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Hard to write about, easy to believe in: the importance of data in achieving human rights

Emily Laurie, Managing Director of Future First Global, blogs on the importance of data in delivering evidence-based development.

I have sat in enough meetings with communications colleagues to know ‘data isn’t sexy’.  It just isn’t. Human rights and development is about people which is why story telling is so important but I am not sure my writing skills are up to developing an engaging narrative about data. However, I am sure that as the world celebrates this year’s Human Rights Day, serious progress will only be made over the next 365 days (great ‘every day is human right’s day’ theme this year #rights365) if improving the quality and availability of data is taken more seriously. Data might not be sexy but it is important.

A couple of years ago I visited Bangladesh to learn about some of the excellent work being done there by the government with Plan International and UNICEF to ensure all children have access to a birth certificate. Providing children with a birth certificate enables them to access many of their rights, including; girl’s being able to prove their age so a local magistrate can stop them being forced into a marriage with a man three times their age; or children being able to graduate from school as a certificate is required to get the formal qualifications. The work needed to gather birth registration data is extensive, seeing this work first hand made that very clear. It is the most practical example I have seen of data collection having an impact on people accessing their human rights. Quite simply, without the open availability of birth registration data in Bangladesh millions of children would not be able to access their rights.

The critical importance of data in delivering evidence-based development is widely accepted, as noted last week in the UN Secretary General’s synthesis report on post-2015 which includes a call to:

…Maximize our commitment to public transparency, information sharing, participatory monitoring and open data

This is a commitment that I as an individual and Future First Global as an organisation value highly and believe the way to show this is through action. As such we are celebrating Human Right’s Day by launching and sharing all of our raw data. Ipsos MORI undertook this polling with students and adults in six countries to investigate the potential for the role of alumni networks in improving school to work transition around the world. The research showed a massive untapped potential and to help unleash that potential we are launching all the national data sets in local languages today.  The data is all yours, use it!

Happy Human Rights day everyone, please use today and the other 364 days of the year to be open, transparent and helpful in any way you can to enable everyone to access all their human rights.

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