24 September 2015
Civil Society Interventions Discuss Data, Transformation, Indicators, Financing
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Civil society organizations (CSOs) and other stakeholders released publications on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the post-2015 development agenda as well as on the Addis Ababa Action Agenda (AAAA).

Interventions address, inter alia, the role of big data, actions to ensure that the SDGs are truly transformative, sustainable consumption and production (SCP), an indicator on land tenure, national interpretation of the targets, and financing.

post2015-time-global-actionSeptember 2015: Civil society organizations (CSOs) and other stakeholders released publications on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the post-2015 development agenda as well as on the Addis Ababa Action Agenda (AAAA). Interventions address, inter alia, the role of big data, actions to ensure that the SDGs are truly transformative, sustainable consumption and production (SCP), an indicator on land tenure, national interpretation of the targets, and financing.

More effective use of smart data and investing in building innovative, real-time data systems will be critical in harnessing data for decision-making and achieving the SDGs, write representatives from the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN), Open Data Watch, Center for International Earth Science Information Network (CIESIN) and University of Rome Tor Vergata. They provide examples of how health care workers and educators can use smartphone applications to collect data for use and interventions by decision-makers, suggesting the application of these techniques to measure progress on the SDGs. They highlight the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data, including a Thematic Network on Data for Development, which SDSN will chair.

In an issue brief from the Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations (IDDRI), Lucas Chancel and Tancrede Voituriez write, “The pick-and-choose option among targets could undermine the transformative power of SDGs as countries could remain in their comfort zone and select targets which are closest to their business-as-usual scenarios.” The authors use historical data to test whether countries achieve or fail to achieve the domestic inequality target over the 1988-2008 time period, finding that the target will be transformative for countries who have failed to meet the target in the past, but conservative for others. They observe that selecting a different indicator would have produced different results, and stress the importance of countries using the same concepts, methodologies and transparent data sources. They argue that countries should not choose targets on which they are already good performers, if the SDG implementation is to be truly transformative.

Gregory Beck, FHI 360, writes that development actors, donors and others must engage more deeply with communities to understand their ideas, needs and situations to ensure the post-2015 development agenda is truly transformational, in a post on Devex. He argues that engaging local communities in such a manner will facilitate more authentic and enduring development efforts, and highlights the SDGs as an opportunity for increased collaboration across disciplines, sectors and throughout the life cycles of interventions. Beck recommends: applying research-based findings to decision processes; overhauling the global development architecture; and creating an enabling environment for development efforts to respond to the multifaceted nature of people’s lives.

In an article on The Huffington Post, Lynn Wagner, International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD), describes how the unique negotiation process on the SDGs, through the Open Working Group (OWG) on the SDGs, enabled a more robust treatment of sustainable consumption and production (SCP) (SDG 12) than previous international environmental negotiations. She emphasizes that the SDG process showed that “how negotiations are conducted can break traditional deadlock and facilitate more specific, and implementable goals for countries.” Wagner suggests that action on SDG 12 will help catalyze achievement of the post-2015 development agenda.

The Global Donor Platform for Rural Development cautions that the indicator “share of women among agricultural land owners by age and location” (currently proposed for targets 1.4 and 5.a) will reduce the scope of land rights in the SDGs. The policy brief recommends a broader global land rights indicator – “percentage of women, men, indigenous peoples and local communities with secure rights to land, property and natural resources measured by: (a) percentage with legally documented or recognized evidence of tenure and (b) percentage who perceive their rights are recognized and protected.” The brief argues that this indicator would capture tenure security rather than just ownership and encompasses forest dwellers, pastoralists and other rural peoples. It recommends placing it under SDG 1 on ending poverty while also noting its application to the Goals on food security, gender equality and human settlements.

A working paper from the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) concludes that the process of national interpretation—setting goals, targets, and priorities for implementing the SDGs in response to national capabilities and priorities—should be “led by government…with the full involvement of parliament and other sectors and stakeholders…to ensure that the SDGs become an agenda for real action at national level.” SEI analyzes the potential national implementation process for Sweden, including the relevance of the targets for Sweden and issues related to ownership, leadership and policy coherence, and summarizes some of the challenges encountered. The paper suggests that the complexity of the national interpretation process has been underestimated, and recommends: prioritizing national indicators over global indicators; developing national level review and follow-up systems alongside the global tracking framework; and developing a national overarching vision and narrative for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Global Policy Forum released a publication exploring private funding and corporate influence in the UN. It finds that Member States’ failure to increase the UN’s regular budget alongside an increase in earmarked funding has contributed to increased corporate sector engagement in financing UN activities. The authors recommend actions and reforms related to public funding of the UN system, the setting of norms, standards and guidelines, the UN system for monitoring partnership, and the dominant discourse and business model of multi-stakeholderism. These include: establishing an intergovernmental framework for partnership accountability; strengthening rules and tools governing engagement with the business sector; establishing rules for reporting on extra-budgetary funded programmes; and reevaluating the relationship with the UN Foundation.

An IBIS paper on The Tax Dialogue raises several concerns related to the ways in which Development Finance Institutions (DFIs) engage with multinational corporations (MNCs) within the context of financing discussions related to the SDGs and the AAAA. The paper argues that DFIs should put in place safeguards and policies to encourage responsible tax behavior when partnering with or investing in MNCs, and use their influence to insist that MNCs advance development objectives and meet the right standards.

On the AAAA, Adrian Fenton and Helena Wright welcome its recognition of climate change, including the need for investments in low-carbon and climate resilient development and inclusive and sustainable industrial development (ISID), in a blog post on the International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development (ICTSD). They raise concern, however, about the AAAA’s failure to explicitly discuss phasing out high-carbon investments and boosting low-carbon pathways, and recommend safeguards to ensure that finance and trade help facilitate a low-carbon trajectory. They also call for simultaneously addressing climate change and development, including at the UN Sustainable Development Summit and Paris Climate Change Conference.

Asian Biotechnology and Development Review released a special issue on the SDGs that addresses, inter alia: biodiversity-related SDGs; the role of environmental access rights in achieving sustainable development; the role of business action and leadership in the post-2015 development agenda; an analysis of the Association of Southeast Asian Nation’s (ASEAN) ecological footprint; biotrade; and genomics and biotechnology. [Smart Data Article] [IDDRI Brief] [FHI 360 Blog] [IISD Huffington Post Article] [Global Donor Platform for Rural Development Brief] [SEI Working Paper] [GPF Publication: Fit for Whose Purpose? Private Funding and Corporate Influence in the UN] [Global Policy Watch Blog Post] [The Tax Dialogue Blog] [ICTSD Blog] [Asian Biotechnology and Development Review]

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