National statistical offices must strengthen to meet SDG data challenge, UN says

17 Jan 17

National statistical offices must be strengthened in order to meet the data challenge presented by the Sustainable Development Goals, a top United Nations official has told a forum of data experts.



Cape Town, South Africa - Photo: iStock

The United Nations World Data Forum kicked off in Cape Town yesterday.


Achieving the 17 ambitious goals, with their 169 targets and 230 individual indicators, by 2030 will require a broad supply of accurate, reliable and timely data in order to monitor progress effectively.

Wu Hongbo, the UN’s under-secretary general for economic and social affairs, said national statistics offices in particular “have a key role to play”.

“They constitute the core of national information systems,” Wu said, opening the UN’s World Data Forum in Cape Town yesterday. “They are the institutions responsible for ensuring the production of reliable and high-quality statistics, in line with international standards to ensure data quality and comparability across countries.”

He said it is “essential” to strengthen national statistical capacities, especially in countries where financial and human resources are lacking.  

“All national statistical offices should become the new data hubs to gather and provide the necessary data to inform policies and monitor progress,” he stated.

“To make this happen, we will need governments, international organisations, business, academia and civil society to join forces and work together.”

International and cross-sector cooperation will be key to supplying the data needed to facilitate progress in the SDGs, he continued.

“The new agenda poses enormous challenges for the global statistical community. It is imperative to modernise, improve capacity and cooperate at a truly global level.”

He announced the launch of the Cape Town Global Action Plan for Sustainable Development Data, which calls on the government, policy leaders and the international community to take action in six areas:

·         Coordination and strategic leadership

·         Innovation and modernisation of national statistical systems

·         Strengthening statistical systems

·         Dissemination of data on sustainable development

·         Building partnerships

·         Mobilising resources

“The data landscape is rapidly changing,” noted Wu. “I am delighted to be able to launch the first important event for collective action to harness the data revolution for sustainable development.”

The World Data Forum, which kicked off in South Africa yesterday, brought together over 1,500 data leaders and experts from more than 100 countries.

It aimed to build a consensus on how to use data for sustainable development and boost the collaborations and resources needed going forward. 

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