30 November 2011

Ensuring Knowledge Base for Equitable Development

Statement by UNFPA Executive Director, Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, at the HLF-4 side event, "Statistics for Results, Accountability & Transparency: Busan Action Plan for Statistics," delivered by Odyek Agona, UNFPA

Ladies and gentlemen,
Colleagues and friends,

One month ago, the world’s population reached 7 billion. Demographic data allowed us to mark this global milestone and highlight the challenges and opportunities related to it.

Today, more information is produced, stored and shared than ever before. We are living in an era of big data.

Shared knowledge is extending the frontiers of innovation and productivity. Without data, we would not be able to register achievements, identify gaps and chart the course for future.

Yet, reliable data on key areas of development is too often out of reach. In many countries, we simply don’t have enough quality data to plan and deliver best possible programmes and show their results.

Reaching the Millennium Development Goals and other development objectives requires reliable statistics.

Reliable statistics are also the basis of accountability and public trust. Discrepancies in data jeopardize trust in development policies and programmes. Not being able to compare data across countries and regions undermines efforts to tackle social and economic problems.

We have to ensure that the importance of data and statistics is fully understood and appreciated by all stakeholders, and there must be commitment and leadership for investing in high-quality data and statistics and making them accessible.

UNFPA works with partners from all sectors of society to build capacity in acquiring, analyzing, reporting and disseminating data - particularly sex and age disaggregated data - to inform policies and programmes.

By using such statistics, countries have been able to highlight social and gender inequalities, map household and community vulnerabilities and demonstrate progress.

UNFPA’s statistical work in more than 120 countries focuses on building national capacities for data production and analysis. Moreover, we support governments in developing policies and programmes that take into account population dynamics and their inter-linkages with sexual and reproductive health, HIV and AIDS, young people and gender equality.

UNFPA convenes partners with and facilitates south-south cooperation, which has become an efficient, effective way to exchange good practices and use knowledge that is tailored to developing countries’ specific needs.

At the global level, UNFPA works in inter-agency and expert groups, as well as in the UN Statistical Commission.

One of UNFPA’s major efforts recently at the country level has been the 2010 Round of Censuses. Based on national priorities, we have supported different phases of the census, from planning to cartography as well as the final stage of data analysis and dissemination of results.

Furthermore, we provide expertise for gender, youth, maternal health and environmental analysis. We assist in household surveys and strengthening of vital and administrative record systems, particularly in registering maternal deaths. And we support using gender indicators and mainstreaming gender statistics, in particular, related to violence and harmful practices against women and girls.

Let me use this opportunity to welcome the Evidence and Data for Gender Equality Initiative, which was launched yesterday by the US Secretary of State, Ms. Hillary Rodham Clinton, and also underscore UNFPA’s full support for the Busan Joint Action Plan for Gender Equality and Development. These are important commitments that show complimentarity of statistics and policy making.

In all of UNFPA’s work, good statistics mean better and more robust country programmes. Population statistics allow us to regularly monitor our programmes, report on results and measure progress towards our goals. For us, this is an essential element of accountability.

Many developing countries have made important progress in improving their statistical systems and production of data. More countries now present transparent statistics that are easy to access and use, and successfully report on progress towards nationally and internationally agreed goals.

However, important gaps remain. For example, the data on MDG 5 are of very low quality, often nonexistent. For the latest MDG progress report, data on unmet need for family planning - one of the indicators for MDG target 5b – was not available in more than one in three of the developing countries, and nearly all countries with available data had it from 2004 or before.

Statistical systems must be based on continuous sources, such as vital statistics and administrative records, and supported by regular, high quality censuses and surveys.

In international development, we need to be able to measure the effects of our actions, and this cannot be done without reliable and timely statistics. Without quality statistics, we are not able to distinguish successes from failures and determine development priorities.

Better statistics lead to better development policies and more effective decision-making.

UNFPA promotes transparency and accountability for development results. While providing technical assistance to national governments, we welcome public oversight and involvement in improving statistics. The involvement of communities and civil society has already been an important support to efforts in improving health information systems.

UNFPA’s current work is based on the commitments of the 2004 Marrakesh Action Plan for Statistics, the 2008 Accra Agenda for Action and the 2009 Dakar Declaration on the Development of Statistics.

This forum is an excellent opportunity to reaffirm our commitments and agree on further actions to improve the statistical capacity at the country level.

UNFPA is committed to working with Paris 21 and the World Bank and all partners to make the Busan Action Plan for Statistics a reality.

With the Busan Action Plan for Statistics, we can support country efforts to address the issues I've highlighted – prioritizing linkages between vital registration systems and administrative records, the mainstreaming of gender data, and opening data to public for better transparency, accountability and decision making.

UNFPA is committed to play a key role together with other partners in supporting national implementation strategies and plans in statistics for results, accountability and transparency.

Even the best statistics do not guarantee political will, financing and commitment to social progress. But with solid data there is no excuse for failing to invest in key areas of development. Solid data informs plans, programmes, policies, and budgets. And, with solid data, we can ensure a knowledge base for inclusive and equitable development.

Thank you.