UNITAR together with the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) and the United Nations Statistics Division (UNSD) and in collaboration with the custodian agencies as the World Health Organization (WHO), UN Women, the World Bank and the Pacific Financial Technical Assistance Centre of the International Monetary Fund (IMF - PFTAC) conducted two regional workshops for 14 Asia – Pacific Small Island Developing States (SIDS) on Monitoring the Tier 1 and Tier 2 SDG indicators. The objective of the workshop was to address data needs and support the SIDS of the region in monitoring and reporting on SDGs. The needs of the participating countries, identified through a need’s assessment survey carried out prior to the workshop, included the measurement of poverty, health, gender issues as well as the compilation of indicators requiring the use of financial, budgetary or remittance-related information came up as key priorities.
46 government officials - 21 men and 25 women - from National Statistical Offices (NSOs) and other government agencies such as those working with national health information systems and financial and budgetary information attended the workshops. More than 90% of the workshop participants confirmed an increase in their knowledge of the approaches and methodologies for compiling national indicators for SDGs.
Many SIDS in the Asia-Pacific region are trying to answer a number of similar questions: What kind of poverty data is required and what measurement is most appropriate to help guide policy choices? How to strengthen data on mortality due to non-communicable diseases starting from the beginning of the data collection chain? How to ensure sex disaggregation across non-gender indicators? Is a certain payment always a fee or can it be a tax and how do you decide which one it is? How to track remittances when they cross the border as a carry-on gift?
Understanding the importance of fit-for-purpose data and how they can best inform sound policy decisions is a critical factor of success for any country. A strong dialogue between the technical community of data producers and policy-makers is required. As noted by one of the countries, “We now ask our data users what kind of information they need and update our survey questionnaires accordingly instead of asking data users to send questions”.
The two workshops helped address some of these needs by strengthening the capacities of participants to streamline and contextualize SDG monitoring and reporting, use the metadata as an indispensable tool, leverage “new” and administrative data, and to compile selected indicators drawing on technical contributions by several custodian organizations.
Equally important, however, was the fact that the workshops have provided a valuable space for sharing good practices among countries. Samoa, for example, has presented its work on mapping SDG indicators to national processes and data sources. Several countries talked about their approaches and challenges faced when it comes to poverty measurement, both monetary and non-monetary. Tonga, for example, has introduced an innovative methodology using a combination of monetary approach with hardship data collected based on the nationally constructed definition of multidimensional poverty or hardship using 3 age groups and collecting relevant data through their Household Income and Expenditure Survey (HIES). Another example is Fiji whose acting head statistician talked about Fiji’s collaboration with NGOs to strengthen data production in certain areas, as well as the expansion of agreements with various Ministries to further increase access to administrative data.
The workshops provided a valuable source of information on needs that could be addressed through online learning to be delivered later this year and the good practices to be shared across the region. This second component of blended learning on monitoring SDGs builds on the work initiated earlier this year by UNITAR in partnership with UNSD, SPC and ESCAP in support of improved data planning and governance. The two components constitute the bulk of the training programme funded by the Government of Italy and aimed at strengthening the statistical capacities of SIDS in the Asia-Pacific region. The programme has been key in addressing the needs of the countries that have significant statistical capacity constraints but are among the first ones to be affected by the future of the 2030 Agenda.