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Post-2015 Consensus: Governance and Institutions Viewpoint, Edwards

Edwards sees a need to move beyond ‘good governance’ and focus on more finely-grained concepts. The SDGs are based on a model that requires country buy-in from the very beginning and is more bottom-up than top-down. There remains the intellectual challenge of defining appropriate targets, and the academic community can take the lead in this. It is also important to review every proposed measure and assess the data availability of each.

The central fact about the role of governance in the Sustainable Development Goals is its revolutionary nature. The challenges of measurement are daunting, but Hildebrand misses an important connection between political institutions and data quality. In particular, democratic governments are more likely to release data, and there is evidence that dictatorships over-report annual growth rates by 0.5-1.5%. The governance SDG is therefore valuable not only directly by increasing the probability that other goals are met, but also indirectly in helping to produce higher quality data.

The legal identity target can have spillover effects to other facets of state capacity, and governance improvements will have similar ripple effects by leading to more data provision as well as a lower likelihood of data misreporting. Just as countries are thought to exist when they have currencies and national anthems, data provision (and certainly honest data provision) needs to become a hallmark of what it means to be a state in the 21st century.

Finally, Edwards supports the use of data dashboards to measure progress. First, by its very nature, the use of color codes to benchmark countries relative to their peers makes it ideal for the regional peer review process outlined by the Secretary General in his Synthesis Report. Second, the clarity with which information is presented in the dashboard provides an important signal to civil society.