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Following the agreement of the global indicator framework by the UN Statistical Commission, Farooq Ullah FSRA and Dominic White from UK Stakeholders for Sustainable Development (UKSSD) turn their attentions to national reporting. They discuss the work their network is doing with the UK’s Office for National Statistics to ensure the adequate, appropriate and transparent reporting of the UK’s progress in achieving the SDGs

In March, the UN Statistical Commission agreed the global indicators for the Sustainable Development Goals as a practical starting point for monitoring and reporting at the global level. These global indicators are just one element of the follow up and review process, countries will also have to collect data and monitor progress at the national level to ensure they stay on track to meet the goals. 

Indicators, although less attention grabbing than the goals and targets, are the crucial last piece of the puzzle to ensure that the SDGs are translated from simply words on a page to the transformative change that the international community wants to see. 

While the expert group leading the development of global indicators winds down the first phase of its work, efforts to develop a national reporting framework in the UK (and elsewhere) are just getting started. The body leading this work and responsible for reporting the UK’s progress towards the SDGs, is the Office for National Statistics (ONS). UKSSD, together with the ONS, are working to ensure that UK stakeholders from civil society and the private sector have the opportunity to shape the UK’s reporting of progress against the SDGs, and we want to hear from YOU. 

But first, you may need some convincing as to why you should take an interest, so here are a few reasons why we think national reporting on the SDGs is so important. 

Universality matters

The Rio+20 Outcome Document indicates that the goals are intended to be “action-oriented, concise and easy to communicate, limited in number, aspirational, global in nature and universally applicable to all countries, while taking into account different national realities, capacities and levels of development and respecting national policies and priorities.” All of the SDGs are relevant and apply in general terms to all countries, including developed countries. Therefore, the UK must ensure that it does its bit to achieve the SDGs both at home and abroad. 

To ensure political commitment and ambition

By shaping the national indicators, we can influence what countries measure and report on in terms of their progress toward achieving the goals. This, in turn, can influence the policies that countries choose to develop, and act as a spur for the action and progress we want to see.

Without well crafted national reporting frameworks, countries may choose to take the easy road and report on the areas of the SDGs that are easy to achieve or already reached, rather than pushing for more transformative action and change at the domestic and international level. 

Unless things are measured they won’t get priority in the political space, which is why it is crucial to ensure that national indicators and mechanisms encourage the stretch and ambition that is needed to achieve all the SDGs for all people in all countries. 

To facilitate informed decision-making

As the eternal phrase goes, ‘you can’t manage what you don’t measure’. If countries don’t measure the right things they won’t know if their policies are having any effect, making it harder to achieve the goals.  

National monitoring will help countries to track progress towards the SDGs, identify areas that are lagging behind and make course corrections as required. The data gathered will enable countries to make informed decisions about the policies and programmes needed to achieve the SDGs at a domestic level. 

To guarantee transparency and accountability

In September last year, world leaders stood on the international stage and made a commitment to all global citizens to strive towards a better world for all its inhabitants. This is an incredible commitment, and we have the right and the responsibility to hold them accountable to their word. But without the tools to do this it will be a challenge. 

Clear and timely facts, figures and reporting on the actions and progress being made at the domestic level by all countries will enable civil society, business and individual citizens to challenge policy makers where progress is deemed to be insufficient, as well as celebrate successes and share lessons from those leading the way. 

What can you do?

Have your say! At UKSSD we think it is critical that the diverse voices and expertise of non-public sector actors are part of the formulation of a national reporting for the SDGs, to ensure that the UK measures the right things and that domestic progress towards the SDGs is understood. We are working to gather inputs from private sector and civil society actors on how the UK should measure progress towards the SDGs. 

We are running an evidence gathering exercise and are keen to receive the fullest response possible from UK-based stakeholders. You can help us by providing your inputs to the call for evidence by Friday 27th May, and by sharing the questionnaire with your contacts and networks. 

We are in the rare position where national reporting frameworks are still in development. You have the opportunity to influence them and ultimately the UK’s action on the SDGs. Don’t miss out! 

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