The UN World Data Forum brings together data and statistical experts and users from governments, civil society, the private sector, donor and philanthropic bodies, international and regional agencies, the geospatial community, the media, academia and professional bodies. Data experts and users gather to spur data innovation, mobilize high-level political and financial support for data and build a pathway to better data for sustainable development.

The High-level Group for Partnership, Coordination and Capacity-Building for Statistics for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (HLG-PCCB) leads the organization of the UN World Data Forum, under the guidance of the United Nations Statistical Commission and in close consultation with Member States, international partners and other stakeholders. The Statistics Division of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs supports the organization of the Forum in its role as Secretariat of the Commission and the HLG-PCCB.

The first United Nations World Data Forum was hosted from 15 to 18 January 2017 by Statistics South Africa in Cape Town, South Africa. The second UN World Data Forum was hosted by the Federal Competitiveness and Statistics Authority of the United Arab Emirates from 22 to 24 October 2018 in Dubai. A Virtual UN World Data Forum was held on 19–21 October 2020. The UN World Data Forum 2021 will be hosted by the Federal Statistical Office of Switzerland from 3 to 6 October 2021 in Bern.


The Programme of the UN World Data Forum is organized around six main thematic areas covering a wide range of topics and developed through an open call for session proposals.

The forum is designed to bring together representatives, users and producers, from various sectors working with data to support the implementation of Agenda 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals. Contributions under each thematic area should showcase practical solutions and hands-on experiences, and contribute to delivering better data for evidence-based policymaking and address pressing issues faced by the global data and statistical communities.

Throughout the forum, participants will have opportunities to interact in a variety of session formats, including plenary sessions, round table dialogues, debates, break-out spaces, innovation labs and workshops, knowledge sharing spaces, exhibits and virtual forums.

  • New approaches to capacity development for better data: Supporting the transformation of modern data ecosystems in countries

    Thematic area 1 covers new approaches to capacity development to address the changing needs of data producers and data users in the context of new interdependencies and collaboration frameworks across data ecosystems.

    Sessions under Thematic Area 1 will focus on strengthening the capacity of nationals statistical systems to integrate new skills and technologies to fully harness the power of different data sources; examining the role of statistical institutes particularly their role in capacity building of NSOs and NSSs in the regions; advocating the importance of data to the political community; developing new ways to measure outcomes and impacts of capacity development; building international cooperation to foster capacity development; integrating statistical capacity development into strategic national planning; leveraging south-south cooperation and peer learning; fostering/forging partnerships between public and private sectors, and broadening the donor base and creating financial instruments to support systems for SDG measurement.

  • Innovations and synergies across data ecosystems: Bringing data sources together and creating an enabling environment for the integration and leveraging of various data sources and methodologies

    Thematic area 2 addresses innovations and synergies across different data communities by creating an enabling environment for the integration and use of different sources of data. Data can be seen as either an outcome, such as when we gather national statistics that tell us the state of the world, or an input, such as when satellite imagery data is processed by computers to predict future conditions or to automate operations.

    Sessions under thematic area 2 will demonstrate the value of data and how it can be utilized to improve the lives of people. Sessions will help build an understanding of what data can do, by addressing data-driven algorithms for improved service delivery, uses of machine learning and predictive technology. The sessions under thematic area 2 will also explore how to champion the changing role of NSOs as they move from data producers to service providers; to nurture collaboration between NSOs and non-traditional producers of data; to integrate geospatial information and statistics, and to leverage opportunities and mitigate risks associated with the use of big data and other new data sources. New initiatives and practical applications to bolster national statistical systems to demonstrate partnerships, and to integrate data technologies will also be highlighted. Sessions can also address data-driven algorithms for improved service delivery, uses of machine learning and predictive technology.

  • Leaving no one behind: Generating and leveraging data and statistics to ensure visibility and voice for everyone

    Thematic area 3 focuses on making the most vulnerable visible through data.

    Sessions under thematic area 3 will center around the data to enable governments to deliver on the LNOB agenda and support statistically rigorous measurement of progress globally, nationally and locally. This includes foundational data in CRVS, education and health systems to ensure that everyone is visible and included; improving availability, quality and understanding of data on specific groups; addressing issues related to capturing particularly vulnerable groups in data gathering through traditional and innovative approaches paying particular attention to the current weakness of data at the lowest ends of the distribution; addressing challenges in providing access to microdata to ensure that small groups are not left behind while guaranteeing privacy and confidentiality; producing and using data effectively at city and local levels; and integrating geographical units of analysis (e.g., cities, human settlements, urban/rural areas) from geospatial and Earth Observation data into data production and dissemination processes.

  • Understanding the world through data: Improving communication of data; Making data and statistics accessible and relevant to and usable by all users; increasing data and statistical literacy and data communication; strengthening the use of data in journalism

    Thematic area 4 covers data and statistical literacy and the importance of proper use of data and statistics to understand the world around us. The sessions will also explore data use in today’s complex society.

    The sessions will explore how to: bring quality data to decision-makers, optimize the communication of data, tailor data communication strategies to different user groups, use data to show the impact of data on policies; utilize visualization tools to present clear data stories, and empower citizens to use data in order to improve their own lives. The sessions will also aim to provide contextual information that helps make sense of today’s abundance of data by strengthening data and statistical literacy and promoting best practices in data in journalism.

  • Building trust in data and statistics: Applying data principles and governance to new and existing data sources and implementing open data principles and practices

    Trust in data and statistics is paramount to the production and use of data. Thematic area 5 focuses on how ethical and professional principles, combined with user engagement, open data practices, data protection policies and methods, and the upholding of data quality standards can contribute to build and maintain trust in data and statistics.

    The sessions also draw attention to data privacy and security challenges in a changing data ecosystem and identify areas where data standards and data governance mechanisms need to be updated to remain effective. Data use and governance as a means to build trust in data and statistics will be the focus of sessions. The sessions also explore how national statistical offices can leverage their coordinating role and partner with other stakeholders to develop and promote the adoption of inclusive data standards, governance frameworks and technologies, and communication strategies that enhance trust in data and statistics.

  • How far have we come? A look at the implementation of the Cape Town Global Action Plan and financing of data and statistics; Addressing emerging challenges and identifying gaps to fully harness the power of data to improve people's lives

    Thematic area 6 is about taking stock of how far we have progressed in implementing the data revolution and the Cape Town Global Action Plan for Sustainable Development Data. The sessions under this thematic area will identify emerging and existing challenges faced by National Statistical Systems that need to be addressed by the global data community. Sessions will focus on the data revolution and gaps in its implementation.

    Sessions will focus on areas where current data does not fully address the needs or where data is missing. Financing for data and statistics as outlined in the Dubai Declaration is a key component of implementing the Global Action Plan, and sessions will focus on prioritizing resources for data and statistical development and launch new financing initiatives. Sessions will focus on issues such as: prioritizing the needs of developing countries in vulnerable situations; mobilizing strategic investments in the modernisation of National Statistical Systems, and fostering cooperation and coordination across stakeholder groups.

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