Proposed UN development goals evaluation can lead to ‘misuse’: India

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United Nations, March 9 (IANS) Cautioning against the “misuse” and politicisation of some of the proposed methods for evaluating the implementation of UN’s sustainable development goals (SDG), India has asserted that they ignored international cooperation and the obligations of developed countries.

Critiquing the indicators proposed by an experts group to monitor the performance on the SDG, India’s Chief Statistician T.C.A. Anant told the UN Statistical Commission Tuesday that they were “concerned that the focus of most of the indicators seems to be exclusively on national action, even in respect of those targets that are clearly meant for international cooperation”.

He asserted that there could be a political dimension to how developed countries were not being held to the same standards as others in evaluating their implementation of the SDGs. While the the developed countries are mandated to promote sustainable patterns of consumption, “the indicator for this target, however, completely neglects this dimension”, he said. “It could be argued that this mis-focus is also political.”

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The indicators to evaluate how SDG was being implemented were developed by the Inter-Agency and Expert Group for Sustainable Development Goal Indicators, which was set up last year by the UN Statistical Commission. The 28-member panel, chaired by Britain and including India, came up with 321 indicators to be used for evaluations.

“The indicators seem to go beyond the remit of (the SDG) target they seem to be measuring and appear to editorialise about the content of target themselves,” said Anant, who is also the secretary in indian government’s statistics and programme implementation ministry.

He cited the use of subjective opinion polls for which “there are no internationally accepted standards or guidelines” and do not “account for socio-cultural differences among countries” as tools for evaluation. “We should caution that such indicators could be overly subjective, imprecise and also prone to misuse.”

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“We should emphasise that an imperfect product will only complicate the political consideration of the proposal in a manner that can only be harmful to the technical robustness or independence of the process we have undertaken,” Anant said. “Several of the indicators will need considerable further improvement.”

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