UN Statistical Commission Agrees on SDG Indicator Framework as “Practical Starting Point”
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The UN Statistical Commission (UNSC) agreed "as a practical starting point" with the global indicator framework proposed by the Inter-Agency and Expert Group on Sustainable Development Goal Indicators (IAEG-SDGs), noting that the indicators are "subject to further technical refinement." The Commission also took decisions on capacity building for national statistical systems, and climate change and governance statistics.

47unsc11 March 2016: The UN Statistical Commission (UNSC) agreed, “as a practical starting point,” with the global indicator framework proposed by the Inter-Agency and Expert Group on Sustainable Development Goal Indicators (IAEG-SDGs), noting that the indicators are “subject to further technical refinement.” The Commission also took decisions on capacity building for national statistical systems, and climate change and governance statistics.

UNSC held its 47th session from 8-11 March 2016, in New York, US.

In Decision 1, considered and agreed on 11 March, the Commission accepted the proposed programme of work and revised terms of reference for the IAEG-SDGs, and asked it to report back to the Commission at its 48th session on progress made in developing and improving the global indicators, including on methodologies, definitions and standards to be agreed at the international level. The Decision also notes that the IAEG-SDGs will establish a tier system for the indicators, to be discussed and agreed at its Third Meeting (IAEG-SDGs 3), in Mexico City, Mexico, which will take place from 30 March-1 April 2016.

The Decision emphasizes that the global indicators proposed are intended for global follow-up and review of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and not necessarily applicable to all national contexts, and that indicators for regional, national and subnational levels of monitoring will be developed. The Commission also: specifies that national reviews are voluntary and country-led, and will respect national policy space and priorities; agrees that when sources and methodologies other than national statistical offices (NSOs) are used, they will be reviewed and agreed by national statistics authorities and presented in a transparent manner; stresses that efforts to strengthen national capacities will need to be made; and agrees to establish a working group on data disaggregation, within the IEAG-SDGs.

The UNSC adopted the decision in place of a draft resolution that had been tabled earlier, which the Commission would have recommended for adoption by the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), and which ECOSOC would then in turn recommend for adoption by the UN General Assembly (UNGA). By that draft, the UNGA would have decided to “adopt the list of global indicators” as proposed by the IAEG-SDGs. Many countries, including China, India, Belarus, Nigeria, Indonesia, and Suriname, opposed such a resolution, preferring instead a Decision stating that the Commission “agreed” with the IAEG-SDGs’ proposed global indicator framework as “a practical starting point.” Some said there is no legal mandate for the UNSC to propose a draft resolution to ECOSOC, and that discussions on the issues contained in the resolution should be conducted by the UNGA.

Belarus requested adding “with political implications” in a paragraph recognizing that “the development of indicators is a technical process.” Japan, the UK, and the US opposed, stressing that the development of indicators must remain a technical process.

Suriname requested a dual set of indicators, one of which would be smaller and more manageable for small island developing States (SIDS) to produce, with New Zealand supporting such an addition. Bangladesh for the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) called to include, in that case, a reference to other countries in special situations.

On the High Level Group for Partnership, Coordination, and Capacity Building (HLG), the UNSC adopted Decision 2, by which it: agreed to ensure coordination between the HLG and the IEAG-SDGs; recommended that the HLG’s terms of reference should indicate more clearly the role of the HLG as the UN focal point for coordinating with partnerships (as well as with other agencies of the UN system) in addressing data and statistical gaps pertaining to the SDGs; welcomed the concept note for the organization of the UN World Forum on Sustainable Development Data; noted the draft outline of the Global Action Plan for Sustainable Development Data, which will provide a roadmap for the modernization and strengthening of statistical systems for the 2030 Agenda, and welcomed the opportunity to comment on it by the deadline of 22 March 2016; endorsed the proposal to establish a joint sub-group of the HLG and IAEG-SDGs tasked with developing a plan to address the immediate statistical capacity building priorities for the implementation of the global SDG indicators; and approved the HLG proposed programme of work.

Japan proposed including language on a rotation system for HLG members. The UK suggested a reference to capacity building efforts in their entirety and not only to “priorities.” Tanzania requested stating that the HLG will address capacity building with regard to financial frameworks, not only statistics. Switzerland called for including language on regional frameworks.

On climate change statistics (Decision 12), the UNSC: urged countries to develop and strengthen environment statistics that are necessary for effective monitoring of key aspects of climate change; urged the international statistical community to expand regional, sub-regional, and national capacity building efforts in climate change statistics in line with the Paris Agreement and 2030 Agenda; requested the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) be considered in the development of climate change statistics and indicators; encouraged national statistical systems to invest adequate resources in the development of climate change statistics; urged the donor community to mobilize additional resources to enable capacity building in environment and climate change statistics in developing countries; and requested climate change statistics to appear on the UNSC multi-year program with higher frequency. Cote D’Ivoire called for making clear the distinction between environmental statistics and climate change statistics, which he said should be counted separately.

On governance statistics (Decision 13), the Commission: adopted the report of the Praia Group on governance statistics; welcomed and supported the proposed roadmap and actions towards the development of a handbook on governance statistics for NSOs; stressed the importance of identifying best practices and developing common standards; requested the Praia Group to report to UNSC at its 49th session in 2018; welcomed the support of the Praia Group for the development of indicators for targets of SDG 16; and stressed the importance of capacity building and training pertaining to governance and security statistics.

The Commission also heard a report of the UN Statistics Division on its activities, plans and priorities. Director Stefan Schweinfest said the Division’s “absolute and primary focus will be on strengthening national capacity and statistical systems;” including by increasing the training provided, while it also continues to support the IAEG-SDGs and complete the development of the indicator architecture. In addition, he noted that, under the HLG’s guidance, the Division will launch a comprehensive implementation programme, which will include outreach to relevant partners and stakeholders during the first World Data Forum in late 2016.

The Commission elected Wasmália Bivar, Brazil, as Chair. She succeeds John Pullinger, UK. [UNSC 47 Webpage] [IISD RS Stories on UNSC 47] [UN Press Release] [DESA Press Release] [DPI Press Release] [Final Decisions, Unedited]

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