The SDGs – now what?

Published in Future United Nations Development System blog.

by Stephen Browne

Following the publication of the outcome of the Open Working Group on the Sustainable Development Goals this July (see pdf of OWG outcome document and proposed SDGs), the UN Foundation said: “when the OWG began its work, many observers were doubtful that a committee of 70 members occupying 30 seats, some in a troika arrangement with associated political complexity, would be able to agree on a concise set of goals and targets.”

Well, they were right, and I wonder how many people are really surprised by the result: 17 goals and 169 targets and indicators. Of course, the process is not yet over because this “outcome” is to be forwarded to the UN General Assembly for further deliberation. However, the prospect of that even more unwieldy body producing a genuinely concise and meaningful result is a distant one.

What really happened? To make an assessment, we need to go back to the last lot of goals.

When the MDGs were agreed in the year following the outcome of the UN Millennium Summit of 2000, they were founded on a solid pedigree of earlier UN summits that were held throughout the 1990s. The MDGs were based on statistically measurable, uncontroversial, indicators which were considered central surrogates of development progress. We now know better. They don’t measure all the right things. Egypt, Syria, and Tunisia were some of the best performers in the Arab region in terms of MDGs, but they overlooked the factors which generated long-standing grievances of the poor prompting violent uprisings (United Nations, A Regional Perspective on the post-2015 UN Development Agenda, UN publication E/ESCWA/OES/2013/2, New York, 2013).  So lesson number one: there are other goals more important than the MDGs.

Second lesson: the MDGs were not even appropriate for the UN’s operations. More funds for the UN to tackle the goals have yielded poor results. Indeed, there is no clear causal relationship between aid flows and MDG achievement. Total aid has increased markedly since 2000, yet many of those countries which have received substantial and increasing amounts of aid over long periods are still amongst the poorest MDG performers. The biggest successes have been in health (especially HIV and TB infections), but that is mainly the result of substantial new resources flowing through non-UN mechanisms such as the Global Fund. In other areas such as undernourishment of children, completion of primary school, access to clean water and the share of urban populations living in slums, the MDGs have not resulted in a significant acceleration in progress towards the goals since the Millennium Declaration, in spite of more aid (Paul Callan, “Replacing the MDGs: a better agenda is needed for the world’s poor”, Devex).

The importance of other goals than the MDGs was acknowledged by the OWG in its desire to expand the agenda into more political, and thus more controversial, areas.  In fact, the UN already had in hand more comprehensive development agendas – the full declarations of its summits of 2000 and 2005. But these had been frog-marched through the inter-governmental process with little deliberation. The OWG at least had the merit of allowing for a full debate on the issues.

But in keeping its “ends open”, the OWG succumbed to the sterile practices of all unsteered UN negotiating sessions. The co-chairs were content (and narrowly empowered) to keep the debate going, writing up the consensus periodically. So we now have layer upon layer of paragraphs sponsored by different parties, mostly government foreign ministry reps with some egging on by UN agencies. The criterion of success is to include as many consensual views as possible, only eliminating text where there is obvious superfluity, but still not excluding huge areas of duplication.

The result is a long rambling statement of intent, but not an agenda. If it were, it would have the following, as a minimum:

1.     Some analysis of how the world has changed and is expected to evolve over the life of the goals, highlighting the main global challenges amenable to action by the world body. What we have instead is a preamble, leavened with frequent references to the environment, as a reminder that the whole process was originally inspired by a global environment meeting.
2.     An outline of the sine qua non conditions for successful development. What we have instead are general invocations about rights and freedom. The hugely complex challenges of conflict is given one sentence: “countries in situations of conflict also need special attention”. Whose attention? What attention?
3.     Unambiguity: the goals overlap with no explanation, especially when it comes to sustainability of resources. There are 169 numbered paragraphs following each generally stated goal. These are the targets, and they are sub-divided into 126 first targets and 45 other paragraphs – secondary targets? Some of these targets use words like “build resilience”, “ensure significant mobilization of resources”, “create sound policy frameworks” etc….lots of indefinable UN-speak.
4.     Coherence: but what are the dynamics, the policies and strategies implied, for example, by “eradicating extreme poverty everywhere, currently measured as people living on less than $1.25 per day” (Goal 1) and “by 2030 progressively achieve and sustain income growth of the bottom 40% of the population at a rate higher than the national average.”  (Goal 10)
5.     A set of core goals: an example would be related to governance and the responsible management of resources. Since most development experts agree that total resources for development are not lacking, taking all sources into account (FDI, remittances, royalties, export receipts, domestic taxes, most much larger than aid itself) a core goal would relate to their responsible management. Many possible measurable numerical targets are possible.
6.     Strong independent monitoring arrangements: there is a statement in the preamble about “a robust mechanism of implementation review” through the same inter-governmental channels, which sounds like folding the jury in with the judge. No mention of the monitoring role of third parties – including NGOs and civil society.

But let’s look on the optimistic side. While this convoluted journey has yielded a less satisfactory and impractical outcome than the 2000 and 2005 summits, two tasks could still be taken up after the 2015 GA. As with the MDGs, the UN development system should define and refine the approved goals to make them more meaningful and measurable. Equally important will be the role which the UN affords to civil society in both implementation and monitoring. Hopefully the UN organizations will have learnt something from recent experience about the need for governments to meet people’s aspirations.

Through non-governmental organizations the intended beneficiaries of the development process should be the ones who have a say – preferably a critical one – in monitoring progress, and holding the governments of both South and North to their commitments.

Stephen Browne is co-Director of the FUNDS Project.

Globalization in Nepal be not allowed at cost of national interest

Published in Telegraph Nepal in February 2015

Prof Ram Kumar Dahal, Senior Political analyst,TU Nepal

With the process of globalization, the decision making power of the government is gradually shifting to international institutions – MNCs and donor agencies, thus weakening the former’s capability. In some cases, discussion on the topics of high importance like – national interest and priorities, national sovereignty human rights and so on – is not allowed. Under the powerful pressure of these international institutions, the national governments are forced to conclude that they have no alternative left but to accept their harsh conditions. National officials are pressured into signing on the dotted line when the Bretton Woods authorities appear in a backward country with highly sophisticated computerized statistics and already formulated policy prescriptions (Bruin, 1996: 7). The market reform processes in the developing world, as Rehman Sobhan opines, “introduced by multilateral agencies have undermined democratic institutions and disempowered states and citizens” (International IDEA, 1997: 85). In most underdeveloped countries, they have, rushed like as Schwab and Smadja opine “a brakeless train wreaking havoc” and the globalization process is “threatening a very disruptive impact on economic activity and social stability in many countries. The mood in these democracies is one of helplessness and anxiety, which helps explain the rise of a new brand of populist politicians (which) can easily turn into revolt. The human and social costs of the globalization process are multiplying to a level that “tests the social fabric of the democracies in an unprecedented way” (Klaus and Claude, 1996). “National politics has more or less has lost control. Many democratic governments are facing this problem today and people are asking why we are letting the markets rule our countries” (International IDEA, 1997: 83).

The process of globalization in Nepal, as in other countries of the Third World, has pressurized the state to redefine the traditional notion of power, legitimacy, sovereignty and political authority. It has also led to the growth of elitist democracy and the rise of a comprador class into power. People are being pulled, across the nation state for the creation of a larger political order based on different rules (as European Union) coming very close to pooling the citizen’s loyalties and shaping their common economic, political and social life (Dahal, 1998).

The transnational corporate power has been able to enhance the repressive power of the state to silence the opposition, the only viable institution resisting the harmful effects of globalization and its tools within the national boundary. Moreover, the integration of all the components of the national economy – information, transportation, labor, raw materials- to a unified system of market naturally erodes the viability of national economies and the capacity of the governments to govern. The declining capacity of the government has caused a crisis of proper political representation and raised a serious question of independent status within the state. This process has also paved the way for the depletion of the ecological base of life on this planet and marginalized the majority of the powerless citizens. The authority of governments that flowed from the institutional position and election is also decaying under the weight of planned modernity. So is the ability of the state to mediate between the contending gender identities, social classes, social groups and political parties. To-day’s well developed information mechanism (global media) has weakened the citizens’ bonds with the nation-state (such as family), faith in community, neighborhood and enhanced the power of the governments to compromise the democratic values for the satisfaction of their economic ends. In many countries, the government, political parties, national police and armies serve not the nation but, the security of these international institutions which often violate the supreme laws of the land.

As privatization and globalization processes have led citizens towards capitalization, the feeling of nationalism has become weak. Those who talk about national upliftment, nationalism and national interests are considered as the mad stray dogs barking unnecessarily without realizing the hard reality of life in Nepal. To become multimillionaire overnight and to have capital reserves in foreign banks by deceiving the people and betraying the nation have become the ideals of the political elite. The process of economic globalization has made it difficult for the rulers to rule effectively. The undermining role of the legislature in Nepal, had led to “ineffective enforcement of the law” and the “inability of the government to enact legislations that it may consider necessary for fighting corruption” (Pandey and Chitrakar, 1996: 1). If the parliamentarians are just there to endorse or ratify the readymade decisions coming through the MNCs and BWIs, what is the need of the people’s supreme legislative body in Nepal? Why cannot the MPs assert their role? The three organs of government have met on the common forum, when their personal interests were concerned. The facilities, enjoyed by them often unconstitutional and illegal especially duty free Pajero, have rendered the theory of separation of powers and the checks and balances of the organs of government redundant. Indeed the process of globalization has led to a conflict between nationalism and corporate class. The position of the VAT, as imposed on the recommendation of the World Bank, and the Arun-III became highly controversial among the nationalist forces (INHURED International, 1995; Bruin, 1996: 62).

Impact on Bureaucracy:

The de-bureaucratization process, under the pressure of the BWIs to cut down the administrative budget, brought the retrenchment of more than nineteen thousands civil servants leading to politicization of bureaucracy and political instability in the country. Under the influence of globalization, there has been a change of attitude towards Nepalese bureaucracy. The bureaucracy in Nepal is the first to be shaken. During 1990-1998, the civil servants have been moved, removed, replaced and inducted so many times with each change of government that the civil service has become paralyzed as a public institution. Obviously, the civil service remains at the mercy of the ruling authority and its role has been confined primarily to that of the executor of the ruler’s order. The democratically elected governments of Nepal during 1991-98 have thought about the “spoil system” along the line of the US which has made the bureaucracy a mere rubber stamp. “Successive governments, “have looked at the civil services not as an ally but as a rival for executive power and also as a berth for their relatives or party workers and henchmen ostensibly to ensure that their programs or ‘manifestoes’ would be carried out faithfully by their own trusted men rather than the so called civil servants appointed by an earlier government” (Malhotra, Sunday Despatch, January 25-31, 1998: p. 1). The process of globalization has led to the growth of corrupt practices in Nepal. “Eradication of corruption” “needs a broad based attack which cannot be constrained let alone eradicated without reforming the political process. The current social values sanctified by the ethos of the so called market economy and liberalization,” “need to be recast. Battle against corruption must be made an integral part of foreign aid strategy. Networking among concerns and institutions interested in clean governance and cost-effective aid must be developed” (Pandey, 1995: 1-10).

Mechanism to Minimize the Negative Effects of Globalization:

The growing negative impacts of globalization have adversely affected the operation of present day Nepalese political system. It would be, thus, essential to develop effective mechanisms to minimize them and to maximize the positive ones. In this connection, it would be essential to identify the agencies (both national and international) of globalization and to study the approaches, methods, strategies and tactics used by them to achieve their targeted goals. Are they not like the Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL) that once worked against Nepal’s national interests by encouraging and distributing money to the supporters of Free Tibet Movement with a view to damaging or adversely affecting Nepal’s age-old ties with its northern neighbor? It would also be appropriate to study their vested interests and their short and long term strategies separately. If it is long term one, can we sacrifice the short term interests, benefits and its side effects? Is it essential to develop a separate mechanism to meet the challenges created by them (if they are long term ones)?

In Nepal’s particular case, it is a must to search for an appropriate answer whether the reckless globalization process we are welcoming here, which does not provide goods, services and benefits to the larger masses, can be considered globalization in a real sense or not. Only a process which in fact does maximum well to the maximum number of people should be welcomed. Moreover, while adopting the process, priority should be given to the mobilization of local resources, protection of indigenous culture, promotion of sustainable development and participatory democracy at local level and the acceptance of foreign aid accordingly. The traditional socio cultural and economic organizations and the service focused NGOs should be encouraged and strengthened at local level that, in fact, does not endanger indigenous culture, life styles and habits and nationalism should be encouraged and strengthened at local level.

As Nepalese economy and polity are not self reliant, they have certainly to accept or adopt the process of globalization, but while doing so, Nepal should strictly preserve its national interest and benefits, national identity and values. Globalization at the cost of national interest should never be permitted. In order to prevent the Nepalese society from the negative effects of globalization, the political parties, political and non-political groups, interest and pressure groups and the conscious section of people have to play an important role. The political parties, with their sister organizations under their fold, in particular, have to develop national consensus over the most controversial and important issues like security, nationalism and national interests, goals and objectives; acceptance of foreign aid in different sectors, giving approval to the agents of globalization, to mention a few. A scientific and most up to date record of the agencies of globalization; NGOs and INGOs and current statistics concerning the movement of foreigners within Nepal and Nepalese citizens residing outside Nepal – must be maintained in HMG particularly in Foreign and Finance Ministries.

In order to minimize the weaknesses of globalization, the conscious section of the society has an important role to play by watching the activities of the agencies of globalizations: international institutions, NGOs and INGOs operating within Nepal’s territorial jurisdiction. They should also work as the watchdogs of democracy strictly observing the behavior of their democratic leaders, especially those in power. The political parties, like other interest and pressure groups of Nepal – the Human Rights Organizations, the trade unions, student organizations, women and youth groups, to mention a few – are trying to globalize themselves by establishing links with similar organizations throughout the world and their participation, thus, is increasing at global level. These groups could play effective roles in lessening the negative impacts of the process of globalization by stressing key concepts like nationalism, national interests, goals and objectives. They must try to make Nepal self reliant rather than emphasize dependency theories. The core laws of the state should be strengthened so as to solve the existing problems (e. g. citizenship). The share of the state in the GDP and in utilizing indigenous local resources should be increased. The public power should not benefit the comprador class and a few private individuals; rather it should be utilized for the welfare and benefit of the larger section of the people, especially the marginalized ones.

Nepal to-day needs production revolution, not the consumption one, to direct the political economy towards self-reliance and the sovereign state should enjoy complete autonomy in this respect. As this process has affected each and every sphere of Nepalese life, mass consciousness has to be aroused so as to judge to what level and extent, they should welcome the globalized agencies and for what. As to-day’s Nepalese state is based on class and is largely determined by money power, it has in fact promoted elitist democracy and the outright betrayal of the mass and participatory democracy, though the ruling elite never admits this openly. Nepal should also actively participate in the regional process strengthening its relations with the neighboring countries and stopping reckless globalization. A powerful and active cell in the governmental machinery particularly within the Ministry of Finance and Foreign Affairs should be established to overview the impacts of globalization, particularly towards minimizing its negative effects on Nepalese polity

As nationalism is a strong device to mitigate the evils of globalization, its base should also be strengthened; and the people’s legitimate right to development should be established. When the public sector becomes weak, it negatively affects the state and thus the concept of good governance should also be encouraged so as to encounter the negative impacts of globalization. The parliamentarians, the most trusted and democratically elected leaders of the people, should play assertive and dynamic roles within and outside parliament in minimizing them. Instead of putting their Lyapche or approving blindly the ready-made package policies prepared by BWIs and other institutions, the MPs should effectively play the policy making role keeping in view the key concepts of nationalism, national interest and public welfare. The power elite can play an effective and dynamic role in this direction. They should serve the interests of the electorate who have elected them, not to the BWIs, other international institutions, INGOs businessmen, comprador class and a few elites or their Yes men and the so called the Tatha-Batha or their Chumchas only. They must not be guided by personal interests but by nationalistic concepts, national interests and objectives. Moreover, the cabinet itself can develop an effective mechanism or cell to check the negative impacts of globalization.

Conclusion:

The impact of globalization on the Nepalese polity is two-fold. On the one hand, it has helped to democratize, liberalize and decentralize the power of the state while on the other, it has stripped away the vital decision- making power of the government to govern: to formulate public policies and execute them. Globalization has also led to the homogenization of the ideologies of mainstream political parties, induced “identity politics” and generated political factionalism.

The effect of globalization on the Nepalese polity is the proliferation of laws, rights, and institutions without corresponding increase in enforcing mechanisms, resources, responsibilities and viabilities for policy effectiveness. The levers of globalization (privatization, denationalization, decontrol, deregulation, etc.) have made Nepalese democracy a surrogate of market forces and delinked the social web of state power. In a multi-ethnic, multi-religious and multi-racial society where development is uneven, the globalization process has intensified the rich-poor, urban-rural gaps, notwithstanding its positive contribution to renewed consciousness towards the universalization of rights, international cooperation, gender issues, environmental ethics, and a move toward demilitarization of development. How can the Nepalese citizen enforce accountability of their leaders, maintain the transparency of the regime, and legitimacy of their political order? Evidently, the answer lies more on devising the competitive ability of the citizens to obtain benefit from the global distribution of opportunities and minimizing the risks, social, economic and political in nature to the multi party dispensation. Text courtesy. Impact of Globalization in Nepal, NEFAS publication, 1998. Thanks NEFAS and the distinguished author Dr. Dahal. Some more to follow: Ed. 

How will the sharing economy reshape our spending?

Published in World Economic Forum in February 2015

When we talk about technology, frequently we’re focused on how it makes our lives easier—but we often look past the way it can completely reshape the economy. When I was in China last month, I spoke to a group of business students about these ideas. As I explored in my last post, we discussed how the drop in oil prices will act as a massive tax cut—today, I want to talk about how new technologies can reshape spending.

According to the International Energy Agency, daily demand for oil has increased by about 600,000 barrels over the past year. But thanks in part to new technologies like hydraulic fracturing, we’ve seen an increase in supply of over 2 million barrels a day. We’re now in the midst of price discovery, and while it’s hard to say where oil will settle, I think it’s likely to be around $75 to $85 a barrel.

The oligopoly is confused. And one reason why is that they did not anticipate the rapid growth in new oil extraction technologies. Fracking represents just a fraction of the 90 million barrels of oil produced each day, but it has a profound impact on the industry as a whole.

It’s a good example of how quickly new technology can destabilize an industry—even one as entrenched and established as oil—and even be missed by many of those within the business.

These changes took place over a number of years, and are happening at the margins. But you can also see technology precipitate incredibly rapid changes, like what we’ve seen with the rise of the “sharing economy.” Best exemplified by home-rental services such as Airbnb or taxi services like Uber (and a Chinese equivalent called Kuadi), they represent a completely different mindset for the use of capital, especially among young people.

We tend to think of these services in terms of the way they affect convenience—how they change behaviors. But as we saw with oil, new technologies can have a profound effect on prices, markets, and the way we spend our money.

For generations, young people all around the world have focused on acquiring two key pieces of property: a home and a car. These purchases are partly status-driven, partly practical. And they’re not identical, of course: Cars tend to depreciate, while homes are seen as an investment. But both purchases require large amounts of capital or credit—money that could be used elsewhere.

With the advent of technologies like Uber and Airbnb, these long-accepted financial decisions may start to change. Why bother with the big upfront investment, the hassles of maintenance and parking, or the liability of owning a car, if you can have one available within minutes with one tap of your phone.

As more and more people use sharing services for transportation, for example, personal vehicles will become less important, both financially and in terms of status. People may decide—and I think this would be the right decision for many —to take the cash they would spend on a vehicle and direct it instead towards smart investments.

Think about the scale of this change—Uber was founded just five years ago. In another five years, car-sharing technologies could be replacing car ownership at a meaningful scale. That has significant implications for the global economy, simply by changing the way capital flows through it.

New technology can also have some unpleasant effects. For example, increasing automation is putting significant downward pressure on employment. Take driverless cars, for example: While it’s true that they will eliminate congestion and accidents, over time, they will also eliminate jobs for people like taxi and truck drivers.

The countries that will get ahead will be the ones that train enough workers to do the skilled jobs—designing and maintaining sophisticated machines, or writing the code that helps them run.

This article is published in collaboration with Linkedin. Publication does not imply endorsement of views by the World Economic Forum.

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Author: Larry Fink is the Chairman and CEO at BlackRock.

Image: An illustration picture shows the logo of car-sharing service app Uber on a smartphone next to the picture of an official German taxi sign in Frankfurt. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach

The Future Role of Civil Society

Published in Berkeley Center for Religion, Peace and Work Affairs in January 2013

The Future Role of Civil Society examines the evolving role of NGOs, labor organizations, and faith groups, among others, in building civil society in the global arena. The report is a compilation of insights from over 200 leaders in government, business, international organizations, and civil society at large, 80 expert interviews, and 5 related workshops. The report aims to engage civil society in reaction to anticipation of ongoing changes in politics, technology, economy, as well as government, business, and international organization leaders who are interested in further collaborating with civil society actors. It includes discussion of the role of religious leaders, faith communities, and faith-based organizations in building civil society. The World Economic Forum partnered with KPMG to produce the report.

Download the Report

The Power and Potential of Southern Think Tanks for the Post-2015 Agenda

Published in The Hewlett Foundation Blog in November 2014.

Work in Progress


The Power and Potential of Southern Think Tanks for the Post-2015 Agenda 

November 14, 2014 — By Sarah Lucas and Rachel Quint

The preliminary findings of the Post-2015 Data Test, as described in Part 1 of this post,  add up to an important action agenda – one with both technical and political ramifications. On the technical side, it is clear that many countries have a long way to go to meet the data needs to measure against the Post-2015 agenda. The missing or weak data inspire an action agenda around a need for increased data coverage, quality, consistency, disaggregation, timeliness, and so on.

On the political side, the lessons across the seven country studies revealed a lot of tricky questions. How can we have common sustainable development goals (SDGs) that are both a rallying cry at the global level, yet meaningful at the country level? If you set and measure against country specific targets to make them more meaningful at home, where is the global accountability? Is there value in having a “global minimum standard” for some goals, if these minimums are long surpassed by the richest countries and out of reach for the poorest? Should we include goals in new and important areas, even if we don’t know how we’ll measure them? Why aren’t ministries of foreign affairs, who are leading negotiations, talking with national statistical offices who manage data? How do you build “demand” for solid data among policy makers and advocates? Who will pay to fill all the data gaps at the country and global level? This is a pretty complicated agenda, being hashed out in abstract through the UN process, and brought vividly to life by the data test country studies.

It’s tempting, as one (rather prominent) speaker at the Data Test event suggested, to keep these technical and political agendas separate. Keep the technical side to the statisticians. Limit their job to telling us which goals are measureable, and gathering data when we need it. Leave the political questions to the negotiators, the high-level representatives of the 193 UN member states. Put differently, and very dramatically, by one participant, “our data cannot be more revolutionary than our societal goals.”

However, the dichotomy of technical versus political misses an important point — these two parts of the agenda are deeply connected.  The reason we have the data we have, and don’t have the data we don’t have, is all about politics. The politics of who decides what gets measured, who funds data collection in developing countries (hint: most often donors), what populations remain unmeasured and therefore officially invisible (hint: poor, minority, or remote communities). None of this is by accident. As Debapriya Bhattacharya of the Centre for Policy Dialogue in Bangladesh put it at the New York event, it is an “embedded social political relationship.” Rather than waiting for our societal goals to get more inclusive before we push our data to be, let’s use the gaps in data to inform how our societal goals need to shift!

To keep this dichotomy at bay, we need to proactively build bridges between the technical and the political sides. Who can do this well? We would argue that policy research centers – think tanks – in the global south are particularly well positioned to do this.

Think Tanks, like those involved in the Data Test and in the Southern Voice on Post-MDG International Development Goals network, naturally inhabit the in-between space between the technical and the political, bridging these worlds with research and policy engagement.

In fact, there are at least 5 bridges that southern think tanks can build to make the Post-2015 agenda more compelling at the global level and more meaningful at the country level.

Bridge #1 — Between using data to measure goals and achieve the goals. So far there has been much more focus on the data needed to measure the progress against the SDGs. But what about the data policy makers need to make decisions, target populations, set priorities and allocate budgets toward achieving the goals?  Think tanks in many countries play a leading role in translating data into information policy makers can actually use to inform decisions.

Bridge #2 — Between what is currently measurable and what must be measured. In the broiling debates about how many goals we should have, it would be too easy to narrow the list of development goals by just taking off the ones that can’t currently be measured. But this would leave us without any of the new and controversial topics like governance, human rights and environment. Rather, negotiators should have the courage to keep in goals that truly matter for development, and commit to finding new ways to measure them. Well-timed research from the domain of think tanks could play an important role in filling this gap.

Bridge #3 — Among government entities in a given country. Almost all the Data Test scholars lamented the poor communication among ministries of foreign affairs, line ministries, and national statistical offices. This creates challenges for setting goals that are meaningful and measurable at the country level, and will wreak havoc on any efforts to actually implement the goals. Think tanks have the power to help here too, simply by convening. Having spent over six years in the U.S. government, one of us can vouch for how different agency officials scramble to get on the same page if they have to appear together on a panel. This may seem like a blunt instrument, but it works!

Bridge #4 — Between the national and global. The bridge between a mobilizing global Post-2015 agenda and targets that are tailored enough to be meaningful at the country level will be hard to build, particularly in the abstract. It will be critical to have people and organizations – beyond official government negotiators – shuttling between the national and global priorities.  Southern Voice provides a great platform for country-level think tanks to bring country-level priorities to the global stage, and to bring global-level accountability to national discussions about the Post-2015 agenda.

Bridge #5 — Between civil society and governments. Who will hold national government accountable for negotiating positions that reflect citizens’ priorities, and for implementation against the globally-agreed goals? Civil society organizations will play a critical role here. Who will provide the data, research, and analysis, to make civil society’s advocacy stronger, and government decision-making more evidence-based?  You guessed it – policy research centers.

So, for all the statisticians and political negotiators alike, keep Southern Voice and other think tanks on your radar screen. They can be a critical actor in getting to a set of goals that are both ambitious and achievable, both aspirational and (eventually) measurable, and both agenda-setting and implementable!

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