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How Africa Measures Up on Governance

Data on governance, like any other official statistics, are a public good and should be accessible to all. Otherwise, the true scale of violence, exclusion, and discrimination will remain hidden, and the potential of carefully collected information to improve life for ordinary citizens will not be fully realized.

NEW YORK – Government ministers are attending the United Nations High-level Political Forum this week to review countries’ progress toward several of the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals. These include the governance-focused SDG 16, which aims to promote peaceful and inclusive societies, access to justice for all, and accountable institutions at every level. This goal includes 12 targets to be achieved by 2030, with progress toward them to be measured against 23 indicators.

Of the 51 countries that have volunteered to report on their performance at this forum, more than one-third (18) are from Africa – the largest-ever contingent from the region. And, according to a new study by the South African Institute of International Affairs (SAIIA) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), African countries are among the most innovative and committed in measuring and reporting on the governance goal. Their efforts could serve as a model for others to follow.

This finding may seem counterintuitive, given Africa’s reputation as a region beset by significant governance challenges, often exacerbated by crises. Yet it will come as no surprise to those who recall the early stages of drafting the SDGs back in 2014. African governments played a pivotal role in advocating the adoption of a standalone SDG 16 with dedicated targets and indicators, in contrast to powerful UN member states that wanted to relegate issues of governance and peace to the preamble of the new global development agenda.

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