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Participatory Monitoring of Sustainable Development Goals: Asking those in need

Participatory monitoring is one way of generating the data needed to close the information gaps and achieve the evidence base needed for robust implementation of the SDGs

Devdiscourse News Desk 02 Jul 2018, 08:24 PM

Disparity and division prevail and this seldom requires a proof. In September 2015, the United Nations in coordination with other countries has set up seventeen Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The agenda is to ensure a society with all sorts of basic requirements addressed with the principle of ‘leaving no one behind’. Environment protection to Gender equality all these have to be endeavored under the ambit of UN’s 2030 agenda.

The Agenda 2030 stipulates an open, inclusive, participatory, transparent follow-up and review process. Countries are encouraged to conduct regular and inclusive reviews of progress at the national and sub-national levels. However, there are challenges for adequately monitoring the progress towards achievements of SDGs.

As underscored by the Open Working Group on the SDGs (OWG) in July 2014, the focus of reporting on the SDGs must be at the national level. Each country will choose the indicators that are best suited to track its own progress towards sustainable development. Success will require international coordination and collaboration, which in turn requires accountability and monitoring at a global level.

In addition, regional monitoring and accountability will play a critical role in fostering regional collaboration and coherence in strategies to pursue the SDGs. A fourth and critical level of monitoring is to occur in each thematic or epistemic community.

Stefano D’Errico from International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) said that there is a risk that by focusing solely on the SDG indicators, governments could waste resources on data for data’s sake, rather than identifying local priorities. Understanding of local priorities requires a simple but well-structured bottom-up approach to track the progress towards SDGs by taking into account the views of the people involved. Taking a bottom-up approach will be essential to successfully identify and deliver on priorities.

Participatory monitoring is one way of generating the data needed to close the information gaps and achieve the evidence base needed for robust implementation of the SDGs. For example, with an annual reduction in the recorded number of deaths and injuries from road traffic accidents by the authorities, a flow of feedback from the road users indicating gradual improvements in quality of and safety on roads may be used as a qualitative validation of the data recorded by the authorities on the particular indicator. In this sense, the data/information pouring in from the participatory monitoring will complement, and not intended to substitute, the monitoring based on the data compiled by the authorities at national, regional and global level. 

Simultaneously, the feedback pouring in from communities on outcomes of the efforts to achieve SDGs may be useful to re-orient the efforts towards more efficiency and target orientation.

The use of IT tools is changing the face of participatory monitoring paradigm by enabling the citizens to provide and the government agencies to receive the feedback on developmental interventions and availability as well as the quality of basic services such as roads, water, and sanitation, public health facilities, etc. The examples of the localized use of IT tools for the participatory monitoring and citizens’ feedback on the availability and quality of services are numerous. The interesting proposition is to scale up such tools at the global level for participatory monitoring of SDGs as well as providing such tools to the agencies such as community organizations, local government institutions, national governments, multilateral and bilateral development partners and research institutions who are working for Agenda 2030.

The concept of participatory Monitoring requires to heed. And, the top-down approach of analyzing and reporting on development must be kept in resonance with a bottom-up approach to gather the feedback from end users, the stakeholders who are the target beneficiaries of developmental interventions.

Devdiscourse has launched a research aimed at participatory monitoring of SDGs. The research has been structured around two activity streams – first, generating the ideas and proof of concepts to develop and upgrade IT tools for participatory monitoring of SDGs worldwide; second, actually using the developed tools for generation of data/information for participatory monitoring which will complement the monitoring of indicators based on recorded non-participatory data sets.

The web and android based tool (available at Google Play Store) being used for this research is a module of the software, IDEA-M&E, designed and developed by VisionRI for the monitoring and evaluation of developmental interventions. The execution modality of the research is generating crowd-sourced data through a well-designed program of voluntary participation named ‘League of SDGs Samurai’.

The online platform for the research project displays data pouring in for the research on an interactive map as ‘Live Monitoring’. With the help of maps, analytics, and other tools one can witness the continuous monitoring on her screen in real time. 

Institutions interested to get the raw data feed, basic analytics as well as communicate with volunteers providing data for the geographical areas of their interest are invited for institutional for partnership under a simple arrangement called ‘Adopt the Research’. Under this arrangement, the institutions are expected to duly declare and publicise that it has adopted this research to catalyze the process of crowd-sourced data generation. In return, the institutions will be provided access to dashboard displaying the crowd-sourced data from the geographical area of their interest as well platform for communicating with volunteers providing the data.

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