Remarks Arab Forum on Sustainable Development-2021, Plenary Session on SDG 17 review: Innovative data solutions from the Arab region


Distinguished Delegates,

Dear Colleagues,

Ladies and Gentlemen,


It is a pleasure to join you at this plenary session on addressing innovative data solutions from the Arab Region.

Allow me to congratulate the five countries from the ESCWA region – Egypt, Iraq, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Tunisia – for preparing your VNRs for the 2021 High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development. I also thank our colleagues at ESCWA for the excellent collaboration, including during the VNR regional workshop held earlier this month. 

The inherent power in data and statistics has never been more important than it is today. Recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic needs policies based on evidence and data, as well as robust and committed global solidarity, collaboration, and partnerships.

Data is crucial in monitoring the spread of the disease, mitigating its impacts and monitoring its consequences.  Data will also support us in monitoring and assessing progress in advancing the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals.

Building resilient national information and statistical systems is the main path towards a sustainable supply of policy relevant data. In this regard, UN DESA and ESCWA are coordinating efforts to help countries strengthen national statistical capacities through the Joint Programme on Statistics and Data. The Programme aims to enhance national statistical systems for the follow-up and review of the SDGs. We have also worked together on data disaggregation and collaborated on administrative data.

Standardizing and modernizing the mechanisms for the exchange of statistical data and metadata, will no doubt strengthen national statistical systems for the follow up and review of the SDGs.  Achieving the Goals by 2030 – and ensuring that no one is left behind in the recovery efforts – require data at an unprecedented level of granularity. This means more and better financing for data is needed. The pandemic has exacerbated critical funding gaps in national, regional, and global statistical offices. This is making the mobilization of resources to support data for sustainable development, more urgent.

Innovative approaches to solve the data challenges of the 2030 Agenda are also needed to advance strong statistical foundations. Artificial intelligence, citizen generated data, big data, and geocoded data, can all be used alongside – or even integrated with – traditional data sources, such as census, surveys, and administrative data.

New partnerships will be required to leverage these new data sources. The launching of the Global Network of Data Officers and Statisticians in October 2020 was very timely. By bringing together all key actors in different data communities, including geospatial information experts, the Network can help to develop the necessary partnerships to support the recovery efforts.


UN DESA and the World Bank’s Development Data Group have also established a partnership in cooperation with the UN regional commissions. The surveys conducted through this partnership have yielded important information on the impact of COVID-19 national statistical operations.


I commend ESCWA’s leadership in the Arab Region in the development of its knowledge management hub, “Manara” [meaning Lighthouse in Arabic]. ESCWA’s use of artificial intelligence to synthetize information on the SDGs – from knowledge products as well as the use of “big data” sources – is impressive.


All these examples and good practices bring hope. Indeed, addressing gaps in data can lead to effective and targeted policies for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs. 


To this end, some key areas will need special attention to advance the recovery and build resilience to future shocks, including to:

  • identify ways to better incorporate new data sources into official data systems;
  • mobilize more technical and financial resources for data collection and improving sustainability of capacity development initiatives;
  • improve coordination at all levels among the different national statistical offices;
  • advance a process of integrating big data more robustly; and
  • make geospatial data available to those countries without such capacities.




UN DESA will continue to work closely with countries, ESCWA and other partners to ensure coherent support on data and statistical development. We will continue in our efforts to promote evidence-based policy making, data innovations and technologies to address the challenges on the way forward.


I thank you.

File date: 
Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Mr. Liu