Unlocking the data dividend for the SDGs in El Salvador
12 February 2024
Having access to timely, disaggregated, and relevant data is fundamental to accelerating progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In El Salvador, the UN Resident Coordinator’s Office (RCO) is supporting the National Council of Sustainable Development (NCSD) in the effort to strengthen the national SDGs monitoring system through technical assistance, tools, and methodologies to collect, systematize, and analyze development data from 35 different official sources.
“This is crucial because it’s precisely the ability to map how women are affected differently by poverty than men, how the percentage of girls and boys enrolled in school, the difference in digital access among rural and urban communities—this information is critical for better targeting policies that truly make a difference in people’s lives,” said UN Resident Coordinator Raúl Salazar.
Filling data gaps
El Salvador joined 192 countries in their commitment to improve people’s lives and protect our only planet through the SDGs and the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda. The UN team on the ground supports the country’s efforts, through an agreed roadmap to fast-track gains, the UN Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework.
To be accountable for their commitments, El Salvador conducted two Voluntary National Reviews (VNR) on the SDGs. The UN Country Team and the RCO provided technical assistance in data gathering, processing, quality control and analysis. In each of these assessments, data has been gathered for only a part of the indicators prioritized by the country, going from measuring 57.0 per cent of indicators in 2019 to 70.5 per cent most recently.
“This is a significant improvement. Only with data can the Government track the trends in well-being for different groups of people across the country, understanding the difference across age, gender, rural and urban communities,” explained the Resident Coordinator.
In preparing the reviews, state institutions collated information from different sources, yet this happened on an ad hoc basis. Recognizing these challenges, the UN team and the RCO are supporting the country to implement a more systematic and continuous approach to measuring progress.
As part of these efforts, the National Council, with the support of the RCO through the Economist and the Data and Monitoring and Evaluation Officer, presented the 2023 SDG tracker which builds on the VNR undertaken in 2022, updating 222 SDG indicators, related to key areas such as multidimensional poverty, food and nutritional security, and the enhancement of education coverage and quality, among others.
The RCO is providing technical assistance to these efforts that extends beyond the development of the tracker, encompassing the creation of a strategy for the ongoing measurement of the SDGs. This strategy identifies methodologies, supporting instruments, responsible parties and a timeline for implementation.
The purpose of the tracker is to transition from measuring on-demand to a planned and consistent approach.
This tracker establishes a sustainable mechanism in the country, ensuring the institutions responsible for generating this information can continuously measure these indicators. It also involves the implementation of a continuous monitoring platform and a network of individuals responsible for it, fostering exchange and coordination.
This shift seeks to improve the design and promotion of public policies aimed at achieving the SDGs, grounded in evidence and with measurable impact, in a timely manner.
Additionally, the RCO and the data authorities at the National Council, in collaboration with officials from the 35 Salvadoran institutions engaged in the VNR presented in November 2023, have conducted a joint reflection on the lessons learned from the process with the aim of strengthening the continuous measurement strategy. The officials highly valued this workshop as their initial engagement to strengthen and solidify this crucial network.
Informing the country’s development transformation
The 2023 SDG tracker is already being used to inform the government’s long-term vision for sustainable development. Information generated through the tracker, has been combined with analysis from UN agencies to feed into the government’s National Comprehensive Development Strategy, prepared with the support of the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and presented by the Vice-President of the country.
The Strategy stands as one of the main tools for the development and implementation of national public policies focused on achieving the SDGs. It aims to direct international cooperation towards strengthening national capacities and transforming the country’s economy. The fundamental pillars of this Strategy focus on guaranteeing food and water security, safeguarding biodiversity, and promoting innovation, clean energy and sustainable communities.
Currently, the tracker has been exclusively used by the National Council to assess the progress status of the SDG indicators, with all the ministries and government agencies at the central level providing information to update the tracker.
In 2024, the RCO will assist the National Council in finalizing the Strategy for the ongoing measurement of SDG indicators, thus ensuring that by 2025, when El Salvador is planning to submit its third VNR on the SDGs at the UN High-Level Political Forum, its system will be easily updated, organized, consistent and relevant in its information, allowing for timely decision-making to enable the country to achieve the SDGs.