UN World Data Forum meets at ‘critical time’ with COVID battle ongoing

2 October 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us that quality data saves lives, the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA) said on Friday, ahead of the UN World Data Forum, due to start on Sunday

The forum, which takes place from 3-6 October in Bern, Switzerland, comes at “a critical time as the world is still dealing with the pandemic,” Stefan Schweinfest, Director of the United Nations Statistics Division said.

“Disaggregated data is needed to contain the disease and for citizens to understand the world around them and guide their actions” he added.

'Critical space' - Guterres

In a video message for the opening of the forum, UN Secretary-General António Guterres, said it had become “a critical space for bringing data communities together, showcasing solutions, and nurturing partnerships to make ‘data for all’ a reality. Timely, open, quality data are more essential than ever.”

He said the UN was “committed to unlocking and nurturing data as a strategic asset for better decisions and stronger support to people and planet. Stronger support to countries, the statistics community, and the broader data ecosystem are at the heart of this effort.

“We must ensure data empowers individuals and communities – but also protects them when they are most at risk.”

‘Huge gaps’

According to Mr. Schweinfest, “we are still faced with huge data gaps. 40 per cent of countries have no birth or death registration system - a basic source for governments to protect their population.

A year into the pandemic, only 60 countries had data on COVID-19 infections and death rates that could be disaggregated on gender and sex,” he said. “Now is the time to strengthen our commitment.

There’s an urgent need to make data smarter and utilise emerging innovations to increase the amount and improve the quality of data”.

Better data for a better future

The  UN World Data Forum will bring together hundreds of data experts, users and producers working on new data solutions to support the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The Forum will culminate with the adoption of the Bern Data Compact for a Decade of Action on the Sustainable Development Goals.

The Compact will call on the community to produce data that leave no one behind, to ensure timely, open and impartial data and to build trust in data protection.

It also aims to strengthen the cooperation between various data communities at the local and global levels to achieve the SDGs through data.

Every two years, the Forum puts a spotlight on innovations and data gaps, showcasing progress in the implementation of the data revolution and the Cape Town Global Action Plan for Sustainable Development Data.

‘Leaving no one behind’

Mr Schweinfest said that the Forum is organized around six main thematic areas, which include: “leaving no one behind, understanding the world through data, building trust in data and statistics, increasing investment to enhance data collection and addressing gaps that exist”.

He emphasized that this can be done by working “as one community to foster innovative practices and capture the status and the needs of all people, by presenting data in a timely manner, while preserving privacy rights and maintaining transparency”. 

While acknowledging that it would be difficult for governments to open up and widen their data ecosystems,  Mr. Schweinfest said the challenge is to have more data with “quality assurances,” adding that the Forum is a space for the community to collaborate on new initiatives to continue after 6 October

 

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