15 March 2016

The SDGs: A Great Gift to Nutrition Accountability – If We Accept It

Today I was at a workshop organized by the SDG2 Accountability Group, convened by ONE.

My presentation made 6 points about the gift that the SDGs represent to strengthen nutrition accountability.

1.  The 17 SDGs are said to be indivisible.  For nutrition this is certainly the case.  In the 2016 GNR (to be released on June 14) we analyse the 230 brand new SDG indicators and we identify over 50 that are highly relevant to nutrition, coming from 12 SDGs.  And SDG2 is not the Goal that contains the most of these indicators!  SDG2 is a starting point, not an end point for accountability on nutrition.

2.   The SDGs refer to malnutrition in all its forms.  This means overweight, obesity, high blood sugar etc as well as stunting, wasting anemia etc.  Bringing in stakeholders who care about accountability in these manifestations of malnutrition does not represent a distraction, but an opportunity.  The NCD Alliance, the Food Foundation and Jamie Oliver’s Food Foundation—to name a few—can strengthen accountability for all of us by bringing in citizens and others who would not normally focus on undernutrition.

3.   End Malnutrition.  Ending as opposed to halving (as in the MDGs) malnutrition means that we have to prevent and end malnutrition wherever it may happen.  High hanging fruit are no longer safe.  This means getting more disaggregated data.  In the 2016 GNR we conduct an analysis that compares stunting levels at the sub national level within 60 countries and find extraordinary differences between regions with the highest and lowest rates within each country.

4.   By 2030.  Having an endpoint is really helpful.  The MDGs obviously had this, but somehow the end date feels more meaningful when the goal is to end rather than halve malnutrition.  In terms of business as usual estimations, how long would it take for us to end anemia in women?  Never mind a Decade of Action, more like a Century of Action.

5.    Be SMART.  Too few countries (and other stakeholders) make SMART commitments.  As the 2016 GNR will show, only a small percentage of commitments made by governments are SMART.

6.    Collect more data.  Four of the WHA indicators rely on regular survey data like DHS and MICs: under 5 stunting, wasting and overweight and exclusive breastfeeding rates.  For these indicators across the 193 countries, we can only make on/off course country assessments for about half of the country-indicator pairs.  Targets without assessments are about as useful as an iPod Classic without headphones.

These SDG gifts need to be accepted and then used. 

A few quick reflections on the first 3 hours of the workshop (I couldn’t stay longer).

* It is great to see ONE back in the nutrition fold after a brief hiatus.  Welcome home.

* SDG 2 Accountability is a welcome initiative.  As I noted above, accountability in nutrition is weak.  More attention to it is welcome, especially as the initiative is trying to align with other accountability efforts such as the GNR.  

* The big value added of SDG2 Accountability (I think) is bringing in new and innovate ideas about (a) how to use existing data better, improving interoperability and user interfaces, (b) how to tweak existing data collection initiatives that are not motivated by nutrition but could work well for it, and (c) how to collect nutrition data in completely new ways.  Interestingly the 3 presentations I caught on “big data” were from companies.  Keeping my skepticism in check (e.g. data quality, data representativeness, the limits of interoperability etc.) I found the presentations intriguing.  I want to find out more.  We all should. 

I wish the SDG2 Accountability initiative well.

1 comment:

Chris Leather said...

As a means of increasing accountability, there is increasing discussion in the nutrition arena, and wider world of sustainable development, about the need for "registries" or "repositories" of commitment. See for example: https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/sdinaction

In my understanding a repository of commitments on nutrition would serve the following main functions:

* to make publicly available SMART policy, financial and technical commitments by a wide range of stakeholders
* enable specialists and the interested public to track progress in the delivery on commitments and the achievement of national nutrition targets

In the context of ICN2 follow up and the Decade of Action, the repository could provide one place where all nutrition related commitments by all stakeholders are deposited, made publicly available and analysable. For example, If commitments are made in any future N4G event or process they could be included in the repository.

I would be interested in your views Lawrence, and those of your readers, on this issue, in particular:

* What added value might such a repository bring to nutrition accountability?
* What would be the most important content and how should it be structured?
* Who would provide the information and how should it be collated?
* Who should administer any such repository?