined with participatory processes, having the potential to empower people in realising their rights as citizens.

The NGO Major Group (NGOMG) says that data, indicators, and all measurements of development should go “beyond GDP” and include holistic and disaggregated indicators that accurately measure well-being for all, and that account for quality of life, social inclusion and equity within planetary boundaries. According to the EASG, that the global indicators framework not yet being finalised, should not delay the collection of stronger, disaggregated data. Civil society, moreover, can contribute with citizen-collected data. Meanwhile, the Local Authorities Major Group (LAMG) says that indicators are a critical dimension of the SDG reporting process, while noting that SDG 11 on sustainable cities and human settlements has only one out of 15 indicators completely approved (Tier I).

Commenting on the role of national statistical offices, VG says they alone should not be responsible for SDG monitoring, as there is a role for citizens to voluntarily support, and to engage with and monitor SDG implementation at community, local and national levels.

Policy coherence

On policy coherence, Together 2030 notes that the HLPF needs to build proactively on existing mechanisms and functional bodies to deliver on its mandate of policy coherence, particularly on thematic issues. The HLPF, as a forum for follow up and review, needs to reflect the integrated character of sustainable development challenges by proactively building on existing mechanisms as mandated by the 2030 Agenda. It provides an opportunity to (i) assess gaps in existing mechanisms and identify which population groups are not properly reviewed vis-à-vis SDG progress and (ii) define proper mechanisms to overcome such gaps.

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