The acceptance by President Nana Addo Danquah Akuffo Addo of Ghana to chair the national High Level Inter-ministerial Committee on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) has been described as a move that has given the needed political backing to the implementation of the global goals in the country.
And, to further demonstrate his commitment to this move, the President has assigned an official to regularly update him on the SDGs.
“This is good news indicating that the SDGs have been accepted politically and so we’re looking forward to leveraging more support from government,” says Dr. Felix Addo-Yobo, Deputy Director in-charge of Environmental Policy at the National Development Planning Commission (NDPC).
He was addressing the annual meeting on Tuesday June 20, 2017 in Accra, of the Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) Platform on SDGs organised by CARE International, which is the SDG Focal Point for International NGOs in Ghana.
The CSOs Platform is of the view that Ghana has attained significant progress in including the SDGs in development planning and data collection. The Platform has noted that the Ghana Statistical Service (GSS) has made important first steps in ensuring a more open and inclusive data environment in Ghana, with focus on timely and reliable data. The National Development Planning Commission (NDPC) is also integrating the goals into the future planned national development plans.
Briefing the meeting, on the Status of the Implementation of the SDGs in Ghana, Dr. Addo-Yobo said as the lead institution, the NDPC adopted an approach that utilised existing institutional arrangements to which were added a few new ones, to constitute the base for implementing the SDGs.
These include the High Level Inter-Ministerial Coordinating Committee chaired by the President to provide strategic guidance; the National Implementation Coordinating Committee made up of representatives of public institutions and key civil society organisations to provide strategic directions for implementing activities; and the National Technical Steering Committee with members drawn from other relevant institutions, to support the work of other committees.
The other aspect of the implementation arrangements involve working within the decentralised planning system of the metropolitan, municipal and district assemblies to incorporate the targets of the SDGs into their activities on one hand; and on the other collaborating with non-state actors, particularly the corporate and business sector as well as civil society organisations.
Monitoring and reporting is another key component of the institutional arrangement to keep track of the nation’s performance in implementing the SDGs.
Dr. Addo-Yobo said the strategy utilised in localising the process has been to align and adopt SDG targets to the local context, then adapt and incorporate them into national and district development plans, and subsequently to report on the progress.
In reporting on where Ghana is in delivering the SDGs, he observed that that may be difficult to do, because activities have been focused on developing the structures and systems to facilitate implementation.
“Therefore, the impact in establishing the values in relation to actual attainment of SDGs, are difficult to quantify and report on at this stage,” Dr. Addo-Yobo added.
He said “70 percent of the SDGs are already aligned in the Ghana Shared Growth Development Agenda (GSGDA) II 2014 – 2017, while, at the metropolitan, municipal and district levels, the targets are being aligned where gaps have been identified.”
Dr. Addo-Yobo announced that GSGDA II will expire at the end of this year and hinted that “a new draft GSGDA is ready for further discussions and consultations.” On the next steps, he hinted that “the current focus is to finish the new development agenda by the end of this month, which is just a few days from now.”
He mentioned other next steps as including training and raising awareness through the civil society platform; strengthening planning, data collection and reporting at all levels with the aim of improving the content of information being turned out; developing a National Data Base on SDGs to share knowledge; and mobilising resources through innovative ways to implement the SDGS.
With regards to monitoring the SDGs, Ghana is following procedures of the Inter-Agency Expert Group on the SDG Indicators (IAEG-SDG), established by the United Nations Statistical Commission in March last year, to develop indicator framework for monitoring the goals and targets of the SDGs.
Accordingly, the IAEG-SDG has classified the 230 targets of the goals into three tiers to ensure simple and practical monitoring. Tier 1 is made up of targets that are conceptually clear, have established methodology and standards available, with data regularly produced by countries. Tier 2 is made up of those indicators that have all the elements of Tier 1, but data is not regularly produced by countries and Tier 3 consists of the indicators for which an internationally agreed methodology has not yet been developed.
The Ghana Statistical Service (GSS) is the state institution mandated to develop the Data Ecosystem for SDGs Monitoring in the country. An official of the GSS, Omar Seidu, who was also at the CSOs meeting, said that, as at December 2016, 155 indicators have been highlighted in the framework for Tier 1, Tier 2 and the multiple indicators.
He said Ghana currently produces data on 62 indicators, many of which are inherited indicators from the MDGs, and that there also exists some data with limitations, which if strengthened could be used as data for additional 63 indicators. What this means is that the country is for now not producing data on 30 indicators.
Mr. Seidu explained that, of the indicators for which data is available, administrative sources provide the highest volume of data, followed by that from censuses and surveys and the least data provider is from the combination of census and survey, and administrative sources.
He said this indicates the need to invest in administrative data and highlights the key role censuses and surveys will continue to play in the nation’s data regime, while proving the need to explore new sources and types of data.
Mr. Omar mentioned several efforts that have been made towards building Ghana’s Data Ecosystem. These include concluded discussions with the Office of the USA Chief Statistician, for Ghana to clone and customise USA’s National Reporting Platform for SDG indicator tracking. There is also on-going discussions with the UN Global Pulse Kampala Lab to use satellite imagery in poverty estimation, a move in which Hewlett and World Bank have shown interest. Additionally, the GSS has begun discussions with the Office of the National Statistics (UK) on a DFID funded project to build capacity on data science in Ghana.
Members of the CSO Platform on SDGs welcomed the progress made on the data ecosystem and additional moves being made to strengthen it. But they were also concerned about the implications of the outcome of some of the moves and queried them.
For instance, they wondered who the eventual owner will be of Ghana’s National Reporting Platform that is to be cloned from that of the USA. They also questioned the credibility of data from administrative sources and inferably if there is need to invest in that area. The representative of the Disability Group was particularly concerned about how this group is captured in national data in terms of numbers and definition.
Some of the members wanted to know how detailed the data captured will be and questioned if the data could be disaggregated enough to, for example, provide absolute information on the exact hectares of land degraded by galamsey or illegal mining.
The formation of the CSO Platform on the SDGs in 2015 formed part of global and national processes towards the evolvement of the SDGs, which officially came into force in January 2016, replacing the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which formerly ended in 2015. Since then, nations have been addressing the core elements of translating the goals into national development agendas.
These core elements are identifying effective partnership schemes, mainstreaming SDGs at the national level through development strategies, and developing an accountability mechanism. To this end, governments, civil society and the private sector, have within this one and a half year period, been preparing the grounds and laying the needed sound foundation.
Nations started this process with the formation of coalitions and collaborative arrangements to identify and align their strategies, and measure and manage their contributions for the attainment of the SDGs.
This is to ensure that related activities are rolled out on schedule towards the realisation of the goals within the rest of the 13 and a half years left to the 2030 deadline set for the SDGs to end.
By Ama Kudom-Agyemang, Accra