From the Caribbean to the Pacific

Island-states embrace MICS for monitoring SDGs

27 May 2019

The Small Islands Developing States (SIDS) in the Eastern Caribbean and in the Pacific are among the most data-deprived countries in the world. The statistical capacity indicator, a World Bank generated measure of a country’s statistical system, indicates an average score of about 50 points for the Eastern Caribbean and Pacific SIDS on a scale of 0 to 100. In both regions, the statistical capacities are below the low-income countries and significantly less than in the rest of the world.

To address these national data needs, an unprecedented number of island-states in the two regions have turned to UNICEF for support on implementing Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys (MICS) to monitor SDG indicators and the Voluntary National Review process. Three island-states in the Eastern Caribbean and six in the Pacific are implementing MICS in 2019, with others to follow suit in 2020.

While the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development puts a lot of emphasis on the need to improve data systems to track progress on the 169 targets, the reality in the SIDS shows the challenges faced by governments to measure many of the 232 SDG indicators. Only 40 percent of baseline data is available on child-related SDGs indicators in the Eastern Caribbean islands. Similarly, the availability of baseline data is less than 50 percent on priority indicators for the Pacific SDG roadmap. The common pattern across the SIDS is that all islands perform poorly on data related to children and women, and require significant effort and resources to effectively monitor child rights.

Determining how many children benefit from services and programmes – and are hence ‘SDG-reached’, or more importantly, how many are not – is essential to the success of reaching every child, including in the hard-to-reach SIDS. “We don’t have the baseline data that MICS provides to ensure our programmes and government investment. Designing quality programmes is like looking for our keys in the dark,” said Sheldon Yett, UNICEF Representative in the Pacific. “MICS is the flashlight we need to ensure our programmes reach the most disadvantaged across multiple sectors.”

A year ago – between March and May 2018 – a series of regional workshops on SDGs and survey design launched the MICS process in the SIDS by bringing together participants from 10 Pacific and 14 Caribbean islands. Organized in collaboration with UNFPA and the Pacific Community in Fiji and with UN ECLAC and OECS Commission in Barbados, the workshops provided a platform for countries to familiarize themselves with the MICS programme and its potential to help address their perennial data challenges and meet SDG indicators.

More recently, on 15 May 2019, Saint Lucia’s Ministry of Equity, Ministry of Economic Development, and UNICEF Eastern Caribbean signed a Memorandum of Understanding to conduct MICS in the country. During the signing of the agreement, Hon Minister Lenard Montoute reiterated that Saint Lucia benefited tremendously from the data gathered during the 2012 MICS and recognized the need of conducting another survey. “The 2019 MICS data will strengthen the government capacity to plan the island’s development for a more equitable and sustainable nation.”

On the other side of the world, Kiribati, one of the pioneer countries of the MICS6 programme, recently conducted the first MICS Data Interpretation and Report Compilation (DIRC) workshop for its MICS, locally titled the Social Development Indicators Survey. The Kiribati survey is the second ever for the MICS programme in the Pacific, following the 2007–2008 Vanuatu MICS. The neighboring islands of Tuvalu, Tonga, Samoa, Fiji, Federated States of Micronesia and Nauru, that will be conducting their surveys in 2019-2020, just attended the MICS6 Data Processing Workshop for the Pacific. 

Meanwhile in the Eastern Caribbean, Trinidad and Tobago is pre-testing the questionnaires, Turks and Caicos Islands is finalizing the listing exercise, and Montserrat is working on mobilizing government funding contributions for their 2020 MICS.

National partners are enthusiastic that the current MICS round has been revamped to contribute to the monitoring of 33 SDG indicators among the 200 others and fully embraces innovations. The survey is tablet-based, with GPS data collection, and includes new modules that will generate first-time data on water quality, social transfers, domestic violence, child functioning (disability), parental involvement and learning outcomes of children.

“Over the years that MICS have been conducted, we have benefited from an enriched understanding of the situation faced by children in the Eastern Caribbean and were able to identify the pockets of inequality and areas of priority. We must continue to address the statistical gaps, which conceal unidentified problems, and obscures vulnerable children. MICS 2019 data will form the foundation of our work and support our collective mandate to improve the lives of every child,” said Aloys Kamuragiye, UNICEF Representative for the Eastern Caribbean.

Participants from 10 Pacific islands at the Pacific Sustainable Development Social Indicator Survey Design Workshop, 19–27 March 2018.