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Statements Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

Human rights data for development

20 September 2023


Human Rights Council Side-Event: “Leveraging human rights data to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”


Palais des Nations, Room XXV

Opening Remarks by Deputy High Commissioner Nada Al-Nashif

Dear participants, dear panellists,

I would like to express our sincere appreciation to the Permanent Missions of Luxembourg and Chile for organising this event with us. I take this opportunity to salute their leadership of the Core Group that passed a landmark resolution on human rights and the 2030 Agenda at the Human Rights Council this April, urging greater efforts to connect human rights and SDGs implementation.

I would also like to thank the Danish Institute for Human Rights and the UN Interagency Network on Human Rights, Leave No One Behind, and Sustainable Development; the co-sponsors.

We have seven years left to fulfill the promise of the 2030 Agenda, and we need game changing solutions to sharply accelerate progress. As emphasized in the Political Declaration of the upcoming SDG Summit, high quality disaggregated data is critical. Human rights data, statistics, and indicators as well as a human rights-based approach to data are fundamental tools in this context. They help us to:

  • Assess progress and identify gaps in implementation of the SDGs;
  • Identify, analyze, and address emerging and pressing human rights issues and the underlying development challenges;
  • Detect negative human rights trends at an early stage needed for prevention and early response; and
  • Identify the groups most impacted by these challenges, most at risk of being left behind, and design remedial action.

Distinguished guests, colleagues,

At the mid-point to 2030, it is a huge concern that progress on the SDGs has stalled, even reversed. Inequalities are at unprecedented levels. The SDGs will remain in “deep trouble”, as stated by the UN Secretary-General, if we do not bolster the protection of rights and freedoms enshrined in the UDHR and international human rights treaties. The inextricable linkages between human rights and sustainable development mean that development approaches that integrate human rights are more sustainable, they deliver better results for people and the planet, they build trust.

For this, we should optimize the way we collect, use and leverage human rights data – this is at the core of the UN Secretary-General’s Data Strategy, the UN 2.0 Quintet of Change, and the UN Roadmap for Innovating UN Data and Statistics.

Over the years, our Office has been modernizing its data systems and developing tools to support Member States to meet their respective human rights obligations, as well as to implement the SDGs in a way that is consistent with these obligations.

This includes the revamped Universal Human Rights Index, an online tool that [– among other functions –] helps connect the recommendations of the international human rights mechanisms with the SDGs.

Built on it, the National Recommendations Tracking Database (NRTD), an interactive web application already deployed in 10 countries, helps track and categorize human rights recommendations according to the SDGs and thematic areas. It allows more strategic planning of implementation through designating national lead institutions, monitoring implementation progress, and supporting the drafting of reports for human rights entities.

Through its technical assistance, our Office has worked with governments to produce data sets on disadvantaged groups, advised on census processes, used innovative methods to capture the lived realities of marginalized groups and make them visible in policy making. This has included gathering data on people living in informal settlements, indigenous groups, persons with disabilities, and persons of African descent and their access to housing, water, social protection, and other economic, social and cultural rights.

Our Office has also spearheaded innovative collaboration between national human rights institutions (NHRIs) and national statistics offices to operationalize a human rights-based approach to data.

Following the decision of the UN Statistical Commission in March 2023 to include human rights as an integral cross-cutting domain, all national statistics offices should now integrate human rights in the development of data collection mechanisms. This has already enabled Kenya for example, to record violence against human rights defenders and the Philippines, to record the deaths of civilians associated with armed conflict, as well as attacks on human rights defenders and journalists – two of the four SDG indicators which are under OHCHR custodianship.

Distinguished guests, colleagues,

The SDG Summit offers an opportunity to reignite the commitment towards the spirit and the aspirations of the Universal Declaration adopted 75 years ago. Greater support for disaggregated data on human rights and SDG indicators is crucial to make this a reality.