Peter Otiende, 28 from Kenya, is an Accountability Advocate with Restless Development and is one of the five Youth Advocates being supported to attend the 2017 UN High-Level Political Forum (HLPF). As part of our series on youth-led accountability and the HLPF, Peter explains how he has been holding his leaders to account for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), also known as the Global Goals.
Citizen-generated data, the kind of which I have been collecting for the past two years, can make a crucial contribution and accelerate governments’ progression towards implementing the SDGs. At the 2017 UN High-Level Political Forum, I will be calling on all actors, governments and civil society alike to enhance and support youth-led accountability practices across all levels of decision-making that monitors and tracks progress of the SDGs.
Why is the HLPF so important?
The SDGs can only be successfully measured and achieved when different stakeholders, especially young people with our skills, connections and commitment for creating change, come together to collaborate and build a fuller picture of what progress looks like so far. The UN High-Level Political Forum is the highest level of such collaboration, bringing together national decision makers with UN agencies and civil society from around the world.
Meaningful civic engagement of young people – half the global population – is critical to ensure that we create a safe and just society where young people, women, children and marginalized communities have a voice in decision-making processes. It’s vital our voices are heard and respected, in order to both promote equity and equality towards the realisation of their rights, as well as ensuring we can hold our leaders to account over the SDGs. Our expertise, perspective and experience are all crucial factors for the success of the Goals, which all need to be included now, not later, if the opportunity achieve the ambition of eliminating poverty, reducing inequalities and tackling climate change by 2030 is not lost.
Our Youth-Led Accountability Model
I am one of 21 young women and men across six countries working on the Accountability Advocates project, an initiative by Restless Development, that supports youth-led accountability. We were initially trained and now supported to be autonomous volunteers on this project, empowering young men and women with the data, skills and confidence to create complementary indicators to measure SDG progress, and helps communities hold leaders to account over the promises they made in September 2015.
In Kenya, my two teammates and I have specifically focused on monitoring progress towards targets 5.3 and 16.7. We picked gender equality and the meaningful inclusion of young people in the decision making processes as our focus, after running a needs assessment with our networks across the country. As young people, my team mates and I have set up constructive relationships with duty bearers, such as the Kenya Bureau of Statistics, to collect data and use it to advocate for the rights of young men and women with our national Vision 2030 project, showcasing our ability to deliver as leaders and ensuring the SDGs are achieved.
What we have been doing to hold our leaders to account?
We collect data through score cards, citizen report cards, face-to-face meetings and online questionnaires. I have built a network of youth advocates throughout Kenya who analyse and segregate the data we have collected. This analysis then directly informs and drives how my team and I engage with key duty bearers during public meetings and engagements., using what we learn from our data to advocate on specific policies and actions that will help us achieve the SDGs, as we did most recently with a call to strengthen local law enforcement’s capabilities to tackle Female Genital Mutilation in villages.
We have also participated in various public planning forums, meeting with decision makers and using the data we have generated and collected as an effective advocacy tool to call for policy change in programmes and initiatives aimed at tackling gender equality (SDG 5) and ensuring responsive, inclusive, participatory and representative decision-making at all levels (SDG 16.7). Because of our work, we have an increasing opportunity to engage with and influence our Government’s domestic SDG implementation policies
I strongly believe that if young people are equipped and empowered with the skills to use, analyze and generate data, we will take the lead in mobilising our communities and networks to ensure governments are held accountable for the promises they made when adopting the Sustainable Development Goals in 2015. At this year’s HLPF, I will be ensuring that decision makers know about the great work young people are already doing, and call on them to take meaningful action to engage young people now, before the opportunity to achieve the SDGs by 2030 passes us by.