At this month’s High-Level Political Forum, 44 countries are reporting their progress on their voluntary national reviews. Many governments have committed to ensuring that no one is left behind in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, but amid continued global challenges and pandemic recovery, the realisation of these goals is at risk.
Sightsavers is a champion of the Inclusive Data Charter, a global mechanism to mobilise data commitments and actions that leave no one behind. Through our work on inclusion at a national and global level, we advocate for strengthening data systems to drive evidence-based decisions and inclusive policies in education, health and social inclusion.
Despite increased visibility on the importance of inclusive data, there are still challenges. Limited political will, inadequate financing and investments in strengthening systems continue to be barriers to the production and use of better-quality inclusive data. But we are seeing some encouraging progress. For example, through our advocacy alongside partners in Pakistan, Cameroon and Senegal, we have seen more recognition by decision-makers of the importance of inclusive data in monitoring and reporting their commitments to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Here are some lessons on inclusive data advocacy, drawing on our experiences in Pakistan, Cameroon and Senegal.
1. Gather evidence to increase awareness and understanding of the key issues
In Cameroon, we worked with partners to localise the SDGs and empower local actors in the production and use of disaggregated data to strengthen governance and decision-making. As part of this, we conducted a local council pilot and supported a voluntary local review (VLR) in Cameroon. Through the VLR, we identified gaps in local level inclusive data and produced key recommendations to advocate regional and national level decision-makers to act. As a result of this work, we are now partnering with Cameroon’s national statistics office to address the data gaps and explore opportunities to scale up the pilot’s learnings across other local councils in order to make their data collection tools more inclusive.
2. Engage key stakeholders to build collaborative relationships and trust
In Pakistan, we worked with the SDG unit of the Ministry of Planning, Development and Special Initiatives to strengthen disability disaggregated data in the SDG monitoring systems and collaborated with the Community Based Inclusive Development Network, which includes people with disabilities and their representative organisations. Following the success of a pilot to strengthen disability data for SDG 4: quality education, the ministry is now replicating this approach for monitoring the other SDGs at both national and provincial levels, in collaboration with Sightsavers and other organisations. By strengthening Pakistan’s SDG monitoring frameworks to include disability disaggregated data, key decision-makers can improve planning and budgeting to deliver more equitable outcomes for people with disabilities.
3. Mobilise non-state actors by equipping them with the tools to advocate for action
In Senegal, we worked with the Ministry of Economy, Planning and Cooperation and CONGAD forum to build the capacity of civil society organisations and mobilised citizens, including young people, women, people with disabilities and farmers, to equip them with the knowledge and tools to encourage the government to take urgent and ambitious action on inclusive data. This advocacy enabled us to facilitate direct conversations between non-state actors and the government and resulted in an inclusive, participatory process to develop Senegal’s Inclusive Data Charter action plan. This also enabled us to push for comprehensive, disaggregated national level statistics and localisation. In their 2022 voluntary national review submission, the government of Senegal has acknowledged the importance of championing inclusive data to ensure that no one is left behind.
Lessons learned and next steps
A common learning that we have seen across our inclusive data advocacy work is the value of cross-sectoral partnerships. Governments increasingly recognise that official data sources alone are not enough. And that if they are to gather more robust disaggregated data that accurately reflects the needs of different population groups, then partnerships and collaborations with civil society organisations, marginalised groups and others are important to enable knowledge exchange, learning and spark innovative approaches.
This year’s High-Level Political Forum is about ‘building back better’. We cannot do that without inclusive data. Our work alongside partners has shown us that successfully advocating for inclusive data requires a combination of things: persistence, participation, partnerships and investment. We must collectively keep up the momentum and hold decision-makers to account to implement their SDG commitments, so we can build back better.
Aissata Ndiaye is Sightsavers’ senior global advocacy adviser, based in Senegal.
Tichafara Chisaka is Sightsavers’ programme manager for the Inclusive Data Charter.
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