Highlights from the webinar “Addressing Measurement Challenges of the SDGs” (Jun 4, 2014)

Publish Date: 
Monday, June 16, 2014

On June 4th, UNDESA/DSD and the Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation hosted a Webinar on the measurement challenges of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) with Sakiko Fukuda-Parr, Professor of International Affairs at the New School and Board Member of the Center for Economic and Social Rights (CESR), and Danny Sriskandarajah, Secretary General of the organization, CIVICUS, the world’s largest civil society alliance. The discussants highlighted the pressing need for new data collection methods for the SDGs.

Dr Sriskandarajah asked what measurement approaches will be in place the “morning after” the MDGs’ cease on January 1, 2016. In order to track development progress and garner real success, the SDGs will need to be supplemented by democratic and effective data collection. Appropriately-defined indicators and a variety of local, regional, and international monitoring mechanisms should be essential components of this process.

Outlining weaknesses of the MDGs, such as their misalignment with international human rights standards and development priorities, Dr Fukuda-Parr elaborated on how to ensure effective and democratic data collection. First, indicators for the new development goals must be “SMART” and should reflect the desired outcome (i.e. political mobilization, monitoring for human rights accountability, programming, etc). Second, indicators should not be based solely on what data is presently available. As the experience of the Human Development Index (HDI) revealed, governments have an increased incentive to improve the reliability and collection of data when their initial score is low due to poor data availability. Third, accountability for the SDGs should be grounded in local processes. A top-down, one-size-fits-all methodology will not foster credible accountability.

Focusing on the need for local-level participation in monitoring, Dr Sriskandarajah explained how CIVICUS is currently working on DataShift, which is essentially a "Monitoring 2.0” Framework. Based on local, technology-enabled citizen reporting, this approach to data collection aims to put "people back into the data revolution". As mentioned in the working group's April Discussion, the role of rights holders has been absent from a lot of the debates about the so-called "Post-2015 Data Revolution". 

There are already over twenty examples of websites currently adopting the approach, which allows citizens to report directly  on the issues they face. For example, ipaidabribe.com allows citizens in 12 countries to act as whistleblowers on state corruption by reporting the government bribery they’ve witnessed. Harassmap.org allows citizens, albeit mostly women, in Egypt to report on incidences of sexual harassment. I Paid a Bribe and HarassMap are able to track abuses of corruption and gender-based violence both geographically and temporally. CIVICUS is actively promoting this creative and active data collection from civil society as a new global monitoring mechanism for tracking and assessing the SDGs.