UN hosts first ever World Data Forum on Sustainable Development

The first ever World Data Forum on Sustainable Development, organised by the United Nations in cooperation with the South African government, was recently held in Cape Town between 15 and 18 January 2017. More than 1500 data experts from over 100 countries were expected to attend and participate in the Forum.

Data and statistics experts, from around the world, were invited to join together and engage with governments, businesses, civil society and the scientific and academic communities. Doing so would enable them to “explore innovative ways to apply data and statistics to measure global progress and informed evidence-based policy decisions on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Taking it further, and applying data to real-world challenges and situations, participants and others were also encouraged to “contribute to important discussions, data labs and interactive platforms aimed at improving the use of data of sustainable development” and “launch new initiatives and solutions that will deliver better data for all.”

The Forum had six main thematic areas. These included: 1. New approaches to capacity development for better data, 2. Innovation and synergies across different data ecosystems, 3. Leaving no one behind, 4. Understanding the world through data, 5. Data principles and governance and 6. The way forward: A Global Action Plan for data.

Speaking at the opening ceremony of the Forum, Wu Hongbo, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, was cited as saying “The Forum comes at a crucial time for strengthening data and statistical capacity globally. Countries all around the world are mobilizing to carry out the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which they adopted at a UN Summit two years ago.”

Wu also stressed the importance of established and maintaining global partnerships. He said “To do so, it is essential to have accurate, reliable, timely and disaggregated data. We need to track the unprecedented range of economic, social and environmental goals that are integrated under sustainable development. This will require the statistics and data community – from governments, the private sector, the scientific and academic communities and civil society – to find ways to work across different domains and create partnerships and synergies.”

The World Forum was organised and hosted as a result of a 2014 report entitled ‘A World That Counts’ that was presented by the UN Secretary-General’s Independent Expert and Advisory Group. Following that it was agreed that a Forum “Would be the suitable platform for intensifying cooperation with various professional groups, such as information technology, geospatial information managers, data scientists, and users, as well as civil society stakeholders.”

More information can be found about the Forum on its website, on its blog and on its Twitter account (@UNDataForum).