Can SDG 16 Data Drive National Accountability? A Cautiously Optimistic View

Image credit: Tim Green via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Target 16.3 appears to provide a good example of ‘slippage in the level of ambition’ in moving from visionary goals to watered‐down targets and indicators, due to the influence of powerful interests – in this case the UNODC. However, the SDG Agenda offers an important corrective measure, by encouraging Member States to ‘domesticate’ individual goals and targets – adapting them to local circumstances. Tunisia provides a vivid illustration of how a national SDG16 monitoring system can drive national accountability and contribute to positive change on the ground – provided indicators have broad‐based buy‐in and resonate with local grievances and priorities. First, the conceptual scope of the Tunisian Governance Goal was greatly expanded to include a strong focus on participation and human rights. Second the Tunisian SDG16 indicator set is dominated by survey‐based indicators thus placing people's voice at the centre of the monitoring system. Third, the regular publication of national SDG16 data in Tunisia has incentivized tangible responses from public officials. Several more examples of national SDG16 consultative processes currently unfolding around the world are similarly showing that even while the politics of data may be undemocratic at global level, they can be increasingly democratic at country level.