On the international scene, the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are considered a pivotal role in moving towards a greener, more inclusive and more sustainable future. The objective of the agenda ratified by the UN General Assembly in 2015 is to be achieved by the year 2030, and includes indicators from a variety of topics, ranging from children’s education to the riddance of poverty and protection of the oceans. Despite leading countries and organizations consent to pursue these Goals, others, including the Trump and Bolsonaro administrations, are not as invested in them – or at least not the proposed methodology.

The SDGs were unanimously adopted in September 2015 while then President of the Danish Parliament, Mr. Mogens Lykketoft, presided over the General Assembly (GA). Ratifying the 2030 Agenda was Mr. Lykketoft’s first action during this 70th session of the GA whose comments on the current progress of the Goals are that:

“…Progress is there in engagement and understanding of the revolutionary changes necessary in production and consumption patterns, and in particular in the decarbonizing of energy supply. Civil society, mayors of the biggest cities of the world, and a lot of big and small companies understand and support transition. Government action is all too slow.”

Technology has made it possible to collect and share information instantly and this is true for survey meta – and microdata as well, sometimes referred to as the ‘data revolution’. Using these data properly is essential in the pursuit of a more sustainable future, as they allow for governmental and organizational mobilization of resources according to the numbers.

Mrs. Dierdre Appel is a project manager at the non-profit, non-governmental organization Open Data Watch based in Washington D.C. The core part of her work is to harness the effects of the data revolution and to ensure that all aspects of the SDGs are accounted for and acted upon:

“When the Millennium Development Goals were introduced in the 2000s they were less inclusive than the Sustainable Development Goals which incorporate all aspects of development. The MDGs included fewer goals and fewer indicators causing them to receive criticism for leaving populations invisible to measurements.

The SDGs aim to “leave no one behind” which calls for strong statistical capacity, technological investments, and fully harnessing the data revolution. The data collection for the SDGs is a country-driven endeavor and requires improvements in statistical capacity to strengthen monitoring systems.

However, funding remains a problem for ODWs cause:

“For the data revolution to continue sustainably with a strong impact it is also important that there is adequate funding from international donors and domestic resource mobilization. This requires strong political collaboration. It is important to make a compelling case for data and tell policymakers that funding a survey can be as rewarding to your political career as funding a school. After all, data are the raw material for accountability and decision making. Without high-quality information, it is near impossible to implement effective policies.” 

The work being done in Washington D.C. and elsewhere around the world is expanding at a steady pace and whether we like it or not, the online platforms we use are continuously collecting our data for marketing or other purposes. There is still much work to be done.

“I think that the data revolution is mostly very useful in order to get sufficient evidence to take the right decisions in due time.” Says Lykketoft. “Most countries do not have the statistical tools developed yet. But there is a good process in Denmark, and Statistics Denmark is also helping other countries in developing the statistical databases.”

Mrs. Appel adds:

“There are tremendous opportunities to harness data for good. Data is not only needed to monitor the wellbeing of a country but is also needed to create effective policy changes. An example of this is maternal mortality. In order to tackle the challenge policy-makers need to how many women are dying and where they are dying in order to create effective policy and deliver appropriate funds. In this case, funding the data for this is also helping alleviate the number of deaths directly.”

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