Mr. Wu Hongbo Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs

High-level Thematic Debate on Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals

Interactive Discussion Two: Technology and data for SDGs
Panel II: Harnessing the Data Revolution for SDGs: opportunities and challenges

My dear former colleague, Minister Amina Mohamed,
Distinguished Participants,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good afternoon,

It is a great pleasure for me to address this panel on harnessing the data revolution for SDGs.

I would like to thank Ambassador Lykketoft, President of the General Assembly for convening this important event.

Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates,

With the 2030 Agenda, we have embarked on a global journey without precedent in scope and ambition.  It connects people around the world through common principles and values.

The data demands for this ambitious agenda are enormous, but it is often said “we measure what we value”. Indeed, this comprehensive and ambitious agenda is explicit in its call for quality, accessible, timely and reliable disaggregated data for systematic follow-up and review of progress. The United Nations System is committed to supporting the international community in meeting the growing data and statistics demands of the new agenda.

Last month, the Statistical Commission agreed on a global indicator framework, comprised of 230 indicators, intended for the follow-up and review of progress towards achieving the SDGs at the global level. The framework will also be the basis for the Secretary General’s annual progress report on the SDGs, produced in cooperation with the UN system.

Agreeing on the framework is an important step, but it is just a start. The data requirements for the global indicators are vast and unprecedented, and constitute a tremendous challenge to all countries. Refinements and improvements to the indicator framework will be needed over the years, as knowledge improves and new tools and data sources become available.  Also, at the national, regional and thematic levels additional and sometimes different indicators will be needed.

There is also a heightened call for data to pinpoint more accurately the most vulnerable – those who have been left behind.  This requires not only disaggregated data, but also the integration of geospatial information and statistics.

While the data challenges of the agenda are significant, countries are working with partners around the world in creative ways to close data gaps. In the last few years, many national statistical offices have started using new technologies and big data to produce official statistics. They have launched pilot projects using data from satellite imagery, mobile phones and social media. New and non-traditional data sources and real-time information are also becoming more readily available.  This provides opportunities to develop strategies and guidelines to integrate these new approaches with statistical data for improved decision making and better quality data overall.

The Statistical Commission recently created The High-level Group for Partnership, Coordination and Capacity-Building for Statistics for the 2030 Agenda to advise on harnessing the opportunities of the data revolution for the implementation of the SDGs.  The group is designing a roadmap for modernizing and strengthening statistical systems, and planning the first UN World Forum for Sustainable Development Data to be held next year. The Forum will be a unique opportunity to intensify cooperation among key data stakeholders, provide clear leadership and ensure coherence of the broader United Nations work programme on data, statistics and geospatial information.  I encourage all relevant stakeholders to participate in and contribute to the Forum and its preparation.

This year, as the implementation phase of this ambitious agenda begins, we must ensure that our efforts to harness the data revolution truly respond to national data needs to monitor and review progress towards the sustainable development goals.

I look forward to fruitful discussions today addressing these key challenges and opportunities.

Thank you.

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