United Nations advocates for statistics development goal in the post-2015 development agenda

Statistical Yearbook for Asia and the Pacific 2013

The development community must work together to place statistical capacity building at the center of the post-2015 development agenda to ensure that high quality data and information are available to people and governments to support more effective decision-making, the United Nations said today.

Reflecting on the role of statistics in understanding development gains and challenges and deciding on future ambitions and priorities, Dr. Noeleen Heyzer, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), made this call on the occasion of the release of the ESCAP Statistical Yearbook for Asia and the Pacific 2013.

The Yearbook provides a comprehensive overview of the status and recent trends of social development, the economy, and the environment in the Asia-Pacific region. It encompasses 32 topics covering eight themes: demographic trends, health, education and knowledge, poverty and insecurity, women’s empowerment, environment, economy and connectivity.

Poverty reduced, poverty remains

According to the publication, the economic strength of Asia and the Pacific continues to grow, and in 2012 it overtook Europe to become the world’s largest trading region in merchandise, but for some people the opportunities resulting from economic growth have been far greater than for others. For instance, 90% of the one billion people who escaped extreme poverty since 1990 were from Asia and the Pacific. Over a similar period the prevalence of undernourishment in the region has also decreased from 22% to 13%. On the other hand, 743 million people in Asia and the Pacific remain in extreme poverty, and almost one in six people in South and South-West Asia suffer from undernourishment.

Women, youth continue to be on the losing end

The analyses in the report illustrate that in some cases the development opportunities in Asia and the Pacific remain highly dependent upon where people live and who they are – rich or poor, male or female, young or old. For instance, women are not benefiting equally from economic growth. Since the early 1990s, there have been only three women in employment for every five men, and the work women do is still more likely to be in sectors that are poorly paid and less secure.

With more students enrolling and completing school, Asia and the Pacific’s population is better educated than ever before. However, there will need to be greater job opportunities when students leave school as one out of every 10 young person 15 to 24 years old is currently unemployed.

Economies continue to grow, but at cost to environment

The impressive economic growth of the region over the last few decades has taken its toll on the environment. Asia and the Pacific now accounts for roughly half of all global greenhouse gas emissions, which contribute to global warming. Asia and the Pacific is also the most disaster prone region in the world. A person living in the region is 67 times more likely than a person in Europe to be affected by a natural disaster.

From data to policy, need for strong statistical systems

The Yearbook also points to the fact that, due to the lack of timely, reliable and relevant statistical information, many drivers and consequences of development are not fully understood. These include lack of statistics to assess household reactions to shocks and stresses so as to design interventions to help them become less vulnerable to chronic undernourishment. In addition, shortage of data on national disasters has hampered government efforts to integrate disaster risk reduction in national development plans.

Echoing the emphasis on the need for evidence and better statistics in discussions on the post-2015 development agenda thus far, Dr. Heyzer expressed support for substantial investments in statistical capacity-building so that the “data revolution” necessary for significantly improving the availability and the quality of development data can become a reality.

About the Yearbook

The Statistical Yearbook for Asia and the Pacific presents concise analyses highlighting major achievements and challenges for ESCAP member States and the five subregions in promoting economic prosperity, social inclusion, and environmental sustainability. These analyses are supported with the most up-to-date and comparable data for over 300 indicators.

The Yearbook is accompanied by a series of online products, including country fact sheets, a database containing over 500 indicators and data visualization options.