Supporting UNICEF’s evaluation of climate change commitments using Akuko

Alessandro Pietrobon
November 30, 2023

In our work at Ona, we use technology to help organizations serve those with the greatest need, and few needs are as pressing as the one for a safe climate. 

Today’s children and young people will be the most affected by a changed climate, so it is crucial for them to be central stakeholders of climate policies. Recognizing this need, UNICEF set up an evaluation of countries’ climate change commitments, the National Determined Contributions (NDCs), to determine whether commitments in the plans are child-sensitive. 

A recent evaluation, published in a November 2022 research brief, covered 54 countries with high children’s climate risk. NDCs were evaluated to confirm, for example, whether children and young people were directly mentioned, whether they were seen as important stakeholders in climate change adaptation and mitigation, and whether the mitigations and adaptation strategies proposed addressed the specific risks and vulnerability of children and young people. The results are not meant to be static: new countries can be added to the analyses and, as governments update their NDCs, UNICEF’s Climate, Environment, Energy, and Disaster Risk Reduction (CEED) team evaluates the documents to update the findings.

To maximize accountability to the public, in 2023 UNICEF partnered with Ona to create a public-facing portal where countries’ NDC submissions can be explored and the public can engage with the assessment results. The platform is called NDCs for Every Child and is now available for everyone to explore (it is also available in Spanish).

Technical solution

Developed in collaboration with UNICEF’s Latin America and the Caribbean Regional Office and UNICEF’s CEED team, the NDC for Every Child platform is based on Ona’s best technologies for data management and visualization.

The core dataset is the evaluation of the various NDC documents, which is maintained by UNICEF’s CEED team and stored within the InForm platform, a UNICEF-customized version of our ODK-based Ona Data platform. The data is then modeled in a separate analytics database using dbt to create the stable reporting tables. Finally, the front-end platform is entirely created and maintained using Ona’s data visualization tool, Akuko

System’s architecture, with InForm and Akuko are at the core

Working on this project allowed our team to stretch Akuko’s capabilities and deliver a flexible platform for the client and the public. A few things made this project stand out: 

  • A branded and client-hosted portal. Using Akuko’s design features, we were able to create a portal with the look and feel of a website created by a front-end engineer, while being a no-code platform. The site is even hosted on a UNICEF domain, which then redirects to the Akuko back-end via CNAME domain alias. 
  • A map-centric set of dashboards, with interactive links and effects. Akuko shines in mapping and publishing beautiful content, so we added map animations such as zooming to country bounds based on filters (you can try this in the platform’s Country Dashboard), or reference links from map popups (see the Interactive Map). The data is dynamic so when new analyses are published, the website will automatically pick it up and display the newest results to the users. 
  • A client-maintainable set of dashboards and stories, even in different languages. Without the need for custom engineering, we can expand what clients can do with the tool. In this case, the platform’s content is entirely maintained by UNICEF in both platform languages. UNICEF will also be adding to a series of sub-posts highlighting the efforts done in specific countries, as you can see in the Stories section.  

Sample of the no-code experience for platform maintainers

Sample UNICEF-branded dashboard, including a map component

The impact

We are thankful to UNICEF’s Climate, Environment, Energy and Disaster Risk Reduction team and UNICEF’s Latin America and Caribbean Regional Office — our partnership resulted in a valuable tool for accountability used by policymakers, advocates, and citizens alike.

“It has been a pleasure to work with Ona to make the Child-sensitive NDCs for Every Child data platform come to life. Ona’s technical expertise, responsiveness, and flexibility were essential to developing this critical tool, which is being used to advocate for greater inclusion and representation of children and young people in key climate policies around the world”
– Sean Storr, Climate, Energy, Environment and DRR, UNICEF HQ

NDCs for Every Child could not have come at a better time: UNICEF will be presenting the tool at this week’s Conference Of Parties (COP-28) in Dubai, improving awareness of children and young people’s needs where the future of climate policy is discussed. We look forward to improving it even further as more data is collected and new analyses become possible. Today’s children and young people deserve it.