New York

03 March 2015

Deputy Secretary-General's opening remarks at the 46th Session of the UN Statistical Commission [as delivered]

I welcome you to the 46th session of the United Nations Statistical Commission.  You have come to New York from around the world to give your contributions to the global statistical system and cooperation at a crucial moment in history.  The valuable work of this body over the past almost 70 years is recognized and appreciated by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, myself and the entire United Nations family.

As we come closer to the adoption of the post-2015 development agenda, your role is more important than ever. Monitoring progress of this agenda will build upon decades of work in the field of indicators and development statistics. You are important stewards of this new era. Let me express my gratitude to the outgoing Chairperson of this Commission for his opening remarks noting that it is time to “step on the gas” and redouble our collective efforts to deliver on the new development agenda.

Our world is bursting with information, yet we have a lack of data where we need it most: in and about the poorest and most marginalized communities.  The theme you have chosen for this year’s World Statistics Day, "Better Data for Better Lives", is timely and appropriate.  The post-2015 development agenda is our opportunity to make this theme a living reality for every person on the planet.

The Member States are now working hard to set the new development goals.  We all know that 2015 could be a historic year in our efforts to ensure a sustainable future with lives in dignity for all. 

After more than a year of inclusive and intensive deliberations, a bold new agenda is emerging, with a number of specific sustainable development goals and associated targets.  These goals are action-oriented, global and at the same time national and local in nature.  They are universally applicable.  And they take into account varying national realities, capacities and levels of development.

One overarching objective is, basically and simply, to leave no one behind.  This means that no target should be seen as met until it is met for all.  Living up to this ambitious standard will not be possible without the contribution of the statistical community on critical issues, such as civil registration and vital statistics.

As we finalize this agenda, which will guide development policy for the next 15 years, the SDGs will need to be further elaborated through meaningful and reliable indicators.  Indeed, data will be the lifeblood of decision-making and the raw material for accountability in a post-2015 era.

The MDGs 2000-2015 have made a profound difference in people’s lives.  Their monitoring framework has helped improve statistical capacity and data availability across the world.  The investment in data and capacity building has provided more access to reliable and internationally comparable numbers, numbers which truly matter for effective governance.  This is one of the success stories for the global development community.

In the new era of development, the need for data and information will go beyond what statistical offices are currently doing in each country.  It will require new ways of gathering data, new data-based partners, new users and new policies for better lives. 

Data will need to account for poverty dimensions, going beyond GDP to look at natural capital and ecosystem services, as well as distribution of wealth.  The new data will need to be disaggregated by income, gender, age, ethnicity, migratory status, disability, geographic location and other characteristics to make sure that – again – no one is left behind.

This past year the Secretary-General asked an independent panel to advise him on the practical implications of the data revolution.  The “Independent Expert Advisory Group on a Data Revolution for Sustainable Development” recommends measures to close data gaps and strengthen national statistical capacities. 

In addition, the Group assesses the new opportunities linked to innovation, technical progress and the surge of new public and private data providers.   The group’s carefully considered recommendations warmly received by the Secretary-General and his team will help us strengthen accountability and address other data challenges, such as how to include new sources of data in official statistics. 

This year, the UN’s 70th anniversary year, offers us a unique opportunity.  This is the time for global leaders and peoples to redouble our efforts to eradicate poverty.  All actors must work together, if we are to set the world on the path to a universal, transformative and integrated development agenda.  As chief statisticians, you have a critical role to play in being key actors of the data revolution, ensuring that standards are met while, importantly, preserving privacy. 

I encourage the eminent assembled statistical community at this Commission to use this session to consider how it can best support the next development agenda.  We count on your expertise and ambition to provide a monitoring statistical and data framework that meets the hopes and aspirations we are all attaching to this new agenda.

Over the last year, the Statistics Division in the Department of Economic and Social Affairs has been hard at work fulfilling mandates set out by this Commission.  This goes for areas such as social and demographic statistics, national accounts, trade statistics, and environmental economic accounting.  We have also tackled new challenges such as development indicators, big data, the transformative agenda for official statistics and the integration of statistical and geospatial information. 

All of these issues are before you for your further guidance.  This Commission has a reputation for accomplishing a lot of work in a short amount of time. I have no doubt you will do so again over the next four days.

One item clearly stands out on this year’s agenda: the draft resolution to launch the 2020 World Population and Housing Census round.  Let me congratulate you for your great achievements with respect to the 2010 census round.  Thanks to your efforts, billions of people have now been counted in a concerted and unprecedented effort.