Feature Vol 24, No. 03 - March 2020

When everyone is counted, everyone counts

Since ancient times, governments around the world have counted their populations. By counting everyone, communities can determine the needs of their people; where to build homes, schools, hospitals and where to invest in food supply, jobs and transportation. In this way, societies can progress. During the 2020 round of censuses, the majority of countries carry out their census. This year, censuses are scheduled to be carried out in 68 countries and territories. UN DESA and the UN Statistical Commission stand ready to support, making sure that the data collected, is data we can trust.

Data and statistics are essential at all levels to understand the world we live in. Official statistics collected via national statistical offices in every corner of the world help us keep track of our progress in meeting the promise of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) agreed upon by all UN Member States in 2015.

“We all know that timely, relevant and disaggregated data is central to achieving the SDGs,” Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed said recently when the Data for Now initiative was launched to ensure that quality and timely data is available to achieve the goals.

To measure our advancements, the global statistical community has agreed upon on a set of indicators. On 3-6 March, over 120 statisticians from across the world will gather for the 51st session of the UN Statistical Commission at UN Headquarters in New York, where they will review and agree on the revisions to the global indicator framework to further support and boost these SDG monitoring efforts.

“The 2030 Agenda has vast data needs. Ensuring that no one is left behind requires data at an unprecedented level of granularity,” UN DESA’s Under-Secretary-General Liu Zhenmin said when he addressed the statistical community last year. He then also stressed the need for enhanced financing and for strengthening the existing statistical capacity around the world to meet the new demands.

As in previous years, the Statistical Commission will cover a wide range of issues; from the traditional censuses and surveys to discussions on big data and earth observation data. It will look closer at better coordination of the UN statistical system, the future of economic statistics, and a framework for statistical geospatial integration. This year’s event will review civil registration, vital statistics and identity management. Health and gender statistics are two other important areas where new approaches are being undertaken.

The Commission also oversees two major events taking place later in the year: World Statistics Day, to be celebrated on 20 October and the Third UN World Data Forum to be held in Bern, Switzerland, from 18 to 21 October this year, which presents a unique opportunity for major producers and users of data and statistics to collaborate in launching new initiatives and innovative solutions that will deliver better data on all aspects of sustainable development.

On the sidelines of the Commission, UN headquarters will be buzzing with some 70 side events on a variety of relevant data topics. In keeping with the tradition of past years, UN DESA’s Statistics Division is organizing a High Level Forum on Official Statistics on 2 March with a focus on Data stewardship – a solution for official statistics’ predicament?

All these events, along with the hard work and efforts of the large group of statisticians that the UN Statistical Commission represents, boil down to one thing: to make sure we gather data we can trust, for people and planet. Because when everyone is counted, everyone counts.

For more information: 51st session of the UN Statistical Commission

Everyone included – how to end homelessness

Homelessness is one of the crudest manifestations of poverty, discrimination and inequality, affecting people of all ages, genders and backgrounds. Globally, 1.6 billion people worldwide live in inadequate housing conditions, with about 15 million forcefully evicted every year according to UN-Habitat, which has noted an alarming rise in homelessness in the last 10 years.

This month, for the first time ever, the UN Commission for Social Development will discuss the global homelessness crisis and the strategies to put an end to it by the end of the decade. Meeting at the UN Headquarters in New York from 10 to 19 February 2020, the Commission will hear from a variety of speakers, representing not only governments, but also NGOs, businesses, municipal authorities and academia.

The delegates will share their experiences and examples of innovative solutions that have worked in fighting homelessness, such as Finland’s “Housing First” policy, which since its launch in 2008, has reduced the number of long-term homeless people in Finland by more than 35%, nearly eradicating rough sleeping in the country’s capital.

The Commission will also kick off the celebrations of the 25th anniversary of the World Summit for Social Development. Held in Copenhagen in 1995, the summit was a watershed moment in the fight for social justice, agreeing on three key objectives of social development: eradicating poverty, promoting full and productive employment, and fostering social inclusion.

More than 100 presidents, royals, prime ministers and other heads of state and governments and over 14,000 other delegates adopted the Copenhagen Declaration on Social Development, which emphasized that eradicating poverty is not only an ethical, but also a social, political and economic imperative. The 186 participating countries also agreed to “place people at the centre of development by ensuring full participation by all.”

A quarter of a century later, much progress has been made to make social inclusion a reality, but we are still far away from realizing the 10 commitments of the Copenhagen Summit, most of which are now included in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

As we celebrate the 25 years of championing social inclusion, UN DESA will be reminding Member States and other stakeholders that economic growth is necessary but not sufficient to reduce poverty, and that social policy is crucial to achieving sustainable development for all. Building a world we want is only possible when everyone is included.

For more information:

58th Session of the Commission for Social Development (CSocD58)

Celebrating 25 years of Championing Social Inclusion

The state of our world

The world economy has barely had the time to recover from a string of shocks that began with the 2007 financial crisis, and we can already see another global slowdown looming large. At the same time, high economic and social inequalities are fuelling some of the mass protests around the world. As we start a new decade, two reports by UN DESA offer a way out of this bleak situation.

The World Economic Situation and Prospects and the World Social Report, coming out in January, offer a birds-eye view of the economic and social state of our world. Going beyond pulse-taking, the two publications study some of the root causes of the situation today and analyse its implications for sustainable development.

The economic outlook is expected to be downgraded this year with trade tensions and policy uncertainty stifling investment and bringing the growth in international trade to a virtual standstill. At the same time, although the climate crisis is becoming an ever-greater challenge, its risks continue to be underestimated.

The economic growth we have had, has often failed to reach those who need it most, exacerbating inequalities, and fuelling discontent. But macroeconomy is not the only reason to blame for the widening gaps. Rapid technological change, climate change, unprecedented urbanization and international migration are all impacting inequalities between countries and between people in various ways.

And yet, both upcoming reports argue that the world is not locked-in on this road to perdition. “The future doesn’t have to be like this – we have the tools to put out the fires,” said UN Chief Economist, Elliott Harris. “The Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement are our fire extinguishers and all we need, is more political will to use them.”

The two UN DESA reports demonstrate that change is still possible and beneficial to countries, businesses and societies at large. They offer practical options for policymakers, governments and other actors to  change the course of our planet and steer it towards a brighter, more prosperous future for all.

You can follow the launch of UN DESA’s World Economic Situation and Prospects and the World Social Report on UN Web TV. Stay tuned for the launch dates.

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