BY Mildred Samboy | 08 February 2018
Have you ever wondered how much hazardous waste is generated in your community, city, or country? What is the proportion of women who make their own informed decisions regarding sexual and reproductive health? Or how many people have declared themselves victims of discrimination or harassment in the last 12 months? Imagine if you could have access to this data in a country of more than 10 million inhabitants in the center of the Caribbean. In the Dominican Republic, only 37 percent of the indicators that make up the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have data available for monitoring and 44 percent do not have information or sources for their measurement. This constitutes a challenge for the achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (2030 Agenda). SDG 12: Responsible Consumption and Production is one of the biggest statistical challenges for the country. As established in the 2016 Rapid Integrated Assessment “there are significant biases in the integration of (SDG 12) indicators into the national development planning and their availability for an adequate monitoring and fulfillment of the fourth axis (sustainable development) of National Development” in the Dominican Republic . All of this considered, how can we measure the SDG 12 indicator related to the generation and proportion of hazardous waste in the country? To figure this out, we joined forces with the National Statistics Office, the Ministry of Economy, Planning and Development and the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources to come up with a strategy. The result was a data innovation lab built in five steps: Step 1: Select key stakeholders Which institutions are fundamental in the development of an SDG data innovation lab? Multisectoriality is essential to guarantee the richness of this exercise. Two things were paramount for this step: To bring the institutions in charge of statistics and planning (the National Statistics Office and the Ministry of Economy) on board. These institutions are part of other coordination structures, such as the National Commission for Sustainable Development (SDGs Commission), which is the 2030 Agenda coordination and advisory structure (See Decrees 23-16 and 26-17). In this exercise, the UN System in the Dominican Republic worked with the Technical Secretariat of the SDGs Commission to identify a proposal of indicators and criteria for this initiative. To include as many stakeholders as possible in the discussion; from representatives of the public sector (hospitals, General Customs Directorate), to the private sector, to Academia, to environmental organizations, everyone related to the disposal of hazardous waste was invited to participate. This exercise demonstrates the importance of challenging these structures to enforce the fluidity and comprehensiveness of the statistical systems, and their responsibility in the process, guaranteeing an effective relationship that helps bridge existing gaps. Step 2: Select the indicators Which indicators should be selected and prioritized for the development of a Data Innovation Lab? Prioritizing indicators at a national level means choosing them according to the country’s statistical needs. The parameters for this lab were: (A) Lack of source or measurement methodology (B) Indicators within the SDGs identified for the Voluntary National Review (VNR) for the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF 2018), in which the Dominican Republic will participate this year. Following these parameters, the Statistics Office presented a proposal with the following indicators: "Proportion of wastewater safely treated"; "Hazardous waste generated per capita and proportion of hazardous waste treated, disaggregated by type of treatment"; and "Number of companies that publish sustainability reports". Of these proposals, hazardous waste was prioritized, taking the Environmental Compliance Reports  as a starting point. Step 3: Build participatory and formative spaces How can sectors express and validate the challenges and opportunities for improvement related to the selected indicator? Following this initiative, two main consultation workshops were held with institutions related to the field. The results of the first consultation highlighted the challenges and bottlenecks that make it difficult for the indicator to be measured. The second workshop aimed to find innovative solutions and improvement opportunities to the problems identified in the first workshop. In both workshops, over 20 young people from academia and civil society institutions volunteered, moderating and summarizing key findings and conclusions at each table discussion. Step 4: Check the possible sources of the indicator How to guarantee results and sustainability in the statistical development of the indicator? In addition to the consultations, a group of specialists were tasked with reviewing the Environmental Compliance Report. This source was important because it is an environmental Administrative Record (forms, reports, files, among others). This review led to a joint exercise by the Statistics Office and the Ministry of Environment to collect and analyze data regarding hazardous waste, together with the private sector, academia and hospitals. It also made it possible to generate technical, statistical and environmental capabilities linked to the indicator, and has created tools to formalize this practice within the institutional framework. Step 5: Systematize, develop and implement What can we do next? The final step is to follow up on the findings and conclusions of these exercises, by developing initiatives that could have a direct impact on the improvement, organization and visualization of the data related to the hazardous waste indicator. One of these initiatives would be a Hackathon to foster the creation of applications and software development for data collection and visualization. Another, which is already underway, is the elaboration of a technical data note (explaining the indicator metadata) by the Statistics Office. This note will be validated by several sectors that will have the opportunity to rethink together the statistical development structures of the indicator. At last, this team is also working with the culmination of the construction of the database of the Environmental Compliance Reports and its respective baseline. What we learned This experience shows that there is a link between the statistical development capacity of our countries and their needs, challenges, accomplishments and opportunities, which must consider the political and social dimensions. Implementing the 2030 Agenda in the field brought institutions from different sectors together to break existing barriers. While working together was as a challenge, it was also an opportunity to improve practices and actions. Strengthening the national statistical system will only be possible if the key sectors involved have the tools, the capacities and the will.  The Rapid Integrated Assessment (RIA) Tool aims to support countries in mainstreaming the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) into national and subnational planning, by helping assess their readiness for SDG implementation. Click here to access the Dominican Republic’s 2016 RIA elaborated by UNDP and MEPyD  The Environmental Compliance Report (ICA, its Spanish acronym) “is a technical report that explains the degree and quality of compliance of a facility, project, program or other activity by its operator or entity (company, NGO, government) with regards to environmental laws and regulations governing a certain place, resulting in a process of auto management.” (Dominican Republic Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Environment)
BY Hasina Rakotondrazafy | 31 January 2018
Madagascar is considered a biodiversity hotspot. Besides its majestic landscapes, this island country houses 5 percent of the world’s most unique species and plants. Known for its rich biological and ethnic diversity, the country hasn’t escaped the consequences of climate change. Since 2016, the southern part of the country has been facing the impacts of a serious drought due to the climate phenomenon of El Nino. The critical situation of this region has led the UN to focus several of its interventions in this area, specially to work with young people. Partnering with youth Representing over 50 percent of the population in Madagascar, the UN recognizes that young people are a key pillar to drive the country’s development. Several UN agencies have been partnering and working with them for many years. To monitor our work and enhance our accountability to the people we serve, we invited participants of our projects in the southern regions of the country to answer an important question: How are we doing? With this basic question in mind, the UN in Madagascar engaged in a exciting exercise to collect their perceptions on our work in their respective localities and, even more important, collect ideas to improve the impact of UN future actions. We specifically looked into the following projects supported by UNDP, UNFPA, UNICEF, FAO, IFAD, ILO, WFP and WHO. : AINA: A project that aims to mitigate the effects of extreme poverty by reducing the number of vulnerable families experiencing acute malnutrition. MIARO: Which focuses mainly on the prevention of chronic malnutrition during the first 1,000 days of the child. Maison des Junes: Works with young people so that they can better express themselves and be agents of social change. Ex-Juvi: Seeks to reintegrate young people that have been in conflict with the law. MRPA: Helps protecting the environment while creating and capitalizing on human and natural resources to maintain sustainable development. For this exercise, we partnered up with the Madagascar Innovation Lab, a young and dynamic group that designed, developed, and created a just-in-time analysis and collection tool called Integrated Data Processing (IDP). The Madagascar Innovation Lab, which is creating job opportunities for young minds alike, has a staff made up of 50 percent women and people with backgrounds ranging from machine learning experts to business analysts that work together on many innovative projects, including ours! Gather, upload, sync and repeat To provide reliable, consistent and accurate data in a timely manner, the Lab developed a mobile application which allows the data collection agents to upload the information. We also developed a website to make available all the collected data http://snu.idp.mg. Data collection practices have been a vital part of the life cycle of development projects for decades, however, traditional paper based data collection can be a daunting task as it tends to take several months to combine the process of data collection until conclusions in reporting can be reached. This can ultimately alter the decision-making process and could potentially affect getting a project off the ground. With this new project that we are testing, using tablets or mobile phones allows the agents to expedite the data collection process. The application can hold an unlimited amount of surveys and questionnaires written in any language, categorized by indicators, demographics, and other specifications. How cool is that! Initial results During the last months of 2017, we conducted our data collection in the south part of Madagascar with the help of 80 volunteers from two youth centers supported by the UN. The exercise involved four major regions, four cities, and eight districts, reaching more than 17,500 people. During the data collection, our volunteers informed participants about the initiative and how the results will be used. Much of this southern region is located in remote areas, only accessible by jeeps with a 4-wheel drive, motorcycle, or on foot, therefore getting there can be an adventure. So, to prepare for our data collection process, the agents are equipped with solar panels and power banks, which ensure they always have access to power supply. For the most part, Madagascar has managed to provide phone and data coverage to large areas of the island, so even from the remotest locations, our agents are able to sync the data on a daily basis. This has allowed our information and communication technologies to be fully functional from almost everywhere. Month’s worth of data can be mined and analyzed in an instant which allows us to gain access to information on various social, economical and environmental aspects of life in Madagascar. Making use of the data Our next immediate step will be to analyze the data to adjust our future actions based on the needs expressed by the participants during the survey. While we embarque on full data analysis exercise, we have already made available to the general public the data regarding the participant’s opinions on each the projects and their ideas on how they could expand to support communities in new ways. We are excited to know how to better serve these regions, often left behind by key development interventions. From a coordination point of view, we are interested in looking at the data with an integrated approach to identify new joint initiatives where UN agencies can partner - an essential ask from the 2030 Agenda. We are also planning to use the data to review or UN Development Assistance Framework, but a quick win will be its use by the two youth centers supported by us that helped with this exercise: more activities related to young people’s concerns like drugs, alcohol, employment, professional training, early pregnancy, corruption, could be added to their interventions... And this is just the beginning! We know from reflections on collective intelligence work that most often the missed step is going back to the people who are consulted to show them how their opinions and ideas will be put to use. We are already planning some activities to close the feedback loop. You will hear more about that adventure in our next installment! Photo: MIL team photos taken by BLU Life One X2 phones.