unctad.org | Beyond statistics: assessing progress towards sustainable development
Beyond statistics: assessing progress towards sustainable development
20 July 2017
Global Goals
Fulfilling the promise of the globe's ambitious 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development will require a new approach that goes beyond statistics to integrate evaluation into implementation efforts, according to experts at an UNCTAD event on how to review progress.

The message was delivered by the Evaluation and Monitoring Unit and the New York Liaison Office of UNCTAD during a 10 July meeting on the sidelines of the 2017 High Level Political Forum (HLPF) in New York.

The HLPF focuses on how to meet the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which form part of a blueprint agreed by the international community in 2015 as part of a new drive to eradicate poverty and promote prosperity while also protecting the environment.

Without measuring and assessing if and how the SDGs are being met, there is no way to establish the factors for success, nor the replicability, best practices and lessons learnt in efforts to achieve their collective aims.

"The 2030 Agenda changes the development paradigm away from silos, and evaluation would fill in knowledge gaps in this new context," said Mr. Nikhil Seth, Executive Director United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR), opening the event.

The core message was reinforced by the UNCTAD experience during the first-ever UN experience in jointly building statistical and evaluation capacities in Tanzania.

"We consider there to be an enormous scalability potential for tailored capacity-building approaches for developing and least developed countries," said Ms. Madeeha Bajwa, Chief of the Evaluation and Monitoring Unit of UNCTAD.

An assessment of Voluntary National Reviews presented to the HLPF in 2016 and 2017 indicates that countries continue to emphasize monitoring of quantitative indicators, without looking at how to feed evaluation into the reporting process. That underscores the need for an integrated roadmap and fundraising strategy in order to advance capacity-building based on the key pillars of monitoring and evaluation. Ms. Bajwa cautioned that a short-term focus on results to feed the SDG follow-up and review process, at the expense of longer-term monitoring and evaluation systems development, would ultimately lead to wasted resources.

Ambassador Modest Jonathan Mero, Permanent Representative of Tanzania to the United Nations, expressed appreciation for UNCTAD's support and welcomed additional efforts to strengthen evaluation capacities. "Strong monitoring and evaluation is needed to identify catalytic actions or SDG accelerators that can have maximum impact across various goals and targets since not all goals can be pursued equally and in tandem," he noted. He also suggested an SDG tracking system such as a "scorecard", as well as regular evaluations.

(From left): Madeeha Bajwa, Indran Naidoo, Chantal-Line Carpentier and Inga Sniukaite at the High Level Political Forum in New York

Ms. Chantal Line Carpentier, Chief of the UNCTAD New York Office and moderator of the session, stressed, "If there is one key message that I hope you leave today with, it will be the importance of going beyond statistics and data to assess progress against the SDGs."

Mr. Indran Naidoo, Director of the Independent Evaluation Office of UNDP and Vice-chair of the United Nations Evaluation Group (UNEG), and Ms. Inga Sniukaite, Deputy Director of the Independent Evaluation Office at UN Women, also presented experiences and perspectives in developing gender-responsive national evaluation capacities to achieve the SDGs.

The session attracted government representatives attending the HLPF, civil society, academia, UNEG members and professional evaluators. Interactive discussions with the audience following the presentations discussed the way forward for capacity-building.

UNCTAD will continue to emphasize a systems approach to monitoring and evaluation at the country-level through partnerships within the UN family and beyond.


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