Opening Address: Cameron Diver, Deputy Director-General

 The importance of strengthening partnerships, improving coordination and collaboration in Pacific statistics development

Colleagues, friends, distinguished delegates,

Bonjour et bienvenue, Hello and welcome to Pacific Community headquarters.

On behalf of the Pacific Statistics Steering Committee (PSSC), it is my pleasure to thank you for accepting our invitation to participate in this important workshop.

Many of you who are familiar with the Ten Year Pacific Statistics Strategy (TYPSS) Phase 2 (2015-2017) may recall that under Objective 2, Pacific Island Countries are tasked to produce an agreed core set of statistics across key sectors including, but not restricted to, economics, population, CRVS, education and health. This is required by their national/sector plans and agreed-upon regional and international reporting frameworks such as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Linked to this, is the requirement for timely analysis and dissemination of results to national and external users.

If we are honest with ourselves, thus far we have not collectively agreed on this “core set of statistics” to guide new data collection and the production of relevant statistics and analysis. This was highlighted in the recent DFAT commissioned Pacific Statistics Assessment conducted in 2016.

As a result, the Pacific Community is organizing this workshop on behalf of the PSSC to bring Pacific island countries, technical and development partners together. Given the urgency and critical importance of the issue, I would like to share with you my expectations for this meeting, which I hope you will in turn share.

We have too many meetings where we simply talk. How many of us have spent days in debate and discussion, only to find that, in the last half hour, we need to schedule another meeting to continue the work which remains outstanding? We cannot afford to do this here. We need to set an ambitious goal from the outset and stick to it. We have four full days together. We can achieve a lot in four days.

 The workshop has been structured as follows:

  1. The Pacific SDG implementation process will be presented and discussed first. This includes the Pacific SDG Headline Indicators selection and review processes;
  2. The second day is allocated to development and technical partners to inform the meeting on their strategy on statistics in the Pacific in the short to medium term;
  3. The final two days are allocated to sessions on sector specific indicators (other than SDGs) and to the selection of relevant sector specific indicators for the Pacific which would be appended to the Pacific SDG Headline Indicator list to form the so called Pacific Core Statistics List.
  4. The desired workshop outcome will be a Pacific Core Statistics List:
    • Pacific SDG Headline Indicators; plus
    • Additional complementary sector specific indicators.

By Thursday afternoon, I would like us to have agreed that Pacific Core Statistics List. I would like us to have endorsed the list of Pacific SDG Headline Indicators; and endorsed any further relevant sector specific indicators to complement the Pacific SDG Headline Indicators.

That should be our ambition and our outcome, so that we come away from this meeting with a concrete result that will feed into national, regional and international planning and processes.

Context for delivering core indicators in the Pacific:

You know as well as I that there is an increasing demand for quality data and statistics at the global, regional, and national levels as a result of an increased need for evidenced based development policy planning, monitoring, evaluation, learning and reporting under various policy frameworks such as the SDGs, the S.A.M.O.A Pathway, the Pacific Framework for Regionalism and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

However, we should also recognize that while this demand continues to increase, the supply of statistics in a form that is relevant, meets user needs, and is readily available and accessible, continues to lag behind. This is due to various factors including:

  • The small size of national statistical systems.
  • Weak statistical infrastructure to support statistical development.
  • Resource constraints.

But let’s be clear on the reality behind these factors, as too often we gloss over the challenges faced. In many Small Island States, fewer than 10 people are expected to cover many of the SDG and sector specific statistics/indicators that are going to be discussed at this workshop. There is also a major issue with high staff turnover resulting in capacity shortages for many countries. How often have we seen promising Pacific statisticians leave their country for an expatriate opportunity? These are truly significant issues which need to be recognized and addressed if we want to succeed in reporting on the SDGs, and collecting, analyzing and disseminating quality data on and from the Pacific.

And what of funding? If we take globally derived estimates as our baseline (as per the Financing for Development conference in Addis Ababa in 2015) then the cost in USD for producing SDG Indicators in IDA and IBRD[1] countries is $2.8-3.0 billion per year for the period 2016-2030, with the total aid needed for statistics being $635 to $685 million per year. If we then make a crude average, this gives an estimated country level cost of USD22 million per year, with an aid need of USD5 million per year for statistics.

And what does this mean for us, actors and development partners in the statistics field? It means an estimated funding gap in statistics work of USD2 to 3 million per country per year based on current funding levels[2]. Using these global figures, we can make an informed estimation that the Pacific region will require an extra USD55 million per year to finance SDG data needs.

This is a significant issue and a major challenge. One could ask: Why agree on a set of headline SDG indicators if we cannot fund the work needed to report on them? Why ask our Pacific nations to subscribe to the Global Goals, if they will not have the means to demonstrate progress toward achieving new levels of sustainable development?

While this is not the core matter for discussion at our meeting this week, I would encourage us all to discuss it together, and to actively identify ways we can mobilise the required resources for our region. If we want the SDGs to be a success for the international community and, in particular for our Pacific community, and not simply an unmanageable financial and administrative burden, we must absolutely bring in new funding for our work. And we must absolutely work together to do this.

Opportunity for strengthened partnerships:

It is increasingly becoming clear that development and technical agencies will need to work as one support team in the Pacific in collaboration with Pacific Island Countries. We must seize the opportunity to have an open conversation on how we can accomplish this, to identify the added value that each of us brings, to identify overlaps, complementarities and gaps. And to map out a clear plan of action and coordinated support for the benefit of this region.

This workshop provides a platform for development and technical partners to inform the meeting about their specific strategies of engagement and partnership with Pacific Island Countries and other partners, on Pacific statistics development in the next 5 to 10 years.

The outcome of this week’s workshop and partnership engagement conversations should also aim to make positive contributions to moving other regional processes forward, such as the Pacific SDG Taskforce work on SDG implementation in the Pacific.

As you know, the TYPSS Phase 2 mid-term review will take place in the first half of 2017. This review provides the region with another opportunity to influence the way we visualize partnership, collaboration and coordination of statistical support activities in the short to medium term.

So please, let’s not miss these opportunities to share information, build better partnerships, truly implement better coordination, mobilize new resources and, ultimately, provide more sustainable and higher value impact for the countries of the Pacific region. We should be ambitious, we should seek to give as much visibility as we can to the challenges implementation of and reporting on the SDGs will pose to countries in the region. And together, we should take concrete steps to address those challenges.

I encourage us all, SPC included, to use this workshop as one of those concrete steps so that, at the end of our four days together, we can truly demonstrate that, beyond the talk, we achieved the outcome we all want: an agreed list of Pacific SDG Headline Indicators.

I look forward, as does the SPC team, to working closely with you this week and in the future in the spirit of a true multi-agency partnership with Pacific countries as we advance together on the pathway toward our sustainable development goals.

Thank you, Merci beaucoup.

[1] IDA countries in the Pacific Region are: Kiribati, Federated States of Micronesia, Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu (8 out of 60 countries globally). IBRD countries in the Pacific are Fiji, Nauru and Palau (3 out of a global 66).

[2] Source: ‘The State of Development Data Funding 2016’, Resource Mobilization and Alignment Working Group of the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data.