The meeting opened with welcomes from the hosts: DESA, UNDP, and AOSIS. The chair of AOSIS, represented by Ms. Midhfa Naeem, Counsellor of the Permanent Mission of Maldives to the UN, expressed her hope that the meeting would yield concrete ideas and examples, helping policy makers support the work of the statisticians during the process of implementation. She encouraged an ongoing dialogue on the best practices that were working in individual SIDS that others could absorb into their own national contexts, and she also encouraged discussion of how the UN system could best support these efforts
Ms. Francesca Perucci, Chief, Statistical Services, UN Statistics Division, then gave an overview of the indicator framework, including the three tier system. Tier One indicators have clear methodology and available data, Tier Two indicators have some data gaps but have a relatively clear way forward, and Tier Three indicators still need methodological work and lack data. Ms. Perucci reminded the group that the global indicators would be complemented by national level indicators, and that in general, countries will need to identify their priority areas and focus their efforts there, building statistics capacity when necessary and working in an integrated manner among ministries. The UN Statistics Division is offering technical assistance to build capacity in statistics and disaggregated data collection and analysis. Ultimately a global narrative on SDG progress will be built on national and regional data and reporting, so some level of comparability is needed.
Dr. Gerald Haberkorn, Director, Statistics for Development Division, Secretariat of the Pacific Community, noted that the global indicator framework should be seen as guidance rather than a prescription, and that countries and regions need to ensure that the framework works for them. In the Pacific, SPC convened all relevant sectoral technical organizations and ministries in the region and asked them to identify two to five of the proposed indicators in the global framework that were most relevant to their work. The process identified 62 draft Pacific indicators, 55 of which currently have data available to track them. All but 12 of those are in the global indicator framework (the 10 additional ones proposed are all tied to SDG 13, 14 or 15). The package of 62 will be presented to the Pacific Island Forum in October.
Dr. Philomen Harrison, Project Director, Regional Statistics, CARICOM Secretariat, then shared the Caribbean experience, noting the importance of getting an early start in assessing the statistical implications of the SDGs, targets and indicators, and identifying key challenges. She reiterated also the importance of reaching a core set of indicators that are manageable for the region but that also reflect the substantive priorities. Her team has paid close attention especially to the areas that are included in the SDG indicators but were not in the MDG framework, including non-communicable diseases and early childhood development, and to the reconciliation of the SAMOA Pathway and the 2030 Agenda, as well as to partnering with other organizations working in similar areas, including Paris 21 of the OECD. She emphasized the importance of political engagement and advocacy, citing the vigorous support of the Prime Minister of Grenada for building statistical capacity in CARICOM countries. A starting point will be baseline assessments for all CARICOM countries.
In the interactive discussion that followed, some participants emphasized that taking a regional approach to indicators could bring opportunities and collective strength and reiterated that the members of the Inter-Agency and Expert Group on indicators had the responsibility to represent and report back to their regions. It is also true, however, that ultimately countries have national ownership of the process. National and regional approaches will be stronger if they involve all relevant ministries and organizations in an integrated way, and if good practices are shared.
Participants raised the need for capacity building in data and statistics, expressing hope that the UN system and regional organizations would be able to provide this help.
Many agreed that identifying a sub-set of indicators to address at least in the short term would be a practical way forward, but they raised the tension between focusing on the indicators for which countries have existing data and methodology, and focusing on indicators that track the substantive priorities, even if the data and methodology are not yet clear. The consensus was that the substantive priorities should drive the monitoring process, and technical assistance should be sought to fill in the gaps in data and capacity. The SAMOA Pathway identifies SIDS-specific priorities so can serve as the roadmap.
Participants discussed the challenges that would be inherent in preparing the global reviews, especially when the data is not available in a certain area at the national level. For the global review process, UN system agencies will compile the national data in their mandated areas, but they will work in tandem with the national statistical offices, so additional capacity development and support may be needed.
The roundtable concluded with the agreement that the discussion should be ongoing, working toward unified SIDS approaches where appropriate, in addition to strong regional and national approaches. DESA and UNDP pledged to support these approaches in any way possible. It was also agreed that the dialogue between statistics experts and policy makers/negotiators is valuable and should continue.