September 25, 2017 marks the two-year anniversary of the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Since their adoption, these aspirational international development targets have garnered significant attention among development partners. The indicators, data and statistics they contain are now becoming a focal point of discussion at the international level.
On this SDG birthday, Transparency International is highlighting the need for governments to stay ambitious in the way they measure success.
Transparency International believes that the official UN indicators for measuring SDGs are too narrow. They provide an overview of SDG progress at the global level, but fall short in assessing what really matters: the difference that the SDGs can make in the everyday lives of people.
For example, Target 16.5 – “sustainably reduce corruption in all its forms” - is officially measured by the number of people and businesses which pay, or are asked to pay, bribes to the public sector in a country. However, this narrow interpretation of corruption leaves out a broad range of corrupt practices including fraud, embezzlement, misappropriation of finances, nepotism and favouritism.
Similarly, SDG Target 4.5 aims to eliminate gender disparities in education. However, sextortion, a wide-spread practice in corrupt educational institutions in some countries, hinders both access to and completion of education by female students. This corrupt practice is not covered by the official UN indicators.
Transparency International believes it is important to broaden the narrow scope of UN indicators and ensure that SDG targets have a positive impact for the most marginalised groups in society who are often not even considered in the data of national statistical commissions, including ethnic minorities and indigenous groups.
If no one is to be left behind, governments, business and civil society organisations will all have to be involved in identifying, prioritising and monitoring progress, especially in giving a voice to those who are often not represented. That’s why in April this year, Transparency International published a resource guide to monitoring corruption and anti-corruption in the SDGs. This guide looks at five SDG goals related to health, education, gender, climate action, and water and sanitation, and presents corruption challenges, indicators and data which can be used to more effectively measure SDG progress.
The SDGs undoubtedly provide an aspirational framework for enhancing the quality of human lives. However, their real impact can only be achieved by localising the SDGs and connecting their meaning to people’s lived experience, and that must be a priority for national governments.
How our movement helps
In July, many countries gave reports at the 2017 High Level Political Forum. To complement government reporting and bring anti-corruption issues to the forefront, Transparency International developed a methodology for compiling reports by Civil Society Organisations in parallel to government reporting focused on targets 16,4, 16.5 and 16.10. Argentina, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras, Jordan, the Maldives, Nigeria, Portugal and Peru have all prepared civil society parallel reports which assess each government’s progress towards SDG 16. All the results from Latin American results are presented in a regional report.
Transparency International is also part of a coalition which produces and publishes data to measure the progress of SDGs, as a supplement to UN official indicators. The SDG 16 Data Initiative published its first annual report in July this year.
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