Neglecting human rights: accountability, data and Sustainable Development Goal 3

Author: Carmel Williams, Paul Hunt
Year: 2017

In this paper we examine the Sustainable Development Goal 3 through the lens of state obligations to respect, protect and fulfil people’s human rights entitlements. We critique some of the Transforming Our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development “follow-up and review” arrangements for the health goal, SDG3. To assist in this analysis, we draw from a tripartite conceptualisation of accountability and focus particularly on monitoring and review. We use a human rights framework to explore whether the agreed SDG3 indicators for ‘follow-up and review’ promote the collection of data that could demonstrate health rights entitlements are being respected, protected and fulfilled. We find there are gaps through which breaches of human rights could fall undetected, especially around participation and quality health care. We find statistics are frequently absent in countries and communities most ‘left behind’, and suggestions that Big Data could fill these statistical gaps ignore the realities of poor information systems and the digital divide. We conclude that well resourced countries have human rights obligations to provide assistance where needed to national statistics offices to improve their capacity to contribute to human rights accountability mechanisms.

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