Open Letter: Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

If the Post-2015 Development Agenda is to be truly transformative, it will need to go beyond the MDG monitoring of national averages and aggregate progress, and take a forward-looking approach to new kinds of data and data sources. The driving force of the ‘Data Revolution’ should be a central focus on ‘leaving no one behind’, giving priority to marginalized groups and giving substance to the principles of equality and non-discrimination, as well as taking a human rights approach to the data generating process. This would mean:

-Leaving no one behind by ensuring the collection of data disaggregated by social groups, in accordance with the grounds of discrimination prohibited by international human rights law, and strengthening capacities to analyze disaggregated data, measure the disparities between social groups and monitor the reduction of inequalities, in order to close the gaps between social groups.

-Embedding a human rights-based approach in the data revolution, which means promoting participation, empowerment and the right to information (of both rights-holders and their representatives, such as relevant national human rights institutions) in the identification, collection, processing and dissemination of data.  Embedding a human rights approach also means measuring not only outcomes, but the means (legal, institutional and policy) necessary to achieve the targets to assess the extent of efforts being made.

-Taking a forward-looking approach to measuring the new goals and targets, so that the priorities of the new development agenda are not limited by existing data and data sources, but promote serious investment in the development of new data and data sources, going beyond traditional statistical data to include human rights events-based data, perception surveys and non-official sources of data which meet relevant statistical and human rights standards, e.g. verified data collected in human rights organizations, academia or civil society.

These should be the priorities of the ‘Data Revolution’. Big data and new technologies may well be part of the solution where they help solve challenges to collecting more and better data, but should not be a distraction from the central priority of ‘leaving no one behind’. All efforts to utilize big data and new technology to monitor SDG progress must apply human rights safeguards, taking necessary steps to protect the right to privacy throughout the data collection, management and storage process.

For further insights, examples and experiences about data collection and statistics from a human rights perspective, see OHCHR publications:

-Human Rights Indicators – A Guide to Measurement and Implementation: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Indicators/Pages/HRIndicatorsIndex.aspx 

-Who will be Accountable? Human Rights and the Post-2015 Development Agenda: http://www.ohchr.org/documents/publications/whowillbeaccountable.pdf

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