Statement in Round Table F by Cordelia Lonsdale (Development Initiatives) on behalf of the CSO FfD Group and WWG on FfD

Statement on Data, monitoring and accountability
My name is Cordelia Lonsdale, and I work for Development Initiatives, which is an independent organisation working on the role of data and information in ending poverty and promoting sustainable development.
We have heard a lot about the potential for big data, citizen generated data to contribute to monitoring. This is all true, governments and institutions should certainly be harnessing the power of new technologies and innovative approaches for collecting data. But these innovative approaches need to be a complement, not a substitute, to a firm bedrock of core administrative data collected from government institutions, and reliable, timely and comprehensive national statistics. This is still lacking in many developing countries. The registry and administrative data which services and systems rely on in the rich, developed countries, which is collected by eg: hospitals, schools, and other government institutions, is still extremely poor, unreliable or unavailable in many developing countries. When it is available, it is often not being used effectively in decision making, or even available in a form where it can be used at all.
There is one developing country we are aware of. It suffers from lack of statistical capacity (few skilled staff, with not enough time, infrastructure or resource). This stats office has the following method of measuring maternal mortality. Instead of being able to rely on data from local clinics or hospitals, they conduct a survey and ask mothers ‘Do you know of anyone who has died giving birth in the past ten years’? This kind of data collection method cannot inform good policymaking, and it simply will not help us implement the 2030 Agenda and leave no-one behind.
The financing problem in regards to data is yes, partly about lack of money but also about source and direction and approach of existing financing. Core administrative systems take a long time to develop. Current approaches to financing for data and filling data gaps, are often short-termist, for example sectoral surveys conducted by multilateral institutions and bilateral donors. Surveys tend to follow the policy priorities of those institutions and donors and are based on 3-5 year funding cycles.  They are also often insufficiently disaggregated. Surveys should be treated as a short-term step towards achieving the long-term goal of building strong, reliable national statistical systems. In fragile and conflict-affected states where this approach isn’t immediately possible, a strategy for building core national data and statistics needs to be integrated into long-term statebuilding and peacebuilding strategies and appropriately financed.
If FFD is to deliver, then FFD also needs to stand for sustainable, long-term financing for data. Capacity – building is essential. But, this is not a discussion only about ODA. We also need action from developing country governments who need to prioritise developing national statistics and other core data systems in their budgeting. There must be a wholesale shift from all sides, towards providing more long-term public funding to ensure more and better core public data, aligned with national development planning.

I would urge member states to prioritise the issue of long-term financing for better data in their deliberations, and in future, to deliver on the commitments in para 126 of the AAAA. The report of the Inter-Agency Task Force, needs to do much more to highlight existing data gaps as well as the data that is available, and to call for action and dialogue on these gaps in FFD. FFD needs to engage with the Global Action Plan on Data for Development prepared by the High-level Group for Partnership, Coordination and Capacity-building for post 2015 Monitoring, especially Section 6 on resourcing which itself references the AAAA.

Co-chairs, I ask you to ensure greater coordination between the work of this group and FFD going forward, as well as taking note of the work of the multi-stakeholder voluntary Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data initiative which emerged out of Addis. I will submit a full written statement. Thank you.