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Supporting Parliament to use data to achieve the SDGs
17-October-2019

In June this year, we embarked on an exciting 2-year project - Data for Accountability << http://acepa-africa.org/programs/Data-for-Accountability-Project>>- which helps the Parliament of Ghana to improve the national quality of life through evidence, using data to oversee progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals.

Funded by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, Data for Accountability sees the first partnership between African Centre for Parliamentary Affairs, the Ghana Statistical Service, and is supported by INASP.

We talked to Dr Rasheed Draman, Executive Director of ACEPA, Omar Seidu, Head of Demographic statistics and Coordinator of the SDGs at Ghana Statistical Service, and Emily Hayter, Senior Programme Specialist at INASP in evidence informed policy to find out more about the project – why it’s important and what they are most excited about.

Omar: Parliament represents the people of the country and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGS) are seeking to better the lot of the people. The SDGs have come at a point where the discussion about inclusive development for our country has gained huge momentum.

Rasheed: Yes, our country Ghana is leading the way globally on SDGs, because our president is co-chair together with the Norwegian prime minster of the UN high level monitoring group on the SDGs.

Omar: If Parliament is better equipped with data around the SDGs or the development framework of the country it helps them to hold leadership accountable in ensuring sure that the right things are done and that resources are put to the right use.  And to represent the people better by ensuring that the aspirations of the people are realised.

Rasheed:  Members of parliament have an important role to play in helping Ghana achieve the SDGs, yet there hasn’t been any conscious effort in terms of thinking through how they are going to get data in order to perform their oversight and accountability role effectively. As Omar says, comprehensive data for monitoring the progress of SDG implementation is crucial to enable parliaments to perform their oversight and accountability role effectively and ensure no part of the country is left behind. So, this project is coming in to fill that gap.

Emily: It’s really important that evidence functions are trusted and neutral and can be drawn on by all parties– the range of topics that parliaments have to be able to scrutinize with a very limited evidence function is really broad. So, relationships with external providers like Ghana Stats service and other statistical providers in Ghana is really important.

Rasheed: This project is the first time that we have bought the statistics department (the official source of all data in this country -  data that is credible and data that has a lot of integrity) face to face with Parliament.  We are creating a lasting – and important -  linkage with this project.

Omar: As the national statistical institution, GSS is responsible for producing and coordinating the data ecosystem to ensure that there is adequate data - with all the disaggregation needed - for monitoring the SDGs. The breadth of the SDGs requires a huge amount of data and we have to work with effectively with all the relevant partners to ensure that we bring all the data that is required for this purpose.

The Data for Accountability project will support our work as a national institution with a responsibility to inform and advise government on issues of data. it will help our engagement with parliament for us to better understand their data needs and adequately respond to that, and it will also help parliament to appreciate the role that data plays and for that matter the national statistics office and why it is important to invest in data.

There are a lot of lessons we’re going to learn from this project, and I think it will further strengthen our role as a coordinator of the national statistical system. Of course, it’s not just the SDGS - we also have the Agenda 2063 of the African Union which is an expression of the aspirations of the African people and we have our own national development framework in Ghana and all these things are being tied together. That is the greatest thing that excites me personally, because once we are able to better coordinate the data space in the country, it means that the country largely will benefit from the huge data produced by the national partners.  Once we bring all these things together to produce data to support parliament to do their work, that for me is a great moment.

Emily:  We’re bringing together three different conversations that relate to evidence and data and statistics but aren’t always talking to each other - the evidence informed policy space, the parliamentary strengthening space and the data sectors. We’re really working at the intersection between all of those three. This project will generate crucial learning on how using data to support the legislation, representation and oversight functions of parliaments could further progress towards the SDGs. And that is learning that will be relevant to all of the sectors that we’re all part of. 

Data for Accountability will use a range of approaches to strengthen the collaboration between data producers and parliament and support parliament to use data, including training and mentoring of MPs, parliamentary staff and GSS staff. Constituency specific data will be developed, to support MPs to better monitor the SDGs in their communities and represent constituents’ needs. An SDG desk will be established within the Parliamentary Research department to support committees to track and report on SDGs, and a Data Fair will be instituted to enable producers of research to showcase the availability of important data to parliament.

Hear more from Rasheed, Omar and Emily in our video, or for more information about Data for Accountability visit the project page << http://acepa-africa.org/programs/Data-for-Accountability-Project>>.