Remarks at the opening of the Social Development Commission's Inaugural Research Day in Mandeville, Manchester

Nov 3, 2015

Greetings and Acknowledgements:
• Honourable Noel Arscott, Minister of Local Government and Community Development
• Councillor James Oliphant representing her worship the Mayor, Councillor Brenda Ramsay
• Mr Dwayne Vernon, Executive Director of the SDC
• Miss Beverley Boothe, SDC Parish Manager
• Mrs. Stephanie Lewis-Brown, Research Coordinator at the SDC
• Miss Juanita Reid, SDC Research Director
Good Morning.
I must first of all thank you for inviting the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to be a part of this inaugural Parish Research Day, conceptualized by the Social Development Commission (SDC).

The theme, “Research: The Building Block of Community Development”, under which the research day activities for 2015 are being held is very fitting. For UNDP targeted research and development at the community level are paramount for the type of work we do. High quality data and information are needed for evidence-based policy making and development planning at the community, national, regional and global levels.

Data tell us where there are needs, what should be done, whom we should target and how we will measure our progress. If development at any level is to be successful and sustainable, it requires good data. Through the use of good data to inform policy and planning at the community level, work can be advanced in poverty reduction, income generation, reducing vulnerability and building resilience and improving social cohesion within communities.
The Parish Research Days initiative is timely. Jamaica has joined the global community in the post 2015 sustainable development agenda and in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Achievement of the SDGs is contingent upon the quality of data at all levels. In fact data requirements to track targets and indicators for the SDGs is becoming a very topical issue.
A 2015 report on Mobilising the Data Revolution for Sustainable Development, was developed by the UN Secretary General’s Independent Expert Advisory Group. In that report, two big global challenges were identified with respect to data today:
• The challenge of invisibility – knowledge gaps in existing data and delays in identifying these gaps
• The challenge of inequality (the gaps between those with information and those without information, and what those lacking information need to know make their own decisions)

The report describes data as “the lifeblood of decision-making and the raw material for accountability.” It points out that developing, implementing and monitoring and evaluating effective policies is impossible without high quality data.
While noting the increase in the volume and types of data available and the potential of this data to support development, the document says that too many countries, governments and individuals are still excluded from this new world. It notes the huge and growing inequalities in access to data and the ability to use this data. Lack of data, weak data and limited capacity to collect and use data can lead to serious challenges in development at the individual, community, national and global levels.

In summing up the situation, the authors of the document state: “As the world embarks on an ambitious project to meet new Sustainable Development Goals, there is an urgent need to mobilise the data revolution for all people and the whole planet in order to monitor progress, hold governments accountable and foster sustainable development.”

Developing countries are at a disadvantage in data acquisition, management and dissemination. Very often, community level disaggregated data may be very hard to find. Yet information on households, community assets, livelihoods and vulnerabilities at the community level are essential to development work. This is why SDC’s focus is critical and timely.

UNDP wishes to commend the SDC for its work over the years in providing demographic, social, economic, spatial and institutional information on communities to a wide range of stakeholders. And we know that the Commission does this with little resources.
It is clear that the SDC’s efforts are helping to contribute to the movement towards a data revolution for sustainable development. Your work in data collection has been innovative- finding new ways to get and share information on communities across Jamaica. You have found ways –with limited financial support – to mobilise resources to support data gathering and dissemination. And you have clearly shown, and are showing, leadership in this field, as today’s event demonstrates.

The work SDC does in mapping communities, developing community profiles; support for community-based economic development and conducting community prioritisation activities is invaluable not only at the parish level but also at the national level.

The SDC’s work in data and research is also beneficial to UNDP and other international development partners who work to support the government and people of Jamaica. As we plan our program in the country, we rely on quality and relevant data to inform our interventions. 

UNDP’s work is centred on three thematic areas:
• Sustainable Development
• Democratic Governance and Peacebuilding, and
• Climate and Disaster Resilience

Over the years the agency has supported a number of projects, some of which focus on specific development issues at the community level. A number of these projects have worked to build local government capacity and strengthen local governance systems in Jamaica.
The Parish Safety and Security Project was implemented between 2011 and 2014 by the Ministry of Local Government. It aimed to strengthen civil society’s participation in local government and establish more coordinated responses to crime and violence between local civil society and the state. It also worked to enhance existing mechanisms for safety and security at the parish level.

Another project, which had a parish level focus, was the Caribbean Risk Management Initiative – a regional UNDP project covering five Caribbean countries. This project took disaster management specialists from five Caribbean countries to Cuba, to get first-hand knowledge about Cuban disaster risk reduction management centres and to set up their own facilities.
In Jamaica, the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) and the St Catherine Parish Council, supported by UNDP, established the country’s first Risk Reduction Management Centre (RRMC). Other project results include: the establishment of two early warning points to house response equipment for Community Disaster Risk Management Groups in Old Harbour Bay and Linstead and the completion of hazard assessments and asset mapping for both communities.

These are just a few of the projects in which UNDP has been privileged to support local government and communities to successfully implement in Jamaica. And in keeping with the focus of today’s activities, we must stress that these projects could not have been possible without adequate data.
UNDP would welcome expanding its support to data collection to improve the quality of data for its programmes. We recognize the need for data at national, parish and community levels for our local partners and for ourselves. We look forward to opportunities through which we can address data needs and gaps and support capacity building in data collection, analysis and use by stakeholders.

We hope to hear more about the SDC’s Community Research and Database Programme during today’s event. We congratulate you on this valuable initiative and anticipate participating in your other parish research day activities across the island.

Thank you. 

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