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Published on: 16/07/2018

Early 2017, at lunch, a colleague asked me if I knew which platforms to use to hold governments accountable for meeting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). I looked puzzled and I answered “I have no idea. I don’t know whom to call or whom to write to here in the Netherlands or in my country of birth, Portugal”.

Many months later there were hundreds of people, organisations and governments from around the world, trying to find the answers to this very simple question. The process involved close to 1,200 people in 25 countries. One of the most interesting findings was that governments could not answer the question either, but by asking the question “whom do we hold responsible?”, we triggered the discussion around setting up accountability platforms.

Last week at the United Nations High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) saw the launch (#Account4SDG6) of the “Global Review of National Accountability Mechanisms for SDG6”. The study tries to unpack some of the following questions:

  • What exactly is an accountability mechanism?
  • Do they exist for SDG 6 targets?
  • Are they functioning?
  • How are they functioning? What are the good practices?
  • What challenges do we face with accountability mechanisms?
  • What are the expected roles of stakeholders involved?

"A very thorough & timely report that will help considerably in strengthening the role of CSOs in holding governments to account over SDG6", John Garrett, WaterAid

Unsurprisingly, one of the key findings is that accountability overall is hindered by a lack of adequate monitoring and reporting on SDG 6. In most surveyed countries data is incomplete or inadequate. If we, as a sector, cannot provide data on progress, we cannot hold anyone accountable. Data is also not disaggregated enough to allow for tracking progress on reaching the most marginalised groups. The recently published UN-Water SDG 6 synthesis report 2018 on water and sanitation comes to the same conclusions.

In our study there are separate recommendations for key stakeholder groups and at the end for each of the participating countries too. I think overall, the most relevant include:

  • Create awareness of SDG 6 targets and corresponding national commitments and policies. Find out what accountability mechanisms are working (or not working) and then discuss what role you and your organisation can play in strengthening accountability mechanisms;
  • Jointly with national and local governments, support the development of national and decentralised monitoring instruments, platforms, tools, baselines that allow regular discussions on progress and most importantly taking decisions on where targets are not being met and take the necessary measures to reach those that are being left behind.

Watch and share this fun animation for a summary of the report's findings and recommendations. Happy readings and looking forward to your feedback.


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