Opening the first panel of the UN World Data Forum on Monday morning, 16 January 2017, Wu Hongbo, Under-Secretary-General, UN DESA, said the Forum provides a space to create mechanisms that will intensify cooperation on data and statistics across the different spheres where it is generated and used. Amb. Macharia Kamau, Special Envoy for the President of the UN General Assembly (UNGA), on behalf of UNGA President Peter Thomson, underlined the need to: deliver data for sustainable actions to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs); engage reliable providers and producers of data on SDG implementation; and use disaggregated data to address inequalities and ensure no one is left behind.
Other speakers during the morning session shared experiences from South Africa, China and Hungary, and discussed how geographical information systems (GIS) can provide a framework for organizing SDG data. Enrico Giovannini, Co-Chair, Independent Expert Advisory Group on the Data Revolution for Sustainable Development, urged participants to increase the pace of collecting and analyzing data, as the current pace is not sufficient to address the SDGs and lags behind the work being done by private sector institutions. Stefan Schweinfest, Director, Statistics Division, UN DESA, underscored the need for rules and principles in this new “national data architecture” to support national-level decision making. Pali Lehohla, Statistician-General, South Africa, stressed that data are a public good and called for: coordination through standardization; the separation of property interests from data manipulation; and legislative reform that takes into account the SDGs.
Participants proceeded to engage in 26 parallel panels throughout the day, as well as a panel during which the Forum theme of “New approaches to capacity development for better data” was introduced. The Forum’s other themes are: Innovations and synergies across different data ecosystems; Leaving no one behind; Understanding the world through data; Data principles and governance; and The way forward: a Global Action Plan for data.