No national institution can tackle alone the global development challenges addressed in the 2030 Agenda. The same applies when it comes to monitoring and reporting on the SDGs. Coordination is essential for mobilising and allocating resources, for developing and implementing quality frameworks, for setting workable operational processes for data production and dissemination, for informing and communicating on results and achievements. Governments as well as stakeholders from the private sector, from the civil society, academia, media and regional and international institutions all have a role to play. Their ability to work in coherence around the three dimensions of sustainable development (economic, social and environmental), mainly depends on the quality of the coordination processes/mechanisms in the country.
Concepts and theory on participatory and inclusive processes have been discussed for a long time and there are examples, experiences, tools and good practices to share. However, involving some of the stakeholder groups may pose challenges and the UN recommends to start with the design of stakeholders engagement plans.
The initial step for forming a coherent reporting structure is to bring all government organisations together and to mobilise the collective expertise from across the public sector in order to aim for policy coherence and to strive for a “Whole-of-Government” approach. This can be done in different ways (designating a leading institution, setting-up an inter-ministerial committee) and at different levels (Head of state, prime minister, line ministry).
A capable and well-resourced National Statistical Office is key to this process. Depending on the statistical law and on the directives given at the highest level of the government, the NSO has an important role to play in the setting-up and the functioning of the monitoring system. It is also important for the role it can play in giving technical support to other data producers for the mobilisation of data sources, their processing as well as for all the issues linked to data governance (data archiving and storage, data transfer, data security …).
In order to set up a holistic and comprehensive reporting structure however, the government needs to go beyond a “Whole-of-Government” approach and to involve domestic accountability institutions as e.g. parliaments and Supreme Audit Institutions, but as well stakeholder groups from the civil society, the private sector and academia. Such a “Whole-of-Society” approach is essential for including all kind of information (quantitative and qualitative data) for reporting purposes and also for building trust among all stakeholders.
The Civil Society is large and diverse and, even if there is some inter-connectivity among the organisations, it is not easy to get it involved in a national debate. The creation of coalitions and platforms to jointly face the challenge with a common vision has proven a proper way in some countries. This helps to make information available more largely and to facilitate the exchanges between the local, the national and international levels as well as the participation of the different stakeholder groups at all levels.
The Private Sector is expected to play a major role in achieving the 2030 Agenda, including a significant role when it comes to reporting structures and mechamisms. Responsible business practices and incorporating the concept of sustainability into management are already documented and reported for diverse purposes – but only in a few cases those information are imbedded in the overarching SDG reporting structures. However there are competing challenges vis-à-vis the search for profitability and the search for sustainability which may request further investment and thinking, despite the growing number of success stories in this area. The SDGs offer numerous opportunities for businesses that may come to life through intelligent and articulated public/private partnerships.
In the core of the SDGs stands the maxime of leaving no one behind (LNOB) and it is thus particularly important to find ways to involve the most vulnerable groups. LNOB is already understood as a challenge in terms of data disaggregation – but the empowerment and inclusion of vulnerable groups into the reporting structures remain a challenge to be addressed.
A coordinated reporting structure is also well placed to raise awareness about the importance of the SDGs and their relevance to local communities. Involving them requires to work with additional stakeholders and through adapted mechanisms.
There are several initial questions that must be dealt with before embarking on the SDG coordination journey:
Effective coordination mechanisms for SDG monitoring should be guided by the following:
Convene a core committee/platform comprising key stakeholders:
Joint SDG reporting:
Kenya: ‚Monitoring and Review of the SDGs‘ as an additional field of action for the existing project Strengthening good governance (PN: 2016.2105.1; January 2017 – June 2020)
Involves strengthening cooperation between governmental and non-governmental data communities and better integrating their contributions to monitoring. By actively involving civil society and the private sector, the aim is to use non-official data, innovative digital data sources and new data collection methods for SDG monitoring.
Partners for Review:
Global: Strengthening the review process for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (PN: 2019.6255.4; July 2016 – March 2022)“
Review processes for the 2030 Agenda are being strengthened for selected countries
Peer-learning among VNR countries of various years: Stakeholder groups from countries that have already undergone a national review process network with stakeholders that have not yet had this experience, and establish a process of joint learning and exchange. Within the learning and exchange network, the stakeholders jointly analyse and transfer specific lessons learned from implementation at the national level.
Six-monthly network meetings to complement UN events.
Year-round online exchange. Review support unit with helpdesk function and specific support
MENA: Increasing the resilience of host communities in neighbouring countries during the Syrian refugee crisis (PN: 2016.2017.7; May 2016 – June 2019)
This project is helping build a more enabling environment for refugees and host communities by implementing coherent measures designed to strengthen resilience.
Kyrgyzstan: Integrated expert for monitoring the 2030 Agenda (PN: 2017.3503.4/003; May 2018 – December 2022) In Kyrgyzstan, an integrated expert is supporting the National Statistical Committee with statistical capacities for monitoring the 2030 Agenda.
Namibia: SDG Initiative Namibia (PN: 2016.2237.2; July 2017 – June 2020).
In Namibia, a development worker is supporting the National Planning Commission with SDG reporting.
Links with Steering processes: The support from decision-makers is essential and the policy and institutional framework should integrate coordination mechanisms. The processes should be capacitated with adequate resources. Markers must be used in order to guarantee the quality of the mechanisms.
Links with other Core processes: Coordination is an integral part of the implementation of the national SDG policy framework. Data production and dissemination should rely on an active coordination between data producers from government and from non-governmental bodies. Data usage should develop around coordination among the data producers and their users.
Links with Supporting processes: An effective coordination is the result of professional tools and mechanisms that require capacities to design and implement them. Communication must help mobilising the stakeholders.
The NSO usually also plays a role in supplying data to regional actors (e.g. REC) or UN custodian agencies at the global level. NSOs also represent countries at the regional and international levels (e.g. UNSC, IAEG-SDG). Part of the ecosystem is comprised of actors that collect or provide alternative data, such as the private sector and civil society. The extent to which these actors are accepted and integrated by official statistical agencies varies from country to country.
Another part of the ecosystem is formed by data users, either as end users or as intermediaries such as the media. Data are used by governments, e.g. for policy-making processes, as well as by individual citizens.