Strengthening Parliaments for SDG Implementation: Insights from Ghana.

Parliaments play an important role in holding countries to account – scrutinising legislation, policies and spending and ensuring governments work for their people. They are unique in bringing together the main political forces of a country and represent the diversity of interests in a society. 

Parliaments, therefore, should also play an important role in Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) implementation and accountability at the national level. This is recognised in the 2030 Agenda and called for by the Inter-Parliamentary Union and UNDP, among others (thereby also correcting the lack of parliamentary involvement in the Millenium Development Goals). 

Unlike many country contexts, in Ghana, the SDGs are high-profile and carry political weight. Ghana as a country played a significant role in the adoption of the 2030 Agenda, with the current President, Nana Akufo-Addo, serving two terms as co-chair of the eminent group of SDG Advocates. And both of Ghana’s main political parties are committed to implementing the SDGs as part of the country’s development goals.

This makes Ghana an interesting case study to better understand the role of parliament in SDG implementation. 

The Data for Accountability Project (DAP), which is supporting  Ghana’s Parliament to use data evidence to oversee progress towards the SDGs, recently published a book chapter exploring the role of Ghana’s Parliament in SDG implementation and the national evidence system. It has a particular focus on the partnership between the Parliament of Ghana and the Ghana Statistical Service (a relationship supported by DAP).

Over the last 10 years there has been increasing interest in the role of parliaments in national statistical systems, resulting in new research and partnerships to support evidence use. Yet there is still relatively little published on the topic. Thus, the book chapter intends to help address this gap, sharing learning from the Ghana context.

Understanding and working within the structural intersection between the Ghanaian parliament, statistics system and the SDGs is at the core of DAP’s work. Entry points within each of these combine to form a unique window of opportunity to strengthen the use of statistics by parliament to monitor the SDGs.

In this blog we seek to highlight some of the main characteristics, challenges and to strengthen the interface between parliament, the statistics system and the SDGs in Ghana.

Parliament, the executive, and the SDGs

Parliament’s relationship with the executive branch of government is a fundamental aspect of its role in the national evidence system. 

In Ghana, the executive plays a dominant role in the national SDG process, to the exclusion of other critical stakeholders such as parliament – demonstrating the concentration of power within Ghana’s democracy. 

Ghana has established a national architecture involving government, civil society organisations (CSOs), and the private sector to coordinate and implement the SDGs and Agenda 2030. 

This architecture includes a High-Level Ministerial Committee, an Implementation Coordinating Committee, and a Technical Committee responsible for providing strategic direction, coordinating cross-sectoral partnerships, and integrating the SDGs into development plans. An SDGs Advisory Unit offers technical support to the president and the committees. Multi-stakeholder umbrella bodies, such as youth and CSO forums, a CEOs’ Advisory Group, and a Delivery Fund, are also in place to encourage partnerships and collaboration between business leaders, traditional authorities, and the government to achieve the SDGs.

However, the role of MPs in these SDG structures has been peripheral.

While Parliament has made some inputs into consultative processes, more room needs to be created  for the Parliament of Ghana in the national architecture for SDG implementation.

Although the High-Level Ministerial Committee of the SDGs comprises 15 ministers, some of whom are also MPs, the focus of SDG activity has been through executive mechanisms rather than through parliament. 

There have, however, been signs among key stakeholders of the recognition of the importance of engaging with parliament on which the DAP project has built over its first phase. 

Ghana Statistical Service, the SDGs, and the legal landscape

Producing high-quality, timely and disaggregated data for SDG indicators has been a major focus of SDG efforts in Ghana so far. 

The Ghana Statistical Service (GSS) has led the process of establishing a baseline for the SDGs in Ghana and coordinating reforms within the statistical system to address data gaps and effectively monitor progress towards the SDGs and is closely involved in the national coordination mechanisms. 

But data challenges related to SDG monitoring are part of broader issues within Ghana’s statistical system and with growing demand came greater scrutiny on how the system functions, and pressure to deliver the quality needed.

The Statistics Act 2019 provided opportunities to address many of these challenges. It gave GSS a clear mandate and enhanced its ability to capture and share SDG data and expand its partnerships within and outside government. 

The law provides an implementation framework that emphasises the leadership and coordination role of GSS in statistics production. It addresses several challenges that have affected it in the past, including data inconsistencies due to coordination with producers and quality assurance issues. It also emphasises the importance of adequate funding for GSS and creates space for it to operate more independently on its mandate as well as in its relationships with other stakeholders, including both producers and consumers of data.

DAP has supported this aspect of GSS’s increased mandate. Over the project’s first phase, GSS has been able to better understand how parliament works, build relationships with some key parliamentary actors, and appreciate and understand the SDGs’ data needs of parliament. 

Mutual trust between Parliament and GSS has also grown, presenting opportunities to enhance parliamentary data uptake. Similarly, through the partnership, Parliament has had the opportunity to become much more involved in SDG implementation.

Looking to the future

Ghana has played a leading role in the SDGs globally and has established a detailed multi-stakeholder national SDG architecture in recent years, with GSS playing a critical role. 

The simultaneous windows of opportunity highlighted briefly in this blog, especially the improved legal landscape and enhanced mandate for GSS, have created a unique context to strengthen the interface between parliament, the statistics system and the SDGs in Ghana. 

As DAP moves into its second phase, it will continue to work closely with GSS and Parliament to build crucial relationships, increase capacity and advocate for data use across parliamentary work to improve SDG monitoring and implementation and inform decision-making. 

Read the book chapter: Parliament and the National Statistics System in Ghana: A critical relationship for evidence use

Find out more about the Data for Accountability project

Read the learning brief: Data Use in Parliament – Insights from Ghana Statistical Service on Communicating Data to MPs

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