United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, Wu Hongbo has called for the improvement of data collection by those charged with realising the 2030 transformative Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for Africa.
He said this at the conclusion of the inaugural United Nations World Data Forum on Wednesday in Cape Town.
The Cape Town Global Action Plan for Sustainable Development Data, which will be adopted by countries at the UN Statistical Commission when it meets in March this year, was prepared with inputs from the global statistical community and data experts from a wider range of stakeholders.
“The UN World Data Forum is the perfect place to launch the Action Plan and get all the major players behind it.
“To implement the transformative 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and build a better future for people everywhere, it is essential to have accurate, reliable, timely and disaggregated data,” said UN Under-Secretary-General Wu Hongbo at a press conference in Cape Town.
The plan, which sets out a global vision and a “to do” list for better data, calls for a commitment by governments, policy leaders and the international community to undertake key actions in six strategic areas including innovation and modernisation of national statistical systems, dissemination of data on sustainable development, building partnerships and mobilising resources.
Currently there are large data gaps that hinder policy makers from making informed decisions. Over 100 countries do not keep accurate birth and death records, and only 41% of countries regularly produce data on violence against women.
The unprecedented scope of the UN 2030 Agenda, with its 17 Sustainable Development Goals, has magnified the challenge to track progress and inform policies.
“We cannot achieve what we cannot measure,” said Pali Lehohla, South Africa’s Statistician-General and head of Statistics South Africa.
Over 1 400 data experts from more than 100 countries have been holding discussions, data labs and interactive presentations at the forum from 15 – 18 January, with participants from governments, national statistical offices, the private sector and academia, international organisations and civil society groups.
The forum was hosted by the South African government and Statistics South Africa in partnership with the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA).
Support for statistical development in Africa
Strengthening statistical systems was the subject of extensive discussion at the forum, and a number of commitments were advanced or reaffirmed.
The African Development Bank committed to present a proposal to its board to sustain and even scale up, over the next three years, its support for statistical development work across Africa.
The World Bank added its voice of commitment to support 78 International Development Association (IDA) countries to implement a multi-topic household survey every three years, as well as support capacity for gender statistics, among other areas.
Norway reaffirmed its commitment to supporting statistics and data by providing partners with high quality technical skills and expertise.
In addition to urging the strengthening of existing statistical mechanisms, the Global Action Plan calls for the application of new technologies and new data sources into mainstream statistical activities and integration of geospatial data.
It also calls for data on all groups of the population to be expanded so that no one is left behind — a key principle of the 2030 Agenda.
Innovative data solutions, a number of innovative data initiatives and tools were also announced at the forum.
The United Kingdom Department for International Development (DFID) launched a Data Disaggregation Action Plan to better measure vulnerable groups and ensure that everyone is counted and everyone counts.
UN Global Pulse launched a new tool, hazegazer.org, that can improve crisis management. Telefonica and CEPEI (Centro de Pensamiento independiente) launched datarepublica.org, a digital platform to connect citizens and development actors in Latin America with data for the SDGs.