The 51st session of the UN Statistical Commission took place last week at the UN Headquarters in New York City. The Statistical Commission, which consists of 24 member countries who each serve 4-year terms, convenes at the UN each year to discuss pressing items related to SDG data and measurement. It serves as the highest decision-making body for global statistical standards.
This article provides an overview of the 51st session, including the most important tools, reports and ideas that were presented to push the SDGs forward.
Improving Population Data
The 2030 Global Agenda pledges to “leave no one behind,” which is challenging due to the vast inequality the SDGs are working to address, but also from a data standpoint, given the lack of consistency in measurement of the Goals today. With the theme “leave no one behind” driving efforts to reach the SDGs, making population data more accurate and inclusive was a major focus of the Stats Commission.
The United Nations Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA) notes that 45% of the SDGs “require sound and reliable population data.” At the Stats Commission, UNFPA announced the launch of a new Population Data Thematic Fund “to scale up its support to governments to modernize census operations,” notes UN Assistant Secretary General Dereje Wordofa. The Fund will improve the quality and accessibility of census data and increase the use of geo-referenced population data.
The Commission also adopted the Global Statistical Geospatial Framework (GSGF) — a framework based on five principles that will enable a common method for statistical and administrative data to be measured geospatially and integrated with geospatial information globally. The Framework was developed by the UNSC/UN-GGIM Expert Group on the Integration of Statistical and Geospatial Information and is based on a Statistical Spacial Framework in Australia. According to the European Forum for Geography and Statistics, streamlining geospatial data will enable:
· New, better and more integrated information for analysis and decision-making processes;
· More efficient production of information and better comparisons within and between countries;
· Increased information on smaller geographic areas;
· The development of common tools/applications to support the integration and sharing of data;
· Commercial development of geospatial tools that will further support data integration.
In efforts to increase understanding and accessibility for policymakers and other stakeholders, the Thematic Research Network on Data and Statistics (TReNDS) — which is governed by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) — is releasing a report this Spring on gridded population data, notes Geospatial World.
Better Economic Measurement Through Updated Indices
A panel discussion at the 51st session dove into the use of a Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI), which uses microdata from household surveys to create a more holistic view of challenges people in poverty face and allows for data to be compared across countries. Countries are increasingly using MPI’s to inform policies and to track progress toward the SDGs. The panel hosted twelve speakers — ten of which spoke about their plans to either revise or launch MPIs. The countries represented were: Angola, Botswana, Chile, Colombia, Ghana, Kenya, Libya, Mongolia, Paraguay, Philippines, Tanzania and Uganda. Check out this article for a detailed summary of the panel.
Also allowing for better comparison across countries, a final version of an updated Consumer Price Index (CPI) was presented at the 51st session. In 2014, The Intersecretariat Working Group on Price Statistics (IWGPS) answered countries’ requests to begin updating the Consumer Price Index (CPI) Manual by creating a Technical Expert Group for the update of the CPI Manual (TEG-CPI) and adopted the International Monetary Fund (IMF) as the lead agency spearheading this work.
After years of drafts and receiving feedback from leading Statisticians, the final version was endorsed by the Commission — a big win for streamlining CPI data from country to country. See below for the updated Manual and a summary of the key changes.
SDG 16: Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions
A new indicator focused on civil justice was confirmed for SDG 16. The Inter-Agency Expert Group on SDG Indicators (IAEG-SDGs) proposed the additional indicator, “proportion of the population who have experienced a dispute in the past two years and who accessed a formal or informal dispute resolution mechanism, by type of mechanism” to strengthen civil justice data. Data resulting from the addition of this indicator is meant to:
“Reveal processes and impacts of exclusion. Understanding what problems people and communities have and where they turn to for resolution (if anywhere) is vital for ensuring we leave no one behind.”
The addition of a people-focused indicator is monumental for ensuring justice for all — a main goal of SDG 16. Another victory for SDG 16 — the release of the Praia Group’s Handbook on Governance Statistics — came out of the Statistical Commission. The Handbook:
“Is primarily targeted towards national statistical agencies, but is also a tool for all those wishing to produce and understand governance statistics. It takes stock of existing practices in governance data collection, and proposes guidelines for the improved production and compilation of official governance statistics. It is also a comprehensive resource for monitoring progress on SDG 16 (peace, justice and strong institutions).”
Other Newly Released SDG Reports and Tools
The following reports and tools were also released at the UN Statistical Commission, and offer exciting advancements in SDG data:
Joint report of the Secretary-General, the Washington Group on Disability Statistics and international agencies, which focuses on current and planned activities on disability statistics from UN agencies, the World Health Organization, the World Health Group and the Washington Group on Disability Statistics.
A gender data report from Data 2X, “Mapping Gender Data Gaps: An SDG Era Update”. This report emphasizes the need to fill gaps in gender data in six categories affecting women’s empowerment: health, education, economic opportunity, public participation, human security and the environment.
A new app, LinkedSDG, that allows users to have documents automatically analyzed and linked to Global Goals, targets and indicators. It also presents an interactive graphic for the most relevant SDGs and their targets.
An SDG training portal, UN SDG:Learn, which was released by the Global Network of Institutions for Statistical Training (GIST). The portal provides training materials for the following topics: demographic and social statistics, economic statistics, environmental and multi-domain statistics, methodology of statistical processes and strategic and managerial issues.
New data was launched for SDG indicator 5.6 which, for the first time, includes data to “address the barriers and human rights based dimensions of sexual and reproductive health and sexual and reproductive health rights.”
The Commission scheduled the next update of System of National Accounts (SNA) for the year 2025.
Rwanda signed an MOU with the UN and will host a UN Global Platform for Big Data Regional Hub for Africa.
The World’s Women 2020: Trends and Statistics was presented to the IAEG-GS partners in an online format and is being used to assess progress toward gender equality. The report is not yet released, but is coming soon.
The Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) Sustainable Development Gateway, a regional website on the SDGs developed under ECLAC’s leadership with other UN agencies, funds and programs in the region, will be launched at the 4th meeting of the Forum of the LAC on March 28th — 31st in Havana. The tool will strengthen the capacity of LAC countries to implement the 2030 Agenda.