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Deputy Secretary General’s remarks on a data revolution for sustainable development

These remarks were delivered on 25th September 2014, at the first meeting of the Secretary General’s Independent Expert Advisory Group for a data revolution on sustainable development.

Checked against delivery version.

Ladies and gentlemen,



Thank you for this opportunity. Let me begin by conveying greetings from the Secretary-General who asked me to convey his gratitude to you for taking on this vital and urgent assignment.

Your group has been given the responsibility to advise the Secretary-General on the data revolution and its implications. This includes measures to close the data gaps and strengthen national statistical capacities. You come from diverse fields of data and statistics. But your expertise has brought you together to chart a new course of transformative action to respond to the demands of a complex development agenda.

I am a deep believer in your mission.

Through your work, you give visibility to people who have been invisible in policy-making and implementation.

Time is of the essence.

As you are aware, we are in the midst of a process to define a new sustainable development framework to succeed the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

This is both a great opportunity and a huge responsibility for the United Nations and the rest of the international community.

The MDGs have been the most successful global anti-poverty push in history.

The MDG framework process has highlighted a number of keys to success.

This includes:
1) reliable statistics to design interventions, measure progress and enhance accountability;
2) the importance of linking goals and targets with investments in data production at country level; and
3) building national capacity for data collection and reporting.

Indeed, data quality has greatly improved in recent years. Yet, we all know there is an urgent need to do more to further enhance data collection, dissemination and analysis.

Going forward, the role of data and statistics will be critical. This is particularly since the Post-2015 development agenda embraces the three dimensions of sustainable development: economic development, social inclusion and environmental sustainability.

That is why the Secretary-General’s High Level Panel on the Post-2015 Development Agenda has called for a new data revolution.

Better data and statistics will help governments reach the most marginalised and the vulnerable, track progress and make sure decisions are evidence-based. They can also strengthen accountability.

In the process, we need to find ways to garner broader participation and resources from international agencies, civil society organizations, the private sector and academia.

In addition to traditional statistics, we need to leverage new, non-traditional data such as big data.

The data revolution should build on innovative initiatives in technology and capacity building, especially at the country level. It should also expand existing monitoring frameworks towards sustainable architecture for development data.

The role of national statistical systems will be fundamental.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

In closing, I encourage you to work in an open and transparent manner, engaging with non-traditional counterparts, not least civil society.

Outreach will be key to the legitimacy of this work. You should also amplify the voices of developing countries where the data gaps are larger and where human and institutional capacities are lagging.

As I said at the beginning of my remarks, we do not have the luxury of time.

You should know that your work will be a key input to the synthesis report of the Secretary General at the end of the year. I regret that the timeframe for your work is short. But we have confidence that you can deliver.

We cannot reach our shared goals without data that enable us to reach the most vulnerable, account for our impacts on sustainable development and improve monitoring and accountability.

I have no doubt that today’s meeting will help usher in a data revolution that will lead to a Post-2015 development agenda that leaves no one behind.

Ultimately, let us not forget that a data revolution is about far more than statistics and counting. It is about making sure that the voices are heard and that aspirations of people count.

On behalf of the Secretary-General, I thank you for your engagement and commitment.

I wish you fruitful deliberations and look forward to receiving your conclusions.

Thank you.