BY Kanni Wignaraja | 06 June 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
BY Carmen Aida Gonzalez, Claudia Lopez Robles | 16 May 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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