APFSD 2016: Special Event on the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data

Delievered at the Special Event on the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data during APFSD 2016 in Bangkok, Thailand.

Distinguished Delegates,
Champions and Partners for Sustainable Development Data,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Effective implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), based on strong national ownership along with rigorous and systematic follow-up and review, using national indicators aligned with the global indicators, will be the cornerstone of sustainable development success.

The United Nations Statistical Commission has now agreed on a list of 230 indicators, as a practical starting point for a global monitoring framework for the goals and targets of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, subject to future technical requirements. Last week, the 28-member Inter-agency and Expert Group on SDG Indicators, which includes eight ESCAP member States , continued work on the indicators, including identifying those for which data are not readily available and for which methodological work and guidelines still need to be developed.

Our region’s data readiness for follow-up and review of the SDGs is work in progress. We know that establishing baseline information for data-based initial reviews and future follow-up requires common, harmonized and coordinated approaches. Given the state of baselines and the statistical capacities of countries, follow-up and review on the basis of data remains a real challenge for both developed and developing statistical systems. There is broad consensus, however, that upfront data development is critical, as it helps to set baseline national priorities.

Asia-Pacific efforts to establish baselines have already started, for instance:

  • In the Pacific, Samoa, Fiji and Vanuatu have already assessed data availability and gaps. A subregional set of headline indicators, compared against an earlier version, matched only 60 of the 230 global indicators. Statistical capacity building is, therefore, being addressed through the 10-year Pacific Statistics Strategy.
  • The Philippines has also organized a national workshop with relevant line ministries and agencies to review the indicators and to identify priority concerns in terms of data availability.
  • The 10-year ASEAN Community Statistical System, adopted in October 2014, recognized the need to include new and aggregate data requirements, in support of regional policymaking, as well as the importance of international statistical developments in areas including the SDGs.

While national efforts are gaining further momentum, finding solutions to data gaps calls for harnessing the data revolution to use new sources. This entails, for example, transforming data generated by GPS devices, ATMs, scanning devices, sensors, mobile phones, satellites and social media, commonly known as Big Data, to produce statistics and indicators.

Big Data Capacity Essential to Improve Stats Systems

In December last year, ESCAP convened a multi-stakeholder expert meeting that highlighted the great potential for Big Data to supplement official data and to enable a holistic, multidimensional view of sustainability.

Despite being home to some well-established statistical agencies, which are driving development of the SDG indicators, many statistical systems in Asia and the Pacific lack the capacity to apply methods and techniques for using Big Data to improve comprehensiveness and timeliness of official statistics.

In 2014, the United Nations Statistical Commission created the Global Working Group on Big Data for Official Statistics, to identify and address the challenges and barriers. Australia, Bangladesh, China, Indonesia, Pakistan, the Philippines and ESCAP’s Statistical Institute for Asia and the Pacific (SIAP), as well as ESCAP’s Statistics Division, have been active members of this 27-member Group. Work is underway on piloting methodologies and looking into using Big data for official statistics to support measures of SDG indicators which utilize the 'Big Data Sand Box’ in Ireland, among others. There is however a need to resolve issues of data access, legislation and privacy and to identify initiatives to improve access to proprietary data, such as Big Data, developing targeted training courses.

ESCAP Priorities on Big Data

ESCAP engages with the statistical community in a coordinated manner, to ensure sound and consistent use of data and the integration of statistics development into national SDG implementation strategies.

This year, as part of our technical cooperation work, we will be enabling member States to utilize the Big Data Sandbox to test methods and increase understanding for application of the tools to produce SDG-related indicators. SIAP’s training programme, over the next two years, will address among other the management and technical requirements for strengthening official statistics for SDGs as well as integrating the use of Big Data in national statistical systems.

Our approach is to work closely with member States to:

  1. Map Big Data partners, institutions, capacities and gaps within the broader data ecosystem and provide a comprehensive repository of the state of Big Data in the region.
  2. Identify best-practices to facilitate the scaling-up, replication and sustainability of Big Data programmes.
  3. Explore development of regional guidelines on ethical and effective collection, management, dissemination and accountability of Big Data.
  4. Coordinate the development of a regional framework supporting bilateral and multi-lateral partnerships using Big Data for regional level decision-making, including for example, as relates to transboundary issues such as haze, climate change, water use and management, migration, and disaster resilience.

To conclude, we should recall that SDG 17 commits to “[…] revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development.” With such large and growing data needs, new and traditional data producers need to work together to exploit new data sources, to elevate numeracy and statistical literacy, and to help people make better use of data and statistics.

The Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data, as an important multi-stakeholder platform, needs to work very closely with the United Nations system to mobilize and coordinate the actions required to make the data revolution serve sustainable development.

With more than 100 champions now working globally to promote and develop tools and methods for capturing, managing and efficiently processing data, the Partnership is already making an invaluable contribution to our work. We have, for example, worked together to develop and test tools for a SDG Data Revolution Roadmap Toolbox, to support SDG monitoring as well as real-time dynamic disaggregated data for policy-making.

We look forward to substantive deliberations at this Special Event, to share some of the experiences and initiatives that are taking place and to demonstrate the value of being interconnected in the manner in which the Partnership envisions. I invite us all to use this opportunity to learn, to share and to establish new connections for better data to support sustainable development.

I thank you.