14 October 2020

Deputy Secretary-General Stresses Need for High-Quality, Timely, Inclusive Data to Drive Decisions, in Key Messages to Global Partnership Board Meeting

Following are UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina J. Mohammed’s key messages, as prepared for delivery, at the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data board meeting, held today:

It is an honour to join you once again in your deliberations and join the celebration of your fifth anniversary.

This year also marks five years into the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and during this time the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have changed mindsets about what the world must do together to improve people’s lives and protect the environment.

Even before the COVID-19 crisis, the world was off track in achieving the SDGs:  progress in eliminating extreme poverty had slowed, hunger was on the rise, gender equality remained a far-too-distant reality in every country across the world and our warming planet continued to break temperature record after record.

On 18 September, in the context of the opening of the United Nations General Assembly, the UN convened the first SDG Moment, to show the way forward to a strong recovery from COVID-19 and a new era of inclusive and sustainable development.  The first reality check of the Decade of Action proved we need far more data to make informed decisions and to take effective action to achieve the SDGs.  Only 35 indicators show where we stand.  Many SDG indicators are available only with a significant time lag.  Financial resources for data and statistics remain desperately low.

If we are to achieve the SDGs, we need joined-up efforts to ensure investment in data that is inclusive and leaves no one behind — especially those who are hard to count.  And we need data that is timely, open, accessible and usable by policy and decision-makers.  In the United Nations, we stood up a new “Crisis Insights Team” to support to combat misinformation and identify groups most at risk.

COVID-19 has made the need for better data even more urgent, disrupting the most basic operations of national statistical systems.  The impact has been particularly devastating to data systems in developing countries, where statistical activities have been affected by office closures, poor connectivity and the inability to conduct face-to-face data‑collection, including, in many cases, for the 2020 Population Census Round.

There is an urgent need to intensify our efforts to support countries so they are able to build modern, resilient national statistical and data systems that deliver much-needed timely and high-quality data and information.  Yet, as of August 2020, data and statistical development projects accounted for only 0.4 per cent — $163 million — of all reported funding to COVID-19.  But COVID-19 is also an opportunity.

Trillions of dollars are being allocated to stimulus packages and recovery efforts.  Countries are defining socio-economic response plans that will depend on data to succeed.

Over the last five years, the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data has played a key role in promoting new technologies and data solutions and facilitating new data-related multi-stakeholder partnerships across many countries.  The Global Partnership has strengthened its collaboration with the United Nations system, particularly with our Department of Economic and Social Affairs, spearheading data initiatives to strengthen national statistical systems and to harness the power of innovative data sources, methods and technologies to achieve the SDGs.

First, the Data for Now initiative, launched under the leadership of the United Nations, the World Bank, the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data and the Sustainable Development Solutions Network.  This initiative has already proved how bringing new data solutions into official statistical production processes helps address many critical data gaps.

Second, the Collaborative Platform on the Use of Administrative Data for the Production of Statistics, which is focused on developing guidance and ready‑to‑implement solutions that address priority data.

Third, the Collaborative Platform on Data Interoperability, launched at the first United Nations World Data Forum in Cape Town.

The Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data has offered support to the United Nations Global Platform, an initiative led by the UN Statistical Commission that enables the global statistical community to collaborate and share data through cloud-based technologies.  The Partnership has worked in close collaboration with the Economic Commission for Africa Statistics Centre, including the response to the data challenges of the pandemic.

The Partnership has also inspired the Secretary-General’s Data Strategy for the United Nations as we push for whole-of-UN data ecosystems that deliver better for people and planet.  Your work is testimony to the power of bringing together actors from different data communities to make new data solutions available and accessible to national partners.

Much remains to be done, and the years ahead are critical if we are to recover better from this crisis and accelerate progress towards the Goals.  Multi‑stakeholder partnerships provide a valuable way forward, globally and at a national level.  Globally, we must join our efforts for increased investment in data.  In countries, Government agencies face enormous difficulties and often lack the means for establishing data partnerships with the private sector.

Close and effective collaboration between the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data and the United Nations can help to address these challenges and contribute to building the capacity of Government agencies to establish the necessary institutional and governance arrangements and to fully leverage new technology and solutions and forge public-private partnerships.

There are immense opportunities to build on the work you have been doing on the ground with resident coordinators and United Nations country teams to ensure that recovery efforts are informed by high-quality data.

We must align all our efforts to the effective implementation of the Socioeconomic Response Plans.

I look forward to continuing my engagement with the Global Partnership as we work together to ensure that throughout the Decade of Action our decisions are driven by high-quality, timely and inclusive data.

For information media. Not an official record.