UN Panel Includes RTI, Better Data as Development Goals

31 May 2013

A high-level panel charged by the United Nations with drafting a post-2015 development agenda has included the better use of data and right to information in its report.

Under Goal 10, “Ensure Good Governance and Effective Institutions,” it proposes the objective: “Guarantee the public’s right to information and access to government data.”

RTI is listed as one of many  “candidates for global minimum standards, including ‘zero’ goals.” The same section includes other good governance goals including: Provide free and universal legal identity, such as birth registrations; Ensure people enjoy freedom of speech, association, peaceful protest and access to independent media and information; Increase public participation in political processes and civic engagement at all levels; and Reduce bribery and corruption and ensure officials can be held accountable.

Create Global Partnership on Development Data

“We also call for a data revolution for sustainable development, with a new international initiative to improve the quality of statistics and information available to people and governments. We should actively take advantage of new technology, crowd sourcing, and improved connectivity to empower people with information on the progress towards the targets,” according to the summary of the report, which is intended to inform the development of new development goals. The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), established by the UN in 2000, will expire in 2015.

A section on information policy says:

The revolution in information technology over the last decade provides an opportunity to strengthen data and statistics for accountability and decision-making purposes. There have been innovative initiatives to use mobile technology and other advances to enable real-time monitoring of development results. But this movement remains largely disconnected from the traditional statistics community at both global and national levels. The post-2015 process needs to bring them together and start now to improve development data.

Data must also enable us to reach the neediest, and find out whether they are receiving essential services. This means that data gathered will need to be disaggregated by gender, geography, income, disability, and other categories, to make sure that no group is being left behind.

Better data and statistics will help governments track progress and make sure their decisions are evidence-based; they can also strengthen accountability. This is not just about governments. International agencies, CSOs and the private sector should be involved. A true data revolution would draw on existing and new sources of data to fully integrate statistics into decision making, promote open access to, and use of, data and ensure increased support for statistical systems.

To support this, the Panel recommends establishing a Global Partnership on Development Data that brings together diverse but interested stakeholders – government statistical offices, international organisations, CSOs, foundations and the private sector.

This partnership would, as a first step, develop a global strategy to fill critical gaps, expand data accessibility, and galvanise international efforts to ensure a baseline for post-2015 targets is in place by January 2016.

Business Reporting Urged

The panel also recommended more reporting by corporations related to sustainable development. The report says:

A further aspect of accountability and information is how governments and businesses account for their impact on sustainable development. Only a few progressive, large businesses try to account for their social and environmental footprint. The Panel proposes that, in future – at latest by 2030 – all large businesses should be reporting on their environmental and social impact – or explain why if they are not doing so.

Similarly, governments should adopt the UN’s System of Environmental-Economic Accounting, along with the Wealth Accounting and the Valuation of Ecosystem Services (WAVES) introduced by the World Bank, with help provided to those who need help to do this. These metrics can then be used to monitor national development strategies and results in a universally consistent way.

This will help sustainable development evolve, because new and better accounting will give governments, and firms clear information on their bottom line, keeping them accountable for their actions, and will give consumers the chance to make informed choices.

For more information, see extensive June 4 post by Gavin Baker in the Center for Effective Government.

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