Joint survey on New approaches to Capacity Development and Future priorities

1. Background

This survey, designed by PARIS21 in consultation with the High-level Group for Partnership, Coordination and Capacity-Building for Statistics for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (HLG-PCCB) and with support of the United Nations Statistics Division (UNSD), aims to provide a better understanding of the current state of capacity development in National Statistical Offices (NSO) and more broadly across National Statistical Systems (NSS), and the challenges, priorities and plans they have for the short and medium term.

The survey had four main objectives: (i) to identify NSOs medium term goals and challenges for capacity development, (ii) to identify the immediate capacity building priorities for NSOs as they relate to the Sustainable Development Goals, (iii) to explore what programmes/activities NSOs associate to such goals, both in the medium and the short term and (iv) to describe how capacity development is currently implemented. This survey explores untapped areas of capacity development, including individual non-technical skills, organisational practices, co-ordination between national agencies and mainstreaming of the SDGs in national policies and reporting mechanisms.

For the purposes of this survey, capacity development refers to “the process through which individuals, organisations and societies obtain, strengthen and maintain the capabilities to set and achieve their own development objectives over time” (UNDP, 2009). In the context of NSOs, it involves improving processes, products and business models for the generation and utilisation of data and statistics.

The questionnaire was distributed in December 2017 to 193 UN member states and 2 non-members, out of which 92 submitted a reply (47% response rate) as of 8th April, 2018.


2. Immediate capacity development needs for SDGs

The indicators where respondents report needing capacity development vary significantly among countries (this could be either due to national interests or varying levels of statistical capacity). There are possible synergies to this question, for example, for SDG indicator 2.1.2 in Africa, Eastern Europe, Asia and Pacific and Latin America and the Caribbean.

In terms of sector distribution, environmental statistics were identified as the sector requiring more immediate capacity building efforts. Regarding data sources, administrative sources were selected as the ones needing the most immediate capacity development. Disability status was chosen as the type of disaggregation needing the most immediate support, followed by geographical location.

The main obstacles identified by respondent were challenges related to communication and co-ordination with data providers followed by IT challenges.

3. Entry points for the Cape Town Global Action Plan on Sustainable Development Data

Almost half of all respondents identified integrating new data sources (ie. call detail records) to produce official statistics as a main concern. Several do not possess the capacities to do so, but most are planning to develop them in the next five years. This action corresponds to Cape Town Global Action Plan (CTGAP) Objective 2.3 “Facilitate the application of new technologies and new data sources into mainstream statistical activities”.

Most of the respondents identified their own government as a source of funding. International co-operation, both from international (72%) and bilateral (45%) organisations is also relevant for the majority of respondents. It is noticeable that public-private partnerships are more important sources for certain regions (i.e. Western Europe and Africa). Other funding (e.g. academia) is limited across regions.

Overall, there are varying levels of agreement by region regarding the efficiency of the technological infrastructure of the NSO to support the execution of statistical activities.

4. National capacity development planning

a. Medium term plans for National Statistical Systems The majority of respondents mentioned having established strategic goals for the next five years.

Delivering quality statistics and improving the co-ordination of the NSS were selected as the most relevant goals followed by modernisation of the NSS. Developing relevant products for users was a less relevant goal for NSOs in their medium-term strategy. This result suggests that NSO strategies could better align their products to user needs in the future.

The capacity development priorities for NSS focus on co-ordination, technology upgrading and quality control.

Modernisation is broadly defined as applying common statistical production processes, standards and tools between statistical systems (national, regional and international), enabling international comparison and exchange, and the integration of non-traditional data sources to deliver statistics in a timely and cost-efficient way. More than half of the respondents consider that modifying the planning and reporting systems between producers of official statistics would be crucial to modernise the NSS.

b. Capacity development priorities for NSOs

There are four broad areas that NSOs are mainly interested in enhancing. The first of them is co-ordination: improving co-operation with providers of administrative data and improving coordination with other producers of official statistics. The second area emerging from the survey results is management: strengthening human resources management.

When asked about what actions are needed in order to comply with the capacity development goals for the NSO over the next five years, most countries reported that they would hire or teach employees the required skills.

More than half of the respondents highlighted the need for technical skills, such as improving the knowledge on statistical packages, on dealing with large datasets (big data, administrative data), e.g. small area estimation, geospatial analysis, and statistical literacy (including data analysis).

Leadership and management skills were second in terms of relevance, similar to leadership and management. It is also noticeable that NSOs do not identify advocacy and risk management skills as essential to their organisation. This may reflect NSO Heads do not identify these activities as central to the work of statistical agencies.

c. Current capacity development programmes

Training in technical skills was the main form of capacity development for National Statistical Offices in 2016 and 2017, a consistent finding with the available literature on capacity development.

The majority of NSOs who responded mentioned they selected capacity development programmes following their medium term plans. Responding to opportunities offered by outside organisations was the second most common way of selecting programmes.

More than half of the respondents indicated that these included sufficient consultation, responded to their needs, were nationally led, received enough financial support and included clear and measurable targets.

When asked to identify the major obstacles to the success of capacity development initiatives, a shortage of both external and internal financial resources emerged as the dominant factor.

d. Human resources development

There was a large variation between regions in terms of how many employees were trained. While in Western Europe 79% of the employees were trained, in Africa only 25%.

The most common instrument for training employees over the past 3 years were workshops or other face-to-face events, followed by on-the-job trainings.

NSS staff (whether NSO employees or from other agencies) were the most common facilitators, followed by international agencies.

While in Africa more than 65% of non-budget resources come from external providers, the proportion is significantly different for other regions. In Asia-Pacific and Latin America and Caribbean, around three-fourths of training funds come from national sources.