Forum Economic Ministers Meeting – 26 April 2018, Palau


Address by Cameron Diver
Deputy Director-General of the Pacific Community

Statistics development and governance


Honourable Chairman and Ministers, Madam Secretary General, Colleagues,


I am grateful for the opportunity to speak this morning on behalf of the Pacific Community, given your very busy Agenda. Please allow me to extend my thanks, through you Chair, to the Government and people of Palau for the warm welcome received since my colleague, Dr Ofa Ketu’u, and I arrived.

Honourable Ministers, for several years now SPC has been working with national statistics offices and other partners to refresh the institutional governance arrangements for statistics and data in the region. This had been driven by the recognition that statistics is playing an increasingly critical role in evidence based decision making at all levels and in helping the Pacific tell the story of its sustainable development, in particular via processes like the MDGs and their current successor, the Sustainable Development Goals.

At their meeting at SPC headquarters in November 2017, the Heads of Planning and Statistics (HOPS) approved a new regional statistics governance framework.

This governance structure has five primary components:

  1. Ministerial meeting.
  2. Heads of Planning and Statistics meeting (HOPS).
  3. Pacific Statistics Standing Committee (PSSC).
  4. Development Partners Group (DPG).
  5. Pacific Statistics Methods Board (PSMB).

HOPS made the decision to request that the Forum Economic Ministers Meeting become the Ministerial Meeting envisaged by the new regional statistics governance framework. HOPS participants considered that this was both logical and efficient, since in the majority of Pacific governments, Ministers in charge of statistics are also those in charge of economics and finance. They also viewed this as an essential component of establishing a more robust governance framework to provide stronger strategic oversight and guidance to the development and use of official statistics in the region. By way of comparison, a similar governance framework currently exists in the health, fisheries, agriculture and education sectors.

It is therefore proposed that HOPS reports directly to the Finance and Economic Ministers Meeting (FEMM). This is in line with Pacific leaders’ call to streamline Ministerial meetings where possible. Such an arrangement would provide a single ministerial platform where economics and statistics matters could be discussed concurrently.

This would however carry consequences. It would mean a shift away from current practice where these matters are dealt with “on the papers” without the opportunity for strategic discussion or guidance. Should the recommendation developed by your officials on this matter be approved, it is proposed that the specific agenda item on statistics and data would fall under the joint convening and reporting responsibility of the Pacific Community (SPC) and the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS). This would ensure that outcomes and decisions can be directly integrated, from a governance perspective, into both organisations and acted upon within the bounds of the respective mandates of SPC and PIFS.

I am extremely conscious of the fact that the FEMM is not an SPC-convened meeting. Therefore, should this proposal not meet with your approval due to the heavy FEMM agenda, SPC would as an alternative seek to convene a Ministers in charge of statistics meeting every two years, immediately following a HOPS meeting.

Honourable Ministers, I am conscious of time and will not therefore go into the detail of the other aspects of the statistics governance framework or the state of statistics in the region. My colleague, Dr Ofa Ketu’u, SPC’s Director of Statistics for Development, gave a very full presentation on these matters to your officials yesterday and she remains at your and your officials’ disposal for any further information required.

I would however, with your indulgence, like to insist upon several points.

As you know, Pacific Leaders have now approved the “Pacific 132 Headline SDG Indicators”. Under the SDGs, the notion that we must “leave no one behind” means that we must make sure that the sustainable development goals are both implemented and that progress towards their achievement is properly measured. It is therefore critical that we are able to produce timely, high quality Pacific statistics; that these statistics are disaggregated to provide information on age, gender, disability; and that they be provided at local, national and regional levels.

Moreover, beyond producing these statistics, we must make sure that they are actually used by policy makers, development partners, researchers, community groups and the private sector so that the discussions and decisions being made on Pacific development issues are informed by Pacific-produced statistics.

Ministers, if we do not succeed in this goal, we are basically producing statistics for nothing. This is, in particular, where we need your support and buy-in, to advocate for the use of Pacific statistics and lead by example as evidence-based decision makers.

I would also like to stress the importance of adequate funding for statistics and data. If we truly want to produce the required data to report on the SDGs, then all actors, in particular NSOs, must be adequately resourced to deliver on the increased demand for timely, quality and disaggregated statistics. Currently, we estimate the funding gap for simply collecting the data required for the Pacific region’s SDG indicators to be around 55 million USD annually.

Statistics and data are also fundamental as means to inform sustainable management of economically important resources. An illustration in coastal fisheries is the Sea cucumber/Beche-de-mer fishery in the region which is traded internationally.  Sea cucumber is the second most valued resource in the region after tuna fisheries and helps drive government revenue together with rural and community economic development. But it is one of the most corrupt fisheries in the region as a result of poor governance systems. For example, in MSG countries, we estimate that benefits could be as high as US$30 – 45 million per annum, when countries are only making an average earning of US$14 million.

Increased investment in coastal fisheries sustainability, restoration and data governance will help reduce corruption and interference in licencing, management and enforcement of these valuable resources.

The improvement of the both the amount and regularity of the income that communities can derive from the sea cucumber would be a major win. Given the level of corruption and undue interference in the sea cucumber fishery it is unfortunately very likely that all sea cucumber species will be proposed for listing under Appendix II of the CITES

Finally Ministers, I would like to acknowledge and thank the development and donor partners without who we could not progress the important initiatives underway in data and statistics. These are often also technical partners and this is an illustration of the strong partnerships that underpin statistics development in the Pacific region. So thank you all, from National Statistics Offices, to regional and international partners, for your commitment and support for the work we do.

Honourable Ministers, I submit for your consideration:

– the proposal to establish the FEMM as the Ministerial level meeting in the new regional statistics governance framework and the subsequent recommendation from your officials.

I thank you for your consideration, support and guidance as we progress work on statistics and data as part of achieving national development aspirations and the sustainable development goals.

Thank you for your attention.

Ke Kmal Mesaul.