Accountability (follow-up & review)

Unlike the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which were ‘merely’ measured, a system is in place for the SDGs that not only measures the individual contributions made by all actors but also follows them up at international level. Although the UN has no authority to impose sanctions for non-implementation of the 2030 Agenda, the review mechanism is intended to ensure a ‘soft’ form of accountability. All countries are required to report on their efforts and progress at national, regional and global level. Regular and inclusive reviews are performed concerning the implementation status of the 2030 Agenda at all three levels. The findings of the review at national level form the basis for the regional and global level. The review mechanism serves to strengthen accountability, especially towards a country’s own population (go here for a detailed presentation of the review process).

High-quality, accessible, up-to-date and disaggregated data are required at national level in order to measure progress. Key elements are the involvement of all relevant actors in the review, as well as the sharing of information on the challenges involved and recommendations that act as incentives for joint policy design. The accountability principle applies not only within the framework of support to partner countries in preparing their voluntary national reviews for the High­level Political Forum (HLPF). For development cooperation, accountability above all means reporting on its contribution to implementation of the 2030 Agenda via the support provided to the relevant partners/partner countries.

Civil-society organisations and media play a key role in providing, verifying and examining data and ensuring that the data reflect society. The abilities and capacities of these organisations and media are frequently underdeveloped, and their engagement is often viewed critically or restricted by the government.


The special challenges involved in measuring indicators to meet the accountability obligations of the individual governments are based on the following factors:

  • Inadequacy of data: The SDGs oblige countries to collect data on a number of new topics on which no data has so far been systematically collected at national level.

  • Inadequate national statistics systems: In some countries, data collection is not guaranteed due to technical, legal or capacity bottlenecks. Authorities frequently have high-quality data that cannot be used for official statistics.
  • Increased risk related to sensitive data: Legal and institutional frameworks are often underdeveloped, especially in fragile contexts, which means that they are not in a position to ensure suitable legislation, planning processes and quality management at the relevant institutions. A further obstacle is the difficulty of collecting qualitative data of a politically sensitive nature. The collection of subjective data such as the perceptions, needs and experiences of people who may be intentionally marginalised by the political system in sensitive contexts may also jeopardise these sections of the population, and is very difficult without the related political will. Added to this, governmental institutions do not enjoy the same level of trust and legitimacy among all population groups, particularly in fragile countries, and collection of these data is often undesirable.

  • Deficient and/or restricted civil-society and journalistic capacities: Particularly in fragile contexts, the capacities of civil-society organisations and media need to be strengthened in order to collect and use data that make it possible to hold governments accountable. This scope for action is often restricted or undesired.

What has to be borne in mind? Key questions:
  • What structures and data collection processes are in place for measuring the progress made in implementing the 2030 Agenda?
  • How good is data quality and can different data sources be combined?
  • Are the data accessible, up-to-date, politically independent, politically sensitive and comprehensive, and do they take all population groups into consideration? What is the best way of handling (politically) sensitive data?
  • Are there possibilities of using innovative data collection and data processing approaches?
  • What civil-society and journalistic mechanisms and capacities exist for examining the data, placing the data in the social context and holding the government accountable?
Helpful tools and approaches

Appraisals should take a closer look particularly at the following areas of action, and a targeted capacity development approach should be followed in this direction:

  • Establishing and strengthening national M&E systems: Implementation plans for the Agenda will be underpinned by an M&E system in order to make national progress visible and will be aligned with international evaluation mechanisms.

  • Improving the institutional capacity of statistics authorities (administrative reform): A functioning statistics system is the prerequisite for examining implementation at national level. This includes standardised processes and workflows as well as the teaching of skills required for preparing, analysing and publishing statistics and for monitoring strategies.

  • Promoting innovative approaches: Apart from official statistics for monitoring the 2030 Agenda, unofficial data such as business figures, indicators of subjective perceptions for measuring satisfaction levels, opinion surveys and geodata play an important role. Open data approaches can also be supported that enable the collection and provision of non-personal data. Further information can be found at the Open Knowledge Foundation and the Open Government Partnership. The constant improvement of information and communication technology and the growing role played by civil-society organisations and companies in the monitoring process are crucial in this context.

  • Improving data collection: Many different kinds of data will be needed to monitor implementation of the Agenda’s goals. Official data sources from household surveys and administrative data from population registers are relevant here. The aim in connection with household surveys is to develop and use innovative alternatives to time-consuming and cost-intensive standard surveys. Data collection using new technologies can also help to reduce process costs.

  • Promoting dialogue between data users and data producers: Data supply must meet data demand. This presupposes that governmental and civil-society data users have an understanding of which data they require for which purpose, and that data producers collect and process the data in an appropriate form. Continuing training can be provided on this subject.

  • Context- and conflict-sensitive approach in fragile contexts: Both the type and manner of data collection, the data sets, data evaluation and the possibility of examining and demanding accountability can be sensitive in fragile contexts; they may create tensions and jeopardise groups of individuals or population groups, or ‘inconvenient’ civil-society organisations and journalists. Taking a context- and conflict-sensitive approach (minimum standard: do-no-harm principle) may prevent unintended results and make it possible to identify and implement risk-reduction measures at an early stage.

  • Knowledge management and regional networks: Supporting regional exchange platforms for disseminating best practices and for reciprocal learning.

Projects designed to strengthen the government’s financial capacities and to foster decentralised data collection as well as e-government and digitalisation projects can make an important contribution in this respect. What is important is that such approaches give consideration to the entire statistics system and subject both institutional frameworks (access to information) and data governance and the data cycle (design, indicator development, collection, validation and evaluation) to the requirements of the 2030 Agenda (participatory, open, LNOB, data literacy, transparency).

Examples from the field

GIZ is responding to the challenges presented by the review process by providing advisory services in several country contexts. The company also has a wealth of expertise in setting up M&E systems across different sectors. Based on a declaration of cooperation between GIZ and the German Federal Statistical Office signed in January 2017, GIZ also has the possibility to offer specific advisory services on increasing statistical capacities in partner countries. Beyond this, GIZ has also positioned itself at international level in a review network designed to examine implementation of the SDGs via Partners for Review.

The Programme of support for decentralisation reforms in Ghana places its focus on building local data collection capacities in agreement with the country’s national commitment to the 2030 Agenda review process. To this end, the aim is to create a platform for the collected data that is freely accessible to civil society. The data will be disaggregated in order to make visible the changes down to local level and to enable decentralised development planning.

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