• English

Statistics for the SDGs: new partnerships for new challenges

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are creating many challenges for official statistics. One of the most important ones is how to create and maintain the new types of strategic partnerships that are needed to provide statistics for the SDGs. Leaders from the world of official statistics gathered in Geneva for a High-Level Seminar on 11-12 April to explore this topic. In his opening keynote speech, Mr. Anil Arora, the Chief Statistician of Canada, said:

"As National Statistical Offices, we have also been given a hugely important yet challenging role in supporting the data needs of Agenda 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals.  No country is at the point of being able to report on 100% of the indicators, not even the most sophisticated among us.  Agenda 2030 has brought a sense of humility and camaraderie between statistical offices. It is an opportunity to bring producers and consumers together around an important cause, and demonstrate the critical role of NSOs and the relevance of our science and craft. We cannot, and I would argue, should not meet these challenges alone.”

As well as sharing experiences and good practices within the statistical community, the seminar also heard the perspectives of key external partners such as Microsoft and the Humanitarian Open Street Map Team. They outlined how they can work with statisticians to deliver data, tools, analyses and services to inform the world on progress towards the SDGs. Their skills and capabilities can complement those of national statistical organisations, allowing the necessary information to reach policy makers and the public more quickly and efficiently.

The data needs of the SDGs are so vast that they cannot be met by statistics alone. Almost all SDG indicators have a geographic dimension, so high-quality geospatial information is vital. Representatives of the European group of the UN initiative on Global Geospatial Information Management stressed how the power of statistical and geospatial information can be much greater when they are combined than when they are separate.

This was clearly demonstrated by the excellent example of the Irish SDG information platform created in partnership between the Central Statistical Office and Ordnance Survey Ireland, the national mapping agency.

Mr. Colin Bray, the Chief Executive Ordnance Survey Ireland, emphasized the importance of senior management involvement. The Irish collaboration started over a cup of coffee between the heads of the two organisations in 2016, and has grown rapidly from there. He urged participants to “Have that cup of coffee and make a commitment to do something. Build from there, it’s that easy".

The many excellent ideas and experiences from the High-Level Seminar will be distilled into an issues paper so that the Bureau of the Conference of European Statisticians can decide on future actions. As Mr. Arora concluded, “We need to start thinking of partnerships in a more strategic way, and through a modern lens, capitalizing on the data revolution and the opportunities afforded by Agenda 2030”.