The Fourth World Conference on Women, held in Beijing in 1995, marked an important step in the development of gender statistics. For the first time, an international instrument comprehensively linked discussions on gender issues, mainstreaming gender in policymaking, planning and programming, and their specific needs for statistics. In its outcome document, the Beijing Platform for Action, a wide representation of stakeholders representing governments, civil society and development partners clearly laid out 12 priority areas where data on women and men should be made available. Based on the set of actions outlined, Governments agreed to generate and disseminate gender-disaggregated data and information for planning and evaluation.
Fifteen years after the Beijing Platform for Action was adopted, the need and demand for gender statistics have continued to grow at the national, regional and international levels, and remain unmet. Progress assessment on various gender equity goals and targets, including the Millennium Development Goals, has highlighted the lack of data in key areas, such as maternal mortality, time-use and unpaid work, violence against women, women and disability, and women in the informal sector. In addition, even where data are produced, such as through censuses, population surveys and administrative records on health, employment and income, these have not been fully utilized to generate gender statistics or adequately analysed, used and disseminated.
A strong reminder of such persisting issues emerged in the Asia-Pacific regional review of the Beijing Platform for Action, which was held in Bangkok in November 2009 (E/ESCAP/66/14). In the Bangkok Declaration on Beijing +15, attention was drawn to the need "to intensify support for statistical capacity-building efforts on the generation of gender statistics and to provide timely, reliable and disaggregated data by sex, ethnicity, age and location and the development of methodologies for the collection and processing of these gender statistics; and to ensure that gender statistics inform policy and programme decisions and effectively monitor and assess gender gains and gaps" (E/ESCAP/66/14, chap I, para 2 (i)).
The secretariat's current programme of work mainstreams gender aspects in all its statistical activities. However, in order to strengthen the gender component of the work programme, the secretariat is in the process of planning the development of a regional capacity development programme on gender statistics. A series of consultations and surveys involving statistical systems, women's machineries and national development planning institutions are being undertaken to review the status of gender statistics in the region and to identify strategic priorities and needs for capacity-building to improve the availability of gender statistics in support of national policy development and progress assessment, including the progress made towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals. The regional programme is being developed in recognition of the need for more and better data, statistics on women and men, gender-based indicators, maximum utilization of existing resources and tools in order to improve gender-based analysis and to facilitate the development of new statistical standards and methodologies.
The plan to develop such a programme was brought to the attention of the Committee on Statistics during its second session in December 2010 and the Commission during its sixty-sixth session, in May 2010. The Commission was advised that the programme of work to be proposed by the secretariat on gender statistics will take forward the global initiatives prioritized by the United Nations Statistical Commission by implementing them at the regional level, taking into account specific regional realities and country needs. The technical cooperation strategy to be adopted for the regional programme will ensure that the work is carried out in close coordination with international and regional statistics development partners.