13 April 2016
Forty-ninth Session, 5th & 6th Meetings (AM & PM)

Bold Steps Must Deliver Much-needed Innovative Tools so Developing States Can Achieve New Sustainable Goals, Population and Development Commission Hears

Bold steps were needed to build capacities, introduce innovative technologies and reconfigure national statistics systems so developing countries could shape the policies required to trigger sustainable development gains, stressed speakers as the Commission on Population and Development continued its forty-ninth session today.

“Statistics are at the heart of all policies in the development arena,” said the representative of Cameroon.  In his country, updated data were needed and there remained a lack of adequate financing to support their collection activities.  The introduction of new technology was also critical, but would only be available through improved training and capacity-building, he said.

Assisting developing countries through technical assistance and statistical capacity-building was crucial, agreed Tunisia’s delegate.  Acknowledging work being done by the United Nations Statistical Commission’s High-Level Group for Partnership, Coordination and Capacity-Building for post-2015 monitoring — of which his country was a member — he described a number of partner-supported statistical initiatives in his country, including an extensive gender data analysis project and the preparation of population projections.

Expressing a common view heard during the debate, Jamaica’s representative said more resources were needed for countries ensnared in the “middle-income trap”.  She emphasized that concrete steps were needed to build capacities, introduce innovative technologies and reconfigure national statistics systems to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  That agenda and its set of 17 Sustainable Development Goals could help Jamaica and other middle-income countries gain developed country status, but benefits would be threatened by drastic reductions in critical development assistance.

A number of speakers throughout the day underscored the need to prioritize the bolstering of national statistical offices in developing countries, landlocked developing countries, small island developing States and other countries facing particular challenges, including conflict and large-scale social changes.  In that vein, the representative of Burundi said his country was facing demographic challenges that threatened its stability.  While it was working to build its technical capacities for data analysis and use, Burundi — like many developing nations — was limited by the lack of essential, reliable population data, which could hinder the achievement of the goals of the 2030 Agenda.  The building of national statistical systems was the only way to ensure that countries took ownership of their own development processes, he added.

Ukraine’s delegate agreed that the growth of instability and insecurity could widen the existing data gap.  In light of a protracted aggression and occupation, his country had registered 1.75 million internally displaced persons from the Crimean peninsula and the conflict area in the east of the country.  That number was constantly growing, he said, noting that the registration of internally displaced persons was a challenge that complicated the distribution of social welfare payments and the provision of other vital assistance.

Speakers also recounted national experiences with innovative technology in the collection, analysis and dissemination of data.  Japan’s delegate recalled that 37 per cent of households in his country had responded to its 2015 census via the Internet.  Individual identification numbers had recently begun to be used in the national social security and tax system as part of a drive to increase the use of “e-government” services.

However, a number of speakers warned that, while the collection and analysis of data were critical, they must always be used with an eye towards improving the lives of individuals.  In that regard, the representative of the United Republic of Tanzania emphasized that the 2030 Agenda should not be about plotting numbers on a graph, but about measuring concrete changes in the lives of women and girls, boys and men.

The Commission also held a panel discussion on the “use of the demographic evidence base for development policy and program planning and monitoring”, featuring panellists representing a range of Governments and the private sector.

Also delivering statements during the general debate were the representatives of Sudan, Uruguay, China, Belgium, Suriname, Malaysia, Switzerland, Nepal, Morocco, Norway, Russian Federation, Cuba, Italy, Jordan, Côte d’Ivoire, Gambia, Uganda, Sweden, France, Malawi, Argentina, South Sudan, Peru, Romania, Costa Rica, Azerbaijan, Federated States of Micronesia, Ghana and Liberia, as well as the Holy See, State of Palestine and League of Arab States.

Also participating were representatives of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (speaking on behalf of the Global Migration Group), the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe and the International Labour Organization.  Representatives of the International Catholic Committee of Nurses and Medico-Social Assistants and the Youth Caucus also spoke.

The representatives of Armenia and Azerbaijan spoke in exercise of the right of reply.

The Commission will reconvene Thursday, 14 April, at 10 a.m. to continue its work.

General Debate

YAROSLAV GOLITSYN (Ukraine) said a key priority was finding the most efficient ways to link demography to policy formulation.  Monitoring and reporting was not the end goal.  Instead, the aim was to generate knowledge and guarantee the informed use of data.  Therefore, data must help to plan interventions and translate into national monitoring of investments.  Planning and implementing policies and programmes presented a bigger challenge for many developing countries, he said.  The growth of instability and insecurity was another factor that was bound to widen the existing data gap.  In light of a protracted aggression and occupation, Ukraine had registered 1.75 million internally displaced persons from the Crimean peninsula and the conflict area in the east of the country.  That number was constantly growing, he said, noting that the registration of internally displaced persons was a challenge that complicated the distribution of social welfare payments and the provision of other vital assistance to the affected population.

LIMIAA ABDELGAFAR KHALFALLA (Sudan), associating herself with the “Group of 77” developing countries and China and the African Group, stressed the importance of reinforcing demographic data in order to leave no one behind in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  Sudan had seen a recent evolution in the production of socioeconomic and other statistics and the country had moved to long-term planning towards the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.  Data that would support those aims must be disaggregated based on sex, age, income and other factors.  Sudan had also conducted a number of population surveys.  It had conducted five population censuses since its independence in 1956 and was now planning a census in 2018, the first to be held since the independence of South Sudan.  A national identity number was being issued to each Sudanese citizen to allow for birth registration, death certificates and passports.  In addition, Sudan was focusing on post-conflict recovery efforts and on addressing climate change.

CRISTINA CARRIÓN (Uruguay) stressed that the 2030 Agenda aimed at ensuring no one was left behind.  During the Commission’s current session, Member States should step up efforts to strengthen existing policies.  Highlighting agreements that were already strengthening the implementation of population and development issues beyond 2014, she underscored the importance of the Montevideo Consensus on Population and Development, adopted at the Regional Conference on Population and Development in Latin America and the Caribbean in 2013.  Describing data collection and management as key for the successful implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, she noted that her Government had focused on monitoring and evaluation of public policies to tackle relevant challenges.

HE ZHAOHUA (China) reviewed some of the ways his country collected, processed and disseminated demographic data, including its decennial population census and the National Citizen Identity Information Centre, the world’s biggest identification database with more than 1.3 billion entries.  China favoured new technologies, the establishment of a demographic forecasting and early warning system and stronger ties between demographic data and work planning.  As the world’s most populous country, China would respond positively to the Secretary-General’s proposals and improve the reliability, comparability, accessibility and timeliness of its data.

PASCAL BUFFIN (Belgium) stressed that reliable data were necessary for the successful implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.  He believed that ensuring no one was left behind was possible with the availability of the most objective data possible.  Describing digitization as a precious tool to collect disaggregated data and implement policies, he noted that birth registration was the first step to guarantee and protect human rights.  For its part, Belgium had reinforced its capacities to meet the needs of women and young people, including improved access to sexual education and contraception.  His country’s low rate of teenage pregnancy and abortion was encouraging and a result of continued investment in public policies.

REIKO HAYASHI (Japan) described how increased use of technology was having an impact on data gathering.  A total of 37 per cent of households in her country had responded to its 2015 census via the Internet.  In January, individual identification numbers had begun to be used in the national social security and tax system as part of a drive to increase the use of “e-government” services and promote an “IT society”.  More online census taking had also resulted from difficulties collecting information door-to-door due to growing privacy concerns and ageing enumerators.  Japan would use the Summit of the Group of Seven Industrialized Countries in Ise-Shima next month — the first since the adoption of Sustainable Development Goals — to renew its commitment to implementing the 2030 Agenda.  Universal health coverage, monitored through population data, was an important goal for the international community, she said.

TONI-SHAE FRECKLETON (Jamaica) underscored how vulnerability to natural disasters, climate change and indebtedness had constrained efforts towards sustainable development in the Caribbean subregion.  Bold steps were required to build capacities, introduce innovative technologies and reconfigure national statistics systems to achieve goals set in the 2030 Agenda and the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development that was adopted in Cairo in 1994.  Explaining Jamaica’s efforts to improve the quality of its national statistics, she said a greater emphasis must be placed on a coordinated approach to the production of national data to guarantee consistency, efficiency, transparency and compatibility with international standards.  The Sustainable Development Goals could help Jamaica and other middle-income countries gain developed country status, but benefits could be endangered by drastic reductions in critical development assistance, she said, reiterating a call for more resources for countries ensnared in the “middle-income trap”.

MOHAMED KHALED KHIARI (Tunisia) spotlighted the “meticulous” work being done by his country’s National Institute of Statistics.  In 2014, it had conducted a population and housing census, whose results were guiding national development planning.  Helping developing countries through statistical capacity-building and technical assistance was critical, he said, acknowledging work being done by the United Nations Statistical Commission’s High-Level Group for Partnership, Coordination and Capacity-Building for post-2015 monitoring, of which his country was a member.  Describing a number of partner-supported activities, he said a United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) project was strengthening national capacities in collecting social statistics, undertaking an extensive gender data analysis initiative and preparing a population projections report covering 2014 to 2044.  Turning to national gains in implementing the Cairo Programme of Action, he said Tunisia was committed to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights, its family planning programme and its achievement of a 99 per cent school enrolment rate.

KITTY SWEEB (Suriname), aligning herself with the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), noted that progress towards development had been fragmented.  “To hear all voices and increase participation in national development, the availability of both quantitative and qualitative data is crucial,” she said.  Pointing to a lack of quality data to help understand the main national patterns of deprivation and inequalities, she said people-centred development was “not only about counting”, but also about knowing people’s needs, perceptions and real-life experiences.  Describing successful national efforts —including expanded offices for civil registration and the finalization of the 2010 census round — she said large and small-scale studies had already been conducted on vulnerable groups such as children, adolescents, women, indigenous populations, migrants, people living with HIV and the elderly.  Challenges to the timely availability of harmonized and integrated data included the lack of human resource capacity, equipment and infrastructure, she concluded.

SITI NORLASIAH ISMAIL (Malaysia) said census surveys remained the main source of national data collection to provide statistical information about the population.  That essential information assisted in policy development and planning and managing, monitoring and evaluating programmes across sectors.  The Ministry of Health was responsible for collecting and publishing detailed information about the use of maternal and child health services, deaths and causes of death through its Health Management Information System.  Because of a comprehensive and efficient health care system, there had been a significant decline in maternal mortality to 25.2 from 540 per 100,000 births.  In addition, demographic household surveys had been conducted, providing vital input for the preparation of national and state development plans.

Mr. SCHWYN (Switzerland) emphasized a fundamental need to build capacities for collecting demographic data and maintaining a population and civil register.  In health care, Switzerland was preparing for a “four-generation society” with policies that harnessed the potential offered by each generation.  Instead of being seen as an added task, sustainable development should be incorporated as much as possible into regular planning and management, he said, expressing confidence that a Commission resolution on working methods would simplify its agenda and help to ensure the effective implementation of the Cairo Programme of Action.

SEWA LAMSAL ADHIKARI (Nepal), associating herself with the Group of 77, said her country’s first national population policy, adopted in 2015, had been based on the Cairo Programme of Action.  The national health policy aimed at integrating population issues into development planning, ensuring people’s reproductive health and rights and promoting gender equality and the inclusion in all sustainable development strategies.  The new Constitution had built a concrete foundation for Nepal’s overall development, ushering in an era of hope and prosperity.  With migration being a major international issue, she said there was a need for concerted efforts engaging the highest political will to promote dialogue between countries of origin, transit and destination.  Meeting Nepal’s development challenges required robust support from all stakeholders, she concluded.

OMAR HILALE (Morocco) said demographics helped to ensure socioeconomic development progress, particularly in reproductive health and gender.  Over recent years, Morocco had made significant gains in such areas as quality of life, economic growth and eliminating poverty.  As census data had shown Morocco’s population growing to 32.7 million today from 11.6 million in 1962, he said the growth rate was slowing down.  For its part, the Government was taking steps to address issues in education, health and women’s equality.  It had, among other things, adopted a range of policies across sectors, with results that had led to an increase in literacy rate, improved gender parity and a drop in medicine prices.

MAY-ELIN STENER (Norway) said girls and women were the best agents of change.  In order to play their full role, they must have access to quality education at all levels and to sexual and reproductive health services, modern methods of contraception, safe abortion and comprehensive sexuality education.  Among ongoing efforts was the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) five-year strategy, which relied on comprehensive sexuality education to end the AIDS epidemic as a public health threat.  Furthermore, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) strategy for 2014-2017 was supporting countries with comprehensive sexuality education.  Other advances included the 2013 Montevideo Consensus, which had broken new ground in relation to abortion and on equal rights for all human beings, independent of their sexual orientation and gender identity, and the progress made with the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa.

ALBERT SHINGIRO (Burundi), aligning himself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, said his country was facing demographic challenges that threatened its stability.  Investments must be made in young people and each country must be able to target and follow up on progress for the most vulnerable.  To implement sustainable development policies, Burundi was working on building technical capacities for data analysis and use.  Many developing countries were limited by the lack of essential, reliable population data, which hindered the achievement of the goals of the 2030 Agenda and Cairo Programme of Action.  Burundi was committed to reaching those ends and was cooperating internationally in that regard.  However, financial mechanisms were needed to ensure the availability of resources to bridge data gaps and develop long-term statistical capacities.  The building of national statistical systems was the only way to ensure that countries took ownership of their own development processes, he said.

TUVAKO NATHANIEL MANONGI (United Republic of Tanzania), associating himself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, described how, in 2015, his Government had enacted legislation making the National Bureau of Statistics an autonomous public office that coordinated the collection of quality data.  Underscoring the importance of innovative approaches, methodologies and technologies, he supported the establishment of a network of data professionals from national statistical offices as well as the nurturing of professional statisticians.  The 2030 Agenda should not be about plotting numbers of a graph, but on measuring concrete changes in the lives of women and girls, boys and men, with each data point.

MICHEL TOMMO MONTHE (Cameroon), aligning himself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, said issues including infrastructure, energy and jobs should be at the heart of sustainable development.  Statistical data in health, education, and gender equality were critical.  “Statistics are at the heart of all policies in the development arena,” he said, noting that the country had set up a national statistics institute, a national population commission and other structures to help improve data collection and analysis.  A new population census and a demographic study in the area of health were currently being prepared.  Much had been achieved, but updated statistical data were needed and there was a lack of adequate financing to achieve the necessary collection of such data.  The introduction of new technology was also critical, but would only be available through improved training and capacity-building.

Ms. NIKITINA (Russian Federation), describing population and development as the Government’s priority, noted that authorities had been undertaking relevant measures regarding data collection.  The 2015 census had included questions pertaining to migration, reproduction, education and health, using sex- and age-disaggregated data methodology.  In 2011, the Russian Federation had founded a federal statistical system with various thematic areas, including living conditions, family planning, income, participation in social programmes, integration and the job market.  For a deeper analysis, it was important to have access to demographic statistics, she stressed.  Concluding, she reiterated her country’s willingness to exchange views and experience.

JUAN CARLOS ALFONSO FRAGA (Cuba), aligning with the Group of 77, said population must be viewed as a priority when addressing the economic and social dimensions of development.  His country took a comprehensive approach to the use of statistics for policy planning.  “Drawing up policies must be based on robust data,” he said, stressing the need for the international community to work closely with countries to achieve that goal.  Cuba had shown political will even in the face of the longstanding embargo levied against it by the United States.  Equitable distribution of income and the provision of free social assistance were central to its public policies, he said.  Expressing regret that population had not been set out as a stand-alone sustainable development goal, he went on to address the “significant concern” of ageing populations, describing national policies to enhance the quality of living conditions for older adults.

INIGO LAMBERTINI (Italy) said that since the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development, Italy had been truly committed to advancing gender equality, reproductive and sexual health and rights and the fight against discrimination.  Describing data and demographic studies as crucial for implementing the Sustainable Development Agenda, he noted that censuses and research studies, if conducted with a strict methodology, could guide actions for tailor-made solutions to persistent challenges.  He then underlined that data and numbers had to be interpreted and put into perspective.  That was far from being an easy job, he said, calling upon all stakeholders to avoid data manipulation and/or generalization.

Ms. AL JAZI (Jordan) said her country attached great importance to integrating the Sustainable Development Goals into national actions plans in order to build on what had been achieved in the past 15 years.  While reiterating Jordan’s commitment to the Cairo Programme of Action, she stressed that the region had continued to suffer from a deteriorating security situation.  Hosting more than 1 million Syrian refugees had become a growing burden on her country’s infrastructure, economy and resources.  To overcome that challenge, she called upon the United Nations to develop relevant tools to tackle humanitarian crises.  Further, she stressed the need for the international donor community to allocate resources to develop a modern statistical systems.

Ms. KONE (Côte d’Ivoire), aligning with the Group of 77 and the African Group, said the issue of data was particularly important to planning for sustainable development, particularly in Africa.  The Government had established a national office of population in order to make it easier to gather statistics.  Describing other relevant national instruments and laws, she said it was crucial to integrate population issues into all social policies.  A major challenge was managing the country’s demographic transition with an eye to socioeconomic development, she said, noting that dealing with the population’s rapid growth was a particularly difficult task.  She underscored the need for improved global partnerships and international cooperation, led by the United Nations, to help her country achieve its development goals.

ABDOULIE BAH (Gambia), associating himself with the African Group and the Group of 77, said his country was facing several challenges as it worked to strengthen its demographic evidence base.  Among its main concerns were rapid population growth, high population density, unwanted adolescent pregnancies, illegal migration and sexually transmitted infections, including HIV/AIDS.  Another challenge was funding for an effort to gather intercensal data on migration and time use, he said, adding that data from a time use survey would help policymakers appreciate how domestic work contributed to the gross domestic product.

WILBERFORCE KISAMBA MUGERWA (Uganda), aligning himself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, said his country’s population had increased fourfold from 1969 to 2014, with a large youth population and increasing urbanization.  Uganda’s national development plan had ensured budget allocation, implementation monitoring and reporting to domesticate the Sustainable Development Goals.  The Government was also committed to strengthening its Bureau of Statistics and National Statistical Office.  A census had recently been concluded, and the country had established a national identification registration services authority to conduct comprehensive registrations of births and deaths.  To date, more than 17 million people above age 16 had been registered and received national identity cards.

LENNARTH HJELMÅ (Sweden), associating himself with the European Union, called statistics a powerful tool for exposing structural obstacles to equal opportunities and equal rights.  A data shortage on adolescents, especially young girls, needed to be addressed, he said, adding that investments should be made in developing capacities and exchanging lessons learned.  Cooperation between national statistical institutes was also important.  A regular report on the status of gender equality in Sweden, “Women and Men in Sweden: Facts and Figures”, produced since 1984, had demonstrated how statistics could inform policymakers and the general public about gender issues in a transparent way.  Several countries were coming out with similar publications, based on the Swedish model, he said, adding that his country was directly assisting several States with census-taking and strengthening national statistical capacities.

FABIENNE BARTOLI (France) said her country continued to work towards meeting the objectives set in Cairo in 1994 based on non-discrimination, gender equality and women’s rights.  The Programme of Action was essential for the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.  Regarding the Commission’s current session, she noted that access to data and reliable analysis allowed Governments to undertake necessary measures.  Based on population estimates, demographic data highlighted the persistent inequalities, sexual and domestic violence and areas requiring attention in reproductive health.  Commending civil society movements in her country, she stressed that they had contributed to national progress.

JUDITH MSUSA (Malawi) said to achieve the vision of the 2030 Agenda and the Cairo Programme of Action, the international community must identify, target and monitor the progress involving the most vulnerable people.  She emphasized the critical need to strengthen and support developing States’ national statistical systems so they could generate fully disaggregated, reliable, high-quality data in a timely manner, particularly in African countries.  That required national commitment and international cooperation to prioritize actions and resources aimed at the long-term development of national statistical institutions, she said, adding that Malawi, with partner support, continued to generate data for development planning.  The 2015 data collection for demographic and health surveys had been completed and preparations for the 2018 population and housing census were under way.  The effective use of population data monitored progress and identified gaps in the advancement of dignity and human rights, equality, good governance and the protection of the environment.

Ms. GANDINI (Argentina) said follow-up on progress made towards the Sustainable Development Goals would be key to their effective implementation.  Therefore, countries needed access to reliable and timely data.  In her country, the Government had undertaken a restructuring of its National Statistical Institute.  Data disaggregated by income, gender, age, ethnicity, migration status and urban or rural residence were critical to leaving no one behind.  Technology was particularly important in collecting and disseminating data, she said, underscoring the importance of population and household surveys.  Turning to national gains, she described a programme to improve civil registration and projects to collect improved data in areas such as public health.

JOHN MACIEK ACUOTH ACOL (South Sudan) said any contribution by the Commission to the review and follow-up of the 2030 Agenda should be addressed within the context of the follow-up and review of the Cairo Programme of Action.  There should not be a separate agenda item on the 2030 Agenda, he said, stressing the need to incorporate regional perspectives into the implementation of both agendas.  That required every country to be able to identify, target and monitor the progress of the most vulnerable populations.  He underscored the need to support and strengthen national statistical systems, particularly in Africa, least developed countries, landlocked developed countries, small island developing States and middle-income countries.  Many of those countries’ efforts to combat poverty and inequality were constrained by a lack of essential population data and overall weak capacity.  Achieving the desired level of national statistical capacity by 2020 would require financial mechanisms that ensured the availability of resources for addressing both existing data gaps and investments in long-term national data systems.

Panel Discussion

In the afternoon, the Commission held a panel discussion on the “uses of the demographic evidence base for policy planning and programme monitoring”.  Moderated by Bill Miller, host and founder of Global Connections Television, it featured presentations by: John Ssekamatte, Head of Population and Social Sector Planning, National Planning Authority of Uganda; Vladimir Shkolnikov, Head of the Laboratory of Demographic Data at the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research; Ann Starrs, President and Chief Executive Officer of Guttmacher Institute; and Eduardo Clark, Director of Data for Development, National Digital Strategy, Office of the President of Mexico.

Mr. CLARK said the international community must strive to generate the most trustworthy data in order to shape policymaking around the world.  Demographic data provided information ranging from maternal deaths to the number of people living in poverty.  Given that, it was significant to get those numbers correct to make comparisons across and within countries.

Ms. STARRS noted that demographic data provided insights to guide policies and the allocation of resources as it identified gaps and generated solutions.  On family planning, she said demographic data presented figures on costs and benefits of investing in that area.  Such planning, indeed, had assisted in preventing unintended pregnancies and unsafe abortion.

Mr. SSEKAMATTE said demographic data provided invaluable sources for policy planning, enabling Governments to find out who and where their people were.  Furthermore, streamlining quality and quantity of such data was necessary for effective planning.  Drawing attention to the unavailability of modern resources and tools, he stressed that for some countries, demographic data was the only way to find out about their citizens and guide policy planning.

Mr. SHKOLNIKOV said that demographic information was essential for monitoring progress with regard to the Sustainable Development Goals.  Production of population, fertility, mortality and migration estimates was a gigantic task and, in that regard, demographic data collection from multiple sources was key.  Drawing attention to the dropping fertility rates in both developed and developing countries, he noted that because of such “surprises”, demographers working on estimates and projections were facing greater uncertainty.

The panellists then responded to a question from the moderator about best practices in their countries and regions.

Mr. CLARK, noting how information sharing could be a cumbersome activity, said open data strategies were a key topic for Mexico, which believed that government entities and external actors should be key users of statistical data.  Capacity-building was sometimes the hardest part, he said.  Many agencies had yet to set up teams to tap into data, so the Office of the President was considering how it could act as a technical bridge.

Ms. STARRS, referring to the Sustainable Development Goal’s target of universal access to sexual and reproductive health-care services, described how data could help to better understand why some women did not use family planning services even when available.  The most common reasons were concerns about side effects, opposition from themselves, family and community members and the perception that they were not at risk of pregnancy.  Better understanding such factors would make it possible to better address the issue and longitudinal data was well suited to track such concerns.

Mr. SSEKAMATTE recalled how data had been used in Uganda to get policy makers to rethink such issues as nutrition and youth access to family planning.  “If you speak to data, then data tell you a lot of different things that you did not know about your population,” he said.  He also explained how software had been developed to enable village leaders in remote areas to report births.  Overnight, he said, the rate of birth registration jumped to more than 60 per cent from less than 10 per cent.

Mr. SHKOLNIKOV said Europe had relatively good demographic information, but there were shortcomings.  Official estimates of the over-80 population were artificially inflated, he said, a bias that was typically the result of age exaggeration.  Survival ratio methods based on reported deaths could be used to address that issue.  Massive migration out of countries such as Bulgaria, Poland and Romania had meanwhile resulted in a substantial overstatement in official current population estimates, while the recent wave of refugees into Austria, Germany, Sweden and other countries had created new challenges.

In the ensuing dialogue, delegates raised questions and made comments about disaggregated data, capacity-building, dissemination of resources, data generation and analysis and the demographic surprise.

The representative of Sudan asked how to reap national-level benefits from the Every Woman, Every Child initiative because her country had an unfinished business in addressing the issue of maternal mortality, given the latest statistics.

Ms. STARRS said the initiative, which the Secretary-General had launched in 2010, was an unprecedented global movement that had mobilized and intensified international and national action, bringing together Governments, multilateral groups, the private sector and civil society to address major health challenges facing women, children and adolescents around the world.  On defining indicators in measurable terms, she stressed that, in some instances, data was not available.

The representative of Peru, sharing his national experience, noted that, in some cases, data was compiled from local communities to monitor the implementation of globally agreed goals.

Responding, Mr. CLARK said generating indicators and improving databases would enable the successful implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.  While 15 years sounded like a long period of time, it would go by fast, he stressed.  Also, he continued, generated data at the subnational level must be incorporated to data at the national level for better policies.

Mr. SSEKAMATTE underscored the need for interactive platforms to discuss how to reach small communities in remote places.

Also participating in the discussion were representatives of Uganda, United States, Cuba and Bolivia.

General Debate (Resumed)

Mr. BOLAÑOS (Peru), associating himself with the Group of 77, emphasized the importance of an effective and reliable national statistical system.  In 2012, his country had set up a code of good statistical practices, with various sources of data providing a constantly updated picture of conditions in households and trends in fertility, mortality and health.  Preparations for the forthcoming national census would take Peru’s diversity into consideration.

ELENA DOBRE (Romania), reiterating her country’s support for the full and effective implementation of the Cairo Programme of Action, said the Government had developed a wide range of initiatives and policies.  Those measures had aimed at increasing the quality of life, with particular attention having been given to increasing the participation of young people and vulnerable groups in the labour market.  Promoting social inclusion was the right thing to do and an economic necessity.  Migration, ageing and low fertility rates were progressively resulting in a shrinking working-age population, which was expected to drop another 30 per cent by 2050.  The development of social services, in that regard, had been the Government’s strategic goal and a new family- and person-oriented approach, based on a holistic vision of development, would be adopted in the coming years.

ROLANDO CASTRO CORDOBA (Costa Rica), associating himself with the Group of 77, expressed continued support for the Cairo Programme of Action and the Beijing Platform for Action, adopted at the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995.  Both were essential for advancing the implementation of the 2030 Agenda, particularly concerning poverty eradication, respect for women’s rights and freedoms and ensuring universal access to sexual and reproductive health and rights.  Middle-income countries and other developing nations must have access to adequate, affordable technology in order to improve the collection, dissemination and analysis of disaggregated data, including information related to unpaid work by women.  The Secretariat should continue to help developing countries gather and analyse data on indigenous and people of African descent, particularly through the sharing of best practices and capacity-building.  UNFPA should expand its work in South-South and triangular cooperation and in the sharing of best practices, he concluded.

KHANIM IBRAHIMOVA (Azerbaijan) said hers had been the first among the Eastern European States and the Commonwealth of Independent States to adopt a demographic development concept.  Its policies aimed to promote family values, consolidate reproductive health, reduce mortality and improve living conditions.  She described projects to further improve the quality management of official statistics and their dissemination, including a qualitative survey on the effects of domestic violence on health and social life.  Over recent years, there had been a sharp increase in the number of refugees and internally displaced persons in the world.  More than 1 million Azerbaijanis had become refugees or displaced persons as a result of ongoing conflict.  The implementation of measures to strengthen national responses to such challenges was critical and required strong data on migration, she said.

JEEM LIPPWE (Federated States of Micronesia) said that, over recent decades, some significant national development objectives had been met, but gaps remained.  The Samoa Pathway, adopted at the Third International Conference on Small Island Developing States in Samoa in 2014, had been crafted to take into consideration the unique vulnerabilities of small island developing States.  To successfully achieve national aims and those of the 2030 Agenda, more and better demographic data were needed to implement interventions and measure progress.  Strengthening the statistical evidence base for women and children, in particular, would help countries to create policies with an eye towards protecting the most vulnerable people.  Noting that the process of collecting, disaggregating and disseminating data was “not always neutral”, he warned against the implementation of any individual agendas under the guise of data collection.

MARIAN KPAKPAH (Ghana) said population size and growth rates, age structure and other socioeconomic indicators would be crucial to achieve goals set in the 2030 Agenda.  Ghana had created strategies to rationalize data-producing systems and had adopted common definitions and a national statistics master plan based on good practices.  It had also created a national database for four rounds of population censuses.  Despite such strides, there were still challenges to access, reliable data.  Coverage of births, 49 per cent, and deaths, at 25 per cent, was still low.  She fully supported discussions to improve civil registration systems and create multiple data sources.  Countries must be continually supported with capacity-building to improve the evidence base.  Ghana was committed to using traditional official statistics such as big data as well as new information and communications technology and was committed to the Maputo Protocol.

EDWARD LIBERTY (Liberia) pointed to the importance of statistics with regard to the deadly Ebola epidemic that had plagued his and neighbouring countries.  Liberia had participated in the 1994 Cairo Conference and had since supported the Programme of Action.  A database now monitored national policy plans, and the Government, through the National Statistics Office, planned to carry out a national housing survey for the first time since 1964 in order to determine poverty rates, improve the consumer price index and provide baseline data for the Sustainable Development Goals.  Liberia would carry out its fifth national census in 2018, after presidential and legislative elections in 2017.  The census was a major source of data for the Sustainable Development Goals, and while “we are committed to conduct the census, we need UNFPA’s support”, he concluded.

BERNARDITO CLEOPAS AUZA, Permanent Observer of the Holy See, said quality, accessible, timely and reliable disaggregated data would be needed to measure progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals and to ensure that no one was left behind.  Greater efforts were also needed to strengthen the statistical capacities of developing countries, particularly the least developed countries, landlocked developing countries, small island developing States and many middle-income countries.  Those goals required national and international policies unfettered by narrow ideologies, he said, warning that in many past attempts to eradicate poverty, the human person was lost in the midst of complex and sophisticated indicators.  The simplest and best measure and indicator of the implementation of the 2030 Agenda would be effective, practical and immediate access to essential material and spiritual goods, including housing, adequate food and drinking water, religious freedom and education.

KAMAL HASSOUNEH of the State of Palestine said the goal for all States must be to increase the standard of living for their populations.  Countries should provide assistance, where possible, to developing countries.  A number of prerequisites needed to be met, including the protection of children, the empowerment of women and the protection of human rights.  Migration, in particular in the Arab world, had led to underdevelopment and the spread of disease.  As such, collective action was needed on the part of the international community in order to support refugees and displaced persons.

ENAS MOUSTAFA MOHAMED ELFERGANY of the League of Arab States said it had participated in the review of the Sustainable Development Plan for Arab Countries and was focused on the achievement of the 2030 Agenda goals.  “Development needs to be people-centred,” she said, calling on the United Nations to take into account the specificities of people in different countries.  The League was working with Member States and United Nations entities to set up a group of regional representatives that would develop indicators reflecting the status of the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals in their countries.  The Arab region had seen massive refugee flows, whose humanitarian situation required that the international community develop partnerships and statistical instruments to assist them, she concluded.

Mr. MILAN, of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women), speaking on behalf of the Global Migration Group, said developing countries needed more support to significantly increase the availability of high-quality, timely and reliable disaggregated data.  Guidance on the collection and use of migration data for development would soon be available on the Group’s website and several of its members were involved in capacity-building initiatives.  The Group was ready to help Member States close the remaining data gaps on international migration.  Orderly, safe, regular and responsible migration was important, as was protecting labour rights, particularly of migrants.  The implementation of practice steps had been set forth in the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, adopted at the Third International Conference on Financing for Development in 2015.  Those steps focused on, among other things, increasing the contribution of migration to the development process.  The Commission should continue to contribute to the follow up and review process of the 2030 Agenda in order to inform preparations for the periodic General Assembly High-level Dialogues on International Migration and Development.

CHRISTIAN FRIIS BACH, Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Europe, said that with less than 20 per cent of the world’s population, the region hosted almost one third of the global population over age 65.  As such, it had to address many challenges to build an inclusive, sustainable society that respected and accounted for the rights of older persons.  The Commission developed policy and statistical recommendations and helped member countries build capacity in statistics.  It undertook performance and structural reviews and had hosted a working group on ageing in support of the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing, adopted at the Second World Assembly on Ageing in 2002.  It had developed an action plan on an index on active ageing in order to view growing older as an opportunity, rather than a challenge.  It had also advanced the generation and analysis of demographic data and was focused on a longitudinal survey on generation and a population and housing census.  A conference of European Union statisticians had developed recommendations for the 2020 round of population and housing censuses.  More broadly, he said, demographic data must look at disparities and there must be a focus on improving data availability and analysis at all levels.

GRIET CATTAERT of the International Labour Organization (ILO) noted the unique role of the International Conference of Labour Statisticians in setting global standards for the world of work.  She also recalled how the ILO’s statistical database contained more than 100 indicators covering more than 180 countries.  For most indicators relating to decent work, well-established methodologies were in place, she said, but better data was needed on social protection, youth employment and labour migration.  Strengthening national statistical systems and producing quality demographic and labour market data on a regular basis should be a core priority in implementing the Sustainable Development Goals, she said.

A representative of the International Catholic Committee of Nurses and Medico-Social Assistants said documentation of birth demographics and death pronouncements were within the scope of her practice and were generated by nurses.  She made a number of recommendations relevant to those data, including:  the maintenance and storage of personal data per independent national laws; the avoidance of global, involuntary use and storage of personal data; the equipping of nurses with modern methods of data recording; and the expansion of nursing educational opportunities.

A representative of the Youth Caucus said that due to major data gaps on the realities of adolescents and young people and their sexual and reproductive health and rights in particular, there was a lack of information needed to create programmes and policies to meet their needs.  Calling for the confidential collection of gender-sensitive, disaggregated data, at two-year intervals until the age of 19 and every five years across the life course, she said access to youth-friendly health services and comprehensive sexuality education was vital to fulfilling young people’s needs, rights and potential.

Right of Reply

Exercising the right of reply, the representative of Armenia, responding to a statement made by Azerbaijan’s delegate, said the latter had used a United Nations forum to engage in another “blame game” concerning Nagorno-Karabakh.  Azerbaijan could not avoid the growing international condemnation of its large-scale military offensive against Nagorno-Karabakh a few days ago, which had violated the ceasefire agreement, undermined ongoing peace talks and grossly violated international humanitarian law and international human rights law.

Continuing, she said, there had been indiscriminate shelling of civilian settlements and “despicable barbaric” acts against the elderly, civilian infrastructure and civilian populations, including children.  On 10 April, in the presence of the representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross, it had been established that all bodies transferred by the Azerbaijani side had signs of torture and mutilation.  Those actions blatantly violated international humanitarian law and human rights law, and were in line with the atrocity standards of Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and other terrorist organizations, she said.

She went on to say that while Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh had agreed to the creation of a mechanism to investigate ceasefire violations, Azerbaijan had continuously refused.  The recent large-scale offensive clearly showed why the Azerbaijani leadership had rejected the creation of such a mechanism.  In light of the recent hostilities against Nagorno-Karabakh, it was unacceptable to allow Azerbaijan to continue on its current path of violence and aggression.  There was a vast amount of documented facts to call the masterminds and perpetrators of the atrocities and crimes against humanity to an international tribunal.  The Azerbaijani leadership was directly responsible for the current situation on the ground, which was due to a continuous campaign of ethnic cleansing and incitement of hatred, she said.

Also exercising the right of reply, the representative of Azerbaijan said the statement delivered by the representative of Armenia was based on a distorted sense of international law and history.  On 2 April 2016, Armenian forces had attacked Azerbaijan, killing a number of civilians.  Her country’s armed forces had then taken the necessary counter-measures to protect its people.  Noting the unlawful presence of Armenian armed forces on occupied Azerbaijani territory, she said Armenia had carried out ethnic cleansing and committed war crimes, actions that had been deplored by the international community.  United Nations Security Council and General Assembly resolutions had reaffirmed both the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Azerbaijan and the fact that Nagorno-Karabakh was an inalienable part of Azerbaijan from which Armenian forces must fully withdraw.

She went on to say that Armenia had continued its activities, including the transfer of Armenian populations into the occupied territory in order to change its character.  Armenia must drop its futile attempts to mislead its own people and the wider international community and comply with its international obligations, she said.  The military occupation of Azerbaijani territory was not a solution, she stressed, adding that Armenia had no moral or legal ground on which to lecture anyone on human rights or international law.

The representative of Armenia, taking the floor for a second time, said her delegation had called many times for a ceasefire verification mechanism.  She asked whether or not Azerbaijan would confirm that it accepted that proposal or not.

For information media. Not an official record.