With great data comes great responsibility

by Charlotte Petri Gornitzka, Chair, Development Assistance Committee
and Jorge Moreira da Silva, Director, Development Co-operation Directorate, OECD


This article is featured in the Development Co-operation Report 2017: Data for Development released today. Read the report and find out more about data for development.


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If USD 142.6 billion falls in the forest of development and no one hears it, does it matter?

That depends on who you are. While mothers in Afghanistan or South Sudan can tell you how their families’ lives have been transformed by effective development programmes every single day, strong data are needed to communicate how these billions of dollars improve the human condition and create more stable societies for all.

In 2016 official development assistance (ODA) to support development goals represented 0.32% of donor countries’ gross national income, an all-time high. However, aid to those who need it most, including least developed countries (LDCs), is declining. The June 2017 report card on the 2030 Development Agenda – the world’s roadmap to end poverty, inequality and injustice for all by 2030 through a set of 17 goals and 232 indicators – tells us progress is slow and data are incomplete.

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Improving sustainable development data is a task for all

by Martine Durand, OECD Chief Statistician and Director of the OECD Statistics Directorate


This article is featured in the Development Co-operation Report 2017: Data for Development to be released on 17 October 2017. Read the report and find out more about data for development.


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In an era of fake news and alternative facts, statisticians have a special responsibility. As the custodians of the evidence base for policy making, they must stand up for the right of all citizens to true, reliable and accessible information.

This is especially the case in the development field, and even more so since world leaders adopted the extraordinarily ambitious and wide-ranging 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in September 2015. At the heart of this global “plan of action for people, planet and prosperity” are 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that “are integrated and indivisible and balance the three dimensions of sustainable development: the economic, social and environmental”, with the ultimate objective to leave no one behind. Achieving the SDGs will require informed choices about priorities and strategies, and for this we will need a better evidence base than we have today.

But statisticians – and especially statisticians in developing countries – cannot do this job alone.

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Ever heard of SDG washing? The urgency of SDG Due Diligence

By Roel Nieuwenkamp, Chair of the OECD Working Party on Responsible Business Conduct


September 25, 2017 marks World SDG Action Day.


SDG-dayA couple of months ago during the OECD’s Global Forum on Responsible Business Conduct,1 I heard a new term: SDG washing. After green washing and blue washing – using a UN logo to signpost sustainability without doing much – the term SDG washing points to businesses that use the Sustainable Development Goals to market their positive contribution to some SDGs while ignoring their negative impact on others. For example, a car company may market their electric cars as saving the climate (SDG 13↑). Yet, the cobalt in their batteries may be mined by five-year old kids in Congo (SDG 8 ↓).

It is clear that the world will never reach the SDGs without businesses. While businesses can make positive contributions, such as creating jobs, finding innovative solutions for climate challenges or contributing to human capital development, they can also cause or contribute to negative impacts, such as exploiting labour in supply chains, damaging the environment or engaging in corrupt practices. Businesses should pay due attention to ensure that they avoid undermining the SDGs by causing or contributing to negative impacts. Continue reading

Where to start with the SDGs?

By Simon Scott, Counsellor, Statistics Directorate, OECD; Jeff Leitner, Fellow, New America and Managing Director, GreenHouse; and William Hynes, Co-ordinator, New Approaches to Economic Challenges programme, OECD

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“The SDGs as a network of targets,” from David Le Blanc, “Towards integration at last?”, DESA Working Paper No. 141 ST/ESA/2015/DWP/141

The upside to the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), signed off at a UN Leaders’ Summit in September 2015, was their inclusiveness. An Open Working Group of 30 nations worked for two and a half years to develop the Goals, meeting 13 times, sometimes for a week, and organising countless national and thematic consultations, stakeholder forums, and on-line and door-to-door surveys. Almost everyone who wanted a say in the SDGs could have one, and more often than not, their voices were heard.

This led to the downside of the Goals – their sheer breadth and volume. The Economist satirised the litany of SDG targets as “the 169 Commandments” – a line perhaps inspired by Bill Gates’ comment that the SDGs resembled the Bible, and that he would prefer to start with something simpler, “like the Ten Commandments.”

Two years later, the world has moved on to implementation. The UN, national governments and international organisations are all retooling to help the world achieve the SDGs. And the available resources, while not limitless, are very substantial. Official development assistance from OECD countries alone now exceeds USD 140 billion a year, and private philanthropy from NGOs and foundations is also increasing. Trillions of dollars are held by sovereign wealth funds, pension funds and private endowments with an interest in long-term stability and sustainable development.

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Infrastructure, jobs, good governance: Bringing Africans’ priorities to the G20 table

By Michael Bratton, University Distinguished Professor of Political Science and African Studies at Michigan State University and senior adviser to Afrobarometer, and E. Gyimah-Boadi, Executive Director of Afrobarometer and the Ghana Center for Democratic Development

 

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Beyond the limelight and the headlines, the recent Group of 20 (G20) summit accomplished an important piece of business by launching the Compact with Africa. The next step is crucial: negotiating the priorities that the compact will address.

One key concept is that the compact is with – rather than for – Africa, implying that it will rely on true partnerships to pursue mutually agreed-upon goals.

With its contribution to a “20 Solutions” document presented to the G20 by a consortium of think tanks, the pan-African research network Afrobarometer is working to ensure that the compact will take into account what ordinary Africans say they want and need.

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Development in transition

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By Alicia Barcena, Stefano Manservisi and Mario Pezzini


This blog is part of an ongoing series evaluating various facets
of
Development in Transition. The 2019 “Perspectives on Global Development” on “Rethinking Development Strategies” will add to this discussion


3Understanding and supporting the development trajectories of countries have long been the driving force behind all of our careers. If we, as a global community, are serious now about ensuring prosperity for all through the universal and comprehensive 2030 Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), then we must close all remaining gaps. And this means changing the way we think about development policy.

We can all agree we should continue to focus primarily on those left the furthest behind. However pockets of fragility also remain in those economies that have succeeded in climbing the economic ladder. While income inequality between countries may have reduced, inequality within countries has in fact risen. More than 75% of people in developing countries are living in societies where inequalities are higher today than they were 25 years ago. In Namibia, for example, which is considered an upper middle-income country, just over a quarter of its poorest inhabitants are covered by social protections, whereas Malawi, considered a low-income country, covers over 40%.

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Does your neighbour know about the Sustainable Development Goals?

By Felix Zimmermann, Coordinator, OECD Development Communication Network

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Words OECD governments use
to describe the SDGs online.
Source: OECD DevCom 2017

I don’t really know my neighbour. What I do know is that she can get pretty grumpy when my kids are too noisy. I also know that she uses the recycle bins. But what does she think about sustainable development? I wouldn’t have a clue. That needs to change.

An urgent task: mobilising citizens into action for the SDGs

To have any hope of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030, we need all citizens to change their behaviours, no matter where in the world they live. SDG priorities may differ from country to country, but we need citizens in all countries to call upon governments, companies – and neighbours – to act.

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