CAPRI progresses towards further SDG monitoring in the Caribbean
On June 30, 2017, the University of the West Indies (Mona) hosted the Regional Conference on Sustainable Development Goals in the Caribbean. The three-day event, which featured Sustainable Development Solutions Network Director and Columbia University Professor Jeffrey Sachs as keynote speaker, provided a platform for the Caribbean Policy Research Institute (CaPRI) to present the findings of a new study which sought to enable the monitoring of the SDG goals in more Caribbean islands.
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a set of 17 aspirational targets set by the United Nations to move forward in tackling the economic, social and environmental challenges which have been obstacles to growth and development around the world. The SDG Index and Dashboard, a tool available online, classifies signatory countries according to their performance in each of the 17 areas of interest. It provides the basis for the SDSN/Bertelsmann Stiftung annual SDG Global Report, which revealed in 2016 that out of 16 Caribbean small island developing states (SIDS), 10 were not featured, due to a lack of available data.
Data collection challenges
These countries, due to limited capacity, face challenges in collecting data in a streamlined and timely manner. Indeed, the initial stages of the project indicated that where data is available (and made public, which is not always the case), it is sometimes outdated, or dispersed across units and ministries.
CaPRI and the Institute for Sustainable Development (ISD) partnered to close data gaps for SDG evaluation and monitoring in Caribbean SIDS. While the goal is to see as many Caribbean countries included on the SDG Dashboard, time and resource constraints required CaPRI to focus on a limited number of countries which could, in a first step, make significant progress towards efficient monitoring of the SDG goals. Within CARICOM, four countries were selected according to data sets already available, response rate, and willingness to accommodate on-the-ground interviews: Antigua & Barbuda, Dominica, St Kitts & Nevis, and St Lucia.
CAPRI Affiliate researcher Dr Natainia Lummen visited the four selected countries to meet with prime ministers, Cabinet ministers, permanent secretaries and heads of statistical units, in order to facilitate access to data held within government agencies and ministries.
Statistical capacity building needed within small island economies
While sufficient data were collected for St Lucia to be included in the dashboard (and, therefore, the next Global Annual Report), the other three countries averaged 73 per cent data coverage - falling short of the required 80 per cent to be eligible for inclusion in the dashboard. While all four countries have made significant strides, through this project, towards monitoring their progress, this experience highlighted the need for statistical capacity building in order for the SDGs to be a success within small island economies. Indeed, the measurement of a country's progress towards the attainment of the SDGs is highly data-driven, intensive in nature, and requires robust systems.
Institute aims for business process management system
To facilitate future data gathering as part of the SDG monitoring process, existing data collection instruments (such as the Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey, or the Survey of Living Conditions) could be modified to gather information relevant to the goals, such as literacy rate or demand for contraception. Additionally, with dispersed data a challenge, the digitisation and centralisation of government data will facilitate an efficient monitoring process. CaPRI and ISD also hope to progress, provided there is adequate funding, towards the development of a business process management system for the SDGs, which will facilitate the automation of the processes involved in data acquisition/ transcription.
This issue of data collection is, however, not limited to the Caribbean, and extends to most SIDS. Lessons learnt within the region have therefore enabled CaPRI to extrapolate recommendations for Pacific SIDS to gather the data they require. For example, it was noted that an SDG point person (in the best cases, supported by a steering committee) within the country was a crucial asset. With a substantial amount of the information needed being technical in nature (relating to, for example, climate change or sustainable nitrogen management), a region-specific technical team is valuable in collecting, analysing and reporting on data, as well as monitoring progress for the more scientific SDG indicators.
The recent Sustainable Development Goals conference also highlighted the need for a Caribbean SDG agenda - an issue which CaPRI had already addressed in 2015, with a policy brief which suggested areas of focus, within the goals, that would best support Caribbean growth. The think tank is therefore hoping to see CARICOM's proposed region-specific variables adopted by the SDSN into a Caribbean Index and Dashboard. Areas of focus would include tourism, disaster vulnerability, climate change and non-communicable diseases.