Data use within the Post-2015 Agenda

Under the slogan “A million Voices: Building the world we want” the UN has carried out a number of initiatives to promote the dialogue, debate and consultation around the world about the Post-2015 Agenda. The UN said that they have collected the opinions from more than 1 million people across all countries through a number of consultative activities such as thematic seminars and national consultations.

Furthermore, the UN is carrying out the first Global Survey which has gathered more than 5 million participants up to now. The survey consists on a list of 18 development priorities among which people is asked to select their 6 preferred. The voting process can be done on-line. See here a summary video:


This is claimed to be a new source of data on development challenges and is part of the UN efforts to build an unprecedented participatory formulation frame of the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 


“I want this to be the most inclusive global development process the world has ever known”
– UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon


Words like participation, inclusion, and voice are constantly repeated in articles, reports, websites and blogs when describing the post 2015 Agenda development process. But, What do we know about how to bring the perspectives of people living in poverty into global policy-making?  The Institute of Development Studies (IDS) has launched a report that explores how previous global consultations have gathered people’s opinions but without succeeding in translating those into policies. They conclude that is not only about how people participate but also the way the voices from the margins are translated into policies.

The “magic tool” on participatory consultation for policy influence has not been invented yet. However, there is a certain level of agreement among development critics on some recommendations to follow.

  1. There is the imperative need to start by understanding the data collection from people’s perspectives that may or may not fit in a set of 18 development priorities. Besides, peoples’ needs and problems are not isolated and are framed within a context of reality than cannot be easily captured by a western-made collection tool-even if this tool is highly technologically advanced (Granqvist, M. at Hemer, O, 2005, pp. 285-296)
  2. Secondly, enough resources and time should be given for consultations to happen not just at the UN level or within the international large organizations but at the local grassroots civil society level. The cost of UN-driven consultative campaigns and traditional data collection initiatives overpasses by far the resources allocated to participatory projects from the margins.
  3. Finally, development actors should be open to innovative perspectives and methodologies on data collection. This is the case of Participate, a research initiative aiming at providing evidence on the reality of poverty bridging it with the global development debate. There are other projects already mentioned in this blog like Making all Voices Countwhich has also pioneering participatory strategies.


Granqvist, M (2005) Assessing ICT in Development: A critical Perspective. Hemer, Oscar & Tufte, Thomas Media and Glocal Change. Rethinking Communication for Development. Buenos Aires: CLACSO


  1. Very interesting reflections. You are touching on a very crucial point here, and that is the quality of data. In order to achieve this, we must start to discuss how data is collected. Granqvist also touches on an interesting discussion relating to integrity in her article, and that is the this discourse is driven by a main theme of “progress” and that everyone should welcome the use of new media in order to be included. But such a decision should really be up to the citizens themselves. It poses a very interesting question – what if you don’t want to be included, don’t want to participate.

    • You are totally right Kristina! Because of this tendency of considering the use of new technologies as a progressive move, the UN and other international organizations cannot avoid to spend ridiculous amounts of money building up those very complex and technologically advance data collection tools. I have not analyzed in detail the Global Survey presented in my article but it is worthy to study the accuracy of the data gathered with such a tool. The surface of it is spectacular! Millions of participants, very attractive digital tool that provides you with your personalized video once you have answered the survey, and dozens of high level experts working on this magnificent tool. All this for what? What is the use of the data gathered? Can we consider the act of answering a very subjective and directed set of questions a real way of participation? But yes, we should congratulate ourselves, technologically speaking this is a very advanced tool!
      Thanks Kristina for your comment!

      • Thanks Carmen for this post! I think it nicely concludes the reflections we’ve had on this data issue and brings in insights to future. It is remarkable how much this so called technology hype has had room and publicity; as if the access to internet would compensate with the other needs people have in poor regions or economically weak states. What indeed, if people are not interested in participation, as Kristina pointed out? This is also bothering me in general both in development but also in media practices, referring to my earlier post; how are we reading and interpreting the piles of data generated every hour… As Granqvist (2012:293) put it “participation is often cosmetic”.

  2. Hi Carmen,
    Very interesting post! I came across this blogpost during research for one of my post and they mention something very interesting. On one hand the UN have conducted the MY world survey, on another hand they have made an analysis of Twitter messages in order to find out what people are talking about on social media regarding relevant topics related to the post 2015 agenda. It seems that there is a discrepancy between what people say that they prioritize when asked to fill in a survey, and what they really reflect or reveal about their priorities on social media. In order to proceed the UN will use the next round of analysis to compare the Twitter results against the votes in the MY World survey.