Shaping data-based realities

Less than one year into the pandemic, COVID-19 is radically reshaping our globe. To respond to these rapid changes in a timely fashion, the world needs reliable information that captures the full extent of the pandemic’s impact. Up to date data and statistics will allow us to make better-informed decisions on how to respond to the crisis and to build back better.

The UN’s Committee for the Coordination of Statistical Activities (CCSA) issued a new report to meet this urgent need. Volume II of the series “How COVID-19 is changing the world: a statistical perspective” uses the latest available data to map the economic, social, regional and statistical dimensions of our changing world. Compiled and edited by UNICEF and UN DESA’s Statistics and Population Divisions, the report’s second volume updates and expands on the various global, regional and thematic trends identified in the first volume, which was released in May 2020.

The findings are, in the report’s own words, grim. Trends identified “illustrate the unpredictable nature of the pandemic” and its disproportionate effect on vulnerable groups and those with special needs. For instance, the report documents the impact of COVID-19 on displaced persons, on women as well as on the 71-100 million people at risk of being pushed into extreme poverty.

The latest economic trends highlight the costs of national lockdowns, as they ripple through private and public sectors. Regional disparities in economic and social impact are stark, as are existing forms of discrimination and human rights abuses, which have been exacerbated by the pandemic.

Grimmer still, are the challenges facing national statistics systems that we rely on to inform policy. The report warns that, during a time when reliable information is more essential than ever, many systems are struggling to compile even the most basic statistics both due to the pandemic, and because of the reallocation of resources COVID-19 has prompted.

The collection and dissemination of data, however, is the first, indispensable step in re-shaping today’s dire situation. The 2030 Agenda, and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals, require an informed and vigilant response to the pandemic that is only possible with reliable, timely data.

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