Why we should all be factivists

Written by Claire Melamed, CEO of the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data, Jessica Espey, Director SDSN TReNDS, and  Alice Macdonald, Campaigns Director at Project Everyone.

Back in 2013 – which feels like more than a lifetime ago  rather than only seven years – , Bono coined the term ‘Factivist,’ calling for everyone to become an ‘evidence-based activist.’ With the rise of fake news and misinformation threatening to reverse decades of progress, this appeal has never been more paramount. 

 

We also need a clear plan of what needs to be done to solve the most pressing challenges facing our world. Thankfully, in September 2015 world leaders agreed to exactly that - a blueprint grounded in facts and evidence to transform our planet - the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) or the Global Goals.

 

Yet, with only 10 years left to achieve these ambitious targets, too much of the data is still out-of-date or unavailable, and too many people are being left behind in the numbers. As the recent SDG progress report reveals, for 4 of the 17 goals, less than half of 194 countries have internationally comparable data. This lack of country-level data is particularly worrisome for Goal 5 (gender equality), where an average of only 4 in 10 countries have data available. Country-level data deficits are also significant in areas related to sustainable production and consumption (Goal 12) and climate action (Goal 13). In addition to the lack of data available, for many of the SDGs, there are significant time lags. For instance, the latest data point available for poverty-related indicators (Goal 1) is from 2016.

 

This means progress for too many people is not being tracked.

 

The good news is that efforts are rapidly underway to address this issue. The new SDGs Today platform, launched this summer by SDSN in partnership with Esri and the National Geographic Society, aims to provide a snapshot of the state of sustainable development around the world right now, while also enabling users to access and engage with timely datasets on sustainable development and learn how to use the data effectively to drive action on the SDGs. At the click of a button, you can see how many wildfires are raging across the globe, how many people lack access to sufficient nutrition, and how many tons of carbon are being pumped into the atmosphere.

 

But this alone cannot drive change. We need policymakers, government officials, researchers, and citizens around the world to demand evidence-based policies that are grounded in facts and based on accurate and timely data. 

 

That’s why to mark the five-year anniversary of the SDGs and the importance of facts and up-to-date data, we, along with people and partners from around the world, will come together on September 25th to mark the first-ever “Global Goals Day of Factivism.” Born out of a partnership between the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN), Project Everyone, and the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data, we aim to spotlight the importance of timely data drawn from SDGs Today and profile the actions we can all take to advance progress. The day will feature a social media advocacy campaign to bring to life the data behind the Global Goals, highlighting ten timely data facts about the state of our world right now, through compelling assets created by leading design studio, Pentagram,. and inspiring people to take action. 

 

With the multitude of global crisis, exacerbated by the current pandemic, the importance of accurate data and evidence has never been greater. We have a chance to reset our world, but we can only do so if our actions are based on facts.