Abstract: The framework for monitoring social development policies adopted at the 1995 World Summit for Social Development (WSSD) is examined and its statistical implications are discussed. In particular, the essay offers a panorama of some of the main statistical challenges associated with monitoring the global targets underwritten at the 1995 WSSD and at the other major United Nations conferences of the 1990s. It is argued that although the framework represents a considerable step forwards, being able to monitor progress at the global level will require a more coordinated effort on the part of statisticians and policy makers. In particular it is…stressed that more attention will have to be devoted to the design and development of relevant indicators based on timely, reliable and comparable data if the 1995 framework is to become fully operational. Based on the evidence prepared for the Geneva 2000 review, the relationship between social policies and statistics is still far too tenuous. The authors propose to use the 1995 Framework and the Minimum National Social Data Set indicator list as a stepping stone for regional and national initiatives for monitoring social development. In particular, it is proposed that both outcomes and inputs are included in the framework to guarantee a more complete understanding of the effectiveness of policy programmes for social development. It is argued that to make the statistical framework operational, technical issues such as improving data collection, intensifying the conceptual development and integration of social statistical systems, investing in training and research and improving statistical dissemination are all requisites to moving forward. A series of follow-up measures to Geneva 2000 are also proposed.
Abstract: As a result of the Copenhagen Summit on Social Development, most countries now wish to alleviate poverty, enhance productive employment and reduce social exclusion. Nine countries and territories, all of them either newly independent in eastern Europe and the CIS, or otherwise recently emerged from conflict (Mozambique, Palestine, South Africa), were questioned as to the role played by statistics in the design, monitoring and evaluation of relevant policies. This paper summarises the replies, supplemented by other information and informal discussion with policy makers and statisticians. It is a conclusion from the material that governments are concerned with poverty…and employment, but concerns are not always translated into clear policies and programmes. Specific timetables and verifiable targets are the exception rather than the rule; nor in most cases is there systematic policy monitoring and evaluation. As regards statistics, the relationship of whatever policies there are to statistics is at best vague. Most of the statistical offices in question have had to reorganise to meet new requirements (in the case of the transition economies, those of the market economies). There has been insufficient time to spend on social data in general or on the demands of the Summit objectives and policies in particular. Morever, the statistics needed for policy and programme design and monitoring go well beyond the conventional social statistics of the kind published in yearbooks (which at best identify final goals, but not the intermediate phases that are part of policy). Social statistics are collected as a matter of routine, but they are as a rule insufficiently detailed and disaggregated in respect of socio-economic categories or sufficiently timely to help design policies or monitor them. With few exceptions the links between statistics and policy are tenuous and unsatisfactory. Moreover, few countries have had the opportunity – given their other problems – to institutionalise collaboration between policy makers and statisticians. A major difficulty is the absence of staff in both line ministries and NSOs experienced in policy design, monitoring and evaluation. Other difficulties relate to the vague terminology and concepts. There is no agreement so far on how to define and measure key concepts like poverty or social integration, for example. While productive employment rather than employment per se is the Summit objective, the concept is nowhere operationally defined. Within national statistical offices better integration of data from various sources and across sectors would be desirable, through social accounting or by other means. Work in the international organisations on goals and indicators has been helpful, but because of its global emphasis it has in some cases been irrelevant to the needs of specific regions and countries. In spite of all these problems and the fact that all the nine countries and territories are struggling with post-independence and similar difficulties, the papers and background material contain excellent examples of statistical work directly relevant to policies, and a concern with the link of statistics to policies. National statistical offices are clearly on the right path. The problem of better linkage of statistics to policy in relation to such key issues as poverty and employment are well understood. Improved collaboration between line ministries (which design the policies) and statistical offices would be beneficial, as would attention to such technical problems as indicator design in respect of some of the more complex concepts. A role could be played here by the United Nations Regional Commissions, including the Economic Commission for Europe and its subsidiary bodies, such as the Conference of European Statisticians. These bodies could arrange for training, assist with the integration of social data and more broadly with technical issues such as definitions, appropriate indicators and methods of data collection.