Ms. Sima Bahous Remarks: Arab Development Portal (ADP) Going Live

Apr 25, 2016

Sima Bahous
Assistant Secretary-General, Assistant Administrator and Director of the Regional Bureau for Arab States
Le Meridien
Amman, Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan
Arab Development Portal (ADP) Going Live
25 April 2016

Excellencies (Addressing DGs of National Statistical Offices)

Distinguished guests,

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is my pleasure to welcome you all to the launch of the Arab Development Portal. The Arab Development Portal will go live as I speak, becoming accessible not only to the 141 million internet users in the Arab States Region but also to the 3.2 billion people worldwide who are similarly plugged-in. A bi-lingual one-stop-shop, the Portal offers a dynamic, multi-source database housing 2,750 unique indicators, the majority gathered from the websites of National Statistical Offices of Arab States.

Allow me to welcome the Directors-General and representatives of these offices from 10 Arab countries. I am also delighted to be in the midst of experts from other agencies, journalists, young entrepreneurs and representatives of civil society organizations. I am glad that you all were able to make it today.

Ten years ago, the idea of developing a portal on development issues in all 22 Arab countries seemed remote. Back in 2006, together with the Coordination Group of Arab National and Regional Development Institutions, the Islamic Development Bank and the OPEC Fund for International Development, we started exploring and brainstorming this idea, eventually getting started three years ago. Driven by a frustration with the status of data and knowledge on the Arab States Region, and a determination to improve it, we have worked very closely together and are pleased with the result.

This is only one humble contribution of UNDP’s global and regional efforts to enhance transparency and push for open data. Transparency and open data are at the heart of our agenda. In this respect, it is an honor to share with you that UNDP has again, just last week, been independently assessed as the most transparent aid organization in the world by the International Aid Transparency Index.

At UNDP, we recognize that transparency and open data are not only powerful tools but an important stepping stone in the pursuit of sustainable and inclusive development. In August 2014, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon asked an Independent Expert Advisory Group to make concrete recommendations on bringing about a data revolution in sustainable development, part of which involves developing an enabling environment for data to play its full role, investing in capacity building to improve the quality fo data and creating mechanisms through which technology and innovation can be shared.

We have at hand an ambitious agenda that we have integrated in all of our projects and work in this region because we believe that data are the lifeblood of decision-making and the raw material of accountability. And everyone here has an essential role in ensuring that the data revolution comes to fruition.

We are well-aware that delivering on the promise of open data for development is not easy. As the ambitious 2030 Global Agenda for Sustainable Development, shows, the agenda ahead is vast. The universal, indivisible and integrated nature of the 2030 Agenda means that everyone has to be involved in implementation. We need strong, concrete actions at all levels to improve accountability, transparency and effectiveness. But you are all part of this… If anything, the events in the Arab region indicate that development cannot be a top-down approach, especially in a situation where challenges are immense. Informed policy-making should go hand in hand with empowered citizens, innovative entrepreneurs, curious academics and diligent journalists.

And at the heart of this lies youthful spirits who by 2030 will be leading this region and this world. Immediately after the adoption of the 2030 agenda, the Office of the UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth announced the establishment of the Youth Gateway, which will act as an interactive platform for global youth partnership for the SDGs. Here, I would like to salute the young participants who have joined us from 15 Arab countries to discuss the Sustainable Development Goals and to brainstorm how can they as individuals and as active members of bigger networks become more meaningfully engaged in the implementation of the SDGs in their respective countries.

Guided by this ambitious agenda, there is much work to be done on data, indicators and capacities. UNDP is working with some governments, for example in Somalia, to establish a statistics database for key SDG indicators, aligned with the country’s national development plan. We are responding to countries requesting support by drawing on the rich experience supporting countries develop their MDG National Reports. We are now working with UN-DESA to develop guidelines for UN Country Teams in the preparation of country-led national SDG reports.

Supporting evidence-based policy making is also an integral part of what we do, and improving access to data and capacities for monitoring and evaluating are pivotal to success on the 2030 Agenda.

Supporting governance that strengthens development results is also an integral part of what we do. Ensuring public access to information and supporting effective, accountable and transparent institutions at all levels are key targets under Goal 16 of the SDGs, and we at UNDP will support countries to help develop capacities for more efficient delivery of public services.

In developing the Arab Development Portal, we have given priority to official data produced by National Statistical Offices and public institutions and to knowledge produced by national and regional institutions. Yes we are aware that data gaps and quality of data pose a serious challenge, and we also acknowledge the immense efforts that all parties have been exerting in this regard. But unless we stimulate demand and help disseminate official data in a more accessible manner, the quality of data will not improve in this part of the world. For this to happen, data have to be used, tested and re-used by academics, entrepreneurs, journalists and active citizens. As a first step, we decided to start by putting the data out there. A series of consultation meetings in the past two years made us realize that this is the right way to start. And as you will see in the video we will show next, the ADP now offers a wide range of extraordinarily useful features.

Finally, as the ADP goes live, a feedback questionnaire has also been uploaded online. Your continuous feedback will guide our future scope of work and help the ADP evolve to cater for your changing needs using the best and most cost-effective technologies.

In closure, I would like to thank you once again for joining us today at this launch event of the Arab Development Portal as well as the regional workshop on the SDGs which will follow. I wish you very fruitful discussions as part of our overall progress towards inclusive and sustainable development across the Arab States Region.

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