Secretary-General Ban-Ki Moon often refers to the Post-2015 Development Goals as “people-centered”, but what does he really mean? Today’s “People Driven Accountability” workshop hosted by the UN Millennium Campaign and the World We Want 2015 Policy Strategy Group showed how hard the UN and civil society has been working to make sure that more people than ever before in history have a say in the Post-2015 Development Goals. Two projects were instrumental in making sure that millions of people participated in the Post-2015 Development Agenda creation process – the ‘My World – The United Nations Global Survey for a Better World’ (http://vote.myworld2015.org/) and ‘The World We Want’ (http://www.worldwewant2015.org).
The effort to represent people’s voices and have a more inclusive decision-making process has been a long time in the making – about four years. It was a decision from the top that led to the shift to mining data from the bottom. Paul Ladd, the Post-2015 Team Lead from the UNDP, remembers when he first drafted the concept note for ‘My World – The United Nations Global Survey for a Better World’. He was with a colleague in a noodle shop in Tokyo, and they were trying to figure out how the UN could reach out to more people for their opinions on what the Post-2015 Development Agenda should be, and how to do so in both a way that took advantage of 21st century tools but also reached out to the world’s most marginalized people.
What resulted was a survey – ‘My World 2015’ that had a three-pronged approach. The first prong was face-to-face data gathering in different countries, in the form of focus groups, interviews, and civil society data-gathering. The second prong focused on developing different themes for target audiences. The third prong was the online survey. Ladd described the process as very decentralized, with about two thirds of the data collected on the ground in the face-to-face method. To date, the ‘My World 2015’ has received responses from more than 4 million people from every single country in the world, and the data aggregated by age, gender, sex, and country also represents marginalized groups such as the disabled, the aging, and others. In all of the surveying methods, there are 16 issues to choose from that cover the existing Millennium Development Goals, plus issues of sustainability, security, governance and transparency. From now until 2015, as many people in as many countries as possible to be involved with MY World: citizens of all ages, genders and backgrounds.
“We had to do this. Why? An agenda that is built on the priorities of people will be a better agenda. Secondly, lots and lots of people in itself acts as a strong check and balance on the political process. Bringing people in the mix, and giving them a voice will make sure that this agenda is implemented in a better and faster way than the MDGs were,” said Ladd.
Mohan Sunkara, CEO of Azri Data Engineering, talked about the data side of the process to open up the Post-2015 Development Agenda. ‘My World 2015’ brought in an enormous amount of data. “All this data exists but it wasn’t being mined. People talk about engagement, but how do you track that engagement? They talk about data, but how do you mine that data?” he asked. Thus came in the ‘The World We Want’ project, which actually enables people to engage, visualize, and analyze people’s voices on sustainable development. Data engineers such as Sunkara worked hard to aggregate the data and create visualizations and tools that would be useful in understanding what the world is saying in terms of the Post-2015 Development Agenda. It also opened up the engagement process – in addition to voting on development goals, you can find events and engage in Post-2015 Discussions, or even network in your field in a particular place around the world. As a young person interested in gender issues around the world, I can find other people who are key influencers in my field using this tool.
Individuals are not the only ones to benefit from a people-centered approach to the Post-2015 Development Agenda. These tools have also been useful resources for small NGOs. Ghazala Mehmood, Policy Strategy Group Member of Bakarat (http://barakatworld.org/) an NGO that provides education for women in Pakistan and Afghanistan, talked about how ‘The World We Want’ has reached her organization so many miles away from the UNHQ. “This tool has helped small scale NGOs access resources and organizations that they wouldn’t have been normal access to. This tool will enable these people to add their voices, even though these women and girls live in a very remote group. This NGO is very very small, it’s not part of the UN or other NGO groups. It wouldn’t have been able to access policymakers at the UN or even policymakers nationally,” she said.
I was impressed by this workshop’s clear and dynamic presentation of how people-centered the Post-2015 Development Goals have strived to be. Perhaps that is why there are so many Post-2015 Development Goals. This is a historic moment for the UN – never before has a development agenda gone to such lengths to create an inclusive drafting process nor truly utilized 21st century tools such as easy-to-use web sites, data visualizations, and social media campaigns to involve people to vote on their development priorities. Of course, the next step is to continue refining and modifying the Post-2015 Development Agenda and make sure that it is concrete and realistic. But it is heartening to see how many people have participated in the process. Call it people’s power; they finally have a voice at the table.
- Ani Hao @IndieVolunteer