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50th session of the UN Statistical Commission opens in New York [Posting 1]

Mr Liu Zenmin, UN Under-Secretary-General opened the 50th session of the UN Statistical Commission (UNSC), with the first two sessions held in the General Assembly Hall. Zachary Mwangi of Kenya was again elected Chair. He referred to the UNSCs successes including its session at the 2018 High-level Political Forum (HLPF), the 2nd World Data Forum (WDF) and the meeting in Berne on Financing on Data and Statistics. He pointed out need to meet policy and decision-making in a language that policy-makers and others can understand, reaching out to Permanent Representatives in New York to be their champions. Japan, Mexico, Canada were elected Vice Chairpersons and Romania as rapporteur.

In her address to the Commission, H.E Mona Juul, the Vice-President of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) recognized the role of the UNSC as the global hub for statistics and in the HLPF. She welcomed the UNSC’s efforts to work with other Commissions, such as the Commission on the Status of Women and the Commission for Social Development, as well as with the Commission on Narcotic Drugs and the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, and the High‐level meeting of the Development Cooperation Forum. 

She stressed that the voluntary national reviews (VNRs) require strong statistical information and data as the basis for their High-level Political Forum (HLPF) progress reports. There are two HLPFs in 2019 in July which will review SDGs 4, 8, 10, 13 and 16, as well as SDG 17 and in September at Summit level. Fifty-one countries will present their VNRs in July.

Emphasizing leave no one behind (LNOB), she pointed to the importance of inclusion of the most vulnerable in statistics and also to the need to scale up efforts in sustainable capacity-building and filling gaps in data statistics as priorities.

Under-Secretary-General Liu in his statement to the Commission noted that data is required at an unprecedented level to ensure that no one is left behind. A significant amount of work has been done on financing for data and statistics through the Commission’s High–Level Group for Partnership, Coordination and Capacity-Building. The path has been set through the Cape Town Global Action Plan (CTGAP), which must now be implemented. There are now a number of challenges, including universal access to official data, including capacity-building in some countries; use of non-official data to supplement official statistics; integration of big data; geospatial data and information for those countries without such capacities; and the integration  of innovations over time. They encompass both traditional data sources, such as census, surveys and administrative data and emerging sources eg artificial intelligence, citizen-generated data, Big Data and geocoded data. 

Mr Lui highlighted initiatives to bring together the global statistical community through the WDF in Dubai, in which progress in addressing data challenges, new initiatives and work streams were reviewed, and the UN World Geospatial Information Congress in Deqing, China last November. The 3rdUN WDF will be held in Berne in Oct 2020 and will focus on identifying ways to incorporated better new data sources into data systems; mobilizing more resources for data and improving sustainability of capacity development initiatives; and improve coordination at all levels.

A warm welcome was extended by the chair to the NGOs observing the session which marked an increase in participation. It would not, however, be possible for NGOs should be able to take the floor.

Richard Huggard