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Experts unite worldwide to improve statistics on disasters

Emergency

The importance of statistical information to help us cope with disasters has never been clearer than over the past year. As the Covid-19 pandemic has gripped the world, numbers have become our bread and butter. Yet the pandemic has also highlighted the challenges and imperfections in many systems; the numbers decision-makers need might be absent, incomplete, inaccurate or slow to arrive.   

On 7, 8 and 10 June UNECE will convene the first global Expert Forum for Producers and Users of Disaster-related Statistics, designed to foster a global community of practice of experts including policymakers, analysts, disaster-risk managers, researchers, and statisticians, with the aim of strengthening the link between those who gather data and produce statistics about hazardous events and disaster risk, and those on the ground who use them. Stronger mechanisms to ensure collaboration and coordination of work on disaster-related statistics across disciplines and organizations will help make future statistics more fit for purpose to reduce disaster risk, support disaster relief, measure disaster impacts and monitor related policy goals. 

Statistics play a key role both in mitigating against and managing risks, and in disaster response. In the case of the Covid-19 pandemic, for example, we rely on figures to track and project the spread of the virus, its impact on health, businesses, education, travel, and economies. Knowing where the population groups most vulnerable to the virus are located helps authorities to target testing and treatment, while information on the groups impacted in manifold ways by restrictions and closures is needed to channel support to those in need. 

Our world faces many other kinds of risks – caused by severe weather events, accidents, terrorist attacks, for instance – and statistics are needed to navigate and manage all of them. The Expert Forum will examine the role of official statistics in contributing to reducing risks and impacts, through fulfilling the information requirements of international policy and monitoring frameworks including the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Paris Agreement and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction. It will look at how international statistical guidance, including the Conference of European Statisticians’ Recommendations on the Role of Official Statistics in Measuring Hazardous Events and Disasters, is contributing to harmonization of disaster-related statistics and will explore the need for further guidance. 

Special sessions will shine a spotlight on disaster-related statistics in the areas of health, climate change, and the power of geospatial data and Earth observations, which allow statistics producers to integrate an essential spatial component into insights on disaster risk, exposure and impact. 

The pressing need for action to improve disaster-related statistics on a global scale is evidenced in the worldwide commitment to building a strong expert community. The Expert Forum, the first of its kind, is co-organized by UNECE with the newly established “Inter-Agency and Expert Group on Disaster-related Statistics” which is managed by UNDRR jointly with the statistical divisions of all five United Nations Regional Commissions and UNSD. The Expert Forum will be addressed by all of their directors in its opening sessions. The Forum will be attended by more than 300 participants, and is taking place with two consecutive sessions on the same topic each day to accommodate the great diversity of time zones of those who will take part across the globe. With national examples being showcased from every corner of the planet, from Ireland to Bhutan, Canada to Lebanon and Georgia to the Dominican Republic, every region stands to gain from the shared learning and priority-setting that the Forum will promote.

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