Natural Language Processing to align national plans in Serbia with Global Goals

BY Karla Robin Hershey, Dennis Schleppi, Vuk Batanović | October 17, 2018

The Republic of Serbia is on a mission to map the work that is underway to implement the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). As a first step, the UN Country Team in Serbia reviewed the compliance of the country’s policy framework with the 169 targets and 230 indicators of the 17 SDGs and assessed the country’s readiness to proceed with their implementation. The fact that Serbia is a candidate country for the accession to the EU, the Republic of Serbia called for a special review of the compliance and complementarities between 35 EU accession negotiation chapters that are implemented through a series of ongoing reform processes and linkages to Agenda 2030. We conducted a real time comprehensive analysis in late 2017 to early 2018 using UNDP’s developed methodology called RIA – Rapid Integrated Assessment (RIA). The objective of the assessment tool is to support countries in mainstreaming the SDGs into national and subnational planning, by helping assess their readiness for SDG implementation. We engaged a dozen of national experts who successfully reviewed over 100 of national policy documents, including those setting the targets relevant for the EU accession. Most of the documents were in Serbian, with a few available in English. The exercise outlined those areas that are well covered with the existing policy instruments, identifies areas where more attention is needed by policy makers, detects bottlenecks and accelerators and reviews institutional capacities in place to implement the SDGs. Scaling up and gaining efficiency with artificial intelligence We know it is important work, so we were on the lookout for innovative ways to make this process and other similar policy mapping exercises easier and more efficient. In January 2018, we heard about a pilot initiative between UNDP and IBM research which demonstrated that an artificial intelligence (AI) approach could be time saving and provide accurate mapping information. Using AI based on natural language processing (NLP) techniques could be successful in automating the rapid integrated assessment process that provides a baseline to measure future progress. The assessment, which looks at defining a roadmap for a country to implement the SDGs, was our starting point. They piloted the assessment in five countries where policy documents were available in English. We got satisfactory results from the pilot. We teamed up with local policy experts from the SeConS Development Initiative Group, an independent organization which aims at contributing to the long-term socio-economic development and improving the living conditions of individuals and social groups in Serbia and the region. Our team at the UN also met with natural language processing experts from the School of Electrical Engineering at the University of Belgrade to take this initial pilot to the next level – and research how the assessments could be translated from English into another language, thus for the first time facilitating an automated mapping of policy documents in Serbian. The development of the methodology and testing of the automated policy mapping exercise in Serbia is being implemented between August and November 2018. Talking to a computer in Serbian is not as easy as Siri makes it look Thanks to an abundance of language tools, resources, and algorithmic NLP models available in English, the initial pilot allowed for an automation in countries where English is the predominant language for official documents. In the attempt to translate the automated text processing to Serbian, our team noticed several linguistic traits that make this work particularly challenging: Unlike English, Serbian changes in form according to grammatical functions such as tense, mood, number and gender. Serbian is a fully digraph language, meaning that it can be written using two different alphabets (Serbian Latin and Serbian Cyrillic script). Latin characters often appear in Cyrillic texts, especially where foreign terms (usually from one of the European languages) are presented verbatim. Although Serbian grammar often uses the same default Subject-Verb-Object word order as English, the very nature of the language makes word ordering more flexible. In addition to the language-related challenges mentioned above, we also identified the following specific context related advantages: The automated policy mapping will focus on specific sectors – social protection, health, education. In this area we have adequate data both in quality and in quantity. Given the specific focus of the automated analysis, we will be able not only to compare automated versus manual policy mapping results, but also to get a more specific idea of the data gaps in the social, health and education sectors, which is very important for localizing Agenda 2030 in Serbia. By closing sectoral data gaps for nationalization process for the global goals, the pilot project in Serbia will also create a baseline to support the country’s SDG reporting obligations. This is particularly relevant given that Serbia will provide its first voluntary national review at the High-Level Political Forum in New York in 2019 on its SDG progress to date. The voluntary national reviews aim to facilitate the sharing of experiences, including successes, challenges and lessons learned, with a view to accelerating the implementation of the 2030 Agenda. These reviews also seek to strengthen policies and institutions of governments and to mobilize multi-stakeholder support and partnerships for the implementation of the SDGs. The Republic of Serbia will present the results produced by the automated mapping on achievements in the area of reducing inequalities in the country. Getting started, getting technical Our first step was to choose a sample of the 17 SDGs to be analyzed, limiting the dataset. Taking into consideration the quality and format of data available, and keeping in mind that next year’s voluntary national review discussion will focus on inequality, the team selected five SDGs that are clustered under the heading People, including: SDG 1: No Poverty: end poverty in all its forms everywhere SDG 2: Zero Hunger SDG 3: Good Health and Well Being: ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages SDG 4: Quality Education SDG 5: Gender Equality: achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls. The second step was to consolidate the document database previously used in the manual assessment process to ensure that documents were available in a machine-readable format. This presented our team with a significant technical problem, since most documents were available in PDF format, which is not great for precise text extraction. Initial tests indicate that a combination of Adobe Acrobat Pro’s text extraction mechanism and a replacement procedure through which particularly problematic PDF files would be replaced with an easier to read alternative (e.g. Word files) could prove to be successful in tackling this problem. The months ahead We expect a number of technical innovations to surface from the process of adapting the proposed AI approach to texts in Serbian. The complexity of texts in Serbian will be decreased through the use of stemmers, tools that reduce each word to its stem (a stem is similar to a word’s root form). Such tools have been found to increase natural language processing model performance on several semantic tasks in Serbian, so there is good reason to believe these tools may be effective with the similar, albeit more complex, rapid integrated assessment exercise. Our initial efforts show that flexible word ordering is not likely to be a major issue in terms of transferring the (English-centric) automated pilot exercise to Serbian, since the AI method focuses on sentence or paragraph-level semantics, where the exact word ordering becomes less important. Finally, we will work around the lack of available data from the manually-conducted rapid integrated assessment in Serbian by setting up a simulation, dividing the available Serbian document collection into two groups: a training set and test set. By conducting a manual rapid integrated assessment for the training set, a foundation will be established for the automated assessment for the test set in Serbian. After these technical and algorithmic adaptations have been completed, the School of Electrical Engineering at the University of Belgrade and SeConS will measure the effectiveness of the AI method using the data from the manual exercise conducted in Serbia earlier this year and will submit a report showing the comparison between the two report, more importantly we be looking to see if the accuracy of the AI driven report the same or superior to the manually produced rapid integrated assessment report.   Despite all of the linguistic and technical challenges, this project could prove to be beneficial for data collection and analysis processes not only in Serbia, but also for neighboring countries, due to close linguistic ties within the sub-region. We will discuss the results of this pilot exercise extensively with data holders, producers and users, including the Government and civil society partners, to obtain their valuable input to inform the way forward. The UN Country Team will use the additional feedback to see if and how this automated policy data search could be used to save time and improve the accuracy of data analysis. Lessons learned will be applied to other activities in Serbia aimed at supporting Government efforts toward fulfilling their priorities towards Agenda 2030 in Serbia. The questions that we hope to answer  in the follow up consultations include: Can we use automated policy mapping for other processes beyond the initial SDG data mapping? How can we use it to map the progress towards SDG achievement and its linkages to the EU Acquis? Whatever the answers to these questions may be, we will keep you updated. Watch this space and follow our progress on social media.     Photo by: Nathaniel Shuman

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Innovation scaling: It’s not replication. It’s seeing in 3D

BY Gina Lucarelli | September 12, 2018

My brother is a mathematician and on family vacations, he talks about data in multi-dimensions. (Commence eyes-glazing over). But as the family genius, he’s probably on to something. Lately, in my own world where I try to scale innovation in the UN to advance sustainable development, I am also thinking in 3D, or, if properly caffeinated,  multi-dimensionally. As new methods, instruments, actors, mutants and data are starting to transform how the UN advances sustainable development, the engaged manager asks: when and how will this scale?  To scale, we need to know what we are aiming for.  This blog explores the idea that innovation scaling is more about connecting experiments than the pursuit of homogeneous replications. Moving on from industrial models of scaling innovation In the social sector, the scaling question makes us nervous because the image of scaling is often a one dimensional, industrial one: let’s replicate the use of this technology, tool or method in a different place and that means we’ve scaled. This gives us social development people pause not only because we can’t ever fully replicate [anything] across multiple moving  elements across economic, social and culture. Even if we could replicate, it would dooms us to measuring scaling by counting the repeated application of one innovation in many places.   Thankfully, people like Gord Tulloch have given us a thoughtful scaling series that questions the idea that scaling social innovation is about replicating single big ideas many times over. [Hint: he says scaling innovation in the public sector is less about copy-pasting big ideas and more about legitimizing and cultivating many “small” solutions and focusing on transforming cultures.]  Apolitical’s spotlight series on scaling social impact includes a related insightful conclusion: when looking at Bangladesh’s Graduation Approach as one of the few proven ways out of poverty, they suggest that while the personalized solutions work best, they might be replicable, but too bespoke to scale. So if scaling ≠ only replication, how do we strategize for scale? I’ve got a proposal:  what if we frame the innovation scaling question more about doing deep than broad? The scaling question becomes: How will we move from distinct prototypes managed by different teams at the frontier of our work to a coherent, connected use of emergent  experiments in programme operations? Scaling also means moving from fringe to core Scaling innovation in a large organization like the UN has a glorious serendipity to it. Did you hear that we are looking into impact bonds in Armenia? What about the food security predictor in Indonesia? Nice collective intelligence approach in Lesotho. Blockchain is being used for cash transfers in Pakistan and Jordan. Check out the foresight in Mauritius. UNICEF is using Machine learning to track rights enshrined in constitutions. UNHCR is using it to predict migration in Somalia. UNDP is testing out social impact bonds for road safety in Montenegro. These organic innovations are beautiful and varied and keep us learning, but we as a UN system are not yet scaling in 3D. These days, I’ve been talking to people (my brother’s eyes glaze over at this point) about how to see various methods of innovations not as distinct categories of experiments, but rather as connected elements of an emergent way of doing development. Towards a connected kind of 3D.  Yes innovation is more of an evolving set of disruptions than a fixed taxonomy of new methods, but if we narrow our scope for a moment to the subset of innovations which have passed the proof of concept stage, can we start thinking seriously about how they connect? [As an important side note, thinking in terms of taxonomies of innovations is not a panacea. Check out @gquagiotto’s slides for a more thorough story on how classification is trouble for public sector innovation because it means we limit our vision and don’t see unexpected futures where they are already among us.] Projectizing innovation without keeping an eye on the links among the new stuff won’t get us far, and might even be counter-productive.  Instead, what would it be like if innovations were deployed in an integrated way? A bit like Armenia’s SDG innovation lab where behavioral insights, innovative finance, crowd-sourced solutions and predictive analytics [among others] are seen as a package deal.  I am looking for collaborators to learn more about how are all these methods and tools related. Do they help or hinder each other? Are there lessons that can be learned from one area and applied to others? Should some new tech and methods not be combined with others? 9 elements of next practices in development work A few of us UN experimenters came together in Beirut in July to pool what we know on this.  We had a pretty awesome team of mentors and UN innovators from 22 countries. We framed our reflections around the 9 elements of innovation which I see as approaching critical mass in the field. This is by no means exhaustive, but it’s a start to moving these methods from fringe tests led by various teams to core, connected operations. Here are the “nine elements of next practice UN” we are working with: Tapping into ethnography, citizen science and amped up participation for collective intelligence to increase the accuracy, creativity, responsiveness and accountability of investments for sustainable development. Using art, data, technology, science fiction and participatory foresight methods to overcome short-termism and make sustainable futures tangible. Complementing household survey methods with real time data and predictive analytics to see emerging risks and opportunities and design programmes and policies based on preparedness and prevention. Building on the utility of “superman dashboards”  for decision makers to helping real people use their own data for empowerment, entrepreneurship and accountability. Leveraging finance beyond ODA and public budgets by finding ways to attract private capital to sustainable development. Evolving the way we do things and even what services we offer by managing operations through new technologies Applying psychology and neuroscience for behavioral insights to question assumptions, design better campaigns and programmes and to generate evidence of impact when it comes to people’s behavior. Carving out space for science and technology partnerships within the UN’s sustainable development work Improving how we support our national partners in managing privacy and ethical risks Moving from “that’s cool” to “aha it’s all connected” We need to start thinking of these 9 elements as connected. It might be that they reinforce each other - whereby focusing on data empowerment gives meaning, context and legitimacy to the use of big data to understand behaviors and online activity. Or that they undermine each other - in the way that citizen science can undermine innovative finance pay-outs, or behavioral insights are helping companies get around privacy regulations. Looking for the practical connections, here’s what we’ve got so far: Collective intelligence methods that listen to people organically can help determine whether your behavioral campaigns are resonating.  Because people’s intell is often more granular than statistics, they could also be used to test whether new forms of finance are making an impact on health, education and other development issues. Small scale and/or internal experiments in the UN to manage operations with new technology help us know what the next generation privacy and ethics risks are. Experiments in gray zones can then inform future-oriented regulatory frameworks. Keeping a focus on helping people use data for empowerment is a good northstar when using new data and predictive analytics to ensure that cultivating realtime sources of data isn’t deepening the digital or data privacy divide. Using foresight methods or predictive analytics can point to signals of where to invest with innovative finance instruments [Follow Ramya from IFRC innovations for more on this. Hence some early connections form a budding conspiracy theory! If you are thinking multi-dimensionally too, or using a few of these methods and see where this line of thinking can be improved, help me draw more lines on the innovation conspiracy board! [Or tell me why this is the wrong tree to be barking towards… That’s always helpful too.]   We’re working on a playbook to codify what we know so far in terms of principles and methods for each of these 9 elements. Stay tuned for that... and please do get in touch to throw your own knowledge in!

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Promise to data: What the SDGs mean for persons with disability in China

BY Marielza Oliveira, Elin Bergman | August 29, 2018

China has strong and capable statistical systems, no surprises there. After all, China is known for its ambitious Five-Year Plans, which have shifted focus from economic growth to policy planning, environmental protection, and social programmes for its population of 1.4 billion. What's different and unique about its 13th Five-Year Plan is that it's very much aligned with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Even so, China faces a daunting challenge to implement Agenda 2030. For starters, it only has official data for less than 30 percent of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) indicators, and much less when considering data that covers vulnerable groups, such as persons with disabilities. With more than 85 million, China has the largest population with disabilities in the world. The good news is that China keeps a record of people with disability, so the official data sources are up-to-date. To support the Chinese government’s efforts to improve monitoring of the SDGs addressing people with disabilities, we at UNFPA, UNESCO, UNRCO, UN Women and WHO came together to test innovative approaches to collect focused and disaggregated data. Starting in Qinghai We selected the Qinghai Province in Northwest China as the pilot location to test new ways of collecting data. In Qinghai, the estimated number of persons with disability is five percent of the total population, of which about 70 percent live in rural areas. There are about 150,000 people registered in Qinghai Disabled Persons’ Federation, the local chapter of China Disabled Persons’ Federation. Therefore, it was important for us to look at their administrative data, which are key for crosslinking data from various sectors, including public services data. To demonstrate how data collection in underdeveloped regions can be operationalized in a smart way, we collected, analyzed and crosslinked all the administrative data of people with a disability ID with the following big data sources: Data from the national survey of basic services and needs for people with disabilities which is developed and updated by China Disabled Persons’ Federation, the National Bureau of Statistics and local Disabled Persons’ Federations; Data from the public services and various sectors including health, education, employment, social security, poverty alleviation and community services. This type of data is gathered from crosslinking disability ID data with public services data. Data from internet-based platforms. It's possible to use big data to integrate and crosslink all data from the disability ID system, administrative data of disability services from China Disabled Persons’ Federation and the administrative data of public services. By expanding the existing official data with information from other sources, China has the potential to not only monitor the additional SDG indicators, but it can also compile additional disaggregated views of SDG progress to monitor specific groups and locations in need of support while strengthening “real-time” monitoring and analytics. During this process, we engaged the vulnerable groups in the analysis and interpretation of data. For us, knowing what people living with disabilities think and need is key. We carefully examined their views to highlight the SDGs indicators that could directly benefit their well-being. The hindrances of data collection We experienced a few setbacks throughout the process, but, we adopted coping mechanisms to address the issue of data collection and analysis: Quality control of data. The disability data available from different sectors uses very different standards and follows different collection approaches. Moving forward, we propose to check and purify the data using standard disability datasets and a data crosslink approach. We also optimized the timeliness and the mechanisms to update the data. Sharing data among sectors. The key index of disability and people with disabilities was determined using the disability ID. The data across sectors was crosslinked with key index such as disability ID and others. What we discovered The administrative data platform of people with disability was recently updated with the results from the annual survey of unmet needs and services for people with disabilities nationwide. This platform provides timely data for monitoring SDGs that address people with disabilities. Other sectors have developed big data platforms using citizens’ ID. To continue enhancing the administrative data records, it's important to collaborate with other stakeholders, such as health care and educational departments to extend the existing data sources. Household surveys can also be used to fill in the gaps of official disability statistics. We shared our discoveries with an expert panel, which included representatives from the Chinese government, the National Bureau of Statistics, China Disabled Persons' Federation and its Qinghai branch, Qinghai Department of Commerce, Institute of Rehabilitation Information/WHO Family International Classifications Collaborating Center China, China Disability Data Research Institute, Soochow University, Nanjing Special Education Teachers College, UN agencies, as well as Chinese IT giants What's next The methodology implemented in Qinghai province can easily be extended to other vulnerable groups since they also face similar challenges. Stakeholders can also adopt similar tactics to develop specific SDG indicators, data collection and analysis to evaluate their progress. As for next steps, the UN country team will continue to research protocols and methods to monitor disability-inclusive SDGs. We will also develop a knowledge platform in Chinese to promote capacity building for the implementation of Agenda 2030 and conduct an international comparative study of technical approaches of data collection and analysis. Data and internet-based surveys will also be developed to learn more about the needs of people with disabilities and improve services for them, while at the same time using those statistics to make sure that we leave no one behind. What methods are you disaggregate the SDGs to ensure data for action with people living with disabilities? If you have some tips, do tell! Photography: Jonathan Kos-Read. License by Creative Commons

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Creating an impact investment culture in Armenia: Our way of doing it

BY Dmitry Mariyasin, Vahagn Voskanyan | August 22, 2018

According to some estimates, implementing the SDGs will cost a whopping 172.5 USD trillion by 2030, while current aid flows to developing countries sit at 350 USD billion annually. You might want to read the previous sentence again or let us summarize it for you: we have 350 USD billion per year, but we need around 172 USD trillion annually to reach the Sustainable Development Goals. Tricky, no? I guess the quick answer is yes, it is tricky. However, we believe that this gap can be partly filled by something called impact investing. This is, in short, investments made into companies, organizations, and funds with the intention to generate social or environmental impact alongside a financial return. At the UN in Armenia, we are testing impact investing and other new funding mechanisms to explore how they can be best used in middle-income countries to generate financing for the SDGs. Our UN team, led by UNDP Armenia, is experimenting around a set of initiatives that are already turning to be great learning experiences that we are proud to share in this blog. Our impact venture accelerator To support initiatives that put social or environmental issues at the core of their businesses, we created ImpactAIM: an impact venture accelerator. In short, ImpactAIM is a programme to support sustainable companies to scale up their impact. One of the criteria for ventures to be part of this initiative is that their business must reflect the mission and programme priorities of the United Nations in Armenia. With this exciting idea in mind, last year we launched a call for proposals for companies to apply. We partnered with Catalyst Foundation and Impact Hub Yerevan, and received 96 applications from 25 countries! We were happily surprised with this great response and we moved quickly to select our candidates. After a detailed process which included almost 30 interviews, we selected seven ventures to be part of the programme: Dasaran, Armacad, Armath, WiCastr, Smart Kindergarten, Sylex and IoTLab. These companies are currently enrolled in an intensive program which combines study sessions based on cutting-edge methodologies and hands-on experience in areas that are crucial for the start-up/business development world. The selected ventures also receive intensive mentorship to help them strengthen their market base and increase their investment absorption capacity. We are also trying to leverage the existing expertise of different UN agencies into the programme. This is the case of UNICEF, currently mentoring ventures working on education issues, but we are working to better integrate the expertise of agencies across the UN system. At the end of the programme, we will introduce the ventures to a network of impact venture capitals and angel investors to broke potential funding opportunities. Impact Investment Catalyzing Facility With the launch of the impact venture accelerator in December 2017, we realized that there is much more that we can do to support the expansion of impact ventures. In order to do that, and to stimulate the flow of private funds towards SDG targets, we are piloting an impact investment facility which will have two main elements: To support the establishment of impact funds through partnerships with fund managers to attract financing into impact ventures. To introduce impact-focused financial tools in Armenia. For example, long term loans, loans with subsidized interest rates and credit guarantees, that will encourage banking capital to fund impact ventures that target SDGs. What this means is that UNDP is going to introduce available impact and SDG targeting funding opportunities to engage external financial facilities for further disbursements to impact-focused clients. Considering that this type of funding usually includes a grant component and technical assistance, banks will be incentivized to add impact and SDG targeting into existing structures. Looking into social impact bonds Here in Armenia we are also developing social impact bonds to respond to key SDG bottlenecks. A social impact bond is a multi-party agreement based on the idea of “pay for success”. The Government identifies a social problem that it has a) not been efficient in solving or b) lacking the necessary resources to solve it.  The service providers who could efficiently solve the social problem are then identified, along with investors who are willing to pay the service providers upfront. The Government only pays the investors back when the pre-defined success indicators are reached or, in other words, pays only for success. Currently we are e working on the design of two social impact bonds: Improving quality of agricultural education in cooperation with FAO Armenia. Improving learning outcomes of the IT sector in cooperation with UNICEF Armenia. Our short but strategic roadshow During the last few months we have been spreading the word about impact investment. We participated in the Social Good Summit in Geneva and the Social Capital Markets (SOCAP2017) in San Francisco, where we met impact investors and made a strong pitch for partnerships with the private sector to achieve the SDGs. e now have a clear sense of what impact investors and key stakeholders outside the UN need and expect.  We have also received  feedback from key players in the industry and, together with INSEAD, organized Impact Investment for Development Summit in Yerevan in March 2017, which was the first time a dialogue on the role of impact investment took place in Armenia. Landing impact investments to the day-to-day reality Moving forward, we are looking into setting a legal framework that will allow the UN, private sector and other partners to make investments to support ventures promoting sustainable development. The fancy word for it is “impact investment platform”. The Impact Bonds, the Accelerator and the Catalyzing Facility are all specific and practical way to facilitate these investments, and help solve development challenges on the ground in Armenia and beyond. Working with the Armenian Government The Office of the Prime Minister in Armenia is eager to help accelerate SDGs. Our goal is to support Government to figure out ways of bringing academia and  government together to  engage citizens around the SDGs. We also hope to engage social entrepreneurs to  identify funding. Since its inception four years ago, the lab continues to evolve, from a social venture incubator to an accelerator. The accelerator takes the profitable business and scales globally. We also set up, together with the Government of Armenia, the National SDG Innovation Lab to ensure that both public and private partners work in a coherent way. The Lab brings together contributors from the public and private sectors to experiment and create to unlock Armenia’s development potential. For each new project that we work on, including this one pertaining to impact investments, we always ask ourselves three questions: Are we building a user (citizen)-driven intervention? Are we helping advance innovative approaches that help leapfrog to SDG achievement? Are we using the potential of private initiative and capital to achieve our objectives? Will this work? Stay posted  and follow us on Medium to find out!

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What Can Ship Identification Systems Tell Us About Development Policy?

BY Pulse Lab Jakarta | August 9, 2018

Maritime transportation is the life force of the world’s economy. Between 1990 and 2013 worldwide maritime trade more than doubled, with total volumes in 2013 reaching nearly 9.6 billion tons. The UN Country Team in Indonesia and Universitas Gadjah Mada have teamed up to analyze port network evolution across Indonesia. The dataset is global so if a similar analysis is of interest to other UN Country Teams please get in touch. Automatic Identification System (AIS) Data The global marine vessel identification system, called AIS, is an automatic tracking system used on ships and by vessel traffic services to improve safety at sea. The International Maritime Organization requires AIS to be fitted aboard international voyaging ships with 300 or more gross tonnage, and all passenger ships regardless of size. Alongside its practical application to maritime safety, AIS is useful for research on a variety of topics, from studying rescue patterns of migrants and refugees to understanding risk factors to marine ecosystems from shipping. Based on a request from the Ministry of Development Planning in Indonesia and an initial analysis of port network connectivity using AIS data, conducted by a team of inter-disciplinary researchers at a Research Dive hosted by UN Global Pulse Lab Jakarta, we plan to conduct further analysis using the dataset with a view to informing maritime development policy. Indonesia Port Network Analysis As an archipelagic state, the Government of Indonesia envisions a greater role for the country as a global maritime axis and is working to achieve this through several maritime development plans, including Tol Laut. To understand better the opportunities and challenges connected to this ambition, over the coming months we will: Model and analyze the maritime network based on AIS data; Create summary statistics of ports in Indonesia, including the number of ships processed by ports, average waiting times at ports and shipping times between ports; and Predict how the maritime network in Indonesia will evolve given specific scenarios, including with and without Tol Laut. Beyond this, we have a few ideas to look at network resilience to storms and cyber attacks (with MIT) and risk factors to marine ecosystems from shipping. If any of the above is of interest to other UN Country Teams, please get in touch as the AIS dataset is global so the analysis can be expanded relatively easily.

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Powering up data collection systems in Palestine

BY Subhra Bhattacharjee | July 11, 2018

In 2016 we prepared a Common Country Analysis (CCA) for Palestine. A CCA is UN speak for a detailed analysis of a country in preparation for a multi-year action plan of the UN. It identifies key development challenges and where the UN needs to focus its development investments. For our analysis this time, we decided to look at people. In hindsight it appears to be the obvious thing to do, but we were not the first to think of this. The Nepal UN Country Team did it before us. For our CCA we asked ourselves two questions: Who are the most vulnerable groups in Palestine? What are the structural drivers of their vulnerability? We thought if we could identify the most vulnerable groups and analyze the structural drivers of their chronic vulnerability, we will have a good sense of what it will take to ensure that our sustainable development investments leave no one behind. The first call for ideas brought out 61 proposed groups, each backed by passionate arguments as to why they are the most vulnerable. We merged some groups, reduced duplications, clarified categories, tinkered with definitions, and after extensive discussions, honed our focus to 20 vulnerable groups. This gave us a window to the factors that keep some groups in Palestine systematically at a disadvantage. Next, we did a deep-dive to understand why development was leaving some groups behind. For some groups, including out-of-school children and children in the labour market, the lack of adequate data makes it difficult for government to formulate specific policies and programmes for these groups. Alternative data collection methods for groups that are small compared to the population After a comprehensive exercise to account for the data, especially looking at Sustainable Development Goals indicators, we noted that relevant data on smaller groups couldn’t be collected only through existing surveys. The Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS) uses representative samples for each geographical area of the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt), and even though it produces high quality data consistent with international standards, there is a lack of up-to-date and periodic disaggregated data on several smaller groups. Take for example, the fishermen of Gaza. There are some 4,000 registered fishermen in Gaza, accounting for 0.2 percent of Gaza’s population of two million. If PCBS samples 1,000 people from Gaza for one of its quarterly labour force surveys, it will have at most two fishermen in its sample. We cannot draw any reliable conclusions about the socio-economic conditions of fishermen in Gaza from a sample of two people. And if PCBS included more fishermen in their sample, the percentage of fishermen in the sample will be larger than the percentage of fishermen in Gaza’s population. To create a large enough sub-sample for fisherfolk, PCBS will need to do a new level of sub-sampling by profession or sector on top of the two layers it is already subsampling. This would significantly increase its cost of surveys. Are you still tracking with us? Keep reading.   Flash surveys to the rescue So, for the smaller groups, we at the UN looked for an approach to gather data that would not cost too much, would not create too much additional work and most importantly, that is able to produce good quality data. The first thing we tried is a series of flash surveys – with small samples, and short questionnaires. These flash surveys had several benefits over the more traditional surveys with bigger samples and longer questionnaires: They allowed us to test our systems for collecting primary data and iterate quickly and cheaply if necessary to work out the flaws in the system. They enabled our enumerators to get hands-on training at a relatively low cost to us. They are also particularly suitable for understanding the smaller groups that don’t get adequately represented in the bigger surveys. We chose four vulnerable groups: adolescent girls, children in labour, the elderly and persons with disabilities as pilot cases. UNFPA took the lead in this. They engaged the Sharek Youth Forum, a non-profit, and one of UNFPA’s implementing partners to conduct the surveys. OHCHR, FAO, UNRWA, helped with the quality control. 37 university students (28 from the West Bank and 9 from Gaza) were recruited from Sharek’s network and trained as enumerators by an expert. The survey questionnaires in Arabic were uploaded on KoBoToolbox, a free and open source suite of tools for collecting data. Many of the young enumerators owned smartphones so they downloaded the app on their phones and entered the data for each person they surveyed into their smartphones. Sharek provided the others with tablets. A village, a town and a refugee camp were selected in each governorate. Sharek’s enumerators visited schools to survey adolescent girls, reached out to the elderly in their local communities, and found persons with disabilities through support groups. ILO provided information on the areas with high concentration of child labour. The enumerators collected the data over a period of two weeks, and, in some cases, they used paper forms to collect the data and documented problems as they arose. The enumerators collected data on a small number of key demographic variables for each group. For the data on the four groups produced by Viz for Social Good, click here, here, here, and here. Before even looking at the data, we noted a few things. First, we now have 37 trained enumerators who can be deployed again at short notice to conduct other flash surveys. The investment in training and the hands-on experience they got has started the process of creating systems to collect data on vulnerable groups. Second, we need to finesse our sample selection if we want to use the surveys to provide baseline indicators and monitor progress. Third, we need to think through how to combine the data from smartphones and paper surveys. Fourth, we need to figure out how to identify our target groups based on more rigorous definitions. For instance, not all work done by children should be classified as child labour. According to ILO, child labour refers to work that “deprives children of their childhood, their potential and their dignity, and that is harmful to physical and mental development”. Fifth, flash surveys need more quality control if they are to serve the same purpose as traditional surveys. This is because with smaller samples of flash surveys, the choice of location will need extra attention to ensure that the sample is indeed representative. This year, we will work through these wrinkles. Engaging people in their own data analysis In data circles, we often hear the idea of engaging communities to collect and use their own data. But the instances of it being done in a meaningful, low cost, sustainable way to generate usable data are few and far between. Could we pull it off? We decided to experiment with combining data collection and empowerment for one of the most vulnerable groups in the oPt, namely, Area C communities. Area C accounts for 60 percent of the West Bank. It has some of the most fertile agricultural land and almost the entirety of Palestine’s natural resources. An estimated 300,000 Palestinians live in Area C and a greater number depend on its resources for their livelihoods. Area C is controlled by the Israeli military,  which has exclusive control over land, planning and construction. Significant portions of Area C land are allocated for Israeli settlements and declared as Israeli state land. Only about 30 percent of Area C is available for Palestinian construction, but so far Palestinians have been issued permits to build on less than one percent of the land. Since construction permits in Area C are closely tied to Israeli spatial plans, spatial plans driven by Palestinian communities have been used in recent times to empower communities, and to rally the Israeli Civil Administration to issue permits to Palestinians for construction. In addition to Israeli military orders, land ownership in Area C is governed by a complex legal framework resulting in insecurity of land tenure and confusion about ownership and user rights of private land. Consequently, land registration has been a long-time priority of local and international development actors in the oPt. As the next activity of our project, we integrated a community-driven process to map land ownership and user rights. UN-Habitat took the lead in developing a system called the Social Tenure Domain Model. This participatory tool is a pro-poor, gender responsive system based on free and open source software, which means that all the data collected and stored is available to the communities and owned by the users. The system is based on information and evidence shared by local communities making them a part of the decision-making process. The system records and analyzes the social tenure relationship of people and land, and the social services/amenities that available to the inhabitants of a location. It fits the oPt’s highly complex tenure system, because it supports a continuum of land rights ranging from formal to informal. An Arabic interface was created for the system so it can easily be deployed in other Arabic-speaking countries. UN-Habitat also provided training for the Palestinian Land and Water Settlement Commission staff. This system for community mapping of land rights with a special focus on women and youth will help us empower the community, build social cohesion, and generate data on land rights. The resulting database will serve as a shadow land register, support land valuation, raise awareness about land governance in Area C, and inform advocacy efforts to defend land rights of Palestinian communities. These efforts are supported by the ‘Road Map for Reforming Palestinian Land Sector’ of 2017. Right now, the background work is still ongoing. The model will be piloted in 2019. Will this actually work? We don’t know. For now, we know that we now have the systems in place to replicate or update the data collection of smaller groups through flash surveys, we can engage communities participate in collecting and analysing their own data and integrate a community-driven process to identify land ownership and user rights, at a lower cost than in the first run. And we will use whatever we learn from these initiatives to finesse our methods in our next set of data collection initiatives in 2018.

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Making money move: New financing to achieve the SDGs

BY Richard Bailey | July 3, 2018

“Money doesn’t grow on trees.” Regardless of where you grew up, we all learn about the importance of securing every penny, rand, real, euro, yen, ruble, or rupee. And the saying is particularly relevant today since development organizations like the United Nations (UN) must mobilize more than US$3.0 trillion every year if we hope to achieve the ambitious goals laid out in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Official development assistance (ODA) is still an important finance mechanism but only $140 billion are secured each year. If we, the UN, intend to accelerate progress so no one is left behind, ODA needs to be used more strategically, and other sources of finance must be secured. There also needs to be an organizational shift from strictly funding programmes and initiatives to an approach that involves “funding and financing” to tap into international, national, private and public financial flows. Perspective shift: from funding to financing A growing number of blended finance sources have helped advance development aims in recent years.[1] Private sector guarantees, syndicated loans, and shares in collective investment vehicles mobilized $36.4 billion,[2] while socially responsible investing exceeded $6 trillion between 2012 and 2014. Impact investors and development finance institutions created a new investing asset class that is projected to grow to $400 billion by 2025. When it comes to financing, the rules are changing, and the UN is looking at new ways of aligning financial flows and attracting new investors. UN Country Teams (UNCTs) in Kenya, Indonesia and Armenia explored ways of helping national governments and local partners secure broad, non-traditional funds for development purposes. They mapped out challenges, unlocked new types of financing and used resources in a timely and innovative manner. The three most successful tools adopted were impact investing, Islamic financing, and sector-specific fund modalities. Impact investing in Armenia In the last few years, Armenia has turned into a thriving tech start-up hub and financing initiatives have followed two major trends: venture philanthropy and impact investing. To capitalize on these new forms of funding, the UNCT set up a country platform for SDG implementation that is aligned with national reform and SDG efforts. The collaborative space allows the UN, development partners and civil society to strengthen relationships and develop new ones with international financial institutions, donors and philanthropists. Other innovations: SDG Innovation Lab, the Kolba Social Innovation Lab, ImpactAim Venture Accelerator. Islamic financing in Indonesia Home to the world’s largest Muslim population and the tenth largest economy, the Government of Indonesia recently turned to inclusive and ‘green’ financing to accelerate the SDGs. The UNCT saw the potential and embraced new forms of finance to support sustainable development initiatives. Good practices include employing blended finance instruments and Islamic financing (Baznas).[3] In 2017, UNDP channelled zakat (charitable funds) for a micro-hydro energy project to improve access to water, renewable energy and livelihoods in some of the most remote parts of Indonesia. Other innovations: Financing Lab, “Bring Water for Life” and #TimeforTigers crowdfunding campaigns. Primary health care financing in Kenya One million people in Kenya fall into poverty every year because of a fractured health care system,[4] which is why the national government prioritized rolling out Universal Health Care in the “Big 4 Action Plan.” The UNCT supports the government by working with private sector partners on the Private Sector Health Partnership Kenya initiative and SDG Philanthropy Platform. Bringing together the private and public sectors together has opened doors to new cross-sectoral opportunities in the health, tech, early childhood development, nutrition, and technical and vocational training sectors. Make it rain: harnessing the potential of innovative financing The cost of solving the world’s most critical problems currently runs into the trillions, forcing development financing into a new era. There are no other options if traditional development aid no longer makes the grade. The UN has to pivot and embrace the changes taking place or risk becoming redundant and irrelevant. Luckily there are many opportunities to seize, and the UN has plenty of comparative advantages to bring to the table. The organization has a long, successful history of bringing together partners, training and recruiting experts, scaling up projects, and imparting technical knowledge. UN staff are skilled in advising, brokering knowledge, innovating, analysing data, and measuring impact. As we have seen in Kenya, Armenia and Indonesia, capital can be mobilized through impact investing, attracting early investors, or securing funds for larger investments in sectors identified by the central government. Embracing the latest tech innovations (e.g. e-health or mobile diagnostics) can turn unattractive investment areas into “bankable propositions.” Perhaps the most important takeaway is to not “let perfection be the enemy of the good.” Change may take time but UNCTs can’t wait for everything to be in place before embarking on new initiatives or adopting innovative types of financing. Steps to secure the right kind of capital have to be taken because time is running and “business as usual” no longer works—the numbers tell the whole story. Societal progress involves taking calculated risks, and achieving the SDGs is no exception. Unlocking new sources of funding is one way the UN can make sustainable gains and help governments make returns on the 2030 Agenda. ---- [1] Discussed in detail in “Financing the UN Development System. Pathways to Reposition for Agenda 2030” (September 2017), Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation in collaboration with the MPTF Office, http://www.daghammarskjold.se/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/Financing-Report-2017_Interactive.pdf. [2] Amounts Mobilised from the Private Sector by Official Development Finance Interventions: Guarantees, syndicated loans and shares in collective investment vehicles’, OECD working paper, 2016. [3] Baznas was established by the government based on Presidential Decree 8/2011. The agency is responsible for collecting and distributing zakat at the national level. [4] Thomson Reuters Foundation, February 2018, http://news.trust.org/item/20180209112650-s1njv/.

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Caring is Sharing: Towards Gender Equality Care Services in FYR Macedonia

BY Louisa Vinton | June 22, 2018

Sustainable Development Goal number 5 recognizes the need to achieve gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls by 2030. As the UN Country Team in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, we have been wrestling with this topic and are working tirelessly to help national partners achieve the Global Goals, which have come with a series of challenges. Care or Construction to drive the economy? Our UN team in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia has been advocating for two potential solutions to the existing inequalities regarding the burden of unpaid care work. The first proposed solution is to promote an expansion in state-funded social care services, such as care for preschool children, the elderly, and people living with disabilities. An increase in care services should be seen as an investment that stimulates growth and creates new and better jobs primarily taken by women. For us at the UN, this is a very attractive equation, because doing the right thing is also the economically sound thing to do. It also provides a refreshing contrast to an entrenched belief in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia that investing in construction work is the best way to use public funds to create jobs. Debunking myths about the care economy To prove this point, we did some data digging. Research conducted by UNDP and UN Women in Turkey helped us build a case on the importance of investing in social care infrastructure versus construction infrastructure. According to their research, social care investments could generate 2.5 times more jobs than investments in construction. So, imagine this: instead of a mere 290,000 jobs in construction, the same amount of government spending could yield 719,000 jobs in care services. And 73 percent of these new caregiving jobs would go to women, against just 6 percent of those in construction. Alongside this first powerful idea, we are trying to combat the stereotype that house chores are handled only by women. This conviction runs deep in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, and men are let off the hook when in fact they could proactively step it up and share the burden of house work. To gain traction for these arguments, we made the idea of “care economy” the centerpiece of a high-profile UN-sponsored conference in June 2017. At the event, the new Prime Minister, Zoran Zaev gave a speech where he emphasized the importance of greater inclusion of women in the labor market and encouraged men to share more responsibilities at home. This high-level affirmation put wind in our sails, and the new Government has engaged with us energetically! Beyond the grandparent model of childcare Despite some research, our work has still been hampered by a lack of up-to-date data. The country has not conducted a census since 2002, and there are only a few areas in which gender-disaggregated data is collected systematically. For example, on workforce participation, there is minimal gender-sensitive analysis to explain the behaviors behind the numbers. This creates uncertainty as to why women are not more active in the labor market and why men are not doing more at home. We have assumptions, but we still need to test them to prove their validity or not. UN Women undertook a recent study on labor force participation. More than 3,600 women from 2,500 households participated. As expected, more than a third of those surveyed were not working because of care responsibilities in the home. There was no surprise here, but what did intrigue us was that conservative beliefs about appropriate roles for women seemed as big a deterrent to working outside the home. On one hand, women overwhelmingly saw employment as the key to an independent life. On the other hand, women seemed to feel that they were better at caregiving than men. This experience helped us to make sense of one of the findings of UN Women’s research. The secret, we concluded, was to offer care services outside the home that provided something more than a safe and secure kind of ‘human storage.’ This was clear, for example, in conversations with the mayor of a rural ethnic Albanian municipality with 25,000 inhabitants where UNDP helped to establish the first public preschool facility in 2015. The Mayor underlined the need to get beyond the “grandparent model” of childcare to ensure that preschool children enjoyed the benefits of socialization and early childhood education and can compete in the modern world. These findings also reinforced a new initiative by UNICEF to expand the reach of early childhood education programs. Since poorer families currently don't (or can't) access early childhood education opportunities, this expansion would overcome the current bias of daycare offerings towards well-off families and help to fight the intergenerational transmission of poverty. But here, too, demand would need to be stimulated, since so many families still believe in the idea of “grandparent care.” How we undertake these tasks will depend on the results of our quest for further data. We are pursuing three new lines of inquiry that should bring us closer to solutions:  Is there a compelling economic argument for the “care economy” in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia? Our initial analysis looked at supply and demand trends for both childcare and eldercare. There are 96 institutions (public and private) with 4,655 staff providing early childhood care services to 34,386 children. However, 4,158 children were refused in 2016 due to lack of capacity. This suggests that the country is failing to satisfy childcare needs. The outlook is similar for care for the elderly, where social care options are even less developed. Currently only 20 institutions with 365 staff provide care for 1,050 elderly people nationwide. Is there a nationwide centralized registry that encompasses the full spectrum of preschools and kindergartens, elder care institutions and daycare services for persons with disabilities? The answer is no. We are wrapping up the first-ever national inventory of social care services covering all three different sectors: public, private and civil society providers. The results are still being analyzed, but it is clear that core populations are underserved. This is especially the case in rural areas and areas dominated by ethnic minority populations (Albanians, Roma and Turks). For example, under 4 percent of Roma children are in childcare. Why are men reluctant caregivers? UNDP conducted a survey to identify the main obstacles that hinder men from getting involved in care work with the hopes finding ways to initiate behavioral change among the male population. Next steps Once the results are analyzed and digested, our next step is to hold design-thinking workshops to discover what might encourage men to undertake a larger share of “women’s work” at home. We hope that these workshops will help us find volunteers willing to serve as caregiver champions or at least as positive deviants. UNFPA and UN Women have already built modest advocacy campaigns around these themes (see poster), and the UN team as a whole looks forward to campaigning in 2018 to break down the barriers women face to employment, and those that men face to caregiving. “Men can do it too” – UNFPA’s tongue-in-cheek campaign on gender roles and housework

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Revisioning Somalia: An appeal for ‘this way of working’

BY Kanni Wignaraja | June 6, 2018

My recent visit to Somalia was a mere 48 hours, to take in a decades long story of conflict and climate-driven destruction of Mogadishu. Of Somalia. They say what you hear and see in those initial moments, in the blink of an eye, is what stays with you and gets deeply etched in memory, despair and in hope. So here goes. Green saplings rising The sharp banking of the plane I was coming in on, and a runway that went toe-to-toe with the Indian Ocean waves, should have been a give-away. The heavily fortified ‘green zone’ where the diplomatic missions, UN and some government and NGOs reside, made the working reality stark to me. The challenges faced cried out for all working in Somalia to do the impossible. To re-vision a country, together with many of its young people, growing back from the ashes as a green sapling tries to do. The question is if the UN can accompany a very young country on this journey, and guide and nurture this next generation, however fragile the openings may be, as they inspire us with their dreams and plans for a new, phoenix-like Somalia. For the few young people I spoke to, the idea of their country is one filled with a youthful exuberance and energy that makes one want to leap out of one’s container (where most staff still sleep at night) and get out there to help. This is the story of the UN in Somalia. So can we move from the forever-an-emergency modus operandi, to take a moment to carve out and protect some spaces, in our plans and with our funding, to be there also for the re-visioned Somalia? Amidst all that challenges a faster national level rebuild, two factors, in particular, seem to slow down the shift in gear that the UN in Somalia wishes to make. The UN team is trying to support a disproportionately large displaced population – well over 6 million - that live in highly vulnerable situations, confronted daily by the fragility of climate change, injustice and clashing clan identity, with little protection, and hence a very real need to be there for them every day. There are also the factors within the UN, where we are divided by the way we are governed and funded, with the large proportion of funds received targeted for shorter term needs, and not enough for helping to rebuild institutions that will govern judiciously, provide essential local services, invest in sustainable agriculture and ensure greater access and quality of education, health and dignity for all Somalis. Camel yoghurt to coding: Showing (or paving) the way for longer-lasting transformations There are pilot efforts supported by several UN entities, to innovate and to test out new ventures. And this provides the evidence that says this different path is also present, albeit a slim and less trodden one: to accompany the ingenuity and smarts of young people, who see a different future for themselves. During my short stay, I talked to young entrepreneurs who see bottled spicy ketchup and not the wasteful dumping of an abundance of tomatoes at days end; and another animated group who wish to produce and export camel’s milk yoghurt to a Somali diaspora; also feisty leaders calling for women’s rights, and most amazingly Bilan Codes – yes, ‘women can code’ - a local group run by Zahra, who the men in the room said they also learnt their computer skills from, and here she was teaching the next generation of Somali women to code! These can be more than small pilot projects, to light the way for longer-lasting transformations. The UN leadership and Country Team in Somalia see the disconnect between this re-vision, and over a dozen years of our presence doing the same-same. They live and work through the presence of violence, and having lost colleagues to mortars and truck bombs, are rightly contained in their response. The UN team cannot and must not forego its humanitarian role and support, as many lives depend on it. However, the UN team is also trying to get behind a young Somalia willing to leap-frog the usual, by using IT and mobile apps, and moving, however tentatively, behind a new Constitution and a first-time one person-one vote election in 2021. Rewarding positive disruption To stay relevant to this story, we must bring what we know and what we do much more together in Somalia, and in so many more places, to disrupt the negative trends and to support positive change for: a safer urban growth, with more clean green energy, to invest in values-based governance and the protection of the rights and dignities of all people, to address positive technology solutions and cyber security, to mitigate climate shocks and adaption of consumption and production patterns, and to ensure meaningful education and jobs for young people. And more. To support countries such as Somalia progress on sustainable development, the UN will have to share capacities and resources, within and with others. And colleagues must be rewarded for innovating, being forward-leaning and taking on this way of working. I will not pretend to understand all the complexity, but before I blink, I do know this - our tired rules that keep us silo’d, aversion to risk given programmes under daily stress from security concerns, and agency-first mentalities that limit what we can do together, do not belong here. We have a team on the ground, more-or-less ready to brave the new path. The current UN reforms that are underpinned by a call to invest in prevention and longer term sustainable development, that demand more efficient business operations, that expect shared bold analytics and higher levels of accountability to the people we serve, shout out to be demonstrated in this country context. Agency leaders, funders and rule-makers must let this UN country team show the way. Photo: UNHCR / S.Ostermann / October 2014

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Busting silos in statistical capacity in Guatemala

BY Carmen Aida Gonzalez, Claudia Lopez Robles | May 16, 2018

When the Guatemalan government realized that it had failed to achieve 63 percent of the  targets of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), it was a wake up call. Guatemala has struggled for years to connect, coordinate, and analyze its national statistics, making it difficult for decision makers to understand what investments the country needs to move forward. When the time came to adopt the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in 2015, the Government committed to taking action and help improve the lives of the Guatemalan people. We knew we needed to up the game on data analysis from different public institutions. Currently, only 15 percent of the indicators of the Sustainable Development Goals can be fully produced by the National Statistical System in Guatemala. In Guatemala, obtaining disaggregated data is not an easy task since most institutions aren’t yet aware of the importance of such data. For example, obtaining disaggregated data on indigenous peoples and people of African descent is a struggle for national administrative records, despite their best efforts. Fortunately, Guatemala will carry out a population and housing census this year, and with these results, we at the UN hope to obtain disaggregated data about ethnic groups, people living with disabilities, migratory origin and other relevant information. Need a Data Strategy? We’ve got 70 of them To address the immediate challenge of limited data, we at the UN in Guatemala formed an inter-agency team of statisticians last year, spearheaded by UNFPA and bringing together UNDP, UN Women, IOM, OHCHR, FAO, IFAD, PAHO/WHO and the World Bank, with the support of the Resident Coordinator’s Office. This team came together to identify the resources that each agency had and what type of data we needed to achieve the Global Goals in the country. We wanted to do three things: 1) strengthen the National Institute of Statistics by developing strategies according to each statistical office in the country; 2) systematize good practices at the national level regarding health-related statistics; and 3) work with public institutions on participatory statistics management and SDG indicators to mainstream the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.   For us at the UN, one “aha” moment was discovering that public institutions have very diverse statistical capacities. Through this exercise, we were able to see the level of disparity and the gaps that we as the UN can help fill in order to collect data better. Out of 70 statistical strategies that we identified with the National Institute of Statistics, we helped fine-tune the six that we considered to be essential for producing relevant data for the SDGs in Guatemala. The institutions we are working with are: The Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, and Food The Ministry of Public Health and Social Assistance The Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources The National Telephone Fund The National Coordinator for Disaster Reduction; and The Ministry of Security These public institutions are contributing to various SDGs, including: SDG 2 Zero Hunger; SDG 3 Good Health and Well-Being; SDG 6 Clean Water and Sanitation; SDG 11 Sustainable Cities and Communities; SDG 12; Responsible Consumption and Production; SDG 13 Climate Action; SDG 15 Life on Land; and SDG 16 Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions, to name a few. Currently, the National Institute of Statistics is doing an in-depth analysis of these six key statistical strategies to develop an overarching plan for the production and management of national statistics, with an emphasis on baseline development, including SDGs indicators. The goal is for  Guatemala to increase the percentage of monitored indicators for the 2030 Agenda from 15 percent to nearly 40 percent. The data that we obtain from these strategies will help us to disaggregate data related to gender, age and geographical location represented in the rates of population. Helping improve health stats Another important area of work is the collaboration between PAHO/WHO, the National Institute of Statistics, the Ministry of Public Health and Social Assistance and the National Registry of Persons to systematize vital statistics, such as the number of births, marriages, and deaths. In the coming months, the National Institute of Statistics will publish a report that we developed collectively as an example of best practices for collecting statistical data. The report highlights the challenges that the public institutions face, because until now, Guatemala had limited resources to generate and produce quality data, hindering institutions from taking evidence-based decisions.  Taking the field experience to a virtual class Together with UNDP Colombia and the National Institute of Statistics, we  developed an e-course, aimed at national officers working in public institutions that are part of the National Statistical System. This e-course will run from May to June 2018 and will be delivered through webinars and a virtual panel to a group of 40 people. The added value of this online course is that it’s being adapted to the Guatemalan national context and each participant will receive personalized feedback from the instructor. We also want to reach national officers that live outside the capital city. The National Institute of Statistics will be responsible for following up with the liaison officers and we hope that this tool be used widely across all public institutions to continue empowering national officers. If you are interested in using this Spanish language course for your context, let us know. As for us at the inter-agency statistics team at the UN in Guatemala, the silo-busting has only begun...

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Five ways the UN is experimenting together in 2018

BY Maria Blanco Lora | May 3, 2018

Here at silo-fighting HQ, for a fourth year in a row, we are trying to incentivize the UN to innovate together. This is our annual moment to listen to how UN country teams plan to go beyond business as usual and model next generation practices to meet the demands of Agenda 2030. We love this time of year, as the proposals themselves are great intelligence on the front line, and we get to know the problems teams want to solve and what tools they have at their disposal to solve them. We were looking for joint efforts across UN agencies to innovate in the areas of data, behavioural insights, finance, collective intelligence and foresight. With thanks to our donors, these are investments in innovations which can either be scaled from one agency to the rest of the system efforts, from one sector or field to another, from one country to another, or from one geographic area to country-wide applicability. We are also funding UN teams that want to break new ground and test hypotheses for more proof-of-concept type innovations. The competition among country teams for the funding was tough, but thanks to our review team, after 100 proposals, we finally decided on 34 experiments and scaling efforts that we are thrilled to present in this blog. Data for preparedness, prevention and prediction Innovations in data was the most popular area in the proposals this year. A good chunk of winning pitches focus on new ways of gathering and analysing data to allow countries better prepare and respond to natural disasters along with citizen-generated data for predictive analytics.   In the Pacific, the UN country team in Samoa, will use new technologies to analyse households preparedness to cyclones, while Fiji will be scaling VAMPIRE to measure the impact of cyclones through data mining and build predictive analytics. In Viet Nam, the UN team will develop digital tools to link baseline data on vulnerability and resilience to preparedness to long-term planning disaster recovery planning. To prevent food insecurity, the UN in Malawi will be using geospatial information to assist farmers and, in Ghana, the team will use remote sensing and drones to provide the government with timely data to respond to food security threats. In Iraq, crop productivity mapping through the use of mobile data collection and satellite imagery will explore new ways of measuring poverty beyond traditional surveys.  Sudan, PNG and Jordan will use participatory methodologies, based on mobile phone data, to test water and sanitation projects in camps for internally displaced persons to predict development investments and to look for future development trends.    The UN team in Dominican Republic will build on their previous experience to develop a national SDG data lab to integrate sustainable development into the development planning in the country. Also, Serbia will be developing an algorithm to assess the alignment of the national development plan and sectoral strategies to the SDGs. Last but not least, Uzbekistan will be using blockchain to improve public services testing whether this will reduce transaction costs and increase transparency. Ramping up participatory programming with collective Intelligence Lots of UN teams are trying to tap into the best collective minds in the countries they serve, with an increase in the use of  new methods and technologies to engage the general public in policy development, budget allocation and monitoring. Based on what we got for our call for proposals, UN country teams feel comfortable using mobile tech to tap into collective intelligence to triangulate data or test their hypothesis while undertaking planning processes. Albania and Mexico are using mobile technologies and social media to gather perceptions on the progress towards the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. Digital tools, such as Rapid Pro, will be used by Trinidad and Tobago, Suriname and Somalia to enhance the dialogue with local authorities and, in the case of T&T and Suriname, to engage young people in policy monitoring and development. Colombia, through automatic speech recognition, and Lesotho, through open challenges, will also use collective intelligence for participatory planning and accountable governance respectively. In Senegal, the UN country team will be supporting community health workers with a real-time monitoring tool, SMS-based, to prevent health emergencies. Monitoring will be also the scope of the project in Honduras, where women will be able to share and identify safe zones in the city of Choloma through crowdsourced audits facilitated by a real-time data collection app. The UN country team in Iraq will engage youth IT developers and activists to harness the power of new technologies to oversee public investments in the documentation, conservation, rehabilitation and reconstruction of the country's cultural heritage. In China, the UN team will link up farmers with tech companies to find solutions to connectivity gaps among poor farmers and decision makers using mobile technologies, e-platforms and drones. The Pulse Lab Kampala in Uganda will advance their machine learning driven radio tools to develop an open software platform for the UN country team to enable open access to existing software applications developed by the Lab that will allow programme colleagues harness collective intelligence for their work.  The UN team in Moldova will be on a quest to experiment, test and fine-tune a platform-based organizational model to explore if this type of platform would be feasible in the case of the UN global mandate. Behavioural insights to meet people where they are 2018 was the first year we opened up to proposals in the area of Behavioural Insights. We will be funding initiatives to prevent sexual exploitation and abuse (Nigeria), to learn from devients to halt male violent behaviour towards women (Palestine) and to eliminate female genital mutilation/cutting (Mauritania). In Costa Rica, the UN country team will use behavioural insights to understand and tackle structural development gaps among the most excluded communities. Popular technologies in these proposals are social media, SMS polling, big data and the use of radio. Innovative finance to channel private funds to development UN teams in three countries will be experimenting with new forms of financing in 2018: Colombia, Somalia, and Armenia. Team Colombia will develop innovative blending finance solutions to support enterprises with peacebuilding impact in remote locations in the country. The UN in Somalia will set up open innovation challenges and crowdfunding platforms and the UN and the government in Armenia will be leveraging private finance for SDG-related objectives through social impact bonds as part of their SDG innovation Lab. Imagining possible futures and seeing the future that is already here To begin to use the future as a tool for development work today. Two UN teams will be using foresight and alternative futures as part of their sustainable development work. In Egypt, the idea is to build scenarios to encourage foresight dialogues as a tool to increase civic engagement to define Egypt's future. The team will make use of forecasting tools such as Three Horizon Framework and Verge Foresight Framework. In the same region, Lebanon will apply a participatory approach to foresight, asking citizens to contribute to a foresight exercise using a mapping tool.    Pinky swear: we promise to work out loud…. This work will be led by a growing community of innovators within the UN. We are proud to have colleagues from almost every agency working in the field leading these innovations and we are aware that there are many more out there. The idea is to connect and learn from each other, so we are looking for mentors to help us (data scientists, human-centered design, machine-learning among others. Webinars and our One UN Knowledge Exchange group will be our main channels to support our innovators. We will also tap into the UN Innovation Network. This was just a taste of the innovations that are coming up this year, for more, keep showing up to our Silo Fighters Blog. The UN innovators will be sharing their own stories in this space. And while you are at it, follow us on Twitter.     Photo: Trevor Samson / World Bank

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The UN and SDG financing: Make or break moment?

BY Annika Östman | April 24, 2018

There is no way around it. Development financing has entered a new era; with the cost of solving the world’s most critical problems running into the trillions, traditional development aid is simply no longer enough and those active in this space are faced with the choice of readjusting or becoming irrelevant. This includes the United Nations. “We can play a crucial role in redirecting capital towards the Sustainable Development Goals, but for the UN to be successful it needs to partner outside the organisation,” said Richard Bailey, Policy Specialist at UN DOCO, during a workshop organised by the UN and the Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation in Uppsala earlier this month. The seminar brought together UN practitioners and external financing experts already forging ahead on the path towards a new financing approach, and it gave them an opportunity to share their experiences in unlocking innovative financing for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Some UN country teams have already come quite a bit along the way. Early adopters Armenia is one country that, with proactive support from the UN, is actively pursuing innovative financing solutions to mobilise capital for national development priorities. One such solution is impact investing, in which the Government and partners invest in companies, organisations and funds to generate positive social and environmental impact alongside a financial return. “Our job is to grow the impact ventures that contribute to SDGs, connect them to investors and to find ways to scale them,” explained Dimitri Mariassin, Deputy Resident Representative of UNDP in Armenia. To achieve this the UN team in country has set up an accelerator to strengthen impact ventures and is creating an impact fund with an existing fund manager in Armenia to leverage funds for larger investments. In Indonesia, the UN Country Team is also partnering effectively with government and the private sector in experimenting with new forms of finance to support the SDGs. This includes UNDP Indonesia’s innovative work in exploring the potential of Islamic finance for SDGs, launching crowd funding campaigns for environment projects, supporting the establishment of a first sovereign wealth fund in Indonesia and setting up an Innovative Financing Lab. “We are trying to bridge and connect investors with the communities and issues that need investment,” said Francine Pickup, Deputy Country Director of UNDP Indonesia. “Our belief is that by coming up with innovative finance instruments we can attract capital to where it is most needed.” Defining the UN’s role The work of these early adopters has shown that there is a role for the UN in the space of innovative financing for the SDGs. In fact, there are many different roles the UN can play ranging from convening, brokering, de-risking, to impact reporting and monitoring. “We are the ecosystem player, trying to play that honest broker role and we ensure everything we do is built on needs and is demand-driven,” explained Arif Neky, Advisor UN Strategic Partnerships and Coordinator of the new SDG Partnership Platform in Kenya. This platform will help drive public-private investments into the SDGs with an initial focus on health and wellbeing. The UN is playing a key coordination role; a function that many outside the UN see as crucial. “Now that there is interest from the private sector in financing SDGs, there is a fundamental role for the UN to spell out what it means to drive financing to the SDGs,” explained Andrea Armeni, Executive Director of Transform Finance. “More capital is not sufficient, it has to be the right kind of the capital, it needs to be aligned and coordinated and that is a role only the UN can play.” For the UN to realise its full potential in this space though it is evident that its roles need to be unpacked and there a number of challenges inherent to the UN system that need to be addressed. Workshop participants cited slow internal bureaucratic procedures and inflexible rules and regulations as limiting UN country teams’ ability to test new things and take risks. The need to sharpen and retain in-house skills, particularly in regards to speaking and understanding the language of investors and the private sector was also identified as a key challenge. What next? The workshop will feed into a broader scope of work the Foundation is pursuing together with the UN Development Operations Coordination Office (UN DOCO). Specifically, the discussions will enrich a series of three case studies about Armenia, Indonesia and Kenya that will be published soon, as well as a joint comprehensive report based on findings of the different case studies. The case studies will identify and analyse the best practices and needs from these UN country teams, and the expectation is that other countries looking to follow these early adopters can build on their experiences and avoid potential pitfalls. The reports also aim to further identify the key challenges and bottlenecks in adopting new approaches, so that, where possible, they can be addressed centrally at the UN. This corporate response will be critical for the experience in these countries shows that if these new funding methods are to work and be adopted by UN agencies in different countries a change in mindsets across the organsation is required. Innovative financing must be integrated into the core strategies and operations of the whole UN and not only be the work of a few brave outliers. Cross-posted from the Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation blog. Photo: UN in Liberia

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Getting real on leaving no one behind: Women’s periods and the SDGs in Nepal

BY Stine Heiselberg, Bronwyn Russel | April 19, 2018

Who are Nepal's most vulnerable groups, and how is their vulnerability similar or different from other countries? This wasn't a rhetorical question for the Inter-Agency Common Feedback Project (CFP), an inter-agency initiative of the UN in Nepal, but a must-know in order to properly structure their priorities for the 2018-2022 UN Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF). Key in answering this question, was to get in touch directly with those vulnerable groups and to listen to their experiences. To target the areas where there's a clear gap, we designed a community perception survey that would allow us to fully grasp why certain populations are falling behind in development progress, and most importantly, to help them catch up. We spoke with members of the UNDAF thematic groups from various UN agencies to develop a questionnaire that would also help us amplify existing data sources for future programming efforts. As a next step, we selected districts by aggregating the Human Development Index (HDI) at the provincial level and identified the provinces with the lowest HDI. Then, we identified districts within those provinces and pulled the data that would reflect as many UNDAF-related areas as possible. In October last year, we mobilized 30 enumerators across nine districts (Kailali, Achham, Bajura, Muhu, Dailekh, Rukum, Mahottari, Sarlahi, and Rautahat) over the course of two weeks. A total of 1,800 respondents completed the survey. To get our hands on qualitative data, we also held 12 focus group discussions in targeted communities facilitated by team members of the Common Feedback Project. This helped to contextualize quantitative findings and provide greater insight into the survey results. Making sense of all the data Once we collected the data, we put on our investigator hats to analyse results and disaggregate overall findings by district, age, gender, ethnicity and occupation. We did this to drill down and pinpoint factors that may influence how people in different regions are experiencing development. By far, the most effective surveys were the ones administered and analysed without pre-existing bias or predictions, which is what we strived for. The final product was a 39-page infographic style report that breaks down the responses based on focus areas, including detailed analysis of the survey feedback.   Some UN agencies are already focusing more in detail on the results that impact their mandate which could guide their future work. Debunking cultural misconceptions One of the things that came up during the surveys is the practice of chhaupadi, through which women are banned from their homes, public areas, temples, and schools during their menstrual periods. According to our findings, this still remains a regular practice even though it was outlawed in 2017. To contextualize these findings, we held focus group discussions to in Dailekh, a district where only half of the population is literate, and the Human Development Indicators are extremely low. From the focus group discussions, we learned that school teachers often ask female students to stay at home for four days during their periods. This is a problem because school girls miss up to one fifth of the school year. Beyond this impact on education, the practice of chhaupadi has far reaching implications. A number of women die annually from animal bites, infections, and smoke inhalation as they stay in unsafe and unsanitary shacks during their period. The good news is that some communities are beginning to understand that this ostracizing practice is damaging and unnecessary. And with collective efforts to raise awareness, this practice can be eliminated. In the western district of Mugu, chaupaddi is now considered a thing of the past, in part, due to the investments at the community level to teach people about the biological aspects of the menstrual cycle and the impacts of excluding women and girls from their communities. In several districts in Nepal, UNFPA and UNICEF are providing life skills education to girls and boys, both in and outside of school. A programme called Rupantaran (which means "transformation") empowers and enables adolescents to become change agents in their communities.   What's next We are committed to giving communities a voice at the table from the very beginning of our planning efforts.  The Common Feedback Project team will continue to support the UN team to integrate feedback from communities into their development plans. As part of this effort, we are currently designing a new community perceptions survey to better understand the dynamics of harmful traditional practices such as chaupaddi. The data collected will inform UN joint programmes to eradicate these practices. We will keep you posted on our findings. Check back with us in the next few months!

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