The second iteration of the United Nations World Data Forum concluded last week with a promise to improve financing for better data and statistics. Known as the Dubai Declaration, the initiative will go a long way to support sustainable development.
Held between 22nd to 24th October 2018, the Forum brought together leaders from civil society, industry and government to share visions, challenges and most importantly buzz solutions for a data-driven future. Over 2,000 data experts from more than 100 countries gathered at the Forum. More than 85 sessions were held, and multiple innovative solutions proposed, as with partnerships formed.
Data for the Public and Public for Data
H.E. Abdulla Nasser Lootah, Director General of the Federal Competitiveness and Statistics Authority (FCSA) of the United Arab Emirates, said, “The positive and insightful outcomes we’ve achieved during this important gathering are essential for unifying visions and empowering individuals, institutions and governments to embrace modern technologies and harness data to serve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) locally, regionally and internationally.”
During the discussions, 70% of the audience polled that they believed there was a crisis in the lack of public trust in data. 35% of the audience believed the biggest cause of poor trust in public data was that statistics did not align with pre-conceived ideas. Another 37% felt that improving citizen’s data literacy was a way forwarded to tackle the challenge of public trust in data and statistics.
Hence, the work for the data community is cut out. Both the public at large and policymakers must be data literate. Moreover, there is an urgent need to ensure data relevance, openness and quality.
Another key hurdle to cross was the democratisation of data. United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Amina J. Mohammed said, “While it is clear that the data revolution is having an enormous impact, it has not benefited everyone equally.” She added, “Our task is to make sure data is available to all people. We must make sure it is harnessed to support implementation of the 2030 Agenda at all levels and in all regions and countries…But we urgently need to bridge important gaps. Funding for data and statistical systems remains limited. And beyond funding, we need political, technical and advocacy support in all areas.”
The Dubai Declaration
Hence, the Dubai Declaration is a timely initiative. Its aim is to establish an innovative funding mechanism where all stakeholders can draw from. In turn, both domestic and international funds can be mobilised. Furthermore, partnerships and funding opportunities will burgeon to strengthen the capacity of national data and statistical systems.
Helmed by representatives of statistical systems and various data and donor communities, a funding mechanism will be created. Under their leadership, they will support the decision making on the operational modalities and on raising resources to address the data needs to implement fully the 2030 Agenda.
“The UN World Data Forum is the best place to launch a declaration on financing for data and statistics,” said Mr. Liu Zhenmin, UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs. “To achieve the ambitions set on in the Cape Town Global Action Plan, both increased domestic resources and international support will be needed. My expectation is that the declaration, the outcome of the discussions at this forum, will help us shape the way forward to promote “more and better funding” for data and statistics. The immediate next steps will be translating those ideas into action and ensuring that we maximize the effectiveness of funding for sustainable development data, as this is crucial to fulfil the data needs of the 2030 Agenda.”
Apart from the Dubai Declaration, the Forum also saw the launch of a data interoperability guide. This is a collaboration between the UN Statistics Division and the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data. The guide identifies practical steps to help countries and development partners who are embarking on projects which require the integration of data from multiple sources for better monitoring and policy making.
The next UN World Data Forum will be hosted by Switzerland in 2020. It will be held in Bern, between 18th to 21st October 2020.