The power of data to improve our lives

Statistics, numbers, figures – they tell the story of our lives. How well we live, and how well we take care of ourselves, each other and the environment. Through data, for example, we know how healthy people are, how many people live in poverty worldwide, how many children are not able to go to school, and where we stand on gender equality and our efforts to combat climate change.

Having all the needed data is critical for the international community to properly evaluate the current state of the world and to determine how best to move forward, improving peoples’ lives. As UN Secretary-General António Guterres recently put it, “accurate data is the lifeblood of good policy and decision-making.”

As nations across the globe strive to fulfill their commitment to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the availability, timeliness and accuracy of data is more important than ever. Only with high-quality data can we formulate the policies to bring the necessary change, and know if we are on the right track and if we are progressing fast enough to meet our goals by 2030.

232 global indicators help us track SDGs progress

On 6-9 March 2018, statisticians from around the globe will come together at UN Headquarters for the 49th Session of the UN Statistical Commission. As in previous sessions, this year’s event is expected to draw a large number of data experts with one goal in common – to ensure that reliable data is collected to help serve nations and people across the world.

One of the top items on a busy Commission agenda is on the data and indicators to measure SDGs progress. These 232 global indicators developed to help follow up and review the 17 goals and 169 targets of the 2030 Agenda, are the result of tireless efforts by the global statistical community through the Inter-Agency and Expert Group on Sustainable Development Goal Indicators.

“I commend the UN Statistical Commission, the Inter-agency and Expert Group on SDG Indicators, and the Statistics Division of UN DESA, for their mammoth efforts preparing this framework,” said Peter Thomson, President of the 71st Session of the General Assembly, when the framework was adopted by the UN General Assembly in July 2017.

“It will help all of us to measure what we truly value; to keep our promise to leave no one behind and, most importantly, to ensure accountability for the lofty commitments made in September 2015,” Mr. Thomson said.

Data hubs and platforms for innovation

In addition to data for the SDGs, a variety of topics are up for discussion and decision by this year’s Commission including open data, big data and statistics on climate change, refugees, disability, work and employment, and agricultural and rural statistics.

In keeping with tradition, the official session will be preceded by the Friday Seminar on Emerging Issues on 2 March, taking place under the theme “The Data Revolution in Action: Building a Federated System of SDG Data Hubs and Collaborative Platforms for Innovation.”

To meet the challenges that measuring the SDGs brings, the seminar will explore the need to build a modern statistical infrastructure, as well as ways to integrate SDG data and information platforms with each other to support policy and decision-making at all levels.

Bringing trusted data to the public

In addition to the Friday Seminar and a number of other side events, UN DESA’s Statistics Division will also organize the High-level Forum on Official Statistics on Monday 5 March.

Taking place under the theme “Communicating data and statistics: Bringing trusted and actionable data to the public, the media and policy-makers,” the Forum will shine a light on the need to communicate data more effectively to help policy makers, the media and the general public identify, understand, and make full use of trusted sources of data and statistics to support development efforts.

When we increase statistical literacy and improve our communication surrounding data, we allow citizens to better understand the world around them. We then also enhance the understanding of data and its role to realize the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, making our world a better place. Because with better data, we have a chance to live better lives.

For more information:

49th Session of the UN Statistical Commission

Side events at the UN Statistical Commission

Sustainable Development Goals Report 2017

Sustainable Development Goals indicators