At the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data, we believe the world needs better data for better decisions that save and improve lives. This was true five years ago when we were created to support the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and it is even more true now, when COVID-19 threatens the achievement of the goals.

The UN Secretary-General said, "COVID-19 is menacing the whole of humanity – and so the whole of humanity must fight back."

As the pandemic has spread, we have worked with our partners to understand how the Global Partnership can deploy our resources, our network, and our expertise to contribute to the global effort to fight COVID-19. Here, I’m setting out our current plans, though like everyone we will continue to adapt as the situation changes.

The first priority, of course, is to keep our team safe. Our team has cancelled all travel and events, and are all working from home. The Global Partnership's secretariat team are based in six different countries on three continents, so we are used to doing a lot of our work remotely, but it’s still been quite an adjustment and I am hugely proud and grateful to the whole team for the way they have risen to the occasion, often alongside caring and support responsibilities for family and friends.

Two principles have guided our decision-making over the last few weeks. Firstly, given the scale of the pandemic, we all have a responsibility to ask ourselves how we are best placed to contribute. We have worked with our partners to answer this question, and launched some new work that directly responds to the current moment. Secondly, our ongoing commitments and programs also require continuity and nurturing, to ensure we support partners beyond the pandemic and do what we can in the longer term to accelerate action on the SDGs.

With all of that in mind, our current priorities for COVID-19 response are the following:

Supporting the network with resources and information.

  • We set up a COVID-19 resource page on our website with links to useful data, tools, research, and platforms.  This page is updated daily, so please continue to share links we might have missed.
  • We worked with the UN Statistics Division and Open Data Watch to create a website specifically for national statistical offices, providing guidance and resources on how to continue essential operations and respond to new demands in the current situation.
  • We heard from our partners in national statistical offices that peer exchange would be valuable as we all work as fast as possible to respond to COVID-19, which in many cases, is posing similar challenges for statisticians around the world. We've set up electronic mailing lists for national statistical offices, to provide an easy-to-use medium to share experiences. The Spanish listserv is up and running, with English and French-language channels coming soon.

Developing new partnerships to meet new needs

Developing and brokering partnerships is at the core of our work. For the next few months at least, we are shifting our efforts to focus on partnerships that will help to combat the spread of the virus and mitigate its impacts. At this time of extreme need, it is critical to get the data infrastructure in place in time to shape the pandemic response in line with appropriate and timely information. We are building on the Data For Now initiative, which already has the model and the relationships needed to deliver rapidly and at scale.

Working with the UN Economic Commission for Africa, we are developing a set of partnerships with the private sector, academia, multilateral organizations, and governments that can be deployed immediately across the continent to provide governments with the resources required for planning, tracking, and responding to the impact of the pandemic as it hits.

We are already working with the governments of Ghana, Kenya, and Sierra Leone, and expect to scale rapidly after the initiative launches in the coming days. We are focused both on immediate needs and on ensuring that we are providing training and capacity support that can strengthen data systems beyond the crisis. Rapid learning and sharing of information will enable fast scale up and longer term impact.

If you would like to find out more about this work, and how you can support, please do get in touch.

These are frightening times for us all.  Amid so much uncertainty, the work we do with our partners around the world to provide the data and information that can guide responses based on facts and evidence is more needed than ever. We are determined to do what we can to contribute to the fight against this global pandemic, and are proud to stand with hundreds of partners around the world who are doing just that.  I look forward to seeing many of you at the next Data for Development Festival, once this is over, and in the meantime the whole Global Partnership secretariat sends best wishes to you and your families.

See our COVID-19 resources here and visit the UN Statistics Division webpage for statistics and COVID-19 response here. If you are from a national statistical office and want to join the e-mail group for peer exchange, send us an email.