The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and Official Statistics
Photo by IISD/ENB | Kiara Worth
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On the global level, the first UN World Data Forum as well as the 48th Session of the UN Statistical Commission were key moments in advancing statistical support for the political process.

At the UNECE regional level, in 2005, a measurement framework was developed and continues to be used by many countries.

Heads of national statistical offices of the UNECE and the OECD countries adopted, in 2015, a ‘Declaration on the role of national statistical offices in measuring and monitoring SDGs’.

The UNECE Steering Group on Statistics for SDGs has developed a regional Road Map on statistics for SDGs, which will be discussed by the Conference of European Statisticians on 20 June 2017.

After the Rio+20 conference in Brazil, the statistical community on the global and regional levels began undertaking a number of activities to accompany and support the political process involved in developing the 2030 Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). To understand those activities, it is useful to have a deeper look at some recent developments.

On the global level, the first UN World Data Forum as well as the 48th Session of the UN Statistical Commission were key moments in advancing statistical support for the political process:

  • From 15-18 January 2017, the first UN World Data Forum took place in Cape Town, South Africa. The aim of the conference was to bring together data producers and data users to share their experiences, needs and expectations. This forum will be organized every two years. The second UN World Data Forum will take place in Dubai, UAE, in October 2018.
  • From 7-10 March 2017, the 48th Session of the UN Statistical Commission was held in New York. The decisions taken at that meeting directly affect the national statistical systems and the regions:
    1. The global indicator framework for the SDGs, which includes more than 240 indicators, was agreed.
    2. The Cape Town Global Action Plan was approved. This plan will help the Statistical Commission to set priorities for the coming years and so efficiently use its limited resources. This is needed to develop official statistics, which are the basis for monitoring the SDGs.
    3. The UN Statistical Commission adopted the draft resolution titled, ‘Work of the UN Statistical Commission pertaining to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development’. The resolution includes the Cape Town Global Action Plan and some basic elements regarding data flows, and by the text ECOSOC would adopt the global indicator framework. ECOSOC adopted this resolution on 7 June 2017. The resolution will be discussed at the UN General Assembly later this year.

Work to measure sustainable development started many years ago in the UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) region. In 2005, a measurement framework was developed, and continues to be used by many countries. Heads of national statistical offices of the UNECE and the OECD countries adopted, in 2015, a ‘Declaration on the role of national statistical offices in measuring and monitoring SDGs.’ The Declaration calls upon governments to support national statistical offices in their key coordinating role in measuring SDGs, and confirms the commitment of national statistical offices to measure SDGs in a professional, independent and impartial way.

  • Based on this declaration, the UNECE Steering Group on Statistics for SDGs was established in fall 2015. It now includes 17 countries and three international organizations. In the past year, the Steering Group has developed a regional Road Map on statistics for SDGs. The Road Map is closely linked with the Cape Town Global Action Plan, although it gives much more detailed guidance for countries on how to build up a system for producing and disseminating statistics on SDGs. The regional Road Map deals with many practical issues that have to be solved for this purpose, such as:
    • establishing a coordinator of data on SDGs;
    • clarifying data flows between the national, regional and international levels;
    • establishing national SDG reporting platforms; and
    • identifying needs for capacity building and establishing priorities.
  • An expert meeting was organized by the Steering Group in Geneva in early April 2017. Based on the discussion and the regional Road Map, pilot projects on data flows will be conducted in the coming months.
  • Finally, this regional Road Map will be discussed by the Conference of European Statisticians (CES) on 20 June 2017.

At the April 2017 Steering Group meeting, experts identified obstacles that statisticians are currently addressing in multiple countries. These challenges include:

  1. The number of SDG indicators is high. On average, UNECE member countries are currently able to produce roughly one-third of the indicators. Even developed countries cannot produce more than half of them. The SDGs include areas that are new to official statistics (like governance or means of implementation). Methods to measure these areas in an internationally agreed and comparable way need to be developed.
  2. All countries need to increase their statistical capacity. We need to think differently about statistical capacity building, learn to better coordinate, match supply and demand for capacity building, and look for partnerships.
  3. Not all of the SDG data can be produced by official statistics using traditional methods. The CES, through its High-level Group for Modernisation of Official Statistics, is working actively to explore the use of other data sources, such as administrative registers and Big Data.
  4. Some of the SDG data should come from outside official statistical systems, otherwise it will not be possible to have disaggregated data to ensure “nobody is left behind”. The CES is working on guidance for how to set up efficient strategic partnerships with other producers, such as academia, private sector, civil society, media, etc. The challenge is to ensure the quality and impartiality of such data.

These are just a few examples showing that work needs to be done on both global and regional levels. In mid-April 2017, these conclusions were presented to the UNECE Regional Forum on Sustainable Development. The UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF), during its meeting in July 2017 in New York, will take note of these conclusions during different official sessions and a side event. These meetings, along with the UN World Data Forum, enable the statistical community to come together with political leaders to share their needs and challenges in monitoring the SDGs. This information exchange can lead to partnerships that allow us to cover and improve all of the crucial elements needed for global, regional and national monitoring of the Sustainable Development Goals.


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