George Conway, UNDP Country Director a.i, launch of the 2011 Statistical Yearbook, National Household Baseline Survey Report, and County Poverty Profile Report

20 Jun 2012

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Your Honourable Deputy Minister of Labour, Public Service and Human Resource Development

Honourable Ministers,

Honourable Members of Parliament,

Deputy Chairperson of the National Bureau of Statistics,

Representatives of the Donor Community,

Heads of UN Agencies,

Government Officials,

Distinguished Guests,

Colleagues,

On behalf of the United Nations Resident Coordinator, Ms Lise Grande, the UN Country Team, and UNDP, I am honoured to have the opportunity to be here at the launch of these three important knowledge products, detailing the current socio-economic situation in the Republic of South Sudan.

I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate the Government, and in particular the National Bureau of Statistics, for their tremendous efforts leading towards the launch of these reports.  These efforts demonstrate that, even with the challenges the new Republic has experienced in the first year of its Independence, there is still a strong will and increasing capacity within Government to ensure it continues to build a robust and credible base of statistical data on the complex nature of poverty, and the challenges to human development, within the world's newest nation.

At a cursory glance, statistics might appear to be somewhat abstract, and may not leap out as a critical priority for the Government at a time when there are so many pressing challenges, particularly with which the new Government has seen over the first year of independence.  I cannot overemphasize, however, the importance that robust and credible statistical data plays in advancing progress on human development in South Sudan.

Reliable statistical information helps the development of the new nation in at least three crucial ways:

First, statistics provide a solid base of evidence on the living conditions of South Sudanese across the country, which enables analysis of the key challenges people are facing, whether in terms of poverty, livelihoods, food security, or access to services.  Statistics tell us, for example, that a 15 year old girl in South Sudan has a higher chance of dying from pregnancy related causes than finishing school, as shown on pages 39 and 45 of the report.  These statistics also tell us that the risks of maternal mortality are greater in South Sudan than in any other country in the world.  They also tell us where in the country this risk is the greatest, for example Maternal Mortality Rates are higher in the states of Western Equatoria, Lakes, and Western Bahr el Ghazal.

Second, statistics provide a sound basis for dialogue on policies, debate on priorities, and ultimately, decision making on the allocation of resources as well as the targeting of programmes.  They enable us to ensure that planning and decision making is based on evidence.  They help us to determine what people need most to improve their lives, and where our programmes can have the greatest impact for those who need them most.  And certainly, in these times of austerity and limited resources, it is incumbent on all of us to ensure that scare development funds are targeted in the best possible manner.

Third, statistics can, when appropriately managed over time, provide evidence as to whether the Government's budget allocations, and all of our development programmes, are working to advance the social and human development of the people of South Sudan, or whether they are not.  This evidence on impact is essential to ensure that Government and its development partners can be held accountable – both to the citizens of South Sudan, as well as to the citizens of donor countries – for the effective use of increasingly scarce resources for development.  Honourable Deputy Chairperson, progress in school enrolment demonstrates this use.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Let me take note of the broad range of partners at the table today.  This demonstrates the strong partnerships that the National Bureau of Statistics, under the sound leadership of the Chairman and the Deputy Chairman, has cultivated with the international development community.  The National Bureau of Statistics has marshalled strong support from development partners including the World Bank, the European Union, the African Development Bank, Statistics Norway, and UN agencies such as UNDP, UNFPA, UNICEF and ILO, amongst others.  UNDP has technical advisory support in the NBS with 13 people helping strengthen the statistical systems.

The UN Country Team and UNDP are committed to continue supporting the work of the Bureau towards its goal of being the premier source of national statistics to support the development of South Sudan.  And I want to take this opportunity to reiterate UNDP’s commitment to support the Bureau to ensure that development programmes can be better targeted towards the most pressing challenges being faced by the people of the new nation.

In this respect, we do note the important use of socioeconomic data in the formulation of the South Sudan Development Plan.  It is also encouraging to note how the ten States of South Sudan have also used socioeconomic data in the preparation of their State Strategic Plans.  We trust that the "Poverty Estimates at County Level," supported by the World Bank, will also provide useful information to better prioritize and target local governance and service delivery programmes, so as to ensure impact on the poorest and most conflict-affected areas of the country.

In closing, let me once again congratulate the National Bureau of Statistics for these notable achievements, and strongly encourage Government and development partners to use these products for planning, decision making, and monitoring of development programmes in South Sudan.

With shared commitment to doing so, we can ensure that a nationally-owned statistical system for South Sudan can be translated into sound policies and programmes that will have the greatest impact on addressing the conditions of the poorest of the poor, in what continues to be one of the most complex and challenging development contexts in the world.

Thank you very much.