Last month, Commonwealth Scholar and Regional Network Coordinator, Ruben Muhayiteto organised a webinar on ‘Regional perspectives of SDGs progress and surrounding issues: Africa, Asia and the Pacific’ for Scholars in the North East region.

The webinar presented a picture of how the SDGs were being implemented across three different Commonwealth regions and was designed to empower Scholars in their aims to achieve impact after their scholarship.

Joining the webinar as keynote speakers were Daniel Eshetie, a statistician at the United Nations Statistics Division (UNSD), and Dr Arman Bidarbakhtnia, Head of the Statistical Data Management Unit at the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) who spoke about the current research and policy gaps in the SDG implementation process and the avenues for innovation and development impact.

Opening the discussion

Organiser Ruben Muhayiteto designed engaging social media visuals to promote the webinar

The webinar began with opening remarks by Ruben Muhayiteto and a presentation by Commonwealth Alumnus Margaret Kamau on supporting education in Kenya. In her presentation, Margaret discussed how she had used the knowledge and skills developed during her Commonwealth Distance Learning Scholarship to create project models in response to learning gaps and crises, such as the inaccessibility of education during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Currently working as the Senior Project Officer at the Association for the Development of Education in Africa (ADEA), Margaret spoke about her work in coordinating inter-country policy reform dialogues on education. She also highlighted the activity she undertook through the CSC’s Alumni Community Engagement Fund which involved setting up the first STEM girls camp at Our Lady of Mercy Girls Secondary School in Kenya to support girls from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Following the data

In the first keynote presentation, Daniel Eshetie discussed his extensive experience of working with countries and international organisations on methodology development for compiling, reporting, and monitoring progress against the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and related capacity building.

During the webinar, Daniel talked about the vital importance of statistics, particularly in relation to how countries prioritise certain SDG indicators in their national development plans. Outlining how country data feeds into a National SDG Indicator Framework coordinated through the National Statistical System, Daniel highlighted agencies such as the UNSD use statistical tools to assesses and harmonise differing sets of data to give a global view of SDG progress.

In his talk, Daniel also discussed the process of data flow in global SDGs reporting and shed light on the various tools and material available to support students, researchers, development practitioners.

In the second keynote talk, Dr Arman Bidarbakhtnia discussed his research in measures of human development, approaches to survey methodology design, and micro-econometrics.

Focusing on the SDG progress in Asia and the Pacific, Dr Bidarbakhtnia examined some of the key issues at stake in the region and, looking ahead to 2023, discussed how improving data availability enabled researchers to form a clearer understanding of the research and policy gaps in SDG implementation.

After the keynote presentations, Susie Burpee, Programme Officer (Policy) at the Commonwealth Scholarship Commission, delivered the closing remarks and thanked the speakers for their invaluable contributions to the event.