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Cape Town Global Action Plan for Sustainable Development Data in practice


The Cape Town Global Action Plan for Sustainable Development Data is the basis of the partnership between Statistics South Africa and GrowZA and was informally launched at the first UN World Data Forum on 15 January 2017 in Cape Town South Africa, and adopted by the United Nations Statistical Commission at its 48th Session in March 2017. The Action Plan is referenced in the Resolution on the work of the Statistical Commission adopted by the General Assembly in July 2017 (RES/71/313). The current version incorporates inputs received by the statistical community, including national statistical systems, and other stakeholders, following an open consultation held in November 2016.


Recent calls for global data to inform sustainable development policymaking are unparalleled. In the document “Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”, Member States underscored the importance of “quality, accessible, timely and reliable disaggregated data… to help with the measurement of progress and to ensure no one is left behind”. (Paragraph 48) Furthermore, Member States recognized the crucial role of “increased support for strengthening data collection and capacity building”, and committed to addressing the gap in data collection for the targets of the 2030 Agenda, so as to better inform the measurement of progress. (Paragraph 57).


In the same document, “Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”, sustainable development goal 17 “Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development” and targets 17.181 and 17.192 refer directly to capacitybuilding linked to data, monitoring and accountability.

The United Nations Statistical Commission was mandated to develop a global indicator framework for the follow-up and review of the 2030 sustainable development agenda. The Inter-agency and Expert Group on SDG indicators (IAEG-SDGs) was established to conduct the work necessary to identify the indicators and ensure the full implementation of the related data development programmes. In March 2016, at its the forty-seventh session, the UN Statistical Commission “agreed, as a practical starting point, with the proposed global indicator framework” as developed by the IAEG-SDGs. In June 2016, ECOSOC took note of the report of the UN Statistical Commission and adopted its decisions, including the global indicator framework. Some of the indicators will require strengthening of capacity building efforts to produce the necessary data, while others will require further methodological work and/or definition of standards.


In the Addis Ababa Action Agenda of the Third International Conference on Financing for Development in July 2015, Member States noted the importance of drawing on new data sources to meet user needs. “National statistical systems have a central role in generating, disseminating and administering data. They should be supplemented with data and analysis from civil society, academia and the private sector” (Paragraph 125).


The global statistical system is called upon to take decisive actions to transform how data and statistics are produced and disseminated to inform development policy decision, with the vital support of governments and in closer partnership with stakeholders from academia, civil society, the private sector, and the public at large. This will entail the concerted and sustained accounting and coordination of existing efforts and the strategic investment of resources in order to significantly address existing gaps in the technical and institutional capacities of national statistical systems, and thereby improve the coverage, quality and frequency of data and statistics, made available through transparent and public access.


Accordingly, at its forty-sixth session, the United Nations Statistical Commission agreed to establish the High-level Group for Partnership, Coordination and Capacity-Building for the 2030 Agenda (HLG-PCCB), comprising Chief Statisticians from 23 national statistical offices representing other countries in their respective regions. The HLG-PCCB was tasked to promote national ownership of the 2030 Agenda monitoring system and fostering statistical capacity building, partnerships and coordination. NSOs must coordinate its implementation at the country level. To further ensure national ownership, HLG-PCCB has prepared this action plan, which will be submitted for endorsement to the UN Statistical Commission at its annual meetings in March 2017.


Key principles underlying the Plan are:

  • Completeness of scope. The Plan shall address all aspects of coordination, production and use of data for sustainable development. The plan shall describe necessary steps to modernize and strengthen statistical systems. The plan shall address short, middle and long-term actions, with particular focus on building the infrastructure and the capacity needed to support local, national, regional and global statistical requirements. The plan is to be perceived as a living document, open to potential adjustments at a later stage to account for future development.

  • Accountability. The modern production of statistics requires comprehensive interaction among data providers, producers and users. Therefore, trust among data providers, producers and users of statistics is key for the effective functioning of the national, regional, and global statistical systems in full adherence with the UN Fundamental Principles of Official Statistics. Accordingly, the plan identifies national statistical systems, under the leadership of National Statistical Offices as the necessary and appropriate leaders of this effort.

  • Cooperation. The Plan recognizes the crucial role of cooperation among countries, regional organizations, and other international organizations and stakeholders in supporting countries’ plans and efforts in capacity building. The Plan recognizes the expertise and abilities of these key stakeholders as essential resources for progress and modernization. Indeed, they have a crucial role in capacity building exercises and in carrying out statistical capacity building efforts in their areas of work. Nonetheless, the role of international organizations and regional entities to the development of methodologies and data in their respective programmes must be conducted in full consultation and coordination with National Statistical Offices. Coordination and streamlining of these activities are necessary to avoid duplication of efforts and channel effort to furthering the Agenda.

Overview of Strategic Plan

The Global Action Plan for Sustainable Development Data proposes six strategic areas, each associated with several objectives and related implementation actions.


Strategic Area 1: Coordination and strategic leadership on data for sustainable development


Strategic Area 2: Innovation and modernization of national statistical systems


Strategic Area 4: Dissemination and use of sustainable development data


Strategic Area 5: Multi-stakeholder partnerships for sustainable development data


Strategic Area 6: Mobilize resources and coordinate efforts for statistical capacity building


GrowZA activates specifically within the objectives of strategic areas 4 and 5 in order to drive hyperlocal development data uptake and unified social progress impact reporting.


The implementation of this Plan addresses gaps in national statistics and statistical coordination identified in response to the 2030 Agenda. It is essential that such gaps be addressed so as to better enable the use of country-generated statistics in the calculation of global SDG indicators. However, the guidance described in the Plan shall not be restricted to capacity building for SDG indicators alone. Rather, the goal shall be to strengthen the national statistical systems so that they can be most responsive to statistical needs to achieve the 2030 Agenda and beyond. Periodically, the HLG-PCCB shall review and, if necessary, update this Plan to maintain its effectiveness. Additionally, the group shall develop an annual implementation programme featuring milestones as a means to measure the Plan’s progress. The HLG-PCCB shall report its progress assessment regularly to the UN Statistical Commission, and, as appropriate, to other relevant bodies, such as the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development and the UN World Data Forum.


Download the full action plan here:

Cape_Town_Global_Action_Plan_for_Sustainable_Development_Data
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