Data for Development

The Importance of Comparable Data

Information about growth, movements, structures, living conditions, spatial distribution and natural resources of a country's population is vital for relevant policy formulation, planning and implementation, and for monitoring and evaluation. For this reason, collection and analysis of data on population and development-related issues play a fundamental role in policymaking. Over the past two decades, many countries have made demonstrable progress in obtaining such data through censuses, demographic and thematic surveys and administrative registers, such as birth and death recording systems. Yet, much remains to be done to analyze and utilize the data collected in a way that fosters sound, evidence-based policymaking.

Generating, analyzing and disseminating population data is a critical process for sound and successful development policies and programmes. Planners need information and the results of analysis on the different population and development-related issues for the purposes of:

  • Assessing demographic trends
  • Analyzing the socio-economic situation of women and other gender issues
  • Designing evidence-based population policies, strategies and programmes
  • Integrating population factors into development planning
  • Monitoring and evaluating the effectiveness of policies and programmes
  • Tracking progress toward national and internationally agreed development goals
  • Raising awareness about the importance of population issues among government decision-makers and the public at large

Measuring progress toward the MDGs

Building country capacity to produce reliable data has long been an institutional priority for UNFPA, which works closely with United Nations agencies, the United Nations Statistics Division and other development partners in this arena. Now, with world attention focused on achieving the Millennium Development Goals by 2015, the availability of consistent and comparable statistical information has become even more crucial and plays an even more prominent role not only in monitoring progress but also in the assessment and realignment of plans and strategies.

Each of the Millennium Development Goals is associated with measurable targets and indicators that are used to gauge progress and evaluate the efficacy of different approaches. The reliability of these indicators, in turn, depends on collecting, disaggregating and analyzing data according to international standards, which enable cross country comparisons and analyses of trends over time.