Measuring Global Goals in the Post-2015 Development Agenda

Written by Hien Tran, director of global advocacy at Landesa, a global development non-profit that works to secure land rights for the world’s poor women and men. Part 1 of a commentary series developed by The Chicago Council on Global Affairs and Landesa to highlight the importance of securing land rights for smallholder farmers.

As discussions continue around the shape of the post-2015 development agenda and how to measure progress towards achieving new global goals, it is useful to step back and consider the story of the drunkard and the streetlight.

The story is that one night, a police officer sees a drunk man searching under a streetlight and he asks what the man has lost. The man responds that he lost his keys and they proceed to search together. After a few minutes, the police officer asks if the man is sure he lost them near the streetlight. The man responds, no, he lost his keys in the park, but he is searching near the streetlight because “that is where the light is.”

In our current dialogue regarding the framework to replace the expiring Millennium Development Goals, we have to guard against this “observational bias” – we need to select goals, targets, and indicators that represent the critical dimensions that must be addressed in the fight against global poverty and inequality, rather than choosing goals, targets or indicators that are less meaningful but can be measured relatively easily.
Although it is often extremely difficult to reliably measure what is truly important—we must and we can do better.”

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