The Parliament of Vanuatu has struggled to fulfil its legislative, budget, oversight, and representation functions due to limited capacity to utilise trusted statistics. The Vanuatu Bureau of Statistics addressed this capacity gap through targeted training with Members of Parliament (MPs) and parliamentary civil servants to improve policy making. This is the first focused effort in Vanuatu to introduce data for sustainable development monitoring to MPs with the aim of enhancing good governance.
The Parliament of Vanuatu represents the highest level of decision making in the country and its members need trusted statistics on how well they and the government are performing, as well as the impact investment has had on development. Members of Parliament (MPs) and parliamentary civil servants (PCS) face barriers to using statistics for evidence-based policy making, compromising public trust and good governance. To address this capacity gap, the Vanuatu Bureau of Statistics (VBoS) developed the first ever Constituency Indicator Profiles in the country and trained MPs to use this information for the effective representation of their constituents. Additionally, VBoS delivered a training programme for PCS that centred on the development of evidence-based policy briefs for MPs.
The general objectives of the innovation include:
- Build the statistical capacity of MPs and the PCS that serve them to use trusted official statistics for good governance and evidence-based decision making
- Raise awareness and build trust in statistics to effectively encourage data use to enhance performance, and lead and inform public policy debate
- Strengthen dialogue between data producers and users to build a policy and enabling environment through coordination and collaboration
- Identify sectors of national importance and develop policy briefs that guide MPs to make evidence-based choices for those they represent
- Develop useful data products, including constituency indicator profiles, that enable MPs to target marginalised subpopulations more effectively
A first of its kind capacity development initiative in Vanuatu, spearheaded by VBoS, the innovation focuses on training and engagement with Parliament to promote data use for better decision-making. The programme was co-created with key stakeholders and a needs assessment identified the capacity gaps related to finding, interpreting, and using trusted statistic for decision-making. The assessment and collaborative design of the programme ensured the content of training sessions for MPs and PCS was sufficiently targeted to enable meaningful results.
Parliamentary civil servants were trained to understand how to use quality trusted statistics to guide MPs to make the right choices for those they represent. The training culminated in developing evidence-based policy briefs related to Vanuatu’s highest policy framework- the National Sustainable Development Plan (NSDP) that has been aligned to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Building statistical capacity of MPs focused on using constituency indicator profiles developed from Vanuatu’s previous National Population & Housing Census data to make policy recommendations for the effective representation of their constituents. The Profiles reported on various themes and outlined several disaggregation variables to enable MPs to target marginalised subpopulations with interventions to leave no one behind. It is the first-time constituency profiles have been developed in Vanuatu.
This is the first time that statisticians, policy analysts, expenditure analysts, Ministries and the Parliamentary Secretariat have worked together, improving the links within the Vanuatu National Statistical System, and enhancing coordination between data producers and users. Parliaments combined individual, organisational and system level capacity to use trusted statistics for decision-making was enhanced through targeted engagements and trainings. The VBoS also conducted a pre and post assessment to measure PCS progress. The results of this showed an increase in scores against 17 learning objectives. Improved collaboration between data producers and users will strengthen the ability of Parliament to hold government accountable. Better decisions by high level political influencers can potentially lead to improved services for the public. The capacity of VBoS statisticians and other data producers to engage with Parliament and provide data to inform policy and decision making was also improved through the design, implementation, and coordination of this innovation.
Given the successful implementation of the innovation, and growing interest from Parliament and others, VBoS is planning to scale-up this initiative. This would allow more MPs from different Committees to participate in the trainings and a broader coverage of constituencies through further development of constituency profiles. Additionally, VBoS is developing Vanuatu’s first digital open indicator tracking platform that will make its National Sustainable Development Plan indicators, metadata, census information and financial statistics open and available to all. The Statistics Office will co-create a set of key performance indicators that will allow Parliament to measure the quality and coverage of public service delivery through trusted statistics available in the platform. The next phase of the innovation will use the platform to train stakeholders.
What Makes Your Project Innovative?
This Innovation has supported inclusive governance by building capacity among different groups to use data, and forged closer ties between VBoS and decision-makers. It has provided a platform for stakeholders to share ideas on how to use data to improve public service delivery in a context where the interaction between parliament and the statistics office has been historically minimal. For the first time, an array of key stakeholders participated in discussions to enhance co-ordination between data producers and users. As the highest level of oversight in the country, this innovation has focused on building Parliaments combined individual, organisational, and system-level capacity to utilise trusted statistics for good governance. It is the first time that constituency profiles and evidence-based policy briefs, aligned to Vanuatu’s NSDP have been developed by VBoS. Making data usable for MPs has been an investment in governance, better public services, and more sustainable development.
What is the current status of your innovation?
After implementing 7 briefings with MPs and 14 trainings for PCS on data use for decision-making, the VBoS is taking stock of the successes of the initiative to scale-up engagement with Parliament. The VBoS conducted a pre & post assessment to measure PCS progress. The results of this showed an increase in scores against all 17 learning objectives. Additionally, an evaluation was held with the project’s steering committee, they fully endorsed VBoS innovation in trying to analyse government spending to monitor the impact of investment. Finally, the VBoS held a workshop to identify lessons learned with the MPs and parliamentary civil servants to build on our experience and gather information to increase the effectiveness of the next phase. This phase will include the finalisation of Vanuatu’s first digital open indicator tracking platform that will highlight key performance indicators to be used by Parliament to measure the quality and coverage of public service delivery.
Collaborations & Partnerships
The VBoS is a lead data producer in the country and is legally mandated to provide leadership on statistics. Parliament controls and guides the government of Vanuatu. The Department of Strategic Policy & Planning leads on the NSDP and makes key recommendations to government on issues affecting public services. PARIS21 specialises in technical support for statistical capacity development. The Inter-Parliamentary Union empowers parliaments globally to promote sustainable development.
Users, Stakeholders & Beneficiaries
The statistical capacity of MPs and the PCS that serve them was enhanced to effectively utilise trusted statistics for decision-making. Dialogue between data producers and users was strengthened through targeted engagement, creating a policy, and enabling environment. The development of useful data products including policy briefs and constituency indicator profiles have helped to raise awareness and build trust in statistics to effectively encourage data use and inform public policy debate.
Results, Outcomes & Impacts
MPs and Parliamentary Civil Servants (PCS) have enhanced their skills to use data for decision-making. Their awareness about the importance of data and the statistical system has been significantly increased too. This has been shown by the interest to scale-up the initiative and VBoS being invited to speak in Parliament for the first time. Additionally, participating MPs used VBoS data to gazette a parliamentary bill increasing import duties on products related to noncommunicable diseases. The VBoS conducted a pre and post assessment to measure PCS progress. The results of this showed an increase in scores against 17 learning objectives. With the growing interest in data use by MPs and PCS, we expect to advance data literacy in Parliament and across Ministries. The initiative has also brought a greater appreciation to the work VBoS and the National Statistics System are doing, and we expect to get Parliament support for statistical activities in the future, including an improved budget.
Challenges and Failures
Despite the efforts VBoS and other ministries put into producing statistics, there are still data gaps that hinder its use for policy making. This has resulted in Parliamentarians not having all the information they need. The shortage of certain data has created misunderstandings and low appreciation of the Statistical System in Vanuatu. The main challenge in this innovation was reconnecting with Parliament and building trust in statistics. The first group of MPs trained represent only a tenth of all MPs, highlighting the difficulties to secure Parliament interest in data production and use for evidence-based decision-making. However, thanks to the success of the first phase of the innovation, there has been increased interest from Parliament to join the initiative and VBoS has been invited to present the aims of the programme to all MPs. With this heightened support to statistics, VBoS is also working with data producers and users to reduce data gaps in the longer term.
Conditions for Success
Key to the success of this innovation has been the willingness of stakeholders to promote the uptake of statistics for improved decision-making. The Clerk of Parliament embodied this by championing the project, his leadership and guidance has been essential to its success. A strong partnership between the Clerk and VBoS was formed through enhanced engagements throughout the project. The interest of Parliament in furthering their capacity in the use of data for decision-making was also key. The collaborative design of this innovation ensured that it represented the needs of Parliament. The success of the design was corroborated by high levels of attendance by MPs and PCS during training. Aside from a strong motivation by VBoS, the innovation also received technical and financial support from PARIS21. The financial resources ensured quality engagement with stakeholders including meetings with MPs and PCS, and the technical support enabled the development of targeted training materials.
This innovation has caught the attention of other national statistics offices who are trying to promote data use for policy makers. The Vanuatu example has been presented in international fora, and PARIS21 is developing training materials inspired by the first phase of the innovation that will be used across countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. The innovation is highly replicable and will have a positive effect in building the capacity of the people with the highest level of decision-making power in a country. The materials used to train MPs and parliamentary civil servants can also be used to build the capacity of other key stakeholders. In the next phase of the initiative, we will use these materials to strengthen government agencies to use data for decision-making with the ultimate aim of improving the quality and coverage of public services through trusted statistics.
The innovation was co-created with key stakeholders. This targeted engagement was essential in establishing stakeholder buy-in and developing champions including the Clerk of Parliament to help drive the innovation. To establish a programme design representative of the needs of Parliament, assessments that identified the capacity gaps related to finding, interpreting, and using trusted statistic for decision-making were also essential. The assessments ensured the content of training sessions for MPs and parliamentary civil servants was sufficiently targeted to enable meaningful results. To address the capacity gaps in Parliament identified by the assessments, the products developed by project partners were aligned to the key functions of Parliamentarians- legislation, representation, budgetary and oversight. This ensured that the innovation integrated into the Parliamentary system, and improved MPs ability to fulfil their roles effectively.
- Diffusing Lessons - using what was learnt to inform other projects and understanding how the innovation can be applied in other ways
21 November 2023