unctad.org | Q&A with Steve MacFeely of UNCTAD
Q&A with Steve MacFeely of UNCTAD
20 juillet 2016
Steve MacFeely presented groundbreaking UNCTAD report, the first to show how progress toward attaining the SDGs can be measured.

Steve MacFeely, Head of the Statistics and Information Branch of UNCTAD, presented a groundbreaking statistical report at UNCTAD 14 which, perhaps for the first time, tries to show how progress toward attaining the Sustainable Development Goals can be measured.

After all, if the 17 Goals can't be measured, how will the world know if we have met them?

Q: Tell us about this report?

A: This is the first United Nations report on the measurement of the Sustainable Development Goals. It's a fully online report, and it covers all the Goals and a selection of the targets [under each Goal] that are relevant to UNCTAD.

It's probably the first of its kind in that not only do we provide analysis and infographics, we've also set up a system whereby the readers can download all of the data we use. So it is very transparent, so even if the reader doesn't like our analysis, they can still use the data.

Q: Who is that reader? Who would use this report?

A: We hope a lot of people will use it because to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, governments have to work with international organizations, with NGOs, and large investment partners. Major decision-makers, private and public, will find something really interesting in the report.

Q: In the report you measure things like "prosperity" but also more abstract notions like "peace". How did you do this?

A: Prosperity is probably the easiest to measure -- it is based on well-established economic and statistical concepts. A lot of the measures are things like GDP, GDP to debt ratios, GDP per capita, employment, unemployment; these are well-understood concepts. But measuring something like peace or partnerships is a much more difficult thing to do.

The approach that we took for peace was almost to invert it and measure the absence of peace. So we looked at the number of refugees, the growth in refugees, the growth in displaced persons.

We also looked at the trade angle so we looked at the trade in small arms, how many arms have been traded, who is trading them, and the we looked at how transparent are those countries about their trade. For example, if you look at the transparency index, you can see that Germany is quite transparent about who it trades arms with and why. Other countries, for example in the Middle East, are much less transparent.

To measure partnerships was very challenging because you are dealing with things like policy coherence and "policy space" -- it was very hard to put numbers on those. In the report we tried to find metrics that would at least allow the reader to understand why it is important.

Q: What is UNCTAD's advantage in this work?

A: We have a number. Firstly, we have a very good statistical branch, and UNCTAD has a long history of policy analysis, and often quite daring policy analysis. So we think we have pushed the statistics as far as we could.

On top of that, as far as we could, we tried to look at angles like Least Developed Countries, landlocked developing countries, small island developing states, which are often overlooked in the broader SDG story.

Where we could, we tried to reconfigure the data into UNCTAD regions, into UNCTAD groups to give it a more balanced approach. This means developing countries will find what we have to say very, very interesting, not just developed countries.


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