Welcome to UNSD

UNSD   Frequently Asked Questions

UNSD


    About

  • What are the four main interlinked areas of the work of UNSD?
  • The Division works in four main interlinked areas:

  • Data: collection, processing and dissemination of statistical information
  • Methodology: standardization of statistical methods, classifications and definitions
  • Capacity Development: technical cooperation programme
  • Coordination: coordination of international statistical programmes and activities



  • What are the main functions of UNSD?
  • The mandate and substantive focus of UNSD translate into seven core functions:

  • Provides a global centre for data on international trade, national accounts, energy, industry, environment and demographic and social statistics gathered from national and international sources
  • Promotes international standards of methods, classifications and definitions used by national agencies
  • Assists Member States, at their request, to improve their statistical services by giving advice and training
  • Coordinates international statistical programmes and activities entrusted to the Division by the United Nations Statistical Commission and the Committee for the Coordination of Statistical Activities (CCSA)
  • Provides input and secretarial support to the United Nations Statistical Commission
  • Facilitates the follow-up and review process of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, acting as Secretariat of the Inter-agency and Expert Group on SDG indicators and maintaining the global SDG indicators database
  • Promotes modern surveying and mapping techniques as a tool for growth and development


  • What projects of training has UNSD developed to assist countries in managing and improving their data?
  • UNSD is implementing a wide range of workshops and events oriented on the strengthening of countries capacity-building in several subject-matter areas.


  • How is the UNSD Publication Programme organized?
  • The Statistics Division produces publications that can be categorized as either recurrent data publications that regularly report statistics in yearbooks and/or other compendiums released sub annually, or non-recurrent methodological publications, i.e. handbooks, manuals and guidelines that describe the characteristics, concepts, definitions, classifications, recommendations and/or methods and other metadata associated with or underpinning the data or the collection and management of the data. The Statistics Division pursues an integrated strategy of disseminating its publications in print and electronic formats. Currently all of the latest data publications issued by the Division in print can also be accessed electronically and free of charge from the Division’s website.

    The periodicity of Statistics Division publications is determined either by the frequency by which new data are available or collected in case of recurrent data publications; or by the demand to revise a methodological publication in the case of non-recurrent publications. The Statistics Division prepares general statistical data compilations in print, including the Statistical Yearbook, Monthly Bulletin of Statistics, and statistical data compilations in special fields, including demographic and population statistics, international merchandise trade, national accounts, industrial commodities production, energy, social statistics and indicators, gender statistics and human settlements.


  • What were the most salient 2018 achievements of UNSD?
  • The Statistics Division´s achievement in 2018 were:

  • Global SDG Progress Report 2018 successfully launched at the HLPF, along with the SDG country data base with continuously improving data visualizations and other user-friendly features.
  • Support to the negotiations of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration by providing guidance on issues related to statistics.
  • Second UN World Data Forum convened in Dubai (October 2018): close to 2,000 participants (from public and private sector, policy makers, academia and civil society representatives); launch of the Dubai Declaration on Supporting the Implementation of the Cape Town Global Action Plan for Sustainable Development Data.
  • Successful technical country support through UNSD-DFID project on SDG monitoring; Conducted SDG data capacity gap assessments in most of the 20 pilot countries as well as workshops on SDMX and on metadata.
  • The newly established Global Network of Institutions for Statistical Training (GIST) brought together key providers of training in official statistics to identify avenues for collaboration and address common challenges in responding to the data needs of the 2030 agenda.
  • Successful implementation of a large capacity building programme in support of national information systems (statistics and geospatial information): UNSD organized 88 events, including workshops, seminars, expert meetings, study visits and e-learning courses, training about 2,500 participants from around the world; it is worth noting that the number of e-learning courses doubled to 24 in 2018; UNSD, furthermore, continued the successful management of a multi-million extra-budgetary capacity building portfolio (Development Account, China, UK, Australia, UN-Women, EU); special mention should be made of the Development Account project, the “Programme for Statistics and Data”, which strengthens national statistical systems for the follow-up and review of the SDGs, including by addressing specific data gaps, and is successfully being implemented by UNSD in cooperation with all Regional Commissions, UNCTAD, UNEP, UNODC and UN Habitat.
  • Further development of an effective and innovative data collection and data dissemination programme: servicing of the Fifth Committee and Committee on Contribution with relevant analysis and national accounts data base for the scales of assessments for the years 2019-2021.
  • Launched the ninth round of environmental data collection through the UNSD/UNEP Questionnaire on Environment Statistics where several variables contribute to the monitoring of selected SDG indicators on waste and water.
  • Completion of research and methodological development activities to produce international statistical standards and methods, under the guidance of the UN Statistical Commission: Handbook on Satellite Account on Nonprofit and Related Institutions and Volunteer Work; Handbook on Supply, Use and Input-Output Tables with Extensions and Applications; Handbook on Accounting for Global Value Chains: GVC Satellite Accounts and Integrated Business Statistics; Civil Registration and Vital Statistics Systems: Handbook on Management, Operations and Maintenance, Revision 1; Guidelines on the Use of Electronic Data Collection Technologies in Population and Housing Censuses; Guidelines to measure assets ownership from a gender perspective; Technical report on producing statistics on entrepreneurship from a gender perspective; International Classification of Activities for Time Use Statistics (ICATUS); Revision of the Classification of Individual Consumption According to Purpose; Technical Recommendations in support of the System of Environmental Economic Accounting (SEEA) Ecosystem Accounting; launched the revision of the SEEA Experimental Ecosystem Accounting and completed E-learning on Ecosystem Accounting, Water and Energy Accounting.
  • Successful technical country support in the implementation of previously adopted international statistical standards, guidelines and programmes: 2020 Programme on Population and Housing Censuses; International Programme for Accelerating the Improvement of Civil Registration and Vital Statistics Systems; Evidence and Data for Gender Equality (EDGE) programme; Measuring International Migration through Population Censuses; 2008 System of National Accounts; International Merchandise Trade Statistics; Statistics of International Trade in Services; System of Environmental Economic Accounting, in particular in the context of the EU funded project on Natural Capital Accounting and Valuation of Ecosystem Services, which focuses on Brazil, China, India, Mexico and South Africa; Framework for the Development of Environment Statistics;
  • Better integration of statistical and geospatial data and their application to the 2030 SDGs through the UN Global Geospatial Information Management Programme; adoption and launch of the Integrated Geospatial Information Framework, a collaborative project between UNSD and the World Bank to build geospatial capacity and knowledge in countries to make informed and evidence-based decisions to address development challenges; convened the first United Nations World Geospatial Information Congress in Deqing, China, 19-21 November 2018. With the theme "The Geospatial Way to a Better World" the Congress focused on the use of new technologies and establishing private-public partnerships in support of the 2030 Agenda and resonated with over 2000 participants and exhibitors from all continents.


  • What is the innovation strategy or action plan in the United Nations Statistics Division?
  • UNSD has developed an innovation strategy, with the creation of a unit that directly reports to the head of the division. There is frequent articulation for internal innovation, invitation of experts and practitioners to inform on strategy and operations. Action plans or policies have already been implemented on topics such as Big Data, Data Privacy and Open-source licensing of data; and are under planification for analytics, artificial intelligence, digital and innovation talent, digital transformation of the organization and Open Data. There are initiatives for foster agility, collaboration and risk-taking, also, mobile applications for iOS and Android are on the way. There are partnerships with organizations from the private sector like Positium from Estonia, Nielsen from Canada and Esri from the USA, to governmental offices. There is also a partnership with the Flowminder Foundation from Sweden and the UN Global Pulse.


  • How is the structural organization of UNSD helping in reaching the 2030 Agenda?
  • While maintaining its fundamental focus on major substantive areas and the full integration of data, methodology and capacity development functions, in 2018, the Division streamlined, rationalized and modernized its overall structure along three substantive branches and two innovation-oriented branches.

    The Economic Statistics Branch, the Demographic and Social Statistics Branch, and the Environment Statistics and Geospatial Information Branch correspond to the three substantive pillars of sustainable development (economic, social and environment). The Development Data and Outreach Branch includes the Sustainable Development Goals Monitoring Section, the Development Data Section and a Web Development and Data Visualization Unit. The Branch has a renewed focus on the integration of different data sources of official statistics, the promotion of data interoperability and collaboration among partners from all stakeholder groups, and the improvement of data flows and global reporting of the SDGs. The newly created Data Innovation and Capacity Branch consolidates and streamlines data innovation activities across the Division and conducts strategic management of the division’s extensive technical and institutional statistical capacity building programmed in support of the 2030 SDG agenda.

    The strategic realignment of the Division organization has facilitated the quick implementation of innovation projects, such as the Federated Information System for the SDGs initiative, which is already establishing a network of national and global data hubs for the SDGs, bringing together the integration of statistical and geospatial information for the implementation of the SDGs.


  • What is the role of UNSD in the UN System?
  • In the field of statistics, the United Nations Statistics Division has a unique role in setting global statistical standards, pulling all SDG data together and coordinating the work of the entire UN Statistical System in capacity building to strengthen national statistical systems under the leadership of national statistical offices. This central role stems from the UNSD role as Secretariat of the Statistical Commission, ensuring that countries are clearly in the driving seat.

    UNSD has reviewed its entire work programme and oriented it towards the support of the SDGs. This refers to reorienting traditional work areas such as census programmes and survey programmes as well as adding numerous new, innovative work elements such as the global support for the development and refinement of the indicator framework, the publication of the annual SDG data report and the organization of the UN World Data Forum. These initiatives mobilize support through partnerships with relevant stakeholders, such as data users, data scientists, academia and the private sector, in particular the technology sector.

    UNSD works closely with UN agencies and related organizations to coordinate their efforts to provide effective assistance to countries to significantly strengthen national statistical capacities to meet the data demands of the SDG agenda. UNSD has also intensified its work on global geospatial information management, in particular the integration of statistical and geospatial information. UNSD is providing unique leadership in this field, which is based on its technical specialized knowledge, which is not available anywhere else in the UN System.



    Events and cooperation

  • What publications and reports from UNSD inform the High-Level Political Forum (HLPF)?
  • Annual Sustainable Development Goals Report (parliamentarian and glossy versions). These annual reports review progress and gaps for all 17 goals.
  • For 2019, the Special Edition of the Report of the Secretary-General on progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals, which was prepared jointly with other divisions in DESA.


  • How does UNSD contribute to the work of the High-Level Political Forum?
  • UNSD prepares the annual report of the Secretary-General on Progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals, which is an input into the deliberations of Member States for the HLPF 2030 Agenda, para 83. In addition, UNSD also prepares an annual glossy publication: The Sustainable Development Goals Report, which presents data and analysis on SDGs for a wider audience with charts, infographics and analysis on selected indicators for which data are already available . The two progress reports on the Sustainable Development Goals provide an overview of progress made towards the 17 Goals of the 2030 Agenda highlighting the most significant gaps, challenges and progress made.

    UNSD participates in a DESA team to provide capacity building workshops for supporting countries to prepare Voluntary National Reviews.


  • What is the United Nations World Geospatial Information Congress?
  • The United Nations World Geospatial Information Congress (UNWGIC) is a gathering of the global geospatial and associated technology and services communities, users and stakeholders, providing all participants with an effective platform to exchange ideas, knowledge and experience, learn of technological developments, and explore new and stronger cooperation towards measuring and monitoring the SDGs. Senior ministers and government officials, as well as other globally prominent speakers, are engaged in this congress.

    The ultimate aim of the Congress is to provide an enabling and convening environment whereby geospatial information is able to meet the world and be better communicated, known and understood, and to enable the United Nations Global Geospatial Information Management (UN-GGIM) to better understand and address the status of geospatial information development of Member States. The focus of the Congress is on how geospatial information can contribute to: attaining sustainable development; sharing the digital economy; building smart societies; and growing international cooperation; for building a human data and geography community, against the three pillars of sustainable development, for a shared future and a better world, in which all are able to be counted within an inclusive global society.


  • When was the first United Nations World Geospatial Information Congress?
  • The United Nations, through the Statistics Division of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, in collaboration with the Government of China through the National Administration of Surveying, Mapping and Geoinformation and the Government of Zhejiang Province, under the guidance of the United Nations Global Geospatial Information Management (UN-GGIM), convened the first United Nations World Geospatial Information Congress (UNWGIC) in Deqing, Zhejiang Province, China from 27-29 November 2018.

    With the overarching theme “Where Geospatial Information Meets the World” this pre-eminent and global Congress reflected the importance of geospatial information to support technological development in local to global implementations of the SDGs and 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, as well as the importance of international coordination and cooperation for building a human geography community for a shared future and better world in which all are able to be counted within an inclusive global society.


  • What is the UN World Data Forum?
  • The United Nations World Data Forum is a milestone among the important United Nations’ events that seeks to ensure the full implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development to improve the lives of all people and ensure the future of our planet.

    The Forum was the result of a recommendation in the report, A World That Counts: Mobilizing the Data Revolution for Sustainable Development, which was presented in November 2014 by the UN Secretary-General’s Independent Expert Advisory Group on a Data Revolution for Sustainable Development.The UN Statistical Commission decided that this event would be the suitable platform for intensifying cooperation with various professional groups, such as national statistical offices (NSOs), information technology and geospatial information managers, and data scientists among other representatives of government, intergovernmental organizations and civil society.

    Convened under the umbrella of the United Nations, the UN World Data Forum is uniquely positioned to bridge the official statistics community with providers and users of innovative data sources, to build political and financial support, and a pathway to better data for sustainable development. The UN World Data Forum also provides an opportunity to focus on regional collaboration for statistics and data on sustainable development. It brings together data leaders from diverse stakeholder groups, including national and international statistical systems, academia, business community and civil society, to exchange ideas, find solutions, discuss future strategy, and provide mutual learning opportunities on a wide variety of topics, and provides a platform to raise political commitment, including supporting the development of data and statistical systems.


  • When was the first UN World Data Forum?
  • The first UN World Data Forum, hosted by the Government of South Africa and Statistics South Africa, was convened from 15-18 January 2017, in Cape Town, South Africa.

    Over 1,400 participants attended the over 80 sessions organized under six themes: new approaches to capacity development for better data; 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. During the over 80 sessions, including 322 speakers, participants had the opportunity to engage in technical and policy-level discussions geared towards producing and using data and statistics to ensure and monitor progress towards the 2030 Agenda.


  • What are the outcomes of the United Nations World Data Forum?
  • There were many important achievements showcased at the UN World Dara Forum. Among the most influential outcomes is the Cape Town Global Action Plan and the Dubai Declaration.

    Other outcomes from the UN World Data Forum include: new guidelines on data interoperability (a data collaborative co-led by the UN Statistics Division and the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data) ; the development of indicators under goals 6 and 9 based on the integration of earth observations and other data sources; the development of an SDG platform integrating geospatial information and statistics; and effective use of cell phone records overlaid with other population data sources for various uses, among many others. In addition, some important new work streams have gained traction that have implications at the global level, including open data, trust in data, and the development of governance and principles for data ethics, among others.


SDG monitoring


    2030 Agenda

  • How does the United Nations Statistics Division play an active role in the 2030 Agenda?
  • UNSD works closely together with partners in the UN family and beyond, coordinating efforts to effectively aid countries to strengthen their national statistical capacities to meet the data demands of the SDG agenda. Partners from governments, civil society, academia and private sector work with UNSD to pioneer in new ways to address the challenges and opportunities of data interoperability, including identifying tools and developing platforms for different data ecosystems to work with one another across institutional, sectoral and organizational boundaries.


  • What initiatives has UNSD taken for capacity-building in countries for the monitoring of the 2030 Agenda?
  • The joint Programme on Statistics and Data under the 10th Tranche of the Development Account (2016-2020) was launched to strengthen national statistical systems for the follow-up and review of the SDG's. UNSD and the five regional commissions collaborate on regional conferences for heads of statistical offices to find solutions on capacity development. A programme under the 11th Tranche Development Account is under implementation to strengthen geospatial information management in developing countries. Other projects, including the UNSD-DFID Project on SDG Monitoring sponsored by the Department for International Development , which aims to make the SDG's data available to the widest audience possible, assist countries in building their own relevant national information systems, data architectures, and address issues pertaining to methodology, quality, technology, data access, legislation, privacy, management and finance.


  • How has UNSD supported events designed to facilitate exchange of experience, peer and mutual learning?
  • The first United Nations World Data Forum took place in Cape Town, South Africa in 2017, and the second took place in Dubai, United Arab Emirates in 2018, with support from UNSD acting as Secretariat. The UN Statistical Commission has agreed to organize regularly (every two years) the UN World Data Forum following the recommendation by the UN Secretary General's Independent Expert and Advisory Group on a Data Revolution for Sustainable Development. The event is a unique opportunity for major producers and users of data and statistics to collaborate in launching new initiatives and innovative solutions that will deliver better data on all aspects of sustainable development. The first Forum concluded with the launch of the Cape Town Global Action Plan for better data to improve people's lives, and the presentation of new ideas and solutions to boost the collaboration, resources and policies needed to put the plan into action. The second Forum concluded with the launch of the Dubai Declaration to increase financing for better data and statistics for sustainable development, and the third Forum will be hosted by the Government of the Switzerland in Bern from 18 to 21 October 2020.


  • What decisions have been made in the UN to guide the monitoring of the SDGs and 2030 Agenda implementation?
  • At its 46th session in March 2015 (decision 46/101), the UN Statistical Commission established the Inter-Agency and Expert Group on SDG indicators(IAEG-SDGs) with the task of developing and implementing the Global SDG Indicator Framework for the follow-up and review of the progress towards achieving the SDGs. Through an open and transparent process involving all stakeholders, the IAEG-SDGs developed the global indicator framework which was adopted by the General Assembly in July 2017(A/RES/71/313). Based on the global indicator framework, an annual SDG progress report and a global SDG indicator database is prepared by UNSD with inputs from the whole UN system.
  • In March 2015, (Decision 46/101) the UN Statistical Commission also established theHigh-level Group for Partnership, Coordination and Capacity-Building for Statistics for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development(HLG-PCCB). The Group was tasked with providing strategic leadership for the SDG implementation process as it concerns statistical monitoring and reporting, recommending priority areas to target funding for statistical capacity-building and advocate for resource mobilization.
  • The Cape Town Global Action Plan for Sustainable Development Data , developed by the HLG-PCCB and launched at the first United Nations World Data Forum in Cape Town, South Africa, in January 2017, provides the framework for discussion, planning, implementation and evaluation of statistical capacity-building pertaining to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. At the second United Nations World Data Forum held in Dubai in October 2018, the group put forward the Dubai Declaration calling for the establishment of an innovative funding mechanism to address unprecedented data needs for SDGs. This financing facility would contribute to the coordination and support of capacity building efforts to strengthen and build national statistical systems.
  • The UN Statistics Division has developed an Open SDG Data Hub, a Federated System that allow countries to bring together different data sources integrated with geospatial information for evidence-based decision-making and advocacy at the national level and link their open sites to the UN SDG Data Hub at the global level. Through the Data Hub, SDG indicators are referenced across geospatial web services to produce maps and other data visualizations. An SDG API was also developed to facilitate the use of the global SDG database by users and other portals.


  • Does UNSD have any collaboration with other UN entities to achieve coherence and synergies in the monitoring of the 2030 Agenda?
  • The Statistical Commission established the Committee of the Chief Statisticians of the United Nations System on 10 September 2014 (decision 45/12) The Committee members comprise the statistical services of UN funds and programmes, specialized agencies and the Secretariat, as well as the regional economic and social commissions. The terms of reference were adopted in 2016 and the Committee reported for the first time in 2017. The secretariat is situated at the Statistics Division.

    UNSD is also the secretariat of Inter-Agency and Expert Group on SDG indicators (IAEG-SDGs) and coordinates the global efforts of monitoring of the SDGs with international and regional organizations.


  • What is the 2030 Agenda?
  • The 2030 Agenda is an action plan for people, planet, and prosperity. With the pledge of “leaving no one behind”, the 2030 Agenda strives to attain the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, with 169 targets. The areas of focus are the people, the planet, prosperity, peace and partnership.


  • What is a Voluntary National Review?
  • The 2030 Agenda encourages members to “conduct regular and inclusive reviews of progress at the national and sub-national levels, which are country-led and country-driven” (paragraph 79) . Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) are part of the follow‐up and review of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Such reviews are carried out by the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) under the auspices of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). They are to be voluntary, state-led, undertaken by both developed and developing countries, and provide a platform for partnerships, including through the participation of Major Groups and other stakeholders. VNRs allow the sharing of experiences, including successes, challenges and lessons learned, with a view to accelerating the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.



    Data and indicators

  • Where can I find information on SDG progress?
  • The United Nations provides information in the Global SDG Indicators Database, which provides access to data compiled through the UN System. The information can be selected by goal or indicator. The years and geographic areas with available data are also shown.


  • What are the data challenges of the 2030 Agenda?
  • The implementation of the 2030 agenda and the review of the progress towards the SDGs require data on a vast range of policy issues, including in areas that were not traditionally covered by the official statistical system. The demands are great and pose enormous challenges to every statistical system in the world.

    UNSD works closely with UN system partners and countries in bringing together actors from different data ecosystems in order to ensure that the new sources and methods become accessible and usable for monitoring progress in the 2030 Agenda. The aim is to integrate new methods and sources into existing global and national data systems. It is especially important not to create new, parallel data infrastructures at the country level that may divert focus and resources needed to develop the national data infrastructure for the SDGs.

    Simply providing data is not enough for technical experts to be able to use them effectively. It is imperative to establish a minimum level of SDG data literacy within and across governments, intergovernmental organizations, non-governmental organizations, and other user groups from private sector and academia, in order to effectively share, understand and utilize data and information for the implementation and monitoring of the 2030 Agenda. In this context, UNSD, in coordination with ongoing efforts across the UN System, plays an important role in promoting data literacy, data interoperability, and collaboration on data production and accessibility across all stakeholders.

    There are already successful examples of new methods being used to exploit new data sources, such as citizen-generated data and the integration of geospatial information with other data and statistics. These can complement official statistics from surveys, censuses and administrative sources (for example, to provide information for periods between survey or census rounds, and information on uncounted populations or understudied environmental issues).


  • How is Big Data being considered for monitoring the 2030 Agenda?
  • Innovation and modernization of statistical production is an obligation for every national statistical system, even more so at this moment due to increased demand for official data to monitor progress on achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. Big Data sources - such as satellite data, mobile phone data, social media data or scanner data (transactional data) - are granular and timely. Together with the traditional data sources, such as census data, survey data and administrative data, Big Data can help in meeting the increased data demand. The UN Statistical Commission mandated (decision 45/110) a global working group (of national and international statistical experts) in 2014 to develop guidance on the use of Big Data for official statistics. Together with the private sector and academia, this working group organizes global conferences and training. This global working group promotes and advances the development of global collaboratives for trusted data, services and applications to support the national statistical systems of developed and developing countries.

    These global collaboratives address the need for interconnected networks to facilitate:

  • The exchange of ideas and methods for processing, analyzing and visualizing big data between official statisticians, data scientists and domain experts from the public and private sectors;
  • The storage, sharing and exchange of big data, related processing, analytical and visualization methodologies, and services and applications for continuous development and reuse;
  • The development, jointly between the official statistical community and private sector technology companies, of a trusted data architecture so different types of data can be shared safely and securely;
  • Capacity building via a library of training materials and other resources, also conduct workshops on big data and new analytical techniques.


  • How is the progress of the SDGs statistically monitored?
  • An annual report on progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals is launched in advance of the HLPF deliberations, as mandated by 2030 Agenda, para. 83. The yearly Sustainable Development Goals Report is accompanied by an online database containing country and regional figures. In addition, the data and metadata for more than 170 indicators are also available online, including for some indicators for which data is currently not available.

    The report is prepared annually by the Secretary-General in cooperation with the United Nations system. It is based on a global indicator framework developed by the Inter-Agency and Expert Group on Sustainable Development Goal Indicators, which was adopted by the General Assembly in March 2017 (A/RES/71/313).

    The report provides an overview of global progress towards the 17 Goals of the 2030 Agenda, based on a selection of indicators. For most indicators presented in the report, values represent global, regional and sub regional aggregates. They are calculated from data from national statistical systems, compiled by international agencies, on the basis of their respective mandates and specialized expertise. The national data are often adjusted for international comparability and, where lacking, estimations are made by international agencies.


  • Can SDG progress be viewed by country?
  • Yes, the UN Statistics Division offers an interactive dashboard and information per country regarding SDGs monitoring.


  • What actions are taken to respond to the challenge of quality data for the SDG indicators?
  • The data needs of the SDGs are evolving, and it is imperative that the different data communities work together to ensure a comprehensive monitoring of the 2030 Agenda. The global community of official statistics understands that it cannot deliver this necessary information alone, it needs to partner with other government agencies, technology companies, research institutes and civil society organizations. For example, satellite data in combination with population statistics are being used to measure how many people in rural areas have access to all season roads. Mobile position data in combination with satellite data are being used to estimate the number of new migrants, including migrant children. Those initiatives are undertaken by the statistical community under the leadership of the United Nations Statistical Commission and in partnership with global technology companies.

    The statistical community has organized itself around the development of methodologies for all SDG indicators, and is actively working with national government agencies, academia, research institutes and private sector companies to use all available data sources in the compilation of indicators and to disseminate them with sub-national detail and brake them down by marginalized groups. Active partnership discussions are going on with global technology companies and global data providers. This work is also building on existing partnerships, such as the Partnership in Statistics for Development in the 21st Century (PARIS21). New solutions are being developed that leverage the power of new data sources and technologies.

    Some major events which have showcased these initiatives:

  • The UN World Data Forum brings together data experts from national statistical offices, the private sector, civil society, the scientific and academic communities, and international agencies to foster collaboration and innovation. This Forum is supported by the statistical community and can build additional support for a common political commitment to fill the SDG data gaps.
  • The UN Global Working Group on Big Data for Official Statistics has engaged in building a platform for active data collaboration among all trusted partners, including specific country projects with global technology and data companies.
  • The statistical and geospatial communities are closely collaborating to maximize the benefits the geospatial community can bring to the table in responding to the SDG data needs. The first United Nations World Geospatial Information Congress took place on 19-21 November 2018 in Deqing, China.
  • The International Conference on Big Data is held to demonstrate that Big Data can help in meeting SDG data needs.

    Timely, frequent and relevant data improve decision making and therefore increase our chances to achieve the SDGs. However, this also means that increased political and financial support for data is needed, which will help to further develop national statistical systems in every country, including through international financial support where needed.


  • When were the indicators for the SDG adopted by the GA?
  • The indicators for statistical monitoring of the SDGs were adopted by the General Assembly on 6 July 2017, in the Resolution on Work of the Statistical Commission pertaining to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.


  • What is the Global Indicator Framework of the SDGs?
  • To fully implement and monitor progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals, there is a great demand for quality, accurate, open, timely, sufficiently and disaggregated data and statistics. The Inter Agency Expert Group on SDG Indicators(IAEG-SDGs), established by the Statistical Commission in 2015 (Decision 46/101) with the task of developing the indicator framework and addressing related methodological issues, is composed of 27 members representing national statistical systems.

    The Global Indicator Framework was developed by the IAEG-SDGs through an open inclusive and transparent process, with inputs from all stakeholders, and adopted by the General Assembly on 6 July 2017 in its resolution A/RES/71/313. The agreed global indicator framework contains 232 indicators, covering all goals and targets of the 2030 Agenda and serves for monitoring progress towards the SDGs at the global level.

    The Statistical Commission also recognized that the development of a robust and high-quality indicator framework is a technical process that will need to continue over time. The global indicators will be yearly refined and comprehensively reviewed by the UN Statistical Commission in 2020 and 2025. The IAEG-SDGs continues to work in an open, inclusive and transparent manner to ensure that indicators are fully implemented so that all goals and targets are appropriately reviewed and no individual or group are left behind. The group also has a dedicated work stream on data disaggregation along with working groups that are examining issues on SDMX, geospatial information and interlinkages.

    The global database accompanies the Sustainable Development Goals Report and provides transparency on the data used for global SDG monitoring. The data and accompanying metadata have been provided by international agencies and entities according to their respective mandates. The database contains unique data series, and data records on global, regional and national data, starting from the year 2000. It also provides data for the Least Developed Countries, Land Locked Developing Countries, Small Island Developing States and other groupings.


  • Which are the Global Indicators for the SDGs?
  • Both the official list of indicators for the SDG's and the metadata can be found in the official site of the SDG indicators.


  • Who is in charge of the Global Indicator Framework?
  • At its 46th session in March 2015, the UN Statistical Commission (Decision 46/101) formed the Inter-Agency and Expert Group on SDG Indicators (IAEG-SDGs) to work on a road map for the development and implementation of an indicator framework.

    On 25 September 2015, the General Assembly adopted the 2030 Agenda in its resolution A/RES/70/1, and established that its goals and targets be followed up and reviewed using a set of global indicators at the national and regional levels. The global indicator framework would be developed by the Inter-Agency and Expert Group on Sustainable Development Goal Indicators, with the goal of being simple yet robust, address all Sustainable Development Goals and target and means of implementation.


  • What is the role of Information and Communication Technologies in the statistical monitoring of the 2030 Agenda?
  • There is a great potential to harness ICT to find innovative solutions to challenges in the production and utilization of data for the 2030 Agenda. The statistical community is actively exploring these new ways of measuring, which provide timelier and more granular data. Collaborative fashion methods and algorithms are being shared and satellite data is being made available.

    Sustained geospatial information and Earth observations contribute towards supporting the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, via the provision of long-term, reliable measurements of key physical variables that characterize the variability and changes in the state of the Earth. Data products derived from these observations are used for a range of societal applications including water management, agricultural production, disease early warning, response to disasters, weather forecasting, and climate prediction, among others. Earth observing programs such as NASA-USGS Landsat and EU Copernicus provide continuous, consistent global data sets.

    UNSD together with the World Bank is developing an overarching integrated geospatial information framework that Member States can reference when developing and strengthening their national geospatial information management, that is tailored to their own national circumstances.


  • What is the role of data in reaching the goals of the 2030 Agenda?
  • Without relevant data on social, economic and environmental challenges, countries cannot design and implement effective evidence-based policies and accurately measure, monitor and report on sustainable development, ensuring that no one is left behind.

    Data availability and accessibility remains one of the biggest challenges to the implementation of the SDGs. The full ambition of the 2030 agenda cannot be realized without quality, timely, relevant, open and disaggregated data. Data are central to both the design of urgent measures and long-term policies that are needed for the achievement of the SDGs—from using current data on maternal and neonatal deaths to inform remedial action plans at the community and facility level, to using earth observations to address issues of food security or access to safe water.

    Bringing data from satellites or mobile phones together with existing data sources show where and how people live. Data can inform about the conditions of people, planet and prosperity in a highly granular, multilayered way, making the invisible visible and revealing the reality behind the call to ‘leave no one behind’. Using data sources and technologies, we can measure better where people are and how they live, and what they would need. Realizing the data revolution for sustainable development will enable data to play its full role in sustainable development by closing key gaps in access and use of data, ensuring that the data cycle matches the decision cycle.


  • What is the role of data in Voluntary National Reviews?
  • Several countries have mentioned data as a crucial concern in their efforts of leaving no one behind. In particular, some countries have stressed that having statistical data available disaggregated by, among other things, sex, age, place of residence, standard of living, type and degree of disability, has been instrumental for monitoring inequality and identifying groups of citizens with special difficulties.

    The need for accurate and timely data to study the prevalence, incidence and multiple dimensions of poverty has also been highlighted by Member States during their Voluntary National Reviews. A number of reviews indicate that substantial efforts have been made at the national level to assess data availability, sources, methodologies, coverage and dissemination, and to identify data gaps. Some of the key challenges mentioned by countries are: data collection, management and disaggregation; and mobilizing financial and technical support for data and monitoring.



    Stakeholders

  • How does the UN Statistical Commission relate to the 2030 Agenda?
  • Among other issues, the Statistical Commission works towards establishing strong systems for reporting on progress towards the sustainable development goals (SDG) at all levels, national, subnational and global. Thus, it strives to develop methodologies to innovate and modernize statistical production operations, to explore ways to integrate all data sources, including new and innovative sources outside the traditional statistical systems, and to analyze, visualize and disseminate data in an open, timely and effective way while ensuring the quality of statistics. It also emphasizes the need for quality, accessible, open, timely and reliable disaggregated data as fundamental for the full implementation of the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development and the realization of its ambition of leaving no one behind.

    The Statistical Commission also highlights the urgent need to strengthen the capacity of national statistical systems, especially in the Least Developed Countries (LDCs), Land Locked Developing Countries (LLDCs), Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and other countries in vulnerable situations, to meet the data demands for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and for monitoring and reporting on the SDG indicators. Furthermore, the Statistical Commission calls for more and better financing to support the national statistical systems in meeting these data demands.


  • Who provides data for the Sustainable Development Goals Report and its database?
  • Custodian agencies are in charge of compiling internationally comparable data on assigned indicators. The UN Statistics Division receives this data and releases an annual SDG report accompanied by a global dataset.


Statistical Commission, GGIM and UNGEGN

  • What is the cooperation process between the Statistical Commission and the regional statistical committees and commissions?
  • The backbone of the regional statistical programmes are the regional statistical committees and commissions, to which all regional commission statistical programmes provide secretariat services. They are part of a well-integrated architecture between the regional intergovernmental bodies and global UN Statistical Commission, for which UNSD acts as the secretariat.

    There exists a well-defined division of labour. The global programme consists of data collection, methodological work and capacity building. Norm and Standard setting are undertaken at global level, and regional commissions provide critically important inputs through expert group meetings and ensuring the concerns of their member states are taken on board. Capacity building is a critical function of regional commission statistical programmes. Data collecting is also global due to comparability requirements, but efficient data sharing arrangements are in place. Statistical offices of the regional commissions add value through specialized data collection and production processes.

    Coordination of statistical programmes and activities at the global level is carried out through the Committee of the Coordination of Statistical Activities (CCSA) and the Committee of the Chief Statisticians of the UN System (CCS-UN). UNSD and the statistical offices of the regional commissions are part of the CCSA and the CCS-UN. Both bodies meet twice a year in the spring in New York (on the margins of the UN Statistical Commission) and for a longer meeting in the fall at varying venues. Both bodies report to the UN Statistical Commission. UNSD and the heads of the statistical offices of the regional commissions hold regular conference calls. UNSD consults regularly with working level contacts at the statistical offices of the regional commissions including but not limited to the planning capacity building activities.


  • What is the United Nations Group of Experts on Geographical Names?
  • In 2017, both the United Nations Conference on the Standardization of Geographical Names and the United Nations Group of Experts on Geographical Names were discontinued and subsumed by a new subsidiary of ECOSOC named the United Nations Group of Experts on Geographical Names (UNGEGN). The new body retains the mandates of the previous two where relevant, as well as the resolutions of the Conference (E/RES/3028/2) and convenes biennial sessions over a period of five days beginning in April 2019. Further to these changes the Expert Group has a new Rules of Procedure and a draft agenda, both approved by ECOSOC (E/2018/264).

    Geographical names constitute the basic reference framework for indicating location and orientation but doubts or ambiguity about the written form or application of a name can lead to confusion. In order to improve communication between peoples, countries and cultures, standardization of geographical names is required. Geographical names standardization is therefore a key element of the communication needed to enable the United Nations to become the world’s most effective voice for international cooperation on behalf of peace, development, migration, refugee resettlement, human rights and the environment. Governments and all sectors of society’s operations depend on authoritative naming of locations, including regional and local authorities, legal institutions, statistical bureaus, tourism authorities, public works departments, transportation companies – air, land and sea, national security agencies, disaster management authorities, users of the internet, businesses and the public in general.

    The core responsibility of UNGEGN is to encourage countries to be responsible for the standardization of geographical names in their jurisdictions. UNGEGN has organized its work to address its core mandate and that of supporting the broader UN system. In recognition of the overarching 2030 Agenda, it has added supporting sustainable development to its agenda; which was addressed for the first time in April 2019.


  • What is the UN Committee of Experts on Global Geospatial Information Management?
  • The Economic and Social Council established the United Nations Committee of Experts on Global Geospatial Information Management (UN-GGIM) in its resolution 2011/24 on 27 July 2011. This followed an extensive three-year consultative process with geospatial information experts from Member States and relevant stakeholders that recognized the urgent need to take concrete action to strengthen international cooperation in the area of global geospatial information management (E/2011/89).

    The UN-GGIM was established in 2011 by ECOSOC as an intergovernmental mechanism to take concrete action to strengthen international cooperation in global geospatial information management. UN-GGIM makes joint decisions and sets directions on the production, application and use of geospatial information within national, regional and global policy frameworks, and provides a forum for Member States to develop and strengthen their national geospatial information management and systems capabilities and capacities. Its mandate includes convening global forums to promote comprehensive dialogue on global geospatial information management with all relevant governments, non-governmental organizations and the private sector.

    With delegates representing the national geospatial information authorities in Member States, UN-GGIM has a technical geospatial program of work that encapsulates a broad range of issues and thematic areas, including: geodesy, fundamental data themes, institutional arrangements, legal and policy, adoption of standards, integration of geospatial and statistical information, disasters, the SDGs, the marine environment, land administration, integrated information systems, geospatial in the UN system, among others.

    For more information, please visit the FAQ section of the UNGGIM.


  • What is the Statistical Commission?
  • The United Nations Statistical Commission is the body in the highest position of the global statistical system. It is the highest decision-making body for international statistical activities and brings together the Chief Statisticians from member states. It was established in 1947, by the UN Economic and Social Council , in the resolution 8 (I) which states that the Commission shall assist the Council:

    1. In promoting the development of national statistics and the improvement of their comparability
    2. In the coordination of the statistical work of specialized agencies
    3. In the development of the central statistical services of the Secretariat
    4. In advising the organs of the United Nations on general questions relating to the collection, analysis and dissemination of statistical information
    5. In promoting the improvement of statistics and statistical methods generally
    For more information please visit: https://unstats.un.org/unsd/statcom


Statistics and data


    Big data

  • What is the UN Global Platform for official statistics?
  • The UN Global Platform is a collaborative research and development environment for trusted data, methods, applications and learning. It builds on partnerships between the global statistical community and technology companies, data providers and academia, and shows that using Big Data with the latest technologies will improve the quality and relevance of official statistics. It is an initiative of the UN Global Working Group on Big Data for Official Statistics, which consists of 28 UN member states and 16 international agencies and was created by the UN Statistical Commission in 2014 to give guidance on use of new data sources and new technologies.

    Collaborative projects are underway on the UN Global Platform using Satellite data and AI technology to get trusted data on the health of the environment regarding peatlands, wetland extent, ground water, river flow, marine litter and more. Similarly, Satellite data and AI are used to measure land cover and land use for estimation of the proportion of agricultural area under productive and sustainable agriculture. Large tech companies, such as Google, Microsoft, Amazon and Alibaba are providing Cloud services and compute power to make it possible to obtain trusted and comparable data for all countries and local areas on this globe. Further, also on the UN Global Platform, statisticians, tech companies and academia jointly develop new methods for measuring usual place of residence and associated human mobility using mobile positioning and social media data with the objective to obtain trusted data for sustainable tourism and for migration and mobility of people.


  • What is the UN Global Working Group on Big Data for Official Statistics?
  • The UN Global Working Group on Big Data for Official Statistics was created in 2014 by the UN Statistical Commission to explore the benefits and challenges of the use of new data sources and technologies for official statistics and SDG indicators. The GWG addresses issues pertaining to methodology, quality, technology, data access, legislation, privacy, management and finance, and provide adequate cost-benefit analyses. The GWG consists currently of 28 countries and 16 international organizations.

    The Commission has requested that the GWG further develops a global collaboration platform for trusted data, methods, partners and learning. This platform will initially be for research and development to share and develop common data, methods, and applications.

    Transparent partnership agreements will need to be developed with private and public sector organizations so that partners in the data collaboratives contribute and derive value through a business model which is sustainable for all stakeholders. Specific projects will be executed on price data, human mobility data, and agriculture and land cover data, as proofs of concept of data collaboration on the global platform. Partnerships are also being forged with industry and prominent academics to research and develop standards and principles for privacy preserving techniques to be used in the development of the global platform where data sources will be combined across a range of data at different levels of sensitivity.

    National statistical offices, private technology companies, proprietary data owners and academia have all expressed interest and a willingness to contribute staff time, training, tools, applications and cloud server facilities, and will move forward to set up a range of collaborative, innovative projects with social impact.


  • What are the UNSD initiatives to ensure high-quality data in non-traditional data sources?
  • The statistical community is continuously exploring the use of new data sources and technologies to innovate and modernize its operations. This commitment has become even more important in the context of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which explicitly calls for strengthening the capacity of national statistical systems to ensure access to high-quality, timely, reliable and disaggregated data to meet the new data demands for monitoring and reporting of progress on the sustainable development goals (SDG) and targets.

    The Statistics Division has been working with Member States and development partners on initiatives to (1) innovate and modernize national statistical systems, (2) strengthen data exchange and communication capabilities, (3) create and strengthen partnerships for innovation, coordination and capacity-building in data-driven sustainable development, and (4) promote greater use of existing data assets within the UN system and by the public. These initiatives show to not only consider the use of new data sources and new technologies, but also the leveraging of strategic partnerships with the private sector. For example, in 2014, the UN Statistical Commission created the Global Working Group on Big Data for Official Statistics to give strategic direction on use of new data sources and technologies.

    In addition, UNSD and its partners collaborate on the development of a federated information system for the SDGs to support policy and decision making at local, national, regional and global levels. This initiative aims to establish a scalable global network of interoperable and country-led SDG data hubs to manage, integrate, and disseminate statistical, geospatial, and other data and information relevant for sustainable development.

    As an outcome of the first UN World Data Forum in Cape Town in January 2017, UNSD and the Global Partnership for Sustainable Data launched a multi-stakeholder collaborative on SDG data interoperability, where members from different stakeholder groups can work together to address data governance issues and to design and prototype technical solutions to specific SDG data interoperability challenges. The collaborative aims to coordinate progress towards a shared vision of a global data ecosystem in which multiple sources of sustainable development data can be easily accessed and integrated seamlessly in applications that enable improved analysis, decision-making and accountability.



    Civil registration, vital statistics and legal identity

  • How is legal identity defined?
  • Legal Identity is defined as the basic characteristics of an individual’s identity (name, sex, place and date of birth) conferred via registration and official certification at birth by an authorized civil registration (CR) authority. If a birth can’t be registered, legal identity can be given by a legally recognized identification authority linked to a CR system to ensure a holistic approach from birth to death. Legal identity is retired by the issuance of a death certificate by a CR authority following death registration. For refugees, Member States are primarily responsible for issuing proof of legal identity, but it can also be provided by an internationally recognized mandated authority.

    Proof of legal identity is defined as a credential (birth certificate, identity card or digital identity credential) recognized as proof of identity provided by law. Marriage, divorce and adoption are life events that may require a legal change in components of a person’s identity such as name and family ties. Without proof of legal identity, individuals may not be able to acquire a nationality and become stateless. Women and children may also be forced to resort to participation in the informal labor market, risk being subjected to extremely poor working conditions, trafficking, sexual exploitation, lack of access to justice and more.


  • Why is legal identity important?
  • Legal identity is a fundamental human right. We cannot hope to achieve the SDGs without closing the global identity gap and ensuring we are truly leaving no one behind. Legal identity—starting from birth—is a game-changer for accelerating progress towards reaching the SDGs. It helps protect against violence, exploitation, abuse & neglect. Without proof of legal identity, individuals may not be able to acquire a nationality and become stateless. In sub-Saharan Africa, around 95 million children under 5 never had their births recorded, and 120 million children don’t have a birth certificate.

    In many countries, proof of legal identity ensures access to education, health care & social services, which in turn helps to break the cycle of poverty and inequality. Without proof of legal identity, individuals—especially women & children—may be forced to resort to participation in informal labour market, and risk being subjected to extremely poor working conditions, trafficking, sexual exploitation and lack of access to justice. If we are to unlock the full potential of the world’s population, we must take a life-cycle approach to identity starting from birth and ending with death.

    Legal identity for all is not only the sustainable solution for closing the global identity gap, but the key to fulfilling the promise to “leave no one behind” and realizing in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Registration systems must be universal and accessible, without discrimination that might prevent or deter marginalized populations from being able to register vital events on a basis of their gender, ethnicity, nationality, or religion.


  • What is the United Nations Legal Identity Expert Group?
  • To have a uniform definition of legal identity, the Deputy Secretary General requested the formation of an expert group under the oversight of the UN Sustainable Development Group’s Strategic Results Group on SDG Implementation, co-chaired by DESA, UNICEF and UNDP. The purpose of the group is to establish a unified UN position in reference to the lifecycle approach to legal identity by promoting the holistic model of civil registration, vital statistics and identity management both at the normative level and on the ground.

    The co-chairs of UNLEIG entertain direct contact with counterparts in the World Bank Group, ensuring that the Identification for Development (ID4D) programme, primarily rolled out in countries in Africa, is fully supported by the UN system on the ground, as well as that it is founded through the build-up of universal civil registration accompanied by the production of comprehensive, regular and accurate vital statistics.

    The group functions around the following four pillars:

    1. Coordinated UN position and approach for implementation (lead: DESA)
    2. Strengthened evidence for action (lead: UNICEF)
    3. Enhanced high-level advocacy and engagement (lead: UNICEF)
    4. Coordinated financing for legal identity Initiative (lead: UNDP)



  • What is the UN LIA?
  • Hundreds of millions of people worldwide lack proof of legal identity. The vast majority are children who were never registered at birth. Legal identity for all - starting from birth - is a game changer to close the global identity gap & fulfil the promise to leave no one behind and achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The strategic and long-term approach for assigning legal identity to every newborn and retiring one’s legal identity after death requires a holistic and systematic development of civil registration – official registering of the occurrence of each vital event in the country very shortly after occurrence – accompanied by the production of reliable, regular and comprehensive vital statistics – without which it is not possible to monitor social and economic development – and identity management mechanisms that will ensure issuance of biometric and secure documents that would follow an individual throughout lifetime. Focusing on only one of these functions would be an opportunity lost.

    UNSD is mandated with the implementation of the International Programme for Accelerating the Improvement of Vital Statistics and Civil Registration (CRVS) System. UNSD has emphasized that it is important and necessary to have a coherent and harmonized approach to civil registration, vital statistics and identity management. The United Nations Legal Identity Agenda (LIA) backed by the Deputy Secretary General, was launched as an approach to support Member States building holistic, country owned, sustainable civil registration, vital statistics and identity management systems. Its efforts focus on closing the global identity gap and, in turn, providing Member States with the vital statistics and demographic information needed for socio economic gains, better public administration, planning and monitoring.

    The UNLIA emphasizes that there is a need to promote and implement a life cycle approach to civil registration, vital statistics and identity management. This means:

  • establishing full and universal civil registration of all the main vital events (births, deaths, marriages, divorces),
  • collecting all the internationally recommended variables,
  • and transmitting them to an ID entity or system (often a population register), which manages and issues biometric identity documents.


  • What is the role of UNSD in vital statistics?
  • The mandate of the United Nations Statistics Division (UNSD) to develop the methodological framework for civil registration and vital statistics dates back to the 1950’s. The original version of the Principles and Recommendations [for a Vital Statistics System] is from 1953. Latest revision revision dates from 2014. Aside from these Principles and Recommendations, there are a number of manuals that guide countries in implementation.

    The most recent manuals are: Handbook on Civil Registration and Vital Statistics Systems: Management, Operation and Maintenance, Guidelines on the Legislative Framework for Civil Registration, Vital Statistics and Identity Management , and Handbook on civil registrations, vital statistics and identity management systems: Communication for Development.



    Environmental-economic accounting

  • What is the System of Environmental-Economic Accounting?
  • The System of Environmental-Economic Accounting (SEEA) is an international statistical standard that brings together economic and environmental information to measure the contribution of the environment to the economy and the impact of the economy to the environment.

    For more information please visit the FAQ section of SEEA.



    Environment statistics

  • What does UNSD do in the area of environment statistics?
  • The Environment Statistics Section of the United Nations Statistics Division (UNSD) is engaged in the development of methodology, data collection, capacity development, and coordination in the fields of environmental statistics and indicators.

    Methodological work includes the elaboration of frameworks (such as the Framework for the Development of Environment Statistics (FDES 2013), concepts, methods, definitions, and data compilation guidelines to support the development and harmonization of national and international statistics on the environment. The development of a Global Set of Climate Change Statistics and Indicators, as mandated by the Statistical Commission at its 47th session, is also currently underway. For more information please see: https://unstats.un.org/unsd/envstats/method.cshtml

    Data collection is implemented through the biennial UNSD/UN Environment Questionnaire on Environment Statistics that started in 1999. UNSD environmental indicators derived from these data, as well as for the eight other themes, are available through two main web-based products: UNSD Environmental Indicators and country snapshots. For more information on the data collection please see: https://unstats.un.org/unsd/envstats/datacollect

    Technical cooperation, training and capacity development is provided through regional and sub-regional projects, international training workshops, fellowship arrangements and assistance to countries. For more information please see: https://unstats.un.org/unsd/envstats/technico

    Coordination of international activities in the field of environmental statistics and indicators is provided through the Intersecretariat Working Group on Environment Statistics (IWG-Env) with UNSD as the Secretariat. For more information please see: https://unstats.un.org/unsd/envstats/coordination

    For more information on the overall work of UNSD on environment statistics please visit https://unstats.un.org/unsd/envstats/ for a description of the work programme and the FAQ section: https://unstats.un.org/unsd/envstats/faq.



    Gender statistics

  • What are gender statistics?
  • Gender statistics are defined as statistics that adequately reflect differences and inequalities in the situation of women and men in all areas of life. In summary, gender statistics are defined by the sum of the following characteristics:

  • Data are collected and presented by sex as a primary and overall classification;
  • Data reflect gender issues;
  • Data are based on concepts and definitions that adequately reflect the diversity of women and men and capture all aspects of their lives;
  • Data collection methods take into account stereotypes and social and cultural factors that may induce gender bias in the data


  • What is the panorama on gender statistics?
  • The latest flagship report, The World’s Women 2015, reveals that while the lives of women and girls around the world have improved in several areas over the last 20 years, progress has been uneven and not fast enough. As it was stated by the former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon “We cannot achieve our 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development without full and equal rights for half of the world’s population, in law and in practice”. Empowering women requires addressing structural issues such as unfair social norms and attitudes as well as developing progressive legal frameworks that promote equality between women and men.

    The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development has raised the profile and importance of data and statistics for the follow-up and review of its implementation. Analysis carried out by the UN Statistics Division, reveals that out of 80 global indicators identified as relevant for gender analysis, only 43 have data currently available for global monitoring and of these only 22 have data disaggregated by sex. An assessment in 2018 pointed out that sufficient and regular data is only available for only 10 out of the 54 gender-specific indicators in the 2030 Agenda. Therefore, initiatives to develop national statistical capacity, particularly on integrating a gender dimension into the different areas of official statistics, should therefore be undertaken on a priority basis.

    UNSD also maintains the Minimum Set of Gender Indicators and its database, which were agreed by the UN Statistical Commission in 2013 (Decision 44/109) as a guide for national production and international compilation of gender statistics.



    Geospatial information

  • What is geospatial information and why is it important?
  • Geospatial information describes the physical location of geographic features and their relationship to other features, providing a digital version of our world, in which all human, economic and environmental activity takes place. Geospatial information is a critical component of the national infrastructure and knowledge economy; a blueprint of what happens where, and the integrative platform for all digital data that has a location dimension to it. All countries and all sectors need geospatial information for national development and decision-making, as it is a major contributor to economic transformation in many countries, including e-government, e-services and e-commerce.

    There is an untapped potential for applying geospatial information and Earth observation technologies as enabling and integrative tools for advancing sustainable development. They provide a cost-effective mean for obtaining essential data on the physical world, particularly for determining ‘where’ change is taking place at sub-national and disaggregated levels. These data and observations are key contributors to national statistical and geospatial information systems.


  • What is the Federated Information System for the Sustainable Development Goals?
  • The Federated Information Systems for the Sustainable Development Goals is composed of national “Data Hubs” which combine statistics and geography to provide repositories of national information, which is then aggregated at a global level. UNSD and its partners collaborate on this project to support policy and decision making at local, national, regional and global levels. This initiative aims to establish a scalable global network of interoperable and country-led SDG data hubs to manage, integrate, and disseminate statistical, geospatial, and other data and information relevant for sustainable development.


  • What guidelines are used by UNSD for the encoding of countries and area codes?
  • The Statistics Division of the United Nations Secretariat uses the M49 standard for the encoding of countries and areas, and groupings of countries and areas. M49 refers to the United Nations publication "Standard Country or Area Codes for Statistical Use" which was originally published as Series M, No. 49. It contains the list of names of countries or areas in alphabetical order, and groupings of countries and areas, and their three-digit numerical codes used for statistical processing purposes by the Statistics Division of the United Nations Secretariat. The latest version of the M49 is available online, where you will find a Q&A section for further information. M49 is included in the SDMX cross-domain concept CL_AREA (see https://sdmx.org/?page_id=3215) and its numerical codes are widely used by other organizations for statistical processing purposes.


  • What is the M49 standard?
  • The United Nations publication "Standard Country or Area Codes for Statistical Use" was originally published as Series M, No. 49 and is now commonly referred to as the M49 standard. M49 contains the list of names of countries or areas in alphabetical order, their three-digit numerical codes used for statistical processing purposes by the Statistics Division of the United Nations Secretariat, and their three-digit alphabetical codes assigned by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). M49 also contains groupings of countries and areas. In general, this list of countries or areas includes those countries or areas for which statistical data are compiled by the Statistics Division of the United Nations Secretariat. The latest version of the M49 is available online.The print version of the standard was issued last in 1999 and previously in 1996, 1982, 1975 and 1970. M49 is prepared by the Statistics Division of the United Nations Secretariat primarily for use in its publications and databases but is also widely used by other organizations. For more information please visit the M49 section on UNSD website, which also includes a Q&A section.



    Industrial statistics

  • Which agency is in charge of industrial statistics?
  • As mandated by the Statistical Commission, the international responsibility for the collection and dissemination of general industrial statistics pertaining to mining, manufacturing, electricity, gas and water industries, was transferred from UNSD to the United Nations Industrial Development Organization Statistics Division in 1994. UNIDO Statistics Division also accepted the responsibility for the index of industrial production and structural business statistics for the mining and utilities sectors since 2015. With these transfers, UNIDO Statistics Division has progressively expanded its industrial statistics data programme .

    Following a joint evaluation by UNSD and UNIDO Statistics Division, the complete transfer of the collection, processing and dissemination industrial statistics data programme from UNSD to UNIDO Statistics Division with the hand-over of the responsibility for commodity production statistics was endorsed by the UN Statistical Commission in 2019 (Decision 50/112).



    Official statistics

  • Is there a set of principles governing official statistics?
  • The need for a set of principles governing official statistics became apparent at the end of the 1980s when countries in Central Europe began to change from centrally planned economies to market-oriented democracies. It was essential to ensure that national statistical systems in such countries would be able to produce appropriate and reliable data that adhered to certain professional and scientific standards. Towards this end, the Conference of European Statisticians developed and adopted the Fundamental Principles of Official Statistics in 1991 (CES/702), which were subsequently adopted in 1992 at the ministerial level by ECE as decision C(47). Statisticians in other parts of the world soon realized that the principles were of much wider, global significance. Following an international consultation process, a milestone in the history of international statistics was reached when the United Nations Statistical Commission at its Special Session of 11-15 April 1994 adopted the very same set of ten principles as the United Nations Fundamental Principles of Official Statistics.

    In 2011, the Statistical Commission discussed the Principles again and acknowledged that they were still as relevant as they had been in the past. The Commission recommended, however, an updated preamble was needed in order to consider new developments. In 2013, the Statistical Commission adopted the revised preamble (Decision 44/102). The Economic and Social Council endorsed the Fundamental Principles in its resolution 2013/21 of 24 July 2013 and the General Assembly did so in its resolution 68/261 of 29 January 2014, after a short informal consultation process.


  • What are the statistical publications of UNSD?
  • The Statistics Division prepares general statistical data compilations in print, including the Statistical Yearbook, Monthly Bulletin of Statistics, and statistical data compilations in special fields, including demographic and population statistics, international merchandise trade, national accounts, industrial commodities production, energy, social statistics and indicators, gender statistics and human settlements.

    The Statistics Division pursues an integrated strategy of disseminating its publications in print and electronic formats. All of the latest data publications issued by the Division in print can also be accessed electronically and free of charge from the Division’s website.


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