The meeting was held virtually between representatives of various countries and organizations
Bangladesh participated in its second Voluntary National Reviews (VNR) this year to share the progress of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) with a pre-recorded video.
Due to the unprecedented health crisis created by Covid-19, all the UN member states participated virtually in the VNRs of this year for the first time.
Bangladesh’s VNR started with an audio-visual clip-on its SDG progress and Covid-19 response, followed by a presentation by M A Mannan MP, minister of Planning, Bangladesh.
He highlighted the dramatic achievement in poverty reduction, gender parity in primary and secondary enrolment, reduction of under-5 mortality, access to electricity and social protection coverage.
M A Mannan also demonstrated the actions taken by the Government to fight Covid-19 under the direct guidance of Honorable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, mentioned a press release published by the government on Tuesday.
And for the fourth consecutive time, a side-event on “Accelerating Post Covid Recovery Using Data Revolution,” was held virtually in the sidelines of the High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) on July 13 to bring governments, development partners, UN entities, the private sector, and academia together to share best practices and exchange views on how to accelerate post Covid recovery using a collective data intelligence platform and create scope for collaboration within/among nations.
Senior Secretary of ICT Division N M Zeaul Alam, and Foreign Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Masud Bin Momen were present as special guests at the side event. Ambassador and Permanent Representative, Permanent Mission of Bangladesh to the United Nations, Rabab Fatima moderated the program.
N M Zeaul Alam PAA, senior secretary of the ICT Division, said: “We can establish a common data platform where we can produce global and local data sharing policies, collect data from each other, introduce common identifiers such as unique property reference numbers and shift from silo to whole-of-government approach to generate data as an important policy influence.”
Foreign Secretary Masud Bin Momen stated in his remarks: “The main task of the post-Covid recovery would be to effectively resume trade, commerce, social value, agriculture, health system among others and to allow these to function at their previous levels and if possible, better. Data will play a crucial part in taking timely decisions concerning these areas.”
Rabab Fatima, ambassador and permanent representative of Permanent Mission of Bangladesh to the United Nations said: “As we are fighting the pandemic, it is essential that the public agencies, the private sector, telecommunication operators and academia work together to mobilize the true potential of the data revolution so that no one is left behind during post Covid-19 recovery.”
Anir Chowdhury, policy advisor at Aspire to Innovate (a2i), was the keynote speaker and made the presentation during the program which highlighted Bangladesh’s use of data from the initial stages of the pandemic to trace and identify suspected cases, provide telemedicine services, upgrade social safety net services to assist highly impacted populations hit hard by the pandemic and analyze and develop best practices for a post Covid-19 workforce.
After the keynote presentation, a moderated panel discussion was held which involved high-level representatives from UN agencies and international organizations.
What the panelists say
The panelists discussed the importance of collaboration among governments, development partners, UN entities, the private sector, and researchers to share best practices through a collective data intelligence platform.
Vincenzo Aquaro, chief of Digital Government Branch, Division for Public Institutions and Digital Government, UNDESA, said: “Without the right data, good policies may be implemented for the wrong reasons. Accountability and review mechanisms will be insufficient, thus affecting SDG implementation.”
Robert Opp, chief digital officer at UNDP, mentioned that UNDP’s Accelerator Labs have been implemented in 60 countries to support governments in taking creative and innovative approaches to any crises, not just Covid-19.
Speaking of the Asia-Pacific SDG Gateway developed by UNESCAP, to allow countries and development partners access to SDG data for analysis, Gemma Van Halderen, director of the Statistics Division, UNESCAP, expressed: “The Asia-Pacific SDG Gateway has been complemented by a Covid-19 policy response tracker which has turned into a one-stop-shop for access to policy responses across the region.”
Denis Nkala, regional coordinator (Asia – Pacific) of the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC) remarked: “In order to travel from point A to B, it is the data that will guide you and help you make the most effective decisions to reach your destination.”
Speaking of Somalia’s active surveillance system which has helped the country contain the virus, Abdirahim Muudey, director of Coordination and Partnership Development, Ministry of Planning, Investment and Economic Development of the Federal Government of Somalia (FGS), commented: “In this difficult time, for a country responding to Covid-19, being ahead of the curve is the only way to limit the spread of the virus in the community. This can be done by enhancing active surveillance spanning the geographic coverage of the country.”
Ahmed Mushfiq Mobarak, professor of Economics, Yale University, said: “Covid-19 is not just a health issue, it is also an economic issue. We have seen a 40-80% drop in informal income globally. This has led to significant food security issues in many countries. Migrants and women are particularly at risk,” he mentioned.
Caroline Buckee, associate professor of Epidemiology, Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, said: “Covid-19 revealed limitations in our data collection systems, but also pushed innovation with new analytical approaches. Moving forward, we must ask what is the goal of our data system. We need information that can help policymakers to make decisions.”
Following the panel discussion session, an open discussion was held where panelists answered questions asked by the audience.
The event was jointly organized by the Permanent Mission of Bangladesh to the United Nations, Aspire to Innovate (a2i), Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh, The Federal Government of Somalia (FGS), United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC), South-South Network for Public Service Innovation (SSN4PSI), United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA), United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), International Labour Organization (ILO), Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Yale University, The Commons Project, Future of Work Lab Bangladesh.