Data and Statistics
Accurate data is the lifeblood of good policy and decision-making.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres, The Hague, December 2017
It will not be possible to deliver accelerated action to meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) without the availability of high-quality, timely, disaggregated and open data and statistics. Today, new technology, paired with existing data sources and methods, gives the world an unprecedented opportunity to address the increased demand for data to monitor the SDGs and strengthen evidence-based policy and decision-making. The Chief Executives Board (CEB) for Coordination and its two high-level committees, the High-level Committee on Management (HLCM) and the High-level Committee on Programmes (HLCP), have been contributing to strengthen, advance and innovate the UN system’s joint efforts to collect, produce, provide and use data and statistics.
System-wide Road Map for Innovating UN Data and Statistics
At its first regular session of 2020, CEB endorsed the System-wide Road Map for Innovating UN Data and Statistics, which contains a set of ambitious and aspirational targets, with the aim of innovating United Nations data and statistical outputs in relation to the two roles played by UN entities in this arena:
- To support the development of national statistical systems, helping countries to produce fit-for-purpose data and statistics;
- To provide authoritative regional and global data and statistics to support the international community in responding in a timely fashion to regional and emerging policy needs.
The road map, which covers data and statistics related to all three pillars of the United Nations, advances the vision of the Secretary-General of a whole-of-United Nations ecosystem that maximizes the value of data responsibly to make better decisions and deliver stronger support to those the Organization serves. It contributes to the overall objectives of the Data Strategy of the Secretary-General for Action by Everyone, Everywhere that in turn constitutes a framework to support the road map as a priority initiative. The road map was developed through HLCP – which stressed the need for an overarching system-wide engagement on data innovation in support of the Decade of Action for the SDGs – by the Committee of the Chief Statisticians of the United Nations System.
Data Standards for United Nations System-wide Reporting of Financial Data (UN Data Cube)
Recognizing the need for timely, comprehensive, consistent and meaningful data on UN system revenue and expenses following the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, HLCM, through a joint initiative with the UN Sustainable Development Group (UNSDG), developed in 2018 a set of data standards for system-wide reporting on financial data – the UN Data Cube. The use of these standards will allow the UN system to provide Member States with verifiable and comparable system-wide and entity-level data, based on definitions and classifications aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and with international standards.
The Data Cube also supports the United Nations development system in: (a) providing more transparency and accountability in its spending; and (b) allowing for more effective and efficient deployment of the limited resources available while communicating more clearly the system’s achievements, with an emphasis on linking resources to SDG results, in line with the Funding Compact with Member States.
The Data Cube consists of two key deliverables:
- Data standards for UN system-wide reporting of financial data, to enable timely, accurate and comparable disaggregated financial reporting across the entire UN system for transparency and accountability on system-wide financing by recipient country, donor, or SDG, in alignment with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI) standards, and
- A road map supporting the implementation of these data standards, evolving to respond to emerging financial data developments and demands.
As of May 2020, all organizations are in full compliance with the four mandatory standards, with the two remaining standards becoming mandatory in 2021.
UN system approach to the data revolution
At its second regular session of 2014, in follow-up to the report of the Independent Expert Advisory Group on a Data Revolution for Sustainable Development, CEB requested HLCP, jointly with HLCM and the United Nations Development Group, to develop an internal programme of work for the United Nations system in response to the data revolution. The programme of work, consisting of four initiatives, was discussed and agreed at the Committees’ twenty-ninth sessions in Spring 2015 and subsequently endorsed by the Board as a UN system approach to the data revolution.
The four initiatives – namely, a Data Innovation Lab; a Data Visualization platform and dashboard; the World Forum on Sustainable Development Data; and the UN System Data Catalog – have since been established, and where relevant, are being further advanced.