National Strategies for the Development of Statistics for small island developing states (SIDS)

Small island developing states   (SIDS) have characteristics that are more unique and face challenges that are more specific and pronounced than most other countries. SIDS are constantly exposed to a number of social, economic, and environmental vulnerabilities that have put them at a ‘development disadvantage’. Among these challenges are:

  • their relative isolation and remoteness which have hampered internal and external movement of persons, goods, services, and capital;
  • a narrow resource base that have limited opportunities for the private sector and placed proportionately large dependence of their economies on the public sector;
  • growing populations amidst limited domestic economic opportunities that has led to substantial emigration; and
  • the vulnerability of fragile natural environments to climate change and natural disasters.

While the NSSs of SIDS face many problems as any other NSS, there are some challenges that are more pronounced in SIDS.

Many of the SIDS have a national statistical system,  that have very limited number of staff and lack technical and sectoral/subject-matter capacity in the NSO and in the program ministries and agencies. In general, budget for statistics is limited to cost of staff and basic operating costs with significant dependence on international financial support for major statistical activities. Statistical culture seems generally is lacking in SIDS due to low statistical literacy and recognition of statistics in development. Most statistical institutions and frameworks need strengthening to address outdated legislation, weak mandates, poor coordination, and lack of sustainable investment for statistics. 

With the SIDS committing to the SDGs and the SAMOA Pathway, the outlook is strong toward institutional changes that may make it more conducive for national statistical systems to be truly developed. By subscribing to the SDGs and SAMOA Pathways, SIDS may be more motivated to adopt evidence-based management in their governance systems, which includes the production and use of statistical indicators, to deliver their national and shared international development goals.

The SDGs and the SAMOA Pathway in particular provide a strong impetus for SIDS to develop statistics. The latter has four paragraphs dedicated to data and statistics (paras 112-115) as follows:

  • role of data and statistics in development planning and need to collect statistics from SIDS;
  • improved data collection and analysis for effective planning, implementation, and monitoring;
  • commitment to strengthen available and accessible data, utilize existing UN statistical standards, and improve collection and use of gender statistics; and 
  • UN and its specialized agencies and relevant intergovernmental organizations to make greater use of SIDS national statistics and development indicators and support a SIDS Sustainable Development Statistics and Information Programme among others.

The preparation of NSDS is thus imperative for SIDS to guide the development of their NSS to produce quality statistics in support of their national development agenda, including the above frameworks. Previously, a modified approach to the preparation of the NSDS was recommended to address peculiar challenges faced by SIDS (NSDS Guidelines for SIDS, 2018, PARIS21). With the new, more dynamic and flexible NSDS Lifecycle approach, putting more emphasis on certain steps and concrete actions while streamlining others, and adjusting the timeline are keyfor SIDS to adapt the NSDS process to their realities.

Concrete actions

  • Clarify the national policy on statistics. Step 1.1
    • Prepare a draft policy document on the need to develop statistics in support of the national development agenda including the SDGs.
      • Highlight international/regional commitments made by the government relating to data support to the SDGs.
    • Consult with and mobilize political support from the highest level political authority for official recognition and endorsement of the policy.
  • Prepare the NSS roadmap and develop the advocacy programme and toolkit. Step 1.2 | Step 1.3
    • Conduct dialogue with the national development agency and all program ministries/departments and other relevant agencies.
      • Highlight international/regional commitments made by the government relating to data support to the SDGs and the role of the ministries/agencies.
  • Assess the NSS with focus on priority sectors and/or subject-matter areas, (e.g., education, health, disability, agriculture and fisheries, environment and climate change, disaster management, economy/trade, tourism, poverty, gender, etc.). Step 3.1 | Step 3.2 | Step 3.3 | Step 3.4
    • Identify most relevant and priority users of data and their needs.
    • Analyze existing data in relation to priority data needed by key users and other potential data.
    • Examine existing relevant legal frameworks and policies, resources, and capacities of the NSO and key ministries/agencies.
  • Identify realistic strategic goals and key outputs for the NSS and in priority sectors and/or subject-matter areas. Step 4.2 | Step 4.3
    • Prioritize the establishment of the national statistical system with clearly defined roles and responsibilities, especially the ‘central’ role of NSO
      • Initiate work to update statistical legislation.
      • Prioritize capacity development of solid, well-rounded statisticians in the NSO to handle core statistics.
    • Explore cross-cutting strategies and inter-sectoral linkages (agriculture and environment, health and environment, infrastructure, etc.) to optimize limited resources.
    • Make use of/link with regional strategies and initiatives in statistics to draw from the knowledge, resources, experiences, and practices of similarly-situated SIDS (e.g., Ten Year Pacific Statistics Strategy, 2011–2020 and the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS): Revolutionising Our Statistics | Developing Our Societies, 2017-2030)
      • Consider south-south technical collaboration between SIDS in areas where resources and expertise are lacking (e.g., outposting of technical experts from other NSSs, sharing of knowledge resources and technology, etc.).
    • Optimize international support for statistics (e.g., use of and training on software applications developed and offered by international agencies, international training/scholarships in various sectors, etc.).
  • Identify specific actions and corresponding costs, as well as key risk factors and mitigating measures for the NSS and in priority sectors and/or subject-matter areas. Step 5.1 | Step 5.2 | Step 5.3
    • Consider partnership with the private sector, academic and research community, and civil society in developing/producing statistics on specific concerns.
  • Funding mobilization and coordination Step 6.2
    • Consider development partners in the region, globally and the ones specific to SIDS like UN-OHRLLS.