In this blog post, I share my perspective as a diplomat and as a professional involved in community meetings rather than as a regional producer of statistics.
From its inception in 1973, the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) has recognised the importance of adequate statistical services in achieving its goals and aspirations. The Standing Committee of Caribbean Statisticians (SCCS) was established in 1974, one year after the establishment of CARICOM, ‘to foster increased recognition of the importance of adequate statistical services to the countries of the region; to widen the scope and coverage of statistical data collection; and to improve the quality, comparability and timeliness of statistics produce; and to improve the quality, comparability and timeliness of statistics produce.’
In this context, at the 37th Regular Meeting of CARICOM Heads of Government held in July 2016, the heads of government agreed on the need for a CARICOM Regional Strategy for the Development of Statistics (RSDS) to:
Respond to the statistical requirements of the regional development agenda
Assure comparability of data in and across all Member States
Strengthen links and convergence between the regional and national levels
Pool statistical skills, expertise and resources at the regional level
Facilitate, coordinate and strengthen representation with respect to external partners
Serve as a framework for the implementation and monitoring of the 2030 Agenda at the regional level
Having said that, it is also crucial to understand some of the challenges that impact the availability of statistics. These include:
Small size of the national statistical offices (NSOs)
Staffing: Inadequate staff at both the regional and national levels; lack of trained staff; high staff turnover for some offices; need for staff that are more technologically and analytically sound and are in the realm of data science
Increased demand for statistics in an environment of declining resources of governments, exacerbating the data gaps
Outdated legislative frameworks
The need to stay relevant by providing the data required by users and people from the region to take decisions and be informed, in a timely fashion, easily accessible and with user-friendly formats
Absence of a national statistical system, and a lack of coordination between the producing agencies that may impact the reliability of the data produced and intensify the data gaps
Absence of coordinated response by international development partners, resulting in a duplication of efforts, waste of resources and an intensification of the burden on NSOs; leadership and management issues may arise with regard to the absence of a coordinated national statistical system – rendering them incapable of responding or dealing with existing challenges of data availability, as well as responding to new challenges.
These challenges are exacerbated by the increased national, regional and international demands for statistics that require the strengthening of the national statistical systems, which includes access to much needed resources for the functioning of these systems, ranging from basic data collection programmes, adopting updated methodological frameworks and classifications, to providing the users with statistics that fit their needs.
At the 39th Regular Meeting of CARICOM Heads of Government held in July 2018, the CARICOM heads of government endorsed the framework for the RSDS. The RSDS is being developed to strengthen and improve the availability of quality statistics for evidence-based decision-making across the region. It is considered to be the region’s gateway to building resilience and achieving sustainable development that is anchored on sound data.
The approval has given CARICOM the green light to develop a comprehensive Implementation Plan for the RSDS and to pursue a Resource Mobilisation Strategy for the CARICOM RSDS implementation, a Monitoring and Evaluation Framework, and a Communication and Advocacy Strategy. Both the Member States and the CARICOM Secretariat were encouraged to allocate the necessary human resources needed at both national and regional levels to implement the strategy successfully.
In addition to the high-level endorsement, the above will help:
Strengthen the national statistical systems in countries which will address the funding of NSOs and other producing agencies including: staffing, legislation, education, and the training and development of current staff
Enable the upgrading of the information technology infrastructure in the NSOs in relation to the production and dissemination of statistics
Promote careers in statistics through greater infusion of statistics in the education system to lead to the development of data scientists
Promote the professionalisation of statistics in CARICOM through the Caribbean Association of Professional Statisticians (CAPS)
Support a regional approach to the development of statistics.
Rawl Prescott is a Project Officer at the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretariat and holds a Post Graduate diploma in International Studies. At the UN World Data Forum (22-24 October 2018), he is one of the participants of a panel on Data & diplomats: capacity development for diplomats and policy-makers in the data age organised by Diplo.
Also of interest: https://www.diplomacy.edu/blog/importance-data-caricom-region