• Blog
  • 6 September 2018

Data to leave no one behind: Development cooperation and the P20

Swiss Special Envoy for Global Sustainable Development Michael Gerber discusses Switzerland's use of the P20 approach to characterising poverty.

By Michael Gerber, Swiss Special Envoy for Global Sustainable Development

The shift from the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) was a watershed moment. It signalled an end to thinking dominated by old north/south, rich/poor, donor/recipient mindsets. It marked a shift from a development era to an era of universality. The SDG 1 and SDG 10 commitments – to ending poverty in all its forms everywhere and to addressing inequality – recognise the reality that the factors which cause and perpetuate poverty and exclusion exist in every society.

The Agenda 2030 imperative to leave no one behind operates globally and nationally. Challenges including nutrition, environment and employment are shared challenges. In its call for a data revolution, the agenda also points to the power of data to help us both meet these global challenges and monitor progress.

Where are we now?

Switzerland is generally doing well with regard to many SDG target indicators. Challenges persist, however, in being able to finance social security and health systems in view of rising costs and changing demographics, and in ensuring equal opportunities for all – independently of their ethnic background, gender, or disabilities. There may be people being left behind such as migrants who are not organised and don’t have much of a lobby. Inequality is rising in some respects, and we can’t be sure we are reaching the furthest behind first.

There are more and profound challenges to leaving no one behind at the international level. Switzerland works with other donors, partner countries and organisations in order to live up to the pledge. We support different projects and initiatives to help ensure that no one is left behind. The P20 approach is an example of this.

The P20, Switzerland and Benin

We are working with the government of Benin and Development Initiatives to identify who the poorest 20% of people, the P20, are in any community or sector so that resources and policies can be targeted and progress can be monitored towards leaving no one behind. The approach allows for a universal mindset that looks for opportunities to learn and collaborate on shared challenges across different societies – shedding light on those being left behind in Switzerland as well as Benin.

The outcomes of the SDGs will be measured by data collected and analysed by national statistics offices in every country, but the data required by the leave no one behind agenda is fundamentally different in three respects:

  1. Population data is essential. If we don’t know who the population is, then we don’t know who is missing. And those who are not registered are much more likely to be poorer and excluded than others – 55% of unregistered births are in the global P20. Benin is to be congratulated on its work on civil registration and identity as a foundation for leaving no one behind.
  2. We have to have data that is disaggregated. That shows how different parts of the population are faring. Progress at the national level does not tell us about particular locations or people – and it is arguable that the extent of the gap between the P20 and everyone else is partly a result of its invisibility. Data needs to show who benefits, not just what has been achieved or a national average. People who are left behind need to be systematically included. Switzerland is working on a series of tools to make that happen in our development cooperation.
  3. And this is the most challenging: the MDGs required action to get people above a certain minimum level – specifically the international poverty line. As the data on consumption in Benin tells us – that job remains despite the progress that has been made. The P20 in Benin are still living way below the international poverty line of US$1.90 a day. But SDG 10 explicitly requires the poorest people to make progress at a rate faster than the national average – to narrow the gap – and in Switzerland our data tells us that is not happening. What does that mean for policy and investment? Have governments really taken on that challenge?

Cooperation and the future

Both Switzerland and Benin were heavily involved in building the SDGs and the global agreement on Agenda 2030. So it is fitting that we are working on this programme together to gather and use data to monitor progress on the SDGs and to leave no one behind.

Because of the different stages of development of Benin and Switzerland, we cannot expect to see the indicators showing similar levels of progress for populations. But we can expect to see governments investing similar levels of energy to delivering on their commitments.

Switzerland will continue to play an important role for Agenda 2030 at the UN and in other multilateral forums. Within the framework of our long-standing bilateral cooperation with Benin, we will continue to work together in order to achieve the SDGs.