Measuring Poverty and Hunger in Egypt

 The Panel addressing questions on SDGs, SDS, poverty reduction and hunger as part of the seminar. UNDP/Fatma Elzahraa Yassin

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) provide Egypt with a new framework to monitor and measure its progress and identify gaps and challenges in areas of poverty reduction and ending hunger. But Egypt will need to coordinate these with its own national Sustainable Development Strategy 2030 (SDS), make sure the data needed for monitoring is adequate and available, and policies and investments are guided towards achieving SDGs and SDS, as well as better address the needs of its local communities.

The following are the key messages that came out of the seminar onMeasuring and Monitoring SDGs in Egypt,” which was held on the 23rd of June, and co-sponsored by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Egypt -as part of IFPRI Egypt seminar series.

In his opening speech, Ignacio Artaza, UNDP Egypt Country Director, emphasized the timeliness of the meeting, which was held ahead of the High Level Political Forum in July where Egypt has volunteered to be one of the 22 countries to report on its preparations and challenges for the SDGs. Clemens Breisinger, Country Program Leader of IFPRI Egypt, set the stage for the discussion, introducing some of the seminar guiding questions:

  • Are there specific SDG indicators particularly important for Egypt?
  • Is there data available to measure the SDG goals, and on what level should they be measured?
  • Once SDGs are prioritized, what will it take to achieve them?

Egypt’s newly-launched SDS is explicitly modeled on the UN goals, said Nihal El Megharbel; Deputy Minister of Planning. For instance, Egypt has adapted SDGs 1 and 2, focusing on poverty and hunger, in developing its own key performance indicators.  SDS is a ‘living document’, she explained, that will continue to benefit from feedback and research-based evidence and evolve based on the future requirements and feedback from stakeholders. Meanwhile, she outlined some ambitious national goals for the year 2030: Reduce mortality by 20 percent and eradicate extreme poverty.

But Egypt faces data gaps that may complicate this effort. Currently, data for 18 of the 26 SDG1 and 2 indicators are available for Egypt, most from Egypt’s National Statistics Agency (CAPMAS), with others provided by national ministries and international databases. To overcome these gaps, Rehab Abdelgalil of CAPMAS highlighted the important role CAPMAS will play to provide concrete data to monitor both the SDGs and SDS in Egypt. Meanwhile, participants suggested conducting continuous household surveys or using big data or information drawn from communications networks as proxy measures.

There are many technical definitions of poverty, and that makes it hard to generate useful data, said Heew Kim of the UNDP, sometimes this results in mismatching trends, he said. For example, Egypt’s national records show increasing poverty levels, while international data shows decreases. Measuring poverty consistently is important because of the nation’s regional variations, including the high concentration of poor in Upper Egypt, he said. One solution is “more inclusion” in data collection, Kim said. For example, the urban poor living in Cairo and Giza are under-represented in household surveys.

Meeting such data-gathering challenges is worth the effort, said IFPRI’s Derek Headey. “Measuring poverty, food security, undernutrition and resilience is very challenging, potentially very expensive, but potentially very beneficial,” he said.  “Some of best national success stories have invested the most in measurement.” However, international indicators provide only a rough guide to any nation’s specific data needs, he said. Governments should also focus on gathering “high frequency data” for monitoring resilience and food security systems in the wake of natural disasters and other shocks, Headey said. Without it, policy makers may not be able to make informed decisions.

Universities are key players in persuading stakeholders to work together, said Ali Awani of the American University in Cairo, a “natural platform for facilitation” to enhance interaction between government, businesses, and other institutions, and support development of useful research. Academic researchers can play an important role in advocating and monitoring the SDGs, he said, and help expand engagement with youth and the private sector.

The meeting was an opportunity to gather policymakers, academics and practitioners working in areas of poverty reduction and food security to provide research-based inputs into the decision-making process around the measurement and monitoring of the SDGs. Both UNDP and IFPRI plan to continue this evidence-based discussion with various partners to mainstream the SDGs, make them relevant to Egypt and contribute to finding sustainable policy solutions to actually achieve the SDGs.

Original Article posted on IFPRI Egypt and written by: Fatma Abdelaziz, Hagar El-didi and Yasmine Mandour


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