United Nations Statistical Commission

Overview   50th Session (2019)   Side Events


Advancing Open Data and Interoperability for SDG Reporting


  • Wednesday, 6 MAR 2019
  • 6:15 – 8:15 pm
  • Conference Room 7

Hosted by United Nations Statistics Division and Statistics Denmark

The 50thth United Nations Statistical Commission is an opportunity to expand on the work conducted in 2018 in regards to open data and interoperability for SDG reporting as well as open data for the Fundamental Principles of Official Statistics (FPOS). While many stakeholders and partners are needed to successfully monitor the SDGs, the national statistical office lead the charge. National Statistical Offices (NSOs) have a unique role as leaders within governments to coordinate and release open data as well as monitor and report on the progress towards the SDGs. As countries embark on or continue their reporting efforts for the SDGs, it is critical to ensure open data and interoperability are featured prominently within the creation, implementation, and execution of the platforms.

Background & Rationale

In January 2018, the UN Statistics Division (UNSD) organized a meeting of experts from NSOs, international organizations, as well as donors and solution providers to examine how countries can establish and manage national reporting and dissemination platforms for the SDG indicators. The meeting highlighted the need to find solutions for monitoring and reporting and to assist the countries who have yet to implement fully functioning national reporting platforms. Its outcome document, which was submitted to the 49th session of the UN Statistical Commission in March 2018, proposed a set of guidelines for such platforms: principles of clear institutional arrangements, fitness for purpose, sustainability, and interoperability and recommended that national reporting platforms be consistent with open data principles and best practices.

Expanding on the earlier work, on September 26th, 2018, Open Data for Development (OD4D), working with PARIS21, Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data (GPSDD), World Bank, International Development Research Centre (IDRC), the United Nations Statistics Division (UNSD), and Open Data Watch, convened an International Open Data Conference (IODC) pre-event on the intersection of open data, interoperability, and national reporting and dissemination platforms for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The event, titled National Reporting for the SDGs: Using open data interoperability to maximize impact, featured representatives from seven national statistical offices (NSOs) who were invited to give their perspectives on SDG reporting and the challenges and opportunities that come alongside it.

At the second UN World Data Forum, held in October 2018 in Dubai, the collaborative on data interoperability, jointly convened by UNSD and the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Goals (GPSDD), launched a Data Interoperability Guide, which provides a roadmap for enhancing data interoperability in the field of sustainable development, with the aim to improve the integration and reusability of data and data systems. The Guide is structured around five areas needed to scale interoperability, namely: (1) Data management and governance; (2) Canonical data and metadata models; (3) Classifications and vocabularies; (4) Standardized interfaces; and (5) Linked open data.

The Center for Open Data Enterprise (CODE), UNICEF, and the UN Statistics Division (UNSD), also held a session on national data platforms for SDG reporting, which brought together countries, solutions providers, and international agencies to share their experiences with SDG reporting platforms and discuss how principles and guidelines from the international community have shaped their approaches.

In addition to conferences and events, there is ongoing work to review and assess the Fundamental Principles of Official Statistics (FPOS) and determine how open data can be better incorporated and implemented. At the 49th session of the Statistical Commission, a Friends of the Chair Group was created based on the decision of the Statistical Commission (FOC-FPOS) to work on selected dimensions of the implementation of the Fundamental Principles. In 2018, a sub-group on open data under the FOC-FPOS was created to work on principles, guidance and support for implementation of open data in countries. The Group will report back to the Statistical Commission at its fiftieth session on the work of the Group regarding the Fundamental Principles of Official Statistics and the work on open data with a set of recommendations on whether its work is complete or needs to continue, especially given that the open data mandate is new. By integrating open data with current work on the Fundamental Principles of Official Statistics, the global statistical community can re-think broadly how to implement the Principles in light of new data needs.

Aims & Objectives

The value of national data, including SDG data and metadata platforms is greatly increased by the incorporation of open data principles and data interoperability standards. These principles and standards allow users to seamlessly access, integrate, analyze and use data for decision making. This event particularly aims to promote and enable the implementation of open data and interoperability for SDG data reporting. The session has several main objectives:

  • Link ongoing initiatives at the international level, such as outcomes from the UNSD conference on national platforms for SDG reporting, the ongoing work of the FOC-FPOS and the Collaborative for SDG Interoperability, with those at the national level;
  • Strengthen links between the open data, interoperability, and official statistics communities;
  • Create a mutual understanding of the interoperability and open data standards for SDG reporting and share good practices to support systems to be able to implement both elements successfully;
  • Identify synergies with related initiatives in order to introduce open data and data interoperability principles, standards and best practices into the training workshops and technical assistance missions held at national level.

With these goals in mind, the session will focus on answering the following questions:

  • What are the main challenges facing national statistical systems to report on the SDGs and implement standards in open data and interoperability while doing so?
  • What is needed at the national level to build capacity to implement open data and interoperability practices?
  • How should our international principles and standards on official statistics better reflect and incorporate elements of open data and interoperability?
  • How do the recommendations offered by the FOC-FPOS impact ongoing country work and SDG reporting?

Format & Agenda

The session will be 75-minutes long. It will feature three speakers from national statistical offices who will each share their experiences in SDG reporting with focusing on implementing open data and interoperability. These presentations will be focused on what is working and where challenges and barriers remain. The session will also incorporate a presentation from an outside expert. The session will conclude with summary remarks of all the presentations before a round of discussion with the audience.


  1. Introductory Remarks, Scene Setting
    Francesca Perucci Chief, Development Data and Outreach Branch, United Nations Statistics Division
    Niels Ploug Director for Social Statistics, Statistics Denmark

  2. Presentation from Statistical Institute of Jamaica, focusing on country experience of SDG reporting
    Carol Coy Director General, Statistical Institute of Jamaica
  3. Presentation focusing on country experience of SDG reporting
    Jørgen Elmeskov National Statistician, Statistics Denmark
  4. Presentation from Statistics New Zealand, focusing on the ongoing work on the Fundamental Principles of Official Statistics
    Liz MacPherson Government Statistician and Chief Executive, Statistics New Zealand
  5. Remarks summing up and connecting the presentations
    Shaida Badiee Managing Director, Open Data Watch
  6. Q&A with audience

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