Dear Mr Twigg,
I write in response to the International Development Committee’s call for evidence for the inquiry UK Government support for Sustainable Development Goal 16 (Peace and Justice).
As the Committee are aware, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) is the UK’s National Statistical Institute, and largest producer of official statistics. We aim to provide a firm evidence base for sound decisions, and develop the role of official statistics in democratic debate. The ONS is responsible for sourcing and reporting UK data for the Sustainable Development Goal indicators on behalf of the UK Government.
The ONS provided written evidence to the Committee’s previous inquiry on the Sustainable Development Goals in early 2019. In response to the Committee’s new inquiry on this topic, the following short note provides an update on our work in the specific area of Goal 16.
I hope this evidence is helpful to the Committee. Please do not hesitate to contact me if I can be of any further assistance.
Deputy National Statistician and Director General for Population & Public Policy
Office for National Statistics – Written Evidence to the International Development
Committee: UK Government support for SDG 16 inquiry (September 2019)
Background and the ONS role
1. As the UK’s national statistical institute, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) is responsible for the reporting of data which enables regular monitoring of UK progress towards the 244 global
Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) indicators. The comprehensive framework for SDGs fits with our Better Statistics, Better Decisions strategy which sets out the official statistics system collective mission of providing high quality statistics, analysis and advice to better inform policymaking.
Sourcing and analysing data for the SDGs which covers the economy, environment and society, and is also broken down to show a more complete picture for the UK, will enable better-evidenced policy decisions.
2. We are:
• Sourcing the appropriate UK data for the global indicators.
• Providing data to the international organisations responsible for each indicator, known as Custodian Agencies, who are responsible for reporting the data to the United Nations.
• Analysing the data so that it can be understood in context.
• Making the data available to everybody through the development of an online tool and supporting reports.
Progress and developments from the ONS since last SDGs inquiry
3. Since the publication of the Committee’s report on ‘UK progress on the Sustainable Development Goals: The Voluntary National Review’ (VNR) in July 2019, the ONS has made significant progress in the reporting and analysis of the SDGs, sourcing the appropriate UK data for the global indicators, putting that data into context and making that data available to everyone.
4. Within the ONS supported the UK government to deliver its first VNR, ensuring the process was underpinned by information and data, which were reported from a range of sources, including:
a. The ONS’ National Reporting Platform, an online tool capturing UK data on the UN’s Global Indicators.
b. Other government sources to fill in the gaps between UK data and the Global Indicators, to help provide a fuller picture of UK progress towards the Goals.
c. Non-government sources to provide further objectivity and context.
Within each goal specific chapter, including the one for Goal 16, data picture boxes were also used to help illustrate progress.
5. Since the publication of the VNR, the ONS has continued to update and increase the number of indicators for which we report data. As of September 2019, data are reported for 182 (75%) of the
global SDG indicators. This is one of the highest proportions in the world. Headline UK data are reported for all of the Global Indicators that underpin three of the Goals (Goal 5, Goal 7 and Goal 13).
6. Over 70% of the 182 reported Global Indicators have data for at least one disaggregation such as sex, age, or geographic location, reaffiriming the UK’s commitment and efforts to ‘Leave No One
Behind’. The ONS are an Inclusive Data Charter (IDC) champion and embedded within the team are two technical advisors who have a role in making the SDG data more inclusive.
7. All data are published and publicly available via our National Reporting Platform (NRP). The site is based on the open source ‘Open SDG’ platform. The Open SDG platform is the result of
collaboaration between the US Government, the ONS, and the nonprofit Center For Open Data Enterprise (CODE). Countries including Rwanda, Kyrgyzstan, Armenia, Germany, Jamaica, Poland
and Namibia have already adopted and are benefiting from our approach.
8. The UK is also collaborating with other countries to develop statistical capacity and share expertise, and to help others measure progress towards the Goals. Across networks of analysts , the UK is committed to finding innovative solutions to the measurement challenges all countries face in monitoring progress on this ambitious agenda.
9. We will publish the report Sustainable Development Goals in the UK, an update on progress: November 2019 on 7 November 2019, which will review progress and set out our plans for the
coming year. It will include an update on progress and future plans in relation to: data acquisition (highlighting that we are now able to report data for 75% of headline indicators); the ONS Inclusive Data Charter Action Plan and the challenges surrounding sourcing disaggregated data; improvements to the data platform, including a programme of user testing, as well as the adoption of the site by other countries this year; engagement and reporting to explain and make publicly available analysis of the SDG data; and data innovations, such as the development of automated
data acquisition, and further use of geo-spatial techniques. We will send the Committee a copy of the report when published.
Goal 16 – Peace and Justice
10. We are currently reporting headline data for 16 of the 23 global SDG indicators underpinning Goal 16 – Peace and Justice. The seven indicators for which we are not reporting are:
i. 16.2.1 – Proportion of children aged 1-17 who experienced any physical punishment and/or aggression by caregivers in the past month
ii. 16.2.2 – Number of victims of human trafficking per 100,000 of the population by age, sex and form of exploitation
iii. 16.4.1 – Total value of inward and outward illicit financial flows (in current US dollars)
iv. 16.4.2 – Proportion of seized, found or surrendered arms whose illicit origin or context has been traced or established by a competent authority in line with international instruments
v. 16.6.1 – Primary government expenditures as a proportion of original approved budget, by sector (or by budget codes or similar)
vi. 16.8.1 – Proportion of members and voting rights of developing countries in international organizations
vii. 16.10.1 – Number of verified cases of killing, kidnapping, enforced disappearance, arbitrary detention and torture of journalists, associated media personnel, trade unionists and human
rights advocates in the previous 12 months
A detailed summary of Goal 16 indicators with current sources is provided at Annex A.
11. Working in close collaboration with topic experts, which include the ONS Centre for Crime and Justice, efforts are ongoing to improve the provision and quality of data reported. The Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW) is an important data source for Goal 16. It provides a better reflection of the extent of household and personal crime than police recorded statistics because the survey includes crimes that are not reported to, or recorded by, the police. The survey is also a better indicator of long-term trends because it is unaffected by changes in levels of reporting to the police or police recording practices. For example, the Centre have provided where possible, SDG crime indicators broken down by: ethnicity; sex; age; disability; country of birth; region; and household income. The availability of detailed disaggregated data for all indicators is limited by the current sample size of the CSEW. The ONS are also working in partnership with the Devolved
Adminstrations to improve the availability of data for the whole of the UK.
12. A key focus has also been on indicators for which data are not currently provided. This includes indicators on modern slavery, human trafficking and child exploitation. The ONS Centre for Crime and Justice have made progress exploring research methods and identifying data sources to support these indicators. Stakeholders including the Home Office’s Modern Slavery Unit and Bernard Silverman, a leading academic expert on modern slavery, helped shape the research. There are plans to publish an article discussing an approach to measuring modern slavery using proxy
indicators in Spring 2020. This article will represent an important milestone as we look to report data for indicator 16.2.2.
13. In order to meet the challenge of providing disaggregated data it will be necessary to consider the viability of using non-official data sources, including qualitative and citizen generated data. The ONS SDG team are looking to establish robust criteria to understand the quality of these data sources and provide users with transparent assessment of the strengths and limitations of the data.
14. Focusing specifically on crime data around children, the ONS Centre for Crime and Justice will publish a new compendium in January 2020 bringing together available data on child abuse
(including abuse experienced by adults when they were children) from a range of data sources. Work is also underway to assess the feasibility of undertaking a prevalence survey of current levels of child abuse. This will help to fill data gaps for indicator 16.2.1.
15. Of the remaining five indicators which the UK are currently not reporting data for, the ONS are continually working across the GSS to improve the data provision. We are actively investigating the viability of sources to report against these indicators and will update the Committee on our progress at the end of March 2020.
16. The ONS will continue to engage with the Praia Group on Governance Statistics. The group, set up in 2015, provides an invaluable opportunity to address the issues of conceptualization, methodology and instruments in the domain of governance statistics.
Annex A: Detailed summary of Goal 16 indicators