Keynote remarks Closing of the 2020 virtual United Nations World Data Forum

Distinguished Participants,

It is a great pleasure for me to address the global data community as we close the first virtual meeting of the United Nations World Data Forum.

I wish to thank our partners, speakers, individual session organizers and exhibitors. And I thank the participants from across the world for your active contributions over these past three days.

I wish particularly to thank the Government of Switzerland for hosting this Forum.

I am proud that we were able to convene this important Forum, especially at a time when there is so much expectation on this community.

Indeed, you are working hard to produce the data solutions to support the response and recovery from the pandemic, and to get us back on track to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

We are now one third of the way into our goal to meet the SDGs by 2030. Yet the report we released in July this year tells us that the news is not good.  Even before the pandemic, the world was not on track to meet the Goals. And now Covid-19 is having catastrophic impacts, and in some cases, threatening to turn back the progress that many have worked so hard to achieve.

To turn this around, timely and disaggregated data and statistics are vital.

UN DESA has taken a proactive approach to monitoring the pandemic’s effect on statistical operations across the world.

In collaboration with the World Bank, and in cooperation with the Statistics Divisions of the five UN Regional Commissions, we launched the Covid-19 Survey of National Statistical Offices in May. Now – every two months – it is being undertaken to provide the data community with the information they need to support national statistical and data systems in these challenging times. 

A key finding is that many countries are facing funding constraints. They need urgent additional support if they are to ensure continuity of statistical operations in these times of crisis.

The surveys also identified the tremendous impact the Covid-19 pandemic had on all statistical operations.  But it also revealed how many national statistical offices have accelerated the adoption of innovative data solutions.

UN DESA works closely with partners to support countries in their efforts to innovate and adopt new tools and technology. Our collective aim is to respond to the new data demands and continue to inform the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.

The Data for Now initiative – which we lead together with the Global Partnership for Development Data, the World Bank and the SDSN – allows us to leverage new modern solutions to improve the availability and timeliness of data.

We also support the work of the Working Group on Big Data. And – to assist with the immediate needs of the Covid-19 pandemic – we launched with our partners, a number of initiatives. We created a portal, early in the pandemic, for the global statistical community to:

We also support the work of the Working Group on Big Data. And – to assist with the immediate needs of the Covid-19 pandemic – we launched with our partners, a number of initiatives. We created a portal, early in the pandemic, for the global statistical community to:

  • share guidance and best practices to ensure the operational continuity of data programmes, and
  • to address issues of open and timely access to critical data during the Covid-19 crisis.

With the Inter-secretariat Working Group on Household Surveys, we created a Covid-19 Task Force to promote best practices and lessons learned.

And, as part of UN DESA’s commitment to engage more and better with the data community, the Global Network of Data Officers and Statisticians was launched this week.

The Network brings together official statisticians, data officers of the UN country teams, data scientists and geospatial information experts from National Statistical Systems, the whole UN system, and other regional and international organizations.  It provides a platform for collaboration, knowledge sharing, and technical support to build resilient and sustainable national data and information systems, for the full implementation of the SDGs.

Indeed, we are confronting a global crisis that requires a collective response. That is why all of you are gathered here at this Forum. There is a need:

  • to increase support for data use during COVID-19 and the recovery;
  • to harness the power of data for the public good and get back on track to implement the 2030 Agenda;
  • to grow consensus on strategies to address trust in data, and data privacy and governance; and
  • to launch the Global Data Community's response to COVID-19 – Data for a changing World.


As we commemorate the 75th anniversary of the United Nations, let us remember that the commitment to the purpose and principles of the United Nations and the 2030 Agenda, remains strong.

The Covid-19 pandemic is a stark reminder of the need for global cooperation and solidarity.

It is a reminder to strengthen our efforts to leave no one behind, and to forge the transformative pathways needed to create a better world.

I congratulate the successful convening of the UN World Data Forum 2020!

Thank you.

File date: 
Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Mr. Liu