Costa Rica is famed for its natural environment and progressive approach to environmental policy making, which has yielded inspirational success stories in recent years. But successful policy making needs to be backed by statistics that are comprehensive, timely and disaggregated. When the country came to develop its most recent national strategy for the development of statistics in 2022, ensuring that data needs were adequately represented and that gaps were identified and addressed was paramount. The country’s National Inventory of Statistical Operations alongside PARIS21’s ADAPT tool gave the granular detail to inform the NSDS.
Environmental policy making can yield impressive results, but needs to be informed by data
For many people Costa Rica brings to mind tropical beaches, mountains rainforests and one of the most biodiverse areas in the world. This renown has come about thanks to environmental policy making that have been amongst the most progressive and ambitious in the world over recent years resulting, for example, in a reversal of deforestation.1 Costa Rica’s development path has been guided not only by economic indicators but also human development and environmental indicators to deliver sustainable development. The country’s holistic approach to development has underpinned its progress towards the SDGs, with an SDG Index Score (a measurement of global progress to the SDGs) of 73.8.2 Providing data and statistics to inform policy making is a crucial piece of the puzzle. When the INEC of Costa Rica set out to develop its most recent national strategy for the development of statistics (NSDS), ensuring that the supply of data matched the demand for policy making needs was of paramount importance.
Comprehensive data needs the right tools, systems and partnerships
PARIS21’s Advanced Data Planning Tool (ADAPT) is a web platform that identifies gaps in relevant statistical information from different planning instruments, in addition to providing basic information on the general characteristics of statistical indicators. Information for ADAPT was readily available thanks to the National Inventory of Statistical Operations (INOE) and the metadata of the country’s planning instruments such as the SDGs, which were developed by an inter-institutional monitoring group. INEC, together with PARIS21 and the Van Der Leer consulting company, identified that Costa Rica has a wide range of consolidated statistical information of national interest from a range of institutions that are part of the national statistics system, including on environmental protection indicators. The INOE housed this information on national indicators, disaggregation, and other variables that needed to be included in the tool for statistical supply and demand analysis. The results from ADAPT showed that a high percentage of the SDG indicators are linked to the environment sector. Figure 1 shows how a majority of indicators (29%) address the social welfare sector which covers poverty, education, health, social protection, culture and housing, followed by the environment sector (21%), and the economy sector (18%).
Figure 1. Distribution of the SDG indicators according to the sectors from the national statistical system
Source: Vargas & Bermúdez, 2022.
Finding the gap
While the exercise showed that supply of data for SDG indicators in Costa Rica largely met the demand, the availability of disaggregated data - which is vital in having information about groups of people most at risk at being left behind - was less positive: 63% of indicators did not meet the level of disaggregation required for the SDGs; and only 11% met or exceeded the disaggregation demanded.3 The most common gaps were identified for gender, disability status, age, age groups, activity status and area.
Figure 2. Distribution of SDG indicators according to disaggregation gap condition
Source: Vargas & Bermúdez, 2022.
Using ADAPT to inform the planning of Costa Rica’s new NSDS allowed the country to address any weaknesses in data collection that may otherwise have been invisible. INEC and its partners were then able to analyse and reflect on how to resolve its short, medium and long-term problems such as how to obtain more disaggregated data. Particularly in terms of sharing the various sectoral development plans.
3. For 26% the disaggregation does not apply.
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