Written message for the Deputy Secretary-General’s participation in the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data's Meeting of the Board of Directors

New York, 27 March 2020

Dear Colleagues and Friends,

My apologies for not being able to participate today, and a wish that you and your families are safe and well during these trying times.

Today’s board meeting comes at a very appropriate moment, as global and national data systems are being called to stretch beyond the normal and join efforts to identify alternatives to keep track of the spread of COVID-19 and monitor its widespread impacts in all aspects of our lives.

The Secretary-General has called for a global response to a human crisis through the launch of a $2 billion global humanitarian response plan to fund the fight against COVID-19 in the world’s poorest countries and his invitation to work together to minimize the social and economic impact.

The coronavirus disease comes as a reminder that had we been further advanced in meeting our joint objectives under the SDGs we could better face this challenge. If we had stronger health systems, fewer people living in poverty and more gender equality and better data capacities and systems.  

But this is a time to glean the opportunities from the crisis. We must endeavor to respond to COVID-19 and address the root causes at the heart of Agenda 2030. 

To succeed, we are forced to innovate, make our partnerships work and attract contributions.  

We need to act promptly and in a coordinated manner to respond effectively to the global COVID-19 crisis and mitigate its human and economic impacts, as well as to usher in a rapid and sustainable recovery.  

Big data and artificial intelligence must be harnessed for real time and predictive data and forecasts related with the disease: identify new outbreaks, assess the effectiveness of the response, track and counter the spread of disinformation, among others. Private sector and academia can contribute significantly to close information gaps and to assist countries data and analytical capacities.

Evidence-based innovation is our only way out of this crisis. GPSDD has the opportunity of making a difference and to leverage its resources, expertise and tools across all stakeholder groups to inform our cooperative action at all levels: the global and the national. 

The Data4Now initiative, jointly convened by the United Nations, the GPSDD, the World Bank and Sustainable Development Solutions Network, to improve the timeliness, coverage, and quality of SDG data, is more relevant than ever. 

Also, it is crucial that we all approach countries in a coordinated fashion and provide a common platform for governments and partners to interact and share experiences in adapting data production and dissemination workflows throughout the global statistical value chain. 

The United Nations is taking immediate actions to support Member States in ensuring the continuity of key statistical compilation activities and the continued availability of data to inform the response of governments and all sectors of society to the emergency.

UN DESA, through its Statistics Division, is leading a collaborative effort with the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data and Open Data Watch, focused on mobilizing resources and sharing operational guidance, best practices, and tools to help national statistical organizations function during an emergency situation and ensure continuity of key data collection programmes to the largest extent possible, including by sector, in all areas under their responsibility.

Our RCs and Country Teams on the ground will be ready to assist countries, including the statistical community through these difficult times, to ensure the continuity of censuses, household surveys, and other major statistical programmes to produce timely and disaggregated data. 

I encourage GPSDD to continue collaborating closely with UN DESA, and other members of the UN System, in supporting Member States’ capacity to generate, access and use data for development.

Thank you.