Data key to fulfilling sustainable development goals on local level says Lever Fund’s Chairwoman Connie K. N. Chang

The United Nations Sustainable Development Goal #16, promoting peace, justice and sustainable development, is increasingly under threat internationally and locally as Russia’s unprovoked war on Ukraine looms large and data on the ground is scant to guide targeted interventions to bring about a just society, said a group of distinguished government officials, UN-affiliated experts and DC-based grassroots leaders.

The event, hosted in October by the Swiss government and the United Nations Association of the National Capital Area at the Swiss Ambassador’s residence in Washington, DC, marked the 77th anniversary of the United Nations.

Participants stressed that in the face of human rights violations and disruption of peace, no one can stay neutral and that the United Nations is often the only organization with staff on the ground helping the more than 1.8 billion people globally living in crisis or conflict situations.

Creating peace and prosperity in the U.S. and Washington, DC specifically also faces challenges. Connie K. N. Chang, chairwoman and treasurer at Lever Fund, the philanthropic non-profit that propels youth from low-income families in the National Capital Region toward their first, well-paying job with benefits, pointed out that data is a necessary precondition in the fight for equity.

“Data is absolutely key,” Chang said.

Referring to SDG #1 on ending poverty everywhere, Chang added: “In our work to foster youth employment to break the cycle of poverty here in the National Capital Region, we need to have information not only on the number of youth our nonprofit partners have served, but also which of the 8 wards in the District they live in to analyze where the gaps are and who might be left behind. The connections between various nonprofit players in the sector is critical, enabling information exchange on the needs-landscape and delivery of more effective programming. This is an important endeavor in operationalizing the SDGs on the local level.”

Others agreed, noting that insufficient knowledge of the local context can sink projects. For example, requesting personal information, such as remittances, in Latin American countries may doom financial literacy programs as divulging such information can pose a safety risk for participants.

The 200 or so attendees at the event at the Swiss Embassy were unanimous that, despite all its occasional shortcomings, the United Nations is an indispensable body in international diplomacy and in moving toward meeting as many of the SDGs as possible, particularly with regard to peace, justice and development as well as ending poverty in all its forms.

“Operationalizing the SDGs on the local level via the Global Goals at Home project led by the United Nations Association of the National Capital Area is an important endeavor and one that Lever Fund supports,” Chang remarked.