Counting the invisible: Three priorities for strengthening statistical capacities in the SDG era

By Johannes Jütting, Executive Head PARIS21, Rolando Avendano, Economist, Asian Development Bank and Manuel Kuhm, Research Support Officer (PARIS21)

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Better policies need better data. High-quality data and official statistics are vital for governments, civil society, the private sector and the public to make informed decisions, create effective polices, and establish good governance. Under the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, data-driven policy making takes on even greater significance. For if we are to “leave no one behind”, we must first ensure that everyone is counted.

Yet today, more than 110 low and middle-income countries lack functional civil registration and vital statistics systems and under-record or omit vital events of specific populations. Those living in poverty are most likely to be excluded—the poorest 20% of the global population account for 55% of unregistered births. Only 37 countries have statistical legislation that complies with the United Nations (UN) Fundamental Principles of Official Statistics.

If we don’t even know who the poorest are, how can we ensure that they aren’t left behind?

At the same time, while a global Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) indicator framework is an essential part of Agenda 2030, it is putting pressure on national statistical systems. In addition to the demand of compiling 232 national-level indicators, the Agenda requires that data are disaggregated by income, sex and gender, geography, age and disability, far beyond current capacity in many developing countries. Continue reading