1 October 2020
Side Events Spotlight Data, Multilateralism for Achieving SDGs
Photo Credit: Clay Banks / Unsplash
story highlights

The UN’s SDG Action Zone held the third day of side events, with a focus on partnerships.

One session focused on the report of consultations on the UN's 75th anniversary released on 21 September 2020, and another on data and "factivism".

Jeffrey Sachs, Columbia University, said progress has been made in data access, and it allows seeing what is happening on the planet and holding everyone accountable.

The UN’s SDG Action Zone focused on partnerships during its final day side events as part of the high-level week the UN General Assembly’s 75th session. Participants were called on to “smash the silos” and join hands to achieve the SDGs during the coming decade.

Countries that use data for SDG tracking are on an entirely different development trajectory.

A session titled, ‘Alliances for Action: What the World Wants,’ reflected on the UN75 report released on 21 September 2020. As reported by the Earth Negotiations Bulletin, Elizabeth Cousens, UN Foundation, said our ability to solve the current health and environmental emergencies will shape our future for decades to come. She said the consultations on the report show a “clear and simple truth” that “we are, in fact, united.”

Moderator Pratik Desai, World Benchmarking Alliance, said that despite the enormous challenges we face, the world has never been better equipped to face them. He called for identifying solutions that bring together unheard voices and stories. Regarding indigenous people, Katherine Zavala, Thousand Currents, described the experiences of indigenous peoples’ upon hearing their difficulties reflected in the new report, and the sense of solidarity it generated.

Regarding the report’s focus on women, participants noted this positive emphasis was in contrast with rising gender-based violence data during the COVID-19 lockdown periods. Participants also highlighted the role of the UN in upholding human rights, and the unique and essential role of the UN in keeping countries accountable.

On multilateralism, researcher Giovanna Kuele reported that people want an inclusive multilateralism that engages more with youth, women and marginalized people. Other important messages from the session included that:

  • future generations will judge us based on our actions at this critical moment;
  • the SDGs remain the most valid reference to frame development trajectories; and
  • the only way to realize the SDGs is through co-creation with local and different spheres of government.

In a session on ‘Data and Action: Factivism through Timely Data,’ Jeffrey Sachs, Columbia University, described data tools to help SDG tracking and achievement. He stressed that progress has been made in data access, as data used to be available only years after the fact, and was expensive and laborious to collect and process. He praised data as a critical decision-making tool for a government, whether it is working to control a pandemic, stop illegal fishing or forestry, or fight fires, since it allows seeing what is happening on the planet and holding everyone accountable.

On remaining data gaps for the SDGs, Claire Melamed, Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data, said most decisions are based on data that are out of date. She lamented that COVID-19 has caused cancellation of censuses in many countries, creating even further delays in proper decision-making processes. However, she noted unprecedented improvements due to integration and combining data, which has improved governments’ ability to track events and to “know what to do about them.”

On Nigeria’s use of data, Hamzat Lawal, Connected Development, suggested that when citizens have proper and direct access to data, every cent spent by a government will be accounted for, thus arresting corrupt practices. 

Rosario Del Pilar Diaz Garavito, The Millennials Movement, said access to data can prevent future disasters, noting that countries that use data for SDG tracking are on an entirely different development trajectory. Garavito described the case of Latin America where data on young people’s demands for action has enabled governments to identify the gaps in understanding behavior. She shared Peru’s data-based approach, which enables registering a baby’s birth within an hour of being born. On gaps that are filled by access to data, Garavito identified improved investment in science and research, understanding gaps in school curricula and where to invest, and creating a common language for how to interpret data. [Earth Negotiations Bulletin coverage of SDG Action Zone, Day 3 – Partnerships] [All ENB side events coverage during UNGA 75 High-level Week] [SDG Knowledge Hub story on SDG Action Zone, Day 1 – People] [SDG Knowledge Hub story on SDG Action Zone, Day 2 – Planet]

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