Mr. Wu Hongbo Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, Secretary-General for the Third International Conference on Financing for Development

Keynote statement
Side event during the Post-2015 intergovernmental negotiations

Your Excellency Mr. ZHANG Yan
Your Excellency Dr. Zsolt HETESY
Distinguished delegates and colleagues,

It is a pleasure to be here and I thank the organisers for providing me with this opportunity. Hungary has shown great leadership in the Open Working Group helping the world to formulate our common development vision. In the specific area of statistics, Hungary was instrumental in passing the General Assembly resolution on World Statistics Day 2015.

I also express my appreciation to the permanent mission of Vietnam for co-sponsoring this event and for presenting their national perspective. And thanks goes to the Asia-Europe Foundation and its Environment Forum for creating this platform of joint reflection, and for helping us to gradually shift our attention from the formulation of the post-2015 development agenda, to the challenge of implementing it.

These are indeed exciting times at the United Nations. It is a time of creation, as countries shape the post-2015 development agenda. It is also a time of reflection – everyone is aware that this agenda will be of great consequence for the future of humanity – even beyond 2030.

Allow me to structure my remarks around two core themes:

  • The need to build a solid ‘architecture’ of review at various levels; and
  • The central role that data and statistics play in the review architecture.

A few days ago I had the privilege of presenting, here in New York, the MDG-2015 report to the press and the public. The report provides a final assessment of global and regional progress towards the MDGs.

In concrete numbers, it documents the 15-year effort to achieve the aspirational goals set out in the Millennium Declaration, and highlights the many successes across the globe. It also acknowledges, and analyses, the gaps that remain.

This type of detailed analysis is based on the hard work of the Inter-agency and Expert Group on MDGs, which brings together data experts from member countries, the UN system and beyond. The IAEG-MDG harmonized methodologies of measurement, assisted countries through capacity building programmes to collect the data, and aggregated the standardized core indicators at regional and global level.

While the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals will require inter-agency and expert support, building on the experiences of the IAEG-MDG, the architecture for review and monitoring will need to be commensurate with the increased level of ambition of the post-2015 agenda. It will have to meet the expressed requirement for leadership of UN Member States, the need to be supportive of relevant existing intergovernmental arrangements, and the commitment to participation and inclusion of Major Groups and other stakeholders.

The Secretary-General said in his Synthesis Report – The Road to Dignity by 2030: and I quote “If we are to succeed, the new agenda must become part of the contract between people, including civil society and responsible business, and their governments – national and local. Parliaments must be strengthened to deepen democracy and carry out their constitutional mandates of oversight. All companies must pay their taxes, respect labour standards, human rights, and the environment. Empowered civil society actors, through action and advocacy, must rally to the cause, and contribute to a sustainable, equitable, and prosperous future.” Unquote.

The SDG review architecture, with the High Level Political Forum at its apex, must support these imperatives. It must reinforce the General Assembly and the ECOSOC, under whose auspices it convenes. And it must be mutually supportive with other intergovernmental thematic platforms that already have a mandate to review and advance the outcomes of international conferences and agreements.  

Many of the goals and targets already have dedicated intergovernmental platforms within the UN system. For example, the World Health Assembly reviews commitments and trends related to health. The Committee on World Food Security does so for food and nutrition, the COP of the UNFCCC looks at climate change, while the CSW is well positioned to review progress on gender equality. If these thematic platforms look beyond their “natural SDG” at important related targets within other goals, this will strengthen the integrative nature of the SDGs.

This work is more essential than ever. It will allow reviewing progress towards all goals and targets on an on-going basis, while making best use of the participation of relevant stakeholders, science and academia.

For the moment, the proposed architecture discussed by member states envisions that there will be the following three tiers:

  • reviews at the national level – which would be the most significant level. Countries would be encouraged to conduct reviews of progress towards the SDGs involving relevant stakeholders, including civil society.
  • regional reviews aimed at exchanging experiences and good practices, identifying regional trends and obstacles, commonalities, lessons learned and generating solutions and mutual support. Each region would decide which platform and approach to use.
  • at the global level, the HLPF would culminate the review architecture. It would build on national and regional reviews. Global trends and policy issues would be identified for goals and/or groups of targets, along thematic lines, without, however, losing the inter-related and integrated nature of the new development agenda.

In this context, a number of important principles have been agreed for the reviews, which are spelled out in the current draft of the outcome document – emphasizing the state-led, yet inclusive, voluntary nature of reviews as well as the constructive spirit with the principal aim of facilitating exchange of experiences. Another important principle is to base reviews on evidence and data, which leads me to my second core theme:

The United Nations Statistical Commission, which is the highest inter-governmental body in the field of statistics, brings together close to 140 chief statisticians from around the world. The Commission, at its 46th session last March, endorsed the creation of the Inter-agency and Expert Group on SDG indicators, which has been tasked to develop an appropriate indicator framework to support the goals and targets.

Once the post-2015 indicator framework is agreed upon, the challenge to collect the necessary data will be significant for many countries. In order to meet these challenges, additional investments into statistical capacity building will be needed. Also the statistical community will have to continuously strive to transform and modernize national statistical systems. In other words, sustainable development will need to be supported by sustainable statistics.


It will be essential to help build strong national statistical institutions and systems, around a broad spectrum of relevant stakeholders. This transformation is also referred to as “data revolution”. Under this broad umbrella, a number of specific challenges are covered. Let me highlight six of them here:

  1. The need to develop new methodologies and data to cover new development challenges, such as measuring inequality, climate change, governance, security, violence against women.
  2. Data will have to be broken down and disaggregated further by gender, age, geography, special social groups, etc., in order to better understand the living situations of the most vulnerable.
  3. As sustainable development is based on the three pillars of economic, environment and social conditions, integrated statistics will be needed. Furthermore, integrating statistical information more efficiently with geospatial information will provide considerable analytical benefits.
  4. Traditional data sources, such as household surveys and administrative records, especially civil registration, will have to be strengthened and expanded.
  5. New data sources – big data – will have to be explored for their suitability to monitor sustainable development. The role of official statistics in this context will be to ensure quality and sustainability; and
  6. Open data initiatives need to be pursued to provide easier and more comprehensive access to existing information.

In the Statistical Commission member states are actively involved in the discussion of these important themes.

Distinguished delegates and colleagues,

The challenges before us are numerous, but so are the opportunities. I assure you that the Department of Economic and Social Affairs is committed to supporting member states.

Thank you for your attention.