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Guest Article: Global Partnership Delivers: Local Change and Official Recognition of Civil Society Data | SDG Knowledge Center

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By Davie Malungisa for the Leave No One Behind (LNOB) partnership

The last United Nations World Data Forum, held in October 2021 in Bern, Switzerland, concluded with the adoption of the Bern Data Pact for the Decade of Action on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which recognizes civil society data as part of the whole data ecosystem needed to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development .

Civil society data is now openly encouraged, especially data that supports the SDG commitment to “leave no one behind”.

the Bern Data Pact represents a major step towards the recognition of community data in official processes, and its role in filling information gaps vital for sustainable development. the Partnership Leave No One Behind (LNOB)growing international collaboration on civil society data, had made a strong case for inclusive data on the SDGs at the Bern Conference.

The LNOB partnership is made up of over 80 global and national members, including community organizations, NGOs and their networks in seven countries. Peter Koblowsky, Senior Director of Partnerships at International Civil Society Center, which acts as the global secretariat of the LNOB partnership, summed up the sentiments of the partners: “For civil society, the Bern Data Compact represents a positive step forward. Civil society data is now openly encouraged, especially data that supports the SDG commitment to “leave no one behind”.

Obtaining official recognition of citizen-generated data as a crucial tool to ensure that no one is left behind in achieving each SDG has been a key objective of the LNOB partnership since its inception in 2017. But this work did not begin or end at the 2021 World Data Forum.

Listen to marginalized groups

In a series of articles spanning national LNOB coalitions in Bangladesh, India, Kenya and Nepal, the LNOB partnership has suggested local solutions to address the intersecting factors of poverty, social exclusion and marginalization , all of which have been aggravated by COVID-19. 19 pandemic. These solutions could not have been identified without listening to marginalized people, including sex workers, young people, hard-to-reach ethnic minorities, Dalits, single women, people with disabilities, street vendors, people living in streets and communities – those most likely to be left behind while others benefit from national and global SDG processes.

To effectively lead this listening process, LNOB coalitions have trained local facilitators to lead group discussions, for example on the quality of public services for marginalized groups, and to use participatory tools such as community scorecards to use the data. These facilitators have become agents of change and champions of the SDGs in their communities. The community and citizen-generated data that facilitators helped generate provides evidence to help marginalized people hold local and national authorities to account.

Reach a global political audience

In addition to local and national policymakers – whose decisions directly affect the daily lives of the most marginalized people in their countries – the LNOB partnership has also worked to reach global policymakers and the wide range of stakeholders who monitor their efforts in matter of SDGs. Civil society data was used to create the ‘Uneven pandemic’ report, launched on the sidelines of the UN High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development in July 2021.

“The report provides access to real-time data on how the pandemic has become a phenomenal obstacle to achieving the SDGs,” Koblowsky said.

But more importantly, the report shows how civil society can generate and use alternative data to call for humanitarian interventions, including demanding action to achieve universal access to Covid-19 vaccines, disinfectants and masks.

The Partnership is also engaging the global statistical community to discuss the inclusion of community data, including at a meeting of the UN Inter-Agency and Expert Group on SDG Indicators (IAEG-SDG) in November 2021, and more recently at 53rd session of the United Nations Statistical Commission in February 2022.

Growing government acceptance

As the LNOB partnership engages in global data platforms, it is making progress in facilitating the generation of community data to complement official sources. For example:

  • In Kenya, the LNOB Coalition used the results of its recent social services survey – which revealed how data gaps contribute to poor targeting of services for people with disabilities – to open a dialogue with national statistical authorities. Coalition member George Awalla reports that the government is open to using unofficial sources in national data systems, and that the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics is “already realigning its data systems to include data generated by the community”.
  • In Nepal, the LNOB Coalition facilitated evidence-based community events between marginalized groups and local government authorities in Karnali province. The events used community-generated data to develop local action plans and development indicators. These provide a local perspective to the broad SDG priorities set by the National Planning Commission in Nepal.
  • In Bangladesh, the LNOB coalition used the dashboard survey approach to assess and reveal food, cash and health issues affecting marginalized groups as a result of COVID-19. The survey data has been helpful in fostering a growing consensus in favor of accelerating social assistance programs critical to the pandemic response. The community-generated data in particular brings new insights into reducing knowledge gaps related to SDG target 3.8 on achieving universal health coverage by 2030.
  • In India, the LNOB Coalition has conducted a flagship “100 Hotspots” project, which the United Nations has called SDG good practice. This recognition demonstrates huge steps in the right direction to position civil society data as an integral part of the data system needed to deliver on the SDG promise to leave no one behind.

These achievements of the LNOB Coalitions in several countries represent significant progress. But there is an urgent need to consolidate this progress. To achieve this, the LNOB Partnership is entering a new phase: a technical collaboration with the United Nations Statistics Division to strengthen the capacities of local civil society to produce local data complementary to official statistical data.

The collaboration will develop data toolkits to strengthen the role of local civil society and marginalized groups in SDG monitoring and local policy action – exactly the kind of work that has been piloted in the first five countries of action of the LNOB partnership of Bangladesh, India, Kenya and Nepal. and Vietnam, and is currently expanding to our two new countries of action – Denmark and Malawi. The ambition of the Partnership is to implement this process simultaneously in several countries, bringing together civil society and the statistical community and drawing comparable conclusions from each country. In the long term, the process should support the creation of global guidelines for civil society data.

“Our goal is to build trust between key sectors, resulting in the creation of common rules for the production and use of data,” Koblowsky said. “We expect this effort to empower more communities and voice their needs and rights to their local decision-makers. »