In the face of multiple, coalescing global crises, the 2022 UN High-level Political Forum convened last week to take stock of progress toward the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. This year’s Forum assembled under the theme of “building back better”—even as the COVID-19 pandemic enters a third year; climate change drives record-breaking heat and wildfires across much of Western Europe; and the global toll of conflict in Ukraine continues to mount, all exacerbating gendered inequalities. But although years of progress toward the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and gender equality are at stake, Member States have a window of opportunity to drive inclusive development and ultimately respond to the needs of the most vulnerable by financing, collecting, and using gender data. As a lever of smart policymaking for women, girls, and gender-diverse communities, gender data is a critical pillar of global resilience.
A Missed Opportunity for Sustainable Development
This year’s High-Level Political Forum reviewed SDG 5 (gender equality), bringing the necessity of high-quality, timely, and regularly produced gender data into even starker relief. Experts who convened to advise the Forum outlined the challenges associated with missing data on women, girls, and gender-diverse groups, and identified a need—though stopped short of calling for—greater financing for gender data to assess progress across every gender-relevant SDG. UN DESA’s subsequent Sustainable Development Goals Report 2022 went a step further, highlighting declining financing and political will for gender data in the face of the pandemic and pointing toward an urgent need for greater investment. Yet the Forum’s primary outcome document—the 2022 Ministerial Declaration—missed a critical opportunity to highlight this urgency. Drawing from the 2021 Bern Data Compact, the Declaration ultimately failed to build upon further political gains made during CSW66, where the agreed conclusions strengthened language surrounding the data-to-policy process and inserted first-time text on use of gender data to achieve gender equality. While the necessity of better national data infrastructure is not new, the unique challenges of this global moment demand heightened multilateral focus on gender data if we are to achieve our shared goals. As we approach the 2023 SDG Summit—and the mid-point year in the 2030 Agenda—the world must course-correct to ensure that every woman, girl, and gender-diverse individual is represented in the data used to build sustainable policy solutions.
The Road Ahead: Prioritizing Gender Data on the Global Stage
To achieve the 2030 Agenda and respond to ongoing global crises, we must elevate gender data as a policy priority in every multilateral forum where policymakers come together over the next eight years, including those outside of the UN. This includes informal gatherings such as the G7 and G20, where, in a timely convening for gender equality and sustainable development, the W20—the official G20 engagement group promoting women’s economic empowerment—is meeting this week to recommend methods of mainstreaming gender into G20 objectives. Covering roughly 60% of the world’s population and 80% of global economic output, G20 members and permanent guests also comprise eight out of the top 10 bilateral donors of official development assistance for gender data. The W20, therefore, has a significant opportunity to spotlight gender data as an area of focus, ensuring the sustainability of G20 interventions and focusing on objectives that members have already prioritized.
To assist the W20 in this effort, Data2X is proud to formally commit the Gender Data Network, a network of gender data experts from national statistical systems in more than 20 countries, as an official partner to the W20, working in collaboration with PARIS21, Open Data Watch, and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa. The Gender Data Network will serve as expert advisors supporting the establishment of a first-ever W20 working group for gender statistics, amplifying the centrality of gender data as a means for progress within the G20 agenda—both within member countries and beyond, to the developing nations they support.
Next year will mark the mid-point year toward achieving the Global Acceleration Plan for Gender Equality; the halfway point in the 2030 Agenda; and the first-ever UN Summit of the Future, where leaders will rethink inclusive and accountable multilateralism for the populations they represent. In each of these ambitious agendas, gender data is a foundational pillar of success, illuminating a path for action and enabling monitoring and evaluation. To ultimately achieve these shared international goals and recover from ongoing global crises, building back is not enough: it’s time to elevate gender data as a cross-cutting multilateral policy priority—and indicate to all girls, women, and gender-diverse groups neglected by existing data systems that the world is paying attention.
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