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Strengthening the Foundations of Demographic Knowledge to Implement the United Nations’ Agenda 2030

49th Session of the United Nations’ Commission on Population and Development from 11-15 April 2016 in New York

The ability to measure the implementation of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) presented last year relies primarily on the availability of reliable, up-to-date and accessible data and statistics about the size, growth, distribution and other socio-economic attributes of worldwide populations. This dilemma was the central theme of this year’s 49th Session of the United Nations’ Commission on Population and Development in New York from 11 to 15 April 2016, which Frank Swiaczny from the BiB took part in as a member of the German delegation.

Thus, for the first time, the Commission explicitly also dealt with Chapter XII A of the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo on basic data collection, analysis and dissemination, the implementation of which is the central task of the Commission. In the face of the challenges of Agenda 2030 on Sustainable Development, the international community confirmed the mission of the Commission and ensured that the work of the Commission will support the new High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development in future.

Demographic data and its importance for the development of the global population

In his opening remarks, the Secretary-General of the United Nations (UN), Ban Ki-moon, emphasised the great role of demographic data and analyses in the implementation of the aspired development goals. He asserted, “People can never be reduced to mere numbers. At the same time, statistics are essential for tracking progress. When people are not counted, they are excluded.” Ban Ki-moon continued by saying that in order to fulfil the promise of Agenda 2030 on Sustainable Development, “to leave no one behind, we have to make sure everyone is counted.” Therefore a chief aim must be to strengthen the institutions in each nation responsible for surveying population data. According to corresponding statements by the participants, he said, “population data and analysis are critical to ending inequalities ... and ushering in a life of dignity for all.” The Commission presented far-reaching recommendations in a Resolution on this matter.

Germany’s position

These measures also receive the support of Germany. During the negotiations, Frank Swiaczny from the BiB, as member of the German delegation, confirmed Germany’s full support for the implementation of the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo as well as its follow-up conferences and monitoring processes. He emphasised that access to reliable, up-to-date and differentiated data is decisive for attaining the UN Sustainable Development Goals resolved in 2015 and that Germany has for some time increasingly set it sights on the use of population data for the analysis of population dynamics in development cooperation in order to promote fact-based planning and decision-taking. The previous efforts to compile and analyse existing population data from a variety of sources such as the UN, national authorities, research institutions and civil society are similar to a patchwork, Swiaczny continued. It is therefore also desirable from the German perspective if the UN Population Division in particular, in cooperation with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), would play a supportive role in initiatives to coordinate and support standardised data collection, archiving and dissemination. The prerequisite for good use of population data is to secure free and unlimited access to such. Only in this way would it be possible for all those involved, including academia and civil society, to contribute to knowledge-based implementation of the development goals.

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