Volume 17, No.11 - November 2013

Capacity development

Integrating gender into Statistics

Korean woman in the orchestraUN DESA Statistics Division and Statistics Korea (KOSTAT), in collaboration with the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family and Korea Women’s Development Institute of the Republic of Korea, are organizing a seminar on Gender Statistics  from 12 to 14 November 2013 in Incheon, Republic of Korea. 

The Seminar will focus on Integrating a Gender Perspective into Statistics, Time Use Statistics and Statistics on Violence against Women. The goal of the Seminar is to promote and train national statisticians on agreed international standards, share best practices and ensure collaboration and networking among gender statisticians and other relevant stakeholders, for the production, dissemination and communication of gender statistics that are policy relevant, internationally comparable and technically sound.


Quality of teaching really matters

Teaching really matters

Raj Chetty, Bloomberg Professor of Economics at Harvard University, gave a keynote address to the Second Committee of the 68th session of the General Assembly on 9 October. He presented a study on the correlation between the quality of teachers and students’ future success , according to which, quality teachers not just improved test scores, but had long-term positive effects on the socioeconomic status of children 20 and 30 years down the line.

Professor Raj Chetty  emphasized that traditional analysis of economic and social policy is being transformed by new data and methods. “The collection of “big data” including school records, tax statistics, and health registries was sparking a paradigm shift from the traditional, theory-driven study of macro questions to the data-driven analysis of micro questions”.

In addition to the long-term positive effects of quality teachers on socioeconomic status, students with effective teachers were less likely to become pregnant, more likely to gain admission to college and get higher-paying jobs.

The study looked at 2.5 million children and their 18 million test scores, comparing the scores of students in a specific class in the beginning of a semester with their scores at the end.  If their marks increased, that meant the teacher was of high-value and could increase the lifetime income of a classroom by over $250,000.  “Teacher quality mattered in developing countries,” Professor said, emphasizing the need to attract top talent there and noting that paying teachers based on performance significantly raised test scores.

Therefore, improving micro-level policy decisions on an economic and social policy level could have a great macro-level impact.  Harnessing big data could provide scientific evidence for designing policies.

Parental support is crucial

As the floor was opened for discussion, representatives of developing countries noticed that the data presented applied more for already developed countries, whereas in many regions, such factors as nutrition quality, healthcare, housing and the presence of family are still more important than teaching. “Teachers might be good but parental support is crucial.”  Moreover, even after succeeding in childhood and graduating from university, many young people from developing countries end up moving abroad in a pursuit of better life. Whereas many qualified teachers move abroad to teach in big universities.

However, according to Mr Chetty, it was a mistake to say that education did not matter there. For example, simply improving teachers’ attendance had large impact in India. Quality teachers not only generated improvements in income but also positively impacted social issues, such as teenage pregnancy and family stability. “On the issue of brain drain, reaping the benefits of education in all countries required that investment in infrastructure be geared towards providing quality jobs,” he said.

Raj Chetty website:

Shifting from power to empowerment

powerIn support of the work of the Commission for Social Development to move forward the social development agenda, the UN DESA’s Division for Social Policy and Development is working on a paradigm shift from powerlessness to empowerment. On 10-11 September at UN Headquarters in New York, the Division convened an Expert Group Meeting (EGM) on “Policies and strategies to promote empowerment of people in achieving poverty eradication, social integration and full employment and decent work for all”.

In welcoming the experts and participants to the meeting, Daniela Bas, Director of UNDESA’s Division for Social Policy and Development noted that the empowerment of people played a key role in social development, as it promoted a people-centred approach to development through enabling their full participation in all aspects of political, economic and social life.  She further noted that promoting the empowerment of people requires an enabling environment that supports policies, strategies, and an attitude change to permit all people of all abilities across the lifecycle to participate meaningfully in decision-making processes, especially in the design and implementation of policies that affect their lives.

Empowering social groups

The meeting focused its discussion on ways to create an enabling environment for the empowerment of people through participation and capability-strengthening. Experts examined pathways to empowering social groups such as women, persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples, older persons, and youth.

The unique perspectives of various social groups, including people living in poverty, women, persons with disabilities, Indigenous peoples, older persons and youth, were highlighted at the meeting. The myriad of narratives at the EGM displayed what Savitri Goonesekere called “…the international human rights system’s increasing recognition for the voice of civil society in international fora”. As expert Duncan Green, author of From Poverty to Power, stated “…building the ‘power within’ among poor and excluded people is the essential first-step in any sustained process of empowerment”.

The experts examined successful examples from case studies in various regions, and discussed whether lessons learned from strategies to empower women can be replicated for the empowerment of other social groups.

Unlocking the full potential of all people

In search of a way to promote empowerment, the experts noted that, while it is neither possible nor desirable to formulate a single/universal set of policies and strategies to promote empowerment across all countries or contexts, Governments can adopt an “empowerment approach” to policy making and policy implementation. The approach enables a more holistic, coherent, and integrated policy making, at all levels – individual, communal (social groups and community), and institutional. This will include aligning economic, social and other sectoral policies towards unlocking the full potential of all people to lead a better life with dignity.

To tackle these tasks the “empowerment approach” highlights the importance of creating a policy space to allow strategic partnerships and coalitions among various stakeholders, including public institutions, the private sector, and civil society organizations, to emerge. Sarah Cook, the director of United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD) noted that there was a need for expanding the “empowerment approach” evidence-base. This meant elucidating what works and what does not, so that the formulation and implementation of empowerment policies would be based on careful social analysis and impact assessment.

Causes of disempowerment

The meeting also helped define “empowerment strategies” as methods that focus on long-term transformation, rather than short-term gains. Such strategies aimed to achieve sustainable impact by addressing structural causes of disempowerment, including weak governance, non-transparent and ineffective institutions, narrow macroeconomic policies, lack of employment or social protection, discrimination, and insufficient investment in human capital.

Political will is key to promoting and ensuring the empowerment of people. In the words of Patience Stephens, Director of the Intergovernmental Support Division of UN Women, “… the pathway to empowerment requires strong, sustained intergovernmental initiative, action, and leadership”. In pursuit of this, the conclusions and recommendations of this EGM will provide input to a report of the Secretary-General to be submitted to the Commission for Social Development at its 52nd session in February 2014, where the priority theme is “Empowerment of people in achieving poverty eradication, social integration and full employment and decent work for all”.

The meeting was attended by 22 experts from academia, Governments, civil society organizations, international development agencies, and UN agencies, including the UN Development Programme (UNDP), the UN Capital Development Fund (UNCDF), the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), UN Women, the UN Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the World Bank.


Information on the Expert Group Meeting can be accessed at: