13 July 2020

Data Collection and Greater Accountability Can Help World Build Back Better After COVID-19

JULY 13, 2020 NEW YORK – The COVID-19 pandemic could reverse decades of progress in women’s, children’s, and adolescent’s health—but it is possible to mitigate this slide with better data collection and accountability efforts, say world leaders who convened on Monday at the launch of the 2020 report of the UN Secretary-General’s Independent Accountability Panel (IAP) for Every Woman Every Child (EWEC). The launch was a side event during the High-Level Political Forum, a core United Nations platform for follow-up and review of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. 

The discussion—which included high-level participants such as H.E. Mr. Cyril Ramaphosa, President of South Africa and Chairperson of the African Union, and WHO Director-General Tedros Adhamon Ghebreyesus, and Rt. Hon Helen Clark, former Prime Minister of New Zealand and Board Chair of PMNCH (full list below)—centered around a new report launched by the IAP. This report distills lessons from a decade of EWEC and though work on the 2020 report began before the pandemic, its impacts, both real and projected, have been considered throughout. View a recording of the event here

Opening the event, H.E. Mr. Cyril Ramaphosa noted: “As countries of the world, we must ensure that this pandemic does not worsen existing inequities in society or impede the realization of the rights of women and girls.” He also called to “ensure that our response [to COVID-19] enables young people in particular to shape the world that will emerge from this crisis.” 

This moment is an opportunity to create real change for women, children, and adolescents. The IAP report presents an accountability framework with four pillars: commit, justify, implement, and progress. Concretely, it makes three recommendations for how to build on these pillars. 

First, invest in country data systems for national and global security. “High-quality data must play a vital role in identifying where there is a need for course correction,” said Rt. Hon Helen Clark. “Data acts like a spotlight. It identifies what change needs to happen and it reveals where injustice is the most profound.”

Second, institutionalize accountability functions and features, since voluntary arrangements are insufficient. “Institutionalizing accountability on a national level is really possible and it should be driven not only from top to bottom, or government-down, but from bottom to top,” said Ambassador Kaha Imnadze, Permanent Representative of Georgia to the UN and co-facilitator of HLPF and ECOSOC review. “To build back better, investments in education and health are two key areas.” 

Finally, democratize accountability to include the voices of all people. “We must listen to the people we serve and to whom we are accountable,” said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the WHO. “By working in solidarity, we can deploy accountability in health to transform commitments into progress and make a real difference to the most vulnerable and marginalized in our world.”

The leaders also spoke of the importance of universal health coverage (UHC), primary care, and international health regulations. “Nobody will be safe until everyone is safe,” said Mr. Shinichi Kitaoka, President of the Japan International Cooperation Agency. “We must build a world where everyone can live in dignity and realize human security. UHC is the foundation of human security and an important target of the SDGs. Let us all strengthen our partnerships and efforts to protect people’s health and institute UHC.” Ms. María Fernanda Espinosa, UHC Movement Political Advisory Panel for UHC2030, announced the State of UHC Commitment process and its UHC survey 2020 to move forward IAP recommendations.

Considered alongside the PMNCH Call to Action on Covid-19 and its “seven asks,” the IAP recommendations pave the way for stakeholders to build a better future with women, children, and adolescents at the centre of a transformed world. 

“Together, we stand for investing in healthy and empowered women, children, and adolescents who can bring about the change needed to create a better future for all,” said Dr. Natalia Kanem, Executive Director of UNFPA. “UN reform is built upon enhancing flexibility, transparency, and accountability at all levels to unlock the resources, to develop the innovative solutions, and to drive the ambitious change needed in this Decade of Action.”

The event was moderated by Ms. Gillian Tett of the Financial Times. It was co-hosted by the governments of South Africa, Japan, and Georgia, and organized by Every Woman Every Child, UHC2030, and the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn & Child Health (PMNCH).

Participants included:

  • H.E. Mr. Cyril Ramaphosa, President of South Africa, Chairperson of the African Union
  • Rt. Hon Helen Clark, former Prime Minister of New Zealand and Board Chair of PMNCH
  • Mr. Shinichi Kitaoka, President of the Japan International Cooperation Agency
  • Ambassador Kaha Imnadze, Permanent Representative of Georgia to the UN 
  • Dr. Natalia Kanem, Executive Director, UNFPA 
  • Mr. Elhadj As Sy, Board Chair of the Kofi Annan Foundation & Co-Chair of the Global Preparedness Monitoring Board 
  • Ms. Gabriela Cuevas Barron, President of the Inter-Parliamentary Union and Member of the High-level Steering Group for EWEC 
  • Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, H6 Chair; Director-General, WHO
  • Ms. María Fernanda Espinosa, UHC Movement Political Advisory Panel for UHC2030 and President of the 73rd Session of the United Nations General Assembly
  • Dr. Khuất Thị Hải Oanh, Civil Society Engagement Mechanism for UHC2030 and Executive Director, Centre for Supporting Community Development Initiatives
  • Ms. Evalin Karijo, Director, Youth in Action, Amref Health Africa
  • Mr. Peter MacDougall, Assistant Deputy Minister of Global Issues and Development, Global Affairs Canada


Additional Quotes: 

“Some institutions think being accountable only means to make public the accounts—the numbers, the budgets of that institution—but being accountable is not only about budget, it is about actions, it’s about decisions, it’s about being fully transparent and fully inclusive.”
Ms. Gabriela Cuevas Barron
President, Inter-Parliamentary Union

“Data is extremely important, but we often use data in a global way, and there must be a disaggregation of that data at the furthest local level. There must be disaggregation alongside gender, age, and different vulnerable groups that are facing different risks.”
Mr. Elhadj As Sy
Chair of the Board, Kofi Annan Foundation

“Accountability must be institutionalized with a formal relationship between, on the one hand, monitoring, review and recommendations and on the other, remedy and action.”
Joy Phumaphi
IAP Co-Chair

“[The] UHC political declaration was the most comprehensive health declaration, which covers health emergency preparedness even before COVID-19 pandemic. It is more than ever crucial that world leaders act together to deliver their commitments made last year in the UN High-level Meeting on UHC.”
Dr. Khuất Thị Hải Oanh
Civil Society Engagement Mechanism, UHC2030

“One of the recommendations that we will take forward strongly is to foster youth-led accountability to keep policy makers accountable to commitments made to address the needs of youth, women, and children during this time of the crisis and for the 2030 agenda. We will invest in in-person and digital platforms which provide an avenue for youth to have their voices heard and to spur collective action for accountability when the world needs it the most.”
Ms. Evalin Karijo
Director, Youth in Action, Amref Health Africa

“By strengthening accountability, we can help ensure that no one is left behind in the push toward the Sustainable Development Goals.”
Mr. Peter MacDougall
Assistant Deputy Minister of Global Issues and Development, Global Affairs Canada

“We’re all linked in a global chain of humanity, and when the weakest link breaks, the chain as a whole suffers.”
Ms. Gillian Tett
Financial Times

Media contact:
Natalie Bailey: nbailey@unicef.org