East Sikkim best performing district: North-Eastern SDG Index by NITI Aayog
The study has been authored by Sanyuka Samaddar
The North Eastern District Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Index & Dashboard 2021-22, a collaborative project of NITI Aayog and Ministry of Development of North Eastern Region (M/DoNER), with technical inputs from UNDP, was launched recently. It ranks the districts in the eight North Eastern States of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim, and Tripura on their performance in the SDGs framework. The index has two major objectives. One, to facilitate district-level adoption and implementation of SDGs for fast-tracking achievements; two, to function as a tool to measure the pace of regional development, identify bottlenecks, and help address the challenges in the North Eastern region as a whole and within each North Eastern state.
The index is is constructed using the globally accepted Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) methodology used for the flagship SDG India Index, which monitors national and State/UT-level progress on SDGs. It consists of a framework of 84 indicators, each mapped to an SDG target. It covers 103 districts in the region out of the total of 120 districts: 17 were not included owing to unavailability of adequate district-level data. The index covers 15 SDGs, in the areas of poverty reduction, nutrition, health, education, women empowerment, water and sanitation, clean energy, economic growth, industry, infrastructure, reduced inequalities, urban development, climate action, forests, and governance. SDG 14 – Life Below Water and SDG 17 – Partnerships for the Goals have been excluded as they are not relevant for the region. Based on their indicator level performance, which is aggregated at the SDG and district levels, each district is assigned a composite score between 0 and 100 where higher the score, better the performance.
East Sikkim (Sikkim), with a score of 75.87 is the best performing district in the region, while Kiphire (Nagaland) is at the bottom of the table with a score of 53.00. 64 districts belong to the “Front Runner” category with their score ranging from 64-99, while 39 districts are in the “Performer” category with a score between 50 and 64.
The North East as a region has shown remarkable performance in Goal 15 – Life on Land, across indicators on forest cover, wasteland, and wildlife cases, with 12 districts in the “Achievers” category and 86 districts in the category of “Front Runners”. The region has also fared well in Goal 6 – Clean Water and Sanitation where more than 75% of the districts are in the “Front Runner” bracket.
Goal 9 – Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure is an area which requires attention for the region; 28 districts fall in the “Aspirant” category, with a score of less than 50, in this Goal which encompasses areas such as roads, high-speed internet, and mobile phone connectivity.
The power of partnerships
The design and development of the index was fully and strongly based on the partnership between NITI Aayog, M/DoNER, the eight North Eastern States, and UNDP. While M/DoNER mooted the idea of the index, NITI Aayog led the design and development from end to end. The North Eastern States actively participated in discussions, shared their comments and feedback on methodology, indicators, and data sources, and collected and made available most of the district-level data. UNDP played a key role in data cleaning and processing. NITI Aayog, again, led the index estimations, and design of the dashboard and report. Two regional consultations; the first in Guwahati in February 2020 and the second in Shillong in April 2021, and numerous interactions between the partners, especially with the States, enabled the strengthening of the partnership.
Drawing on the different perspectives, knowledge, and experience of the partners, the project delivered a complete, cross-cutting, workable, and sustainable solution to the challenge of district-level SDG progress monitoring and reporting. Including the states, which are the beneficiaries, as one set of partners helped in building buy-in and ownership, and adopting a more context-appropriate approach. For instance, the suggestions from the states on relevance of each indicator to the region were invaluable and could not have come from any other partner. Exchange of knowledge and experience allowed the partners to learn from each other, and collectively developed the index as a good practice to disseminate widely.
The Index has been designed to be a tool in the hands of all interested stakeholders including policymakers, civil society organisations, academia, and citizens at large. It could promote healthy competition among the North Eastern states which will intern accelerate the progress of the region towards achieving the SDGs. It will enable the states and districts to identify challenges, critical gaps, and areas of improvement and develop a more focused and solution-oriented approach.
Another notable expected outcome of the index is its contribution to improving data-driven development management. The constituent indicators of the index have been consultatively determined and bring out a number of data points which reveal the status of implementation and outcomes in key sectoral areas. These data points will be regularly, preferably annually, brought out in a comparable manner which will highlight the ground level improvement in the situation. As a result, the index will facilitate continuous monitoring of development management and performance, which will strengthen the statistical system in the region and ensure regular generation of more dynamic data for effective planning. The index is also expected to trigger the development of similar tools for the other regions of the country, thereby leading to a more localised approach to SDGs and faster achievement of outcomes.
(The study has been authored by Sanyuka Samaddar)
(The author is an IAS Officer of Uttar Pradesh cadre, and Adviser (SDGs), NITI Aayog, Government of India. Views expressed are personal.)