This blog is written by Nick Corby, Head of Influencing, Impact and Learning at Leonard Cheshire Disability
Countless New Year’s resolutions fizzle out at this time of year and the people who made them return to old, familiar and comfortable routines. Trainers are pushed to the back of the wardrobe, gym memberships are cancelled or ignored, and the habits or foods that were rejected just six weeks ago are embraced once again.
The scope and ambition may differ significantly, but the fate of many New Year’s resolutions provides a timely warning for this generation’s most compelling resolution – the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the underlying aspiration to leave no one behind. This new development agenda must succeed. We cannot let the commitment to leave no one behind fizzle out for want of resources, from fear of failure, or for any other reason within our control.
Thankfully we do not have to start global development from scratch to achieve the promise of leave no one behind. Much of what we did before the SDGs is still relevant, perhaps more relevant than ever. We still need to hold decision-makers accountable, keep leave no one behind on the political agenda, ensure sufficient resources are in place to replicate proven interventions, and utilise the growing body of evidence.
That said, business as usual will not be enough. Amina Mohammed, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on Post-2015 Development Planning, spoke strongly about this at the SDG Summit in September. As with all resolutions, to leave no one behind we must change our habits and move away from the routines we are familiar and comfortable with but which contribute little to our goal. Where we work, who we focus our efforts on and how we deliver development programmes all require careful recalibration. As the international community starts to turn these lofty promises into effective and practical action we must bear this in mind and ask ourselves: how must we work differently in order to leave no one behind?
Collecting more and disaggregated data, developing clear national plans for how to leave no one behind, fostering a sharper focus on groups or issues that until now have been ignored by global development and increasing the funds available through better taxation are just some of the answers given in meetings like ODI’s high-level event held last month. All of these are valid answers and necessary responses, but they look past the need for greater coherence and coordination within and between civil society organisations, UN agencies, country governments, donors and private sector actors.
The large data collection activities and subsequent datasets managed by the World Bank, the World Health Organization and UNICEF, for example, are invaluable but rarely comparable or coordinated. While it makes sense to also gather data collected by civil society organisations and the private sector to fully count who is currently left behind, we will only truly benefit from more data if efforts are carefully coordinated. Agreeing common indicators or rolling out low-cost data collection tools that all actors use, for example, will ensure we have a large, single body of comparable data. Furthermore, establishing single registries to collate, clean and analyse the data collected will improve access to this information and ensure quality across the datasets.
As we sharpen our focus on groups or issues that until now have been ignored by global development or create national plans for how to leave no one behind, we must also replace the thematic silos that haunt global development with greater coordination across the sector. To ensure children with disabilities receive an education, for example, education systems need to be inclusive, public transport needs to be accessible, and public buildings need to reflect the principles of universal design. Dipanshu, a young man from Mumbai, stopped attending primary school because the only school in his area was inaccessible due to uneven roads and steep steps in the school building, and because wheelchair accessible public transport was not available. Girls with disabilities face further gender-specific barriers to a quality education, including discrimination and gender-based violence. Disability, education, transport, planning and gender experts, among others, must therefore all work together to ensure we achieve this one target in the SDGs. The coordination needed to achieve the entire SDG agenda and to leave no one behind is greater still.
To embed within this new global agenda the coherence and coordination needed from all stakeholders requires much more consideration in the coming months. Inspiration for this discussion could come from UNAIDS’ Three Ones. While the Three Ones were designed for the HIV response, one national plan, one coordinating authority and one country level monitoring and evaluation structure would also benefit the SDGs and the intent to leave no one behind.