Silo Fighters Blog

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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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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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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Letting a thousand flowers bloom: An update from Kosovo on the Global Goals

BY Kotaro Takeda, Flutra Rexhaj | March 15, 2018

The UN Kosovo* team is on a mission: to bring the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to Kosovo and to bring Kosovo to the SDGs. As we enter 2018, the Kosovo Assembly has just passed a Resolution endorsing the Sustainable Development Goals. Kosovo is a busy, complicated place, and its institutions are working simultaneously to achieve various development strategies (a Development Strategy, a Gender Strategy, the European Reform Agenda, etc., etc.), but they all contribute towards the creation of a more inclusive, sustainable future. We are pleased that Kosovo sees the value in adopting the SDGs and in using them to help power its own development agenda. The unanimous vote constitutes the natural conclusion of two years of “letting a thousand flowers bloom”. Given the unique political context in Kosovo, and other factors, the UN Kosovo Team has, from the beginning, taken a bottom-up approach to “seeding” the SDGs and preparing the ground for more formal activities to adapt and implement the SDGs. It all began five years ago with the participation of 9,000 Kosovars in the global survey “The World We Want” that helped to establish the goals. We are proud of the fact that there was Kosovar DNA in the Global Goals from the very start. Building on this initial level of public awareness, the UN Kosovo Team, with its partners, has been exploring multiple avenues for promoting and bringing the SDGs to life in Kosovo. Here are just a few of the many stories behind our approach of “letting a thousand flowers bloom”. SDG1 No Poverty: The Journalism Poverty Prize Poverty rates in Kosovo remain amongst the highest in the region. According to the Statistical Agency of Kosovo and the World Bank (2015), the poverty rate (those living below 1.82 euro per adult equivalent per day) was more than 17 percent, while the extreme poverty rate (those living below 1.30 euro per adult equivalent per day) was 5 percent. While many activities of the UN agencies along with partners have contributed to reducing poverty, none have been as successful in terms of raising public awareness about the persistence of poverty and inclusion as the Annual Journalism Poverty Prize. For the twelfth year in a row, the UN Kosovo Team and the Association of Journalists of Kosovo (AJK) have provided professional journalists the opportunity to showcase their stories about the reality of poverty in Kosovo. The best examples (print and online news, video, radio, and photography), as selected by a professional jury, win the Poverty Prize. PovertyPrize-15 In 2017 we were joined by the remarkable artist Alketa Xhafa-Mripa, who created a public installation of black and white photographs portraying prize-winning stories of poverty and social exclusion in Kosovo. The timing was powerful: Alketa was calling for Kosovars to vote to end poverty just as politicians were finishing a final week of campaigning prior to local elections. We had over 30,000 Facebook and 15,000 Twitter impressions that day. “Vote to end the poverty”- Alketa’s powerful art installation was mounted on the walls of the “Termokiss” building, (an Alternative Community Centre for Youth), sending a powerful message. “It is not so much about charity as it is about justice”, said Alketa. SDG 5 Gender Equality: 16 Days Against Violence Against Women Although Kosovo’s legal framework guarantees full equality for men and women, discrimination against women continues, resulting in inadequate protection for some basic human rights guaranteed by law. The 16 Days campaign began in Kosovo in 2013 and, since then, it has become the centerpiece of our efforts to combat violence against women. Every year, more people get involved and we must scramble to manage an ever-increasing number of events without diluting the impact of this unique campaign. In 2017, we were as always led by UN WOMEN, in partnership with the Kosovo Women’s Network, Care International, the Women’s Centre for Human Rights, the Assembly of Kosovo, and international organizations and missions, including OSCE, UNMIK, KFOR and EULEX, on more than 65 separate advocacy activities taking place across Kosovo to raise awareness of the need to eliminate all forms of violence against women. The highlight by far of this year’s events was the ballet performance “One Day”, performed by the Kosovo Theatre Ballet. This was a deeply personal story and a message of hope based on the experiences of a Kosovar survivor of domestic violence. This was another example of art and advocacy can mix in Kosovo, to powerful effect. It comes in the wake of the global success of the Bafta-winning short film HOME– a fantasy on the struggles of migrants, which was recognized as one of the most successful achievements in the region for 2017 by Al Jazeera. SDG 4 Quality Education: Podium, the UNICEF Innovation Lab approach to teaching the SDGs Creating environments where young Kosovars can learn about the Global Goals is another of our priorities since only the engagement and commitment of future generations will ensure long-term societal commitment and bring about lasting change. The Advocacy for Social Change initiative “Podium for the SDGs”, organized by the UNICEF Innovation Lab, UNV and the UN Development Coordinator’s Office, reached hundreds of young girls and boys from across Kosovo during its outreach phase. Later, over forty of them attended workshops where they learned to identify and link community needs to specific Global Goals, how to collaborate with peers, and how to advocate for their communities’ priorities. SDG 17 Partnerships for the Goals: It’s Festival Time! The UN Kosovo Team continued to build on its long-standing partnership with the Dokufest, a world-class documentary film festival, in Prizren, Kosovo, to promote the SDGs. This year’s theme “Future My Love” was perfectly suited to Agenda 2030. We created a SDGs booth to allow participants at the festival to create a video recording of the future they want. And we helped to shed light on the boundless talent of young women filmmakers in Kosovo. UNV and the UN Development Coordinator’s Office also supported the 8th edition of Anibar, the annual animation Festival in Peja/Peć, where children were taught about the SDGs and were encouraged to produce their own animations around their favorite goals. In addition to working with these existing platforms for SDG advocacy and learning, we took the first steps in 2017 towards partnering with private sector around SDGs, with a focus on sustainability and partnership-building. More than 35 representatives from the private sector, UN Heads of Agencies, the American Chamber of Commerce, USAID EMPOWER programme and The Partnering Initiative contributed to discussions on leveraging partnerships for sustainable development. Setting SDG baselines 2017 also marked the first steps in setting up a robust data platform, to help inform the public and assist decision makers to monitor and report on the implementation of Agenda 2030. Gathering reliable data in Kosovo is always a challenge, but the SDGs represent a critical opportunity to promote synergies with existing efforts and to raise awareness of the need to further invest in improving capacities for data collection and analysis. What’s next? We’ve had a lot of fun so far, experimenting and piloting different ways to bring the SDG message to Kosovo. Now, with the Kosovo Assembly and leadership fully on board, it’s time to take stock and focus attention on nurturing those flowers that are blooming the most. In Kosovo, there is never a dull moment! * References to Kosovo shall be understood to be in the context of Security Council Resolution 1244 (1999).

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Crowdfunding for smart cities in Albania

BY Jorina Kadare, Stefania Sechi | November 14, 2017

Let’s start with a little bit of recent history. Innovative financing for the UN goes back to the International Conference on Financing for Development in 2002. The hope was that innovative financing would help to bridge the gap between what was available and what was needed to reach the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015. As the name suggests, innovative finance means raising funds for development by using unconventional mechanisms. For example, micro-levies, public-private partnerships, and other mechanisms that go beyond financial contributions. It can also mean optimising the use of traditional funding sources to transfer assets to where they are needed the most. Fast forward to 2012, when the UN, governmental institutions, and donors started to mull over realistic ways to finance the achievement of the Global Goals by 2030, bearing in mind the estimated total costs which vary between $90 and $ 120 trillion, and with a funding gap of $2.5 trillion per year. The concept of innovative financing came up again. #Crowdfunding4Children We at the UN in Albania decided to test out alternative forms of financing, which are progressively being mainstreamed across the agency’s interventions. Ever since the internet made it possible to use crowdfunding to finance projects, individuals and the private sector have used this new tool to their advantage, so why not us? We saw the potential of using crowdfunding as an integral part of our mission to achieve the 2030 Agenda. Our first successful experiment was a crowdfunding campaign launched in July 2016 that allowed the construction of the first all-inclusive playground in Albania suitable for children with special needs and diverse abilities. This work builds on our previous  open data project with the Municipality of Tirana where we blended and opened up data sets on safety of our cities in the  Open Data Portal of Tirana Smart City. Out of 22 play grounds currently under management by the Municipality of Tirana, only one is suitable for children with special needs. Building better parks will help all children interact with their peers and develop their personalities in a safe and healthy environment.  And it went pretty well! By tapping into a large pool of individuals, mainly via social media and crowdfunding platforms, and through advocacy initiatives we raised our goal of $20,000 for the #Crowdfunding4Children campaign. Supporting youth employment through equity crowdfunding UNDP, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and UN Women are also testing out how to build financial connections between mature enterprises willing to invest in promising start-ups through equity crowdfunding. The goal is to set up a sustainable system that supports emerging businesses. United Nations Albania, in partnership with the Chamber of Commerce and Industry Tirana, was able to engage with 100 VIP companies in an exploration survey, probing their potential participation in equity crowdfunding schemes. Another component of this joint initiative relates to the assessment of a reward-based crowdfunding model among small communities in Tirana. This tool allows individuals to contribute towards a specific project with the anticipation of receiving a tangible –non-financial– reward at a later date. We are building on this model by involving private services providers. For example, integrating the option to financially contribute to a social project at the time as making a routine payment, for example, for an electricity or telecommunications service bill.  We hope that these alternative mechanisms will play an important role in transforming Tirana into a smart city. We believe that crowdfunding deserves more trust in the development world. Crowdsourcing enables resource mobilisation, promotes innovative initiatives, and galvanises active citizenship!

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‘Glocalizing’ the Sustainable Development Goals in Moldova

BY Aurelia Spataru | October 20, 2017

Almost two years ago, 193 Member States of the United Nations, including Moldova, adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. This bold and universal Agenda already has many countries around the world taking action to improve people’s lives and plan for a sustainable future.   In Moldova’s case, planting the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in national soil and turning the 2030 Agenda into a reality has been quite the journey! The good news is that  Moldova’s national policy agenda is now aligned with more than 106 of the SDGs targets and it selected 226 global indicators to assess progress towards these global goals. 'Glocalizing' the SDGs targets The UN resolution says that the SDG targets are “aspirational and global, with each government setting its own national targets guided by the global level of ambition but taking into account national circumstances.” The beauty of the SDGs is that they’re inclusive of everyone, so our first step was to identify which of the 169 global targets are  most urgent for the Moldovan context. This is what we mean by ‘glocalizing’ - localising a global set of goals while benefitting from the drive of the whole world towards the same ambition. So here’s how we 'glocalize': The UN in Moldova worked through 180 of the government of Moldova’s main national strategic documents to find connections between the Moldovan local reality and the global targets. We found immediate points of contact with almost two thirds of the global targets. Once we gathered this information, we spoke with public servants, civic activists, community and business leaders, and researchers. We wanted to know their thoughts on the SDG targets. If a target was not immediately applicable, then, we wanted to know how it could be adjusted to make it more concrete and specific to the Moldovan context. During the consultations, we jointly defined who would be the responsible government institution to take action and ownership so that we reach the targets. With a fresh pair of eyes, we looked at the national strategic documents again to identify all policy-related gaps that needed to be addressed. We also provided proposals to amend policies and introduce new concepts of sustainable development to deepen the focus on the most vulnerable populations, for example, adding a specific target to understand how many people fall into poverty due to natural disasters such as floods, droughts and landslides. The 2030 Agenda is a complex one, and Moldova is in full swing towards reforming its central administration. The country doesn’t have enough financial resources to cover all the costs at once. So, taking this into consideration, we set priorities and came up with a list of “triggers” that would produce a domino effect and help us reach the other linked targets. Crowdsourcing how to measure SDG progress in Moldova The Moldovan government is currently only prepared to report on half of the nationalized indicators because of financial, capacity and methodological constraints. When we realized this, we knew that we would need to engage experts across many disciplines in order to develop methodologies and data collection.     Under the leadership of the State Chancellery and the direct involvement of the National Bureau of Statistics, we worked for nine months to tailor global targets and indicators to fit the situation on the ground. Talking to different stakeholders (public authorities, civil society, and the private sector) was decisive to our success. Their valuable inputs and insights for tailoring global targets and indicators to the national context represented the first step in assuming of the 2030 Agenda by the people of Moldova. Trying to figure all of this out was no easy feat, so we developed a toolkit which will also help us with the further integration of the SDGs’ into the work of both government and partners in the next stage. The Council for Sustainable Development, which was set up as an institutional anchor to the SDGs nationalization process endorsed and disseminated all of our collective efforts. The process to nationalize the SDGs in Moldova has even catalysed a broader reform aimed at streamlining the policy planning framework. Given the success, the Government has asked the UN to support in the evaluation of its current national strategy and the new Strategy Moldova 2030. Even after all this… the work has just begun! Do you have any advice for us?  Let us know!

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Open data for social good in the Kyrgyz Republic

BY Markel Toromyrza uulu | June 30, 2017

At the UN in Kyrgyzstan, we believe that open and reliable data is essential to data-driven decision making by key policy makers and other organizations that use data for social good. As Ashish Soni, a machine-learning and data-science expert, says, there are five characteristics which constitute building blocks for data analysis and decision making:       Accurate: data and information must be reliable and accurate       Complete: partial data depicts a partial picture; completeness of data and information is essential for sound decisions       Consistent: systematic collection using consistent methodology and updates are important for data users and decision makers       Unique: good decisions need high-quality data and information       Timely: new and current data is more valuable than outdated data With this and the current national situation in mind, we worked with the country’s National Statistical Committee developing an open data website and the StatKG mobile application to make specific national data available to everyone free of charge. The app and the website rely on the data provided by the National Statistical Committee, an institution with unique and reputable methodology and tools to collect, analyse and interpret raw data. 24,000+ data points in Russian, Kyrgyz and English The open data portal and mobile app is our attempt to  reflect reliable and open data in Kyrgyzstan related to the Sustainable Development Goals and it is a one-of-a-kind in the Commonwealth of Independent States region. The mobile app also supports data in English, Kyrgyz, and Russian languages. We think it’s pretty cool that  the application is not just an electronic handbook of statistical data, but also a powerful tool which allows comparison across different data points.  This thing is packed:  3,293 indicators across 312 categories with a total amount of 24,731 indicator values. We believe that this tool will be  useful for government decision makers, journalists, academia, NGOs and international agencies dealing with development issues. Both are convenient ways to get accurate, complete, consistent, unique, and timely data on various social, economic, and environmental aspects of life in Kyrgyzstan. Developing the website and its mobile app was a laborious process where a team of experts, IT specialists and statisticians from the National Statistical Committee spent long days trying to simplify vast dynamic tables to come up with a user-friendly way to visualize statistical data. Working on a beta version allowed us to identify bugs and errors that we could successfully fix. We are now proud to share the we have a user-friendly powerful tool on statistical data and analysis.  And this was just the beginning! Want to learn more? Now that we have these new tools, a team of national experts is working to increase their analytical capability. The Government of the Kyrgyz Republic is working on taking the globally agreed goals and targets and finding ways to measure them that work for the Kyrgyz Republic. This will help us establish a solid baseline to monitor the SDGs, support the government, and strengthen UN accountability through monitoring and evaluation. Pretty impressive, right? If you want to know more, go and check out our free of charge statistical data and analysis tool. Have a look at it and let us know what you think!   Photo:UNFPA/Y-PEER Kyrgyzstan

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Reflections on Montenegro’s forward-looking plan of cooperation with the UN

BY Ana Dautovic, John Sweeney | August 17, 2016

Administration, planning, and foresight are three siblings of varying age with different familial responsibilities. Administration is the elder and has been moving things ahead, which often requires negotiation and some degree of compromise. Planning, the middle child, feels the same pull of the present as her elder sibling but also recognizes the importance of looking ahead, if only to forge a path forward. Foresight, the youngest, is the rebel in the family and champions not being tied down to a single path as change can come swiftly and disrupt even well laid plans. When separated, the limits and constraints of each practice are evident, but when integrated, these three interrelated operations can and might enable an anticipatory capacity for not just navigating uncertain futures but also shaping the future. This cohesion is precisely what UN Montenegro sought to develop in using a foresight approach to enhance the UNDAF planning process. As anyone who has siblings can attest, tensions are certain to arise, but at the end of the day, family is what matters most. Here is what this family looks like. Whereas administration focuses on the here and now, planning moves a bit further afield in time and usually necessitates including additional perspectives. Foresight requires one to imagine effects and impacts on a grander scale by mandating a diverse range of perspectives and broadening the scope of time under consideration. Conversations invariably change when one begins to think about the effects of climate change upon his own grandchildren and beyond, and some have called for the advent of “Ministries of Future Generations” to institutionalize a forward-looking and anticipatory approach to policy, planning, and strategy development. Looking Back… Insider’s perspective “Old ways won’t open new doors”. – (unknown) If someone told me few years ago that I would actually enjoy every step of a process of developing a new five-year programme of cooperation so much, I would declare them mad. Apart from the dull process of planning and strategizing the new plan, there were other challenges:  How to align it with the new global Agenda for Sustainable Development? How to make the process innovative? How to involve new voices? And all of that having in mind the positioning of the UN in the relatively developed and European Union candidate country? But, I enjoyed it all thanks to the youngest, the rebel in the family. Integrating administration, planning and foresight seemed as a challenge at the beginning. But, you have to open your mind for new opportunities and insights. Like the rebel child does, it woke me up from a routine and changed the way of doing things, living, meetings, practices, and deliberations. With foresight, we discussed probable and preferred futures by 2021 and even by 2030, once we, citizens, government, private sector and civil society, implement the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals. We employed this methodology of thinking and planning by developing and playing a serious game, which we have also put online. The colorful board and numerous cards and tokens that we played and used to discuss the futures from the perspective of challenges, opportunities, partners, actions and values, helped us unleash our mindsets. We touched the blind spots of our futures and emerging issues to discover the critical uncertainties of what the future on which we could have a lot of influence holds for us. We saw opportunities that seemed uncommon before but feasible now. Thus, we learned that citizens prioritize family values and culture before all. They see the biggest potential in the youth, the generations to come, for whom we should leave at least the same opportunities for development and growth which we inherited. Sustainable future. We learned that experts see the same strength in the youth, the agents of change who have opportunities to transform the world for the better. We learned that people want employment and quality education and health services, they want to be equal in all terms and help save the planet. We also learned that they saw UN’s role in all of this challenging but possible work. We learned that most of people are optimists, ready to give their wholehearted contributions in helping develop the sustainable country in areas of social inclusion, democratic governance, environmental sustainability and economic development. We learned all of this and much more from more than 700 people, young and older, experts and non-experts, public servants and citizens, who took active part in development of the new UN’s programme of cooperation with Montenegro. We also learned that one cannot live without good old administration and strategic planning but one can make them much more proactive with innovative approaches such as foresight and backcasting. Looking Back… Outsider’s perspective "In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable." – Dwight D. Eisenhower As it has been six months since UN Montenegro held its strategic prioritisation discussion with the government, the question of institutionalization has been on my mind. While the results from our public consultations and the outputs from a joint Backcasting exercise with UN Montenegro’s government partners were well-received and impactful, my ultimate goal, as well as my primary metric for success, centres on the degree to which foresight gets institutionalized and becomes part of the normal planning process. In short, did it scale? My sense is that there continues to be lots of interest and future initiatives will be driven by champions rather than institutional mechanisms, but this is often how big changes begin. It is easy for foresight to get lost, or take a back seat, once the drive to move forward with a plan takes over. Foresight works best, as in the above family, when it is integrated into administration and planning processes. This, however, is easier said than done, but there are good examples of how to do it. Yes, it requires resources of various scope and scale, and, perhaps most importantly, the process is more important than the product to paraphrase Eisenhower. One clear lesson learned from Montenegrin UNDAF development process comes from the Futrplay platform. First and foremost, we should have gone fully mobile. When we tracked how participants were accessing the site, it became evident that a mobile application would have provided a more seamless user experience and likely reached more participants. Face-to-face events, such as mini-workshops at schools and universities, could have supported further participation, and with more time these would have certainly been easy to organize. Overall, I am excited to see if others can learn from what we did and take our efforts further. Let us know!

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Embracing diversity in Moldova, from theory to practice

BY Sandra Cavallo, Xenia Siminciuc | June 23, 2016

Last year the Diversity Task Force of the United Nations in Moldova tasked us, its communication focal points, with conducting an internal diversity survey to verify the degree of diversity among UN staff in the country, and staff attitudes towards diversity. The results were something of an eye-opener. Not only were some groups of the population – LGBT, Roma, people with disabilities –underrepresented among the 300+ staff of all UN agencies in Moldova, but the attitude of staff towards minorities showed that there are still important steps to be taken in this regard. The data shows that one in four staff members would not feel comfortable working with a colleague with a mental impairment. Also, 7 percent of the respondents will not feel comfortable working with an openly lesbian boss. A reason behind these prejudices might be that a part of our staff had never been exposed to people from these groups before and is therefore affected by irrational fears and misconceptions. A plan to embrace diversity When discussing the management response to these results, one of the most innovative proposals was to launch a first internship program for persons from vulnerable groups. How would that work? The idea was to kill two birds with one stone: Thanks to this internship program, we would address the problem of UN staff never having had the chance to work really closely to some of the minorities we work for. And, at the same time, we would offer a unique opportunity to members of these communities to try out what it means to work for an international organization and gain much-needed on-the-job experience to help in their future job search. That’s how, on Zero Discrimination Day (1st March), the UN in Moldova launched our Diversity Internship Programme. Following an open call which we distributed widely through all our civil society partners and public information channels, we could recruit a uniquely varied group of interns who put their skills at the disposal of UN agencies for two and a half months (you don’t want to miss their videos talking about this opportunity!). A recent study by the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) demonstrates that direct contact with persons from underrepresented groups considerably reduces social distance and increases social inclusion. We will measure in our next Diversity Survey if this is reflected in changed attitudes of our staff towards relevant groups. But certainly it is already clear that working side by side with our new colleagues with disabilities, from underrepresented ethnic groups or coming from traditionally marginalised communities has been an eye-opener for many of us. The new colleagues have brought with them a fantastic wealth of new ideas and perspectives. While we rejoice seeing them thrive in the UN working environment, reinforcing our belief that Moldova is missing on an enormous potential by not fully using the talents of all its population groups. To share these impressions, while the program was rolling out we decided to come out in public with our first results. After presenting our interns and the best practices of our partners, we invited public and private institutions to accept a challenge – and commit to create same internship opportunities for vulnerable groups within their offices. This resulted in seven public and private organizations signing a solemn commitment with concrete follow-up steps. We are now helping potential candidates participate in initial interviews and get ready to meet major changes in their lives. This makes us extremely happy since it realizes one of the key aspirations of our Diversity Task Force: adopting best practices to change ourselves and inspire others. Or as they say: “be the change you want to see in the world”.

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Which came first: The ICT chicken or the joint operations egg?

BY Ognjen Krstulovic | April 26, 2016

It’s the eternal question: form before function or the other way around? It is hard to tell which came first – joint operational processes in UN in Bosnia and Herzegovina, or the ICT tools that support them. As early as our move to a One UN House, it was an important question: Can we have an ICT system that will help us all to manage conference rooms in the new building in a transparent and efficient way? If not, we might not be able to share space, each agency would end up having its own conference room, and the whole point of coming together under one roof would be lost. Fortunately, we were able to set up a system to meet this one simple business need. But, as we spend more time together, more and more operational processes would obviously be more efficient if done jointly, or at least in the same way by everyone. So we ask ourselves: Which other processes could benefit from new technologies? A few examples came to our minds, but we asked around for everyone’s feedback… the response was overwhelming. Colleagues immediately came out with processes that could benefit from a 21st century approach and we were thrilled! Here are some (the list is long): vehicle and driver booking system, translator roster, intern roster, ICT support request and consultancies management. Prioritization After the great response from our colleagues across all UN agencies, we got on task to see which processes could be made more efficient, which processes matter for the whole UN community, and which everyone is doing in the same way but separately from each other. It was a challenging activity, because there is no single process that matters equally to all of the UN community.  For example, a smaller organization may not need an application to book a vehicle whereas a larger one might do. I am reading your mind… getting colleagues who report to different bosses to agree on something? Good luck with that… Well I guess we were lucky or we just followed the right path. We identified those processes that could be turn into applications, We gave everyone an equal shot at expressing their needs, And prepared specifications for every application we wanted. It worked! After a tedious and complex procurement process, I am proud to say that the UN in Bosnia and Herzegovina will shortly have a few new great applications in our One UN intranet available to make everyone’s life easier. We have about 10 “design” teams composed of stakeholders in different roles from various agencies working together – analysing business processes openly, learning from each other and laying the groundwork for innovation. And it doesn’t end there! We only have sketches of the future processes but one can already see possible improvements – steps we will be able to skip, papers we will be able to omit, information that will flow easier. All in all, as we move through our packed meeting schedule we are getting closer to our first look at the new system. Will keep you posted. Looks like the chicken and the egg are equal partners…

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Prototyping continuous collaboration in Kosovo*

BY Nora Sahatciu, Andrew Russell, Mjellmë Doli | April 6, 2016

When we set out to design a new Common Development Plan for the UN Kosovo Team in the fall of 2014, we decided to do things a bit differently. We were very interested in determining the substance of our new plan (the “what”) but we also wanted to use the planning process as an opportunity to take a critical look at the quality of our approach to collaboration (the “how”).  So we decided to take a two-track process to the design of the plan. The “formal” track was derived from the standard UN Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF) guidelines while the “informal” track took its inspiration from design thinking methodologies that would allow for a wide variety of participants to work together to analyze the challenges to effective inter-agency collaboration and to collectively design and prototype solutions. These new ways of working together could then potentially be tested out in the context of new and ongoing joint initiatives related to programming (“One Programme”), advocacy (“Communicating as One”) and operations (“Operating as One”). The second, informal track began with an initial prototyping workshop from September 15-16 2014. The purpose of the prototyping workshop was to create a space for over 70 interested staff members from 15 different agencies to come together and explore new ways of thinking and working together. The workshop focused on identifying and naming the key challenges or patterns of thinking and behaviour that would need to be addressed in order to achieve more effective inter-agency collaboration. The idea of “Unwanted Repetitive Patterns” (URPs) was presented and the group was asked to think in terms of the “recurring patterns” that tend to block or impede efforts to collaborate. During the workshop participants also identified eight potential prototypes for practicing new ways of collaborating on programming, advocacy and operations, using “Open Space Technology”. Four of these prototypes have since moved forward in one way or another, a 50 percent success rate.  One of the prototyping ideas suggested at the workshop that received the most interest was that of promoting youth engagement. UNDP, UNICEF, UNV, UNFPA and WHO have since applied a highly participatory human-centred programme design approach to create the first UN joint programme in Kosovo that is derived entirely from the collective creative energies of young people. More recently, UNDP and WHO have been exploring crowdsourcing and citizen-generated data for more effective advocacy on environmental impacts on health. Six months later, at a second Prototyping Lab, the team reviewed what had changed. A third set of prototyping working sessions were held in early 2016.  In this way, we are treating prototyping as an ongoing dialogue process on collaboration and as a sustained platform for strategic conversations. Ultimately, what people talk about is what they pay attention to.  And what they care about is also what will help them join others moving beyond their own agency or issue-based silos into broader, more effective partnerships. These most recent working sessions have focused on internal inter-agency business processes. We have used business process reengineering (BPR) to review processes related to joint programme design and website communications, with the aim of increasing efficiency but also to acquire a shared vision on these processes can and should work to incentivize a stronger culture of collaboration. With the support of UNDP’s Management Consulting Team (MCT), we convened technical and communications staff from all agencies to identify pain points, rooms of improvement and new tools.  This includes a complete, collaborative re-design of the new UN Kosovo Team web-site. We should have a beta version ready to share very shortly. During these working sessions we also tackled processes related to UN Common Services. Teams from all agencies helped to identify common problems and to recommend viable solutions. This same participatory approach will be used in implementing the improved processes. We used video to help illustrate some of these problems and to propose solutions. Support from the UNDAF Innovation Facility has allowed the Office of the UN Development Coordinator to increasing serve as a hub for these kinds of experimental activities. This way of working has begun to spin off into unexpected directions.  We recently facilitated an ad-hoc collaboration by the UN Kosovo Team with the Kosovo Emergency Management Agency in piloting the first Big Data prototype for emergency response in Kosovo. We also served as liaison for UN Kosovo Team agencies with the Kosovo Office of the President to coordinate data gathering for Kosovo’s application to the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), which resulted in the MCC Board of Directors selecting Kosovo as eligible to develop a compact. This opens the door for Kosovo receive up hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. assistance for the fight against poverty and corruption. So what have we learned from our journey so far? In these rapidly changing times, where it appears that even time travel is now possible, we need to be much more agile, responsive and adaptive in the way that the UN engages in development assistance. And we need all be willing to think “out-of-the-box”.  Creating time and space for collective dreaming and creativity is not a luxury, it is a necessity. We strongly believe then that co-design of joint UN solutions and prototyping should: Be a standardized operating procedure. Be a collaborative and engaging process. Be used as a means of incentivizing a stronger culture of collaboration. What are your own thoughts and experiences? We’d be happy to hear them and share more details of our prototyping journey, including business process maps and other specific outputs from our working sessions. We can be reached through unkt.ks@one.un.org and look forward to hear from you!   *References to Kosovo shall be understood to be in the context of Security Council Resolution 1244 (1999).

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Country Stories

Turkmenistan: Localizing the SDGs and creating a monitoring system with an inclusive approach

November 9, 2016

Following the UN Sustainable Development Summit where the President of Turkmenistan demonstrated his support to the 2030 Agenda and the country’s commitment to realize the SDGs, the country established a joint government–UN SDG Task Group consisting of 20 national agencies. The Task Group includes the Mejlis (Parliament) of Turkmenistan, diverse sector ministries of Economy and Development, Finance, Health, Education, Labour and Social Protection, Agriculture and Water, Justice, the State Committee for Environment Protection and Land Resources, the Turkmen National Institute for Democracy and Human Rights and the State Statistics Committee. The Task Group immediately approved a structured three-stage roll-out process including: national consultations, focused on each of the SDGs, to discuss and agree on the goals and targets to be adopted; incorporation of goals and targets into the next Presidential Socio-Economic Plan for 2017–2021 and sector plans and programmes; and creation of a national system to measure progress in implementing the SDGs. Reviewing existing plans and adapting the SDGs to the national context The Government of Turkmenistan hosted 17 days of national consultations during March 2016 in collaboration with the UN. This was a novel beginning to the country’s journey towards 2030. Each full-day session was jointly led by a government ministry and the UN and provided an opportunity to adjust the SDGs or define national indicators. On average 9 to 10 national ministries and departments were represented at each meeting, along with two representatives from the National Statistical Office. These consultations led to 121 out of 169 global targets being recommended for adoption without modification, while an additional 27 targets were modified; 109 of the 231 global indicators were recommended for adoption without modification, and 50 were modified. In addition, 39 national indicators were formulated, resulting in a total of 198 indicators. This list of recommendations is being submitted to the Cabinet of Ministers for formal approval. Through the consultations, line ministries were able to openly exchange views and hold intersectoral discussions on sensitive topics, including discrepancies in data and HIV/AIDS indicators. The consultations provided an opportunity for capacity development by discussing in depth what each goal, target and indicator meant for the national context. They also contributed to building trust between the government and the UN for the work to follow. Inclusive participation During the process of defining the 2030 Agenda, Turkmenistan, with support from the UN, held country consultations to discuss the lessons learned from the implementation of the MDGs, to inform the public of the global discussions on the SDGs and seek their inputs into the 2030 Agenda. These consultations engaged with diverse stakeholders such as parliamentarians, academics, youth and school children (the Youth Union), women (the Women’s Union), private-sector actors (the Union of Manufacturers and Entrepreneurs), and NGOs working with persons with disabilities. The consultations resulted in a very high level of government awareness of the SDGs and contributed to moving quickly to roll out the SDGs with a whole-of-government approach.

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Montenegro: Adapting an established national strategy for Sustainable Development to new global and regional agendas

November 9, 2016

National ownership Montenegro’s ambitions as an ‘ecological state’ pursuing a sustainable development path stem from the 1990s and were reflected as early as 1992 in the text of the Constitution. This interest was further reflected in the country’s high level of participation in global debates on the formulation of the SDGs, particularly through the Open Working Group, where the views of 12,000 people from national consultations ‘Montenegro – the Future I Want’ were presented. The UN Montenegro and the civil sector collaborated closely with the government in the ambitious consultation process with the people of Montenegro, which included the most marginalized populations. In close cooperation with the UN, the government launched the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the UN, using a jointly developed animation entitled ‘We have a plan’. Institutional coordination In 2002, Montenegro established a National Council for Sustainable Development, which acts as an advisory body to the government for implementing sustainable development policies, while the line ministry responsible for sustainable development is in charge of implementation. Chaired by the President and consisting of 25 members (representatives of ministries, local authorities, the business sector, public institutions, civil society and independent experts), the National Council provides recommendations to the government for implementing sustainable development policies; harmonizes sectoral policies with the principles, objectives and measures of sustainable development, climate change and integrated coastal zone management; and amends the existing regulations and adopts new regulations for the harmonization of socio-economic development and conservation of natural resources with sustainable development policies. Since the adoption of the first National Strategy for Sustainable Development (NSSD) in 2007, a new strategy has been proposed to reform the institutional set-up, in order to further strengthen capacities at the Ministry for Sustainable Development and Tourism and the public administration and improve their cooperation with national and international partners. The existing National Council was thus reformed as the National Council for Sustainable Development, Climate Changes and Integrated Coastal Zone Management, covering more diverse and integrated issues. Reviewing existing plans and adapting the SDGs to the national context A draft version of the NSSD 2030 was adopted by the Government of Montenegro, and a mapping of the indicators and targets proposed for each goal against existing national statistics was completed. Public consultations with a broad spectrum of relevant stakeholders have been held, and the NSSD has fully aligned national goals with the 2030 Agenda. The Strategy was adopted by the National Council for Sustainable Development, Climate Change and Integrated Coastal Zone Management in June 2016, while the final adoption by the government is expected in mid-2016. The previous NSSD and MDG Progress Reports were used as important inputs to the new NSSD 2030. Discussions held within the Open Working Group on SDGs, intergovernmental negotiations and the outcomes of the Addis Ababa Action Agenda influenced the content and timing of the Strategy. A longer time horizon was adopted to align it with the 2030 Agenda, and ‘governance and financing’ for sustainable development was given a central position. The UN contributed to the development of the new NSSD, and it is expected to be further involved in setting up a national monitoring and evaluation system to track progress in implementing the NSSD Action Plan. Moreover, the government and UN Montenegro developed a new plan of cooperation for 2017–2021, taking the 2030 Agenda as a starting point for UN interventions in the country. They are currently working on developing an online hub that will inter alia  help to communicate the SDGs and engage with partners in their implementation of the NSSD. Monitoring and reporting Monitoring and reporting on implementation of the NSSD has been taken seriously. An integrated NSSD monitoring framework proposes using 231 global SDG indicators, 281 national indicators, 9 composite indicators, and 36 other indicators provided by international organizations that are relevant to Montenegro. Overall, 42.3 percent of the global set of SDG indicators will be tracked through existing or newly accessible data by 2018, since the preparation of the First National Report on NSSD implementation is planned in 2019. It is anticipated that by 2024, 74.7 percent of SDG indicators will be regularly monitored and reported on. Specific tasks are being assigned for the collection and storage of input data for the statistical indicators, as well as protocols for exchanging data and ensuring compatibility. The need for improved capacity is highlighted if reporting on the full range of indicators of sustainable development is to be realized.

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Country Stories

Georgia: Prioritizing SDG implementation towards institutional coordination and policy coherence

November 9, 2016

National ownershipGeorgia is enjoying a favourable start to implementation of the SDGs due to the government’s demonstrated ownership of the SDG agenda and a national consensus about the importance of thenew global goals for the country’s development. The Administration of the Government of Georgia has established a working group comprising line ministries and the National Statistics Office to adapt the SDGs to the national context. Strong commitment to make the global goals an essential part of national priorities was clearly voiced at the Social Good Summit in September 2015 organized by the Administration of the Government, the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources Protection and the UN, in cooperation with the Government of the Ajara Autonomous Republic, one of the rapidly developing regions of Georgia that has engaged in piloting many of the SDG approaches. With the focus on pressing developmental issues faced by Georgia in the areas of environmental protection, economic growth and urban and rural development, the Summit paid particular attention to the development of national strategies required to address these challenges and the value of international cooperation to enhance the country’s role in achieving the global goals. The discussion which had started at the Social Good Summit continued at the SDG Donor Round Table in January 2016. Inclusive participation Following a highly participatory Social Good Summit which brought on board government officials, representatives of subnational governments, civil society and the media, UN support to the nationalization of the SDGs continued by assisting an inclusive national dialogue about the Post-2015 Development Agenda. This included a series of introductory meetings in five regions of Georgia that engaged local authorities, NGOs, businesses and the media. Adapting the SDGs to the national context To adapt the SDGs to national priorities and challenges, the Government’s Administration has prioritized 13 of the 17 SDGs and 79 global targets for the next 5–7 years. Additionally, 40 targets have been translated and adjusted, and 5 new national targets have been set, while the government intends to define all 17 SDGs as a permanent national priority. National and local CSOs provided inputs into identifying priority areas, and the government is continuing the dialogue process. The UNCT has held a series of consultations with the Government’s Administration and all line ministries to provide feedback on the nationalization process, including specific targets and indicators. Raising public awareness Building on the successful engagement of approximately 10,000 Georgians during the national consultations in 2013 to inform the creation of the 2030 Agenda, the government, together with the UN, is considering creating an online digital platform for interactive data collection and visualization of  the SDGs and the Georgian nationalization process. Crowdsourcing tools such as the MY World survey, including an online platform and an SMS voting service, offer the opportunity to collect fresh data on the Georgian public’s stance on the SDGs. Leaflets and guides are being developed in the Georgian language to raise awareness among local communities and municipalities. Additionally, introductory meetings were held in five regions of the country, with the aim of raising awareness of the SDGs among local governments and the private and civil sectors. The UN has also partnered with the national NGO Civil Development Agency (CiDA) to support local-level outreach round tables, and a panel discussion was convened on the SDG agenda at the international conference ‘Promoting Corporate Social Responsibility in Georgia’ together with CiDA and the UN Global Compact. Horizontal and vertical coordination The establishment within the Government’s Administration of two new units in 2014 greatly enhanced the government’s capacity to lead the nationalization process and provided the UNCT with clear entry points and partners to support the SDG process. The Planning and Innovations Unit has led the nationalization process and horizontal policy coordination, while the Donor Coordination Unit has led the interface between the Government’s Administration and international organizations. Monitoring and reporting With the support of the National Statistics Office of Georgia (Geostat), a reliable information base has been analysed to set the baseline indicator for each target. Geostat has worked with the line ministries to collect the relevant data and analyse weaknesses of disaggregated statistics. As of early 2016, nearly 120 indicators have been identified as having baseline data. Still, the lack of statistical data remains a challenge to setting reliable quantitative indicators.

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