Making subnational contributions to the SDGs visible

© GIZ/Lennard Kehl

President Nana Akufo-Addo seeks to position Ghana as a pioneer in the process towards achieving the SDGs. Since 2016, the SDGs have been embedded at national level with their implementation being under the direct command of the High-Level Ministerial Committee and the National Development Planning Commission (NDPC) as lead implementing agency. Moreover, a Civil Society Organisations platform on SDGs was founded shortly after the adoption of the 2030 Agenda to coordinate efforts for achieving the SDGs. It unites over 300 unions, community-based organisations, NGOs and other groups. At subnational level, it coordinates efforts, shares information and promotes peer-to-peer learning. At national level, it serves as a space for collaboration between CSOs, government and the private sector.

However, while implementing the SDGs is prioritised in national policymaking, regional and local authorities had not been sufficiently involved in the process and thus were less aware of their role and potential contributions. Yet, to ensure an effective commitment to the SDGs and the 2030 Agenda’s vision of “leaving no one behind” a multi-level and multi-stakeholder approach is required that pays attention to both quality data and capable local actors and institutions for implementing, monitoring and reporting on the Agenda 2030.

Thus, the goal in Ghana was to set up an adequate monitoring system at regional level to foster awareness and improve SDG localisation where data is primarily collected – in cities, municipalities and districts. To do so, the key task was to identify which data is already being collected and what kind of data is suitable for (local) SDG reporting.

Within this context, GIZ’s Support for Decentralisation Reform Programme (SfDR), which was a joint collaboration between the Government of Ghana and the Government of Germany, collaborated with 60 district authorities, the national government and civil society organisations. Out of these, three partner districts in the Volta Region, namely Ho, Ketu South and South Tongu, were selected as pilot regions for improving subnational reporting capacities.

Localising the SDGs with the City WORKS approach

The localisation process was kicked off with a 2-day workshop in November 2018. Since improved cross-sectoral cooperation is key for achieving the SDGs, the approximately 25 participants came from a wide range of municipal, district and regional departments, such as statistics, budget, regional and economic planning, health, gender equality, education and environmental protection.

Following the City WORKS method, the workshop was structured into different phases. The first phase focused on awareness-raising and gaining a comprehensive and contextually specific understanding of the SDGs. Choosing suitable entry points, the SDGs were linked to the respective cities’ priorities as well as district development plans. This enabled participants to connect the SDGs to their day-to-day work and understand them as a guiding framework.

Moreover, the self-assessment with the SDG wheel was perceived as very useful. It allowed for a critical and in-depth reflection on the current implementation of selected SDGs, drawing particular attention to challenges around data collection and availability. The assessment also demonstrated that everyone and every department counts, as stated by the District Environmental Officer from Ho: “I have really understood the SDGs and I now know that I have a major role to play to make them work.”

Thus, the lively discussions from the first phase of the workshop helped participants to better position themselves and understand their roles within the process of localising the SDGs. It also initiated peer-to-peer learning and exchange across districts.

The second phase of the workshop aimed at identifying more concrete measures for an effective monitoring framework. To this end, a detailed analysis of critical SDG targets was conducted. The exercise showed that participants had a good understanding of existing data challenges. Based on the analysis and a presentation of success stories from different sectoral areas, they then formulated ideas for a more effective data management and developed specific, localised SDG indicators to better measure progress and overcome the identified data gaps.

Last but not least, to foster the implementation of the previously defined measures each district prepared a plan for action. The plans entailed activities in the fields of awareness raising, stakeholder engagement, capacity development as well as data management, and defined a timeline and responsibilities for each activity.

What happened afterwards?

To disseminate the newly gained knowledge, two further trainings – one on data visualisation and one on monitoring & evaluation – were conducted in each of the three pilot districts and later scaled up to cover the remaining fifty-seven partner districts of the SfDR programme. Effective data visualisation is key when communicating on SDG-related data in a more accessible and comprehensible way. Besides reports, communication materials such as flyers and banners were created. Watch the following clip to hear what Doreen Korkor Dugbatey, Assistant Statistician at Tarkwa-Nsuaem Municipality, has to share about her learnings:

As a result of the second training on SDG monitoring, a District Development Data Platform (DDDP) was developed. It addresses identified gaps in data quality and assurance and includes visualisation and SDG tracking tools. Bringing together local, regional and national monitoring and reporting, it thus provides a comprehensive monitoring system. Additionally, its public interface allows for interaction with platforms of other (international) institutions. Have a look at this short introductory video about the DDDP:

Since the piloting phase proved to be very successful, an institutionalisation of the aforementioned process at national level is currently taking shape. Within the revision of Ghana’s national policy guidelines and framework for districts, some of the City WORKS tools like the SDG self-assessment shall be incorporated to become a requirement for all municipalities and districts. Moreover, based on the City WORKS tools, roadmaps were developed by the districts out of which respective districts were supported to incorporate them into their Medium-Term Development Plans (MTDP). From the MTDPs, district annual action and development plans are derived for implementation.

Aside from these overall developments, a hackathon – one of the many innovative ideas envisioned during the kick-off workshop – has been conducted in 2019. During the hackathon two apps for citizen-generated data were developed by GIZ and its partners, with the Ghana Statistical Service (GSS) being the lead agency. The apps allow for easy and anonymous reporting of incidents reaching from gender-based violence to poor waste management to the respective municipal authorities. After a first successful testing and launching phase in 2020, the apps have been piloted in three districts (Central Gonja, Bono East and Ho). In a next step they will be scaled up to other districts before becoming fully accessible for the public. 

This city used the following tools: