The UN Secretary-General has released a report describing progress on a federated system of national and global data hubs for the SDGs. It also reports on a set of “common internationalized resource identifiers” for the SDGs and their targets and indicators.

The report of the Secretary-General titled, ‘Work for the review of progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals,’ was submitted ahead of the UN Statistical Commission’s 51st session in March 2020.

On the federated information system for the SDGs, the report notes that it was launched in March 2017 as a research exercise on strengthening the ability of the national and global statistical systems to manage and share knowledge, information and good practices on data and statistics for the SDGs. Following its 2017 endorsement at the Fifth High Level Forum on UN Global Geospatial Information Management (GGIM), the system has been providing access to national data shared by participating countries, as well as geospatially-enabled statistical data on SDG indicators.

Most recently, the UN Statistics Division and technology partners have worked to scale up the federated system initiative to include new countries and build capacity at the national level. The federated system is also being used to support the UN Development Coordination Office in displaying country data and visualizing country progress towards the SDGs. This could include online country profiles to visualize geospatially-enabled statistical data from the Global SDG Indicators Database.

The report invites the Statistical Commission to express its views on the scaling-up of the federated information system of national and global data hubs.

All UN organizations and stakeholders have been urged to tag their SDG-related resources according to the common identifiers.

The Secretary-General also reports on the common internationalized resource identifiers for Goals, targets, indicators and related statistical series. The identifiers were developed by the High-level Committee on Management of the UN System Chief Executives Board for Coordination (CEB), the UN Statistics Division and the UN Department for General Assembly and Conference Management (DGACM). They are now hosted by the UN’s Dag Hammarskjöld Library.

The common identifiers are intended to help create a “homogeneously classified information space” and allow for automatic retrieval, processing and integration of information related to the Goals on the semantic web. In November 2019, the Secretary-General presented the common identifiers to the CEB, inviting all UN organizations to adopt the identifiers by signing the related statement of adoption. To date, the statement has been signed by eight organizations.

A pilot application was developed by the UN Statistics Division and the Division for the SDGs (both part of the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, DESA), with EU support. The application, currently in “demo form,” automatically extracts key concepts related to sustainable development from text documents and links them to the most relevant SDGs, targets, indicators and series. In other words, it finds semantic links between text, statistical data, and SDG entities.”

The report invites the Statistical Commission to take note of the identifiers and express its views on their potential use for the dissemination of statistical data sets in linked-open-data formats.

The report also provides an update on the Data for Now initiative, launched in September 2019 and jointly led by the UN Statistics Division, the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data, the World Bank and the Sustainable Development Solutions Network. Data for Now works to build capacity in countries to utilize new data sources.

A technical workshop took place in November 2019, in Kigali, Rwanda, resulting in country-specific road maps for data related to education, human mobility, poverty and land use. The partnerships initiated during the workshop are expected to be “consolidated and expanded over the next year,” with results to be showcased at the UN World Data Forum in October 2020, according to the Secretary-General’s report. 

The report invites the Statistical Commission to endorse the Data for Now initiative.

The Commission will hold its 51st session from 3-6 March 2020. The session also will consider 36 proposed “major changes” to the SDG indicator framework, resulting from the 2020 Comprehensive Review of the indicators conducted by the UN Inter-Agency and Expert Group on the SDG Indicators (IAEG-SDGs). [Publication: Work for the review of progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals: Report of the Secretary-General