Measuring post-2015 development performance: the role of national and international data producers
New briefing note highlights pressing need for greater clarity around data sources and methods
Estimates of development indicators must be grounded in political economy analysis according to a new policy brief published today by Oxford Policy Management.
As the international community continues to negotiate the post-2015 development agenda, policymakers are turning their attention to the crucial question of how best to measure progress towards the 17 proposed Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and their 169 accompanying targets. The scale of the task is enormous: experts from national statistical offices first came together in May this year to begin a series of in-depth discussions around the indicators with final agreement around their feasibility not likely to be reached until March – six months after the goals themselves are due to come into force.
OPM’s new briefing note urges these experts to consider not only the indicators but the data sources that will be used to monitor them and, therefore, to track progress towards the SDGs. Experiences from monitoring the previous development goals – the expiring Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) – highlighted the discrepancies between estimates from national statistical offices and those from international agencies such as the UN and the World Bank. The UN Statistical Division, supported by DFID, established its ‘CountryData’ project to try and better understand these differences, why they occur, what they mean and what should be done about them.
The note draws on an evaluation of the CountryData website which presents both national and international estimates for a range of MDG indicators in eleven sample countries. It highlights how the occurrence and size of data discrepancies varies widely between countries and across sectors and how these discrepancies arise mainly from different approaches to, and sources for, data collection – rather than from different definitions of the same indicator or poor data transmission.
Matthew Powell, Senior Consultant at Oxford Policy Management and project lead, said: ‘Analysis of the data and metadata on CountryData shows us that the differences between international and national estimates of the same development indicators are very real and can give widely different policy signals. Importantly, there’s no right or wrong; national statistical offices and international agencies necessarily have different priorities and estimates from both types of data producer are legitimate. We need to recognise these differing priorities and ensure both datasets are presented side by side, with contextual information, so that one source does not undermine the other.’
The note outlines a series of practical recommendations for both national policymakers and international community representatives involved in monitoring progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals. Key amongst these is the idea that international agencies should be recognised as producers of official statistics rather than simply publishers of data produced by national governments. This will help emphasise the distinction between the alternative data sources and promote the agencies’ adherence to internationally-accepted best practice principles of Official Statistics.
Read the full note here