Argentina’s Four Data Challenges to Monitor the SDGs

By Gala Diaz Langou and José Florito 

Reliable and timely data is critical for achieving the Sustainable Development Agenda and its 17 Goals. The National Council for the Coordination of Social Policies is the institutional body in charge of articulating sectorial interventions in order to maximize their impact on each of the prioritized goals. Most of the agreed-upon targets can only be achieved concurrently. The indivisibility that characterizes the Sustainable Development Agenda requires a comprehensive policy approach. The Argentine National Institute of Census and Statistics (INDEC) is a key member of the working committees that the National Council has organized to take forward creative actions to achieve the SDGs.

Formerly discredited and accused of the manipulation of statistics for political purposes, INDEC’s work is starting to regain the confidence of expert communities and citizens in general. The Institute is also facing the daunting task of adapting the set of indicators developed by the UN Inter-Agency and Expert Group on SDG Indicators to the national context. This endeavor will be put to the test for the first time during the High Level Political Forum in July, as Argentina will be presenting a National Voluntary Review on advances in the achievement of the SDGs.

Even if the reliability of Argentine statistics is no longer a salient issue, at least four challenges related to their readiness for monitoring the implementation of SDGs remain relatively unaddressed.

The first is INDEC’s capacity to respond to the demand for disaggregation. This requires more resources, new technical developments, integration of new data sources with traditional ones, and the strengthening of the provincial statistical systems and the comparability of their information outputs. In order for no one to be left behind, it is essential that everybody is counted; and counted in relation to their ethnicity, age group, and other personal characteristics. These improvements will allow us to monitor whether long-time neglected populations such as indigenous, ethnic minorities and women and children from rural areas are indeed granted access to opportunities.

The second challenge refers to the development and use of an agreed multidimensional approach to measuring poverty. Multidimensional poverty measurements have evolved quickly in the last decade, at least at the international level. UN Development Programme’s Global Multidimensional Index (MPI) has gained worldwide recognition as a better and more accurate instrument for capturing the experience of deprivation. The index complements measurements of income poverty with information about the multiple disadvantages poor people face in their lives: low education levels, bad housing and lack of essential health services. In Argentina, some academic centres and international organizations, such as UNICEF, have made progress regarding this more comprehensive approach to capturing poverty. However, INDEC is lagging behind. It is essential to resolve any academic dispute about the methodology and finalize a public multidimensional poverty index with a strong legitimacy to be widely used. Every poverty measurement is, in the end, political: once a threshold of technical quality in assured, public officials must make a decision to put it to work.

The third challenge has to do with the integration of social, environmental and economic indicators. Argentina suffers from a lack of an articulated statistical system that would allow for the analysis of how situations in a given domain, affect outcomes in a different domain. For instance, data that support the analysis of weather patterns could help predict falls in agricultural production and, in consequence, demand of labor for harvest. This cross-sectional use of data requires not only methodological coherence, but also the enactment of incentives for statistical experts to work together.

Finally, the fourth challenge has to do with promoting a culture of use of evidence in the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of public policies aimed at the attainment of the Sustainable Development Agenda. Statistical evidence tends to be neglected in the process of policy-making in Argentina. We must eliminate the cultural barriers that associate evaluation of public policies only with fiscal responsibility instead of with a wider culture of learning to improve policies. The adequate use of information can be of great help in the design of more efficient interventions and their improvement in subsequent implementation processes.

The way Argentina addresses these challenges will say a lot about the probability of the country developing a truly comprehensive information system that works as a platform to achieve sustainable development by 2030.

This post is part of the “SDG Solutions” series hosted by the United Nations Foundation, Global Daily, and +SocialGood to raise awareness of ways the international community can advance, and is advancing, progress on the Sustainable Development Goals. As the international community prepares to gather at the UN for the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development from July 10-19, this series will share ideas and examples of action. Previous posts in the series can be found here.

Southern Voice on Post-MDG International Development Goals (Southern Voice) is a network of 49 thinks tanks from Africa, Asia and Latin America, which serves as an open platform to make contributions to the Sustainable Development Goals. 

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