In its recent meeting, the World Bank–IMF Development Committee reaffirmed its commitment to the global effort needed to reduce poverty in developing and transition countries and achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). These Goals are now central objectives of the major development agencies and international financial institutions, and form an agreed basis for monitoring development progress. Within the international system, the United Nations is leading the work on monitoring the MDGs, while the World Bank and International Monetary Fund are leading the work on monitoring the policies and actions for achieving them. In addition, in the context of the recent replenishment agreement, the International Development Association is developing an enhanced results measurement system, based in part on the agreed MDG monitoring indicators. Meanwhile at the country level, complementing the MDG Reports sponsored by the UN Country Teams, the Poverty Reduction Strategy process encourages countries to set national goals and monitoring plans for reducing poverty that are consistent with the MDGs.
The ability of multilateral agencies, bilateral donors and national governments to support progress toward the MDGs and national development goals depends crucially on the quality and availability of reliable data. Important steps have been taken to improve existing data and to coordinate efforts to increase the statistical capacity of developing countries. Examples include the work of PARIS21, making the case for evidence-based policy among statisticians and policy-makers; the self-assessments of statistical practices that have been carried out by countries participating in the General Data Dissemination System; and, recently, inter-agency efforts to improve the estimates of child mortality and immunization rates.
New initiatives are currently underway to improve the measurement of education, health, and water and sanitation systems. Still much work remains to be done, both to strengthen national statistical systems and to improve the quality of information available for international monitoring. This was recognized by the Roundtable on "Better Measuring, Monitoring and Managing for Development Results" held in June 2002 in Washington, DC, which concluded that greater statistical support was needed, both at international and national levels, to improve the measurement of development goals.
In response, The World Bank and Eurostat agreed to convene a Task Team under the auspices of PARIS21, to find ways of improving support to the monitoring of development goals. The primary objectives of the team are to identify gaps in national and international statistical processes, and inconsistencies that may exist between national and international requirements, and to propose coordinated actions to strengthen statistical systems and resolve any inconsistencies and gaps found. As part of this work, Bolivia, Cambodia, Cameroon, Malawi, Moldova, and Pakistan have been identified by the Task Team as candidates for case studies. This exercise will identify strategic actions that can be implemented by both countries and the international community, so that capacity to report progress towards national and international development goals can be improved.
The World Bank hosted this Conference on Improving Statistics for Measuring Development Outcomes as part of the follow-up to the June 2002 Roundtable and in its role as co-chair of the PARIS21 Task Team. The objectives were to:
- Review recent progress and discuss new initiatives in measuring and monitoring development outcomes;
- Take stock of the work of the PARIS21 Task Team and provide guidance going forward;
- Identify steps leading to a plan of action that addresses needed improvements in national and international data systems.