DG Statistics Netherlands advises Prince Charles

/ Author: Miriam van der Sangen
On 12 July in London, Statistics Netherlands (CBS) Director General Mr. Tjark Tjin-A-Tsoi took part in a meeting of the advisory group at the ‘Measure what Matters: a Framework for Action’ forum, focusing on better measurement of progress in sustainable development worldwide. The forum was convened partly by HRH The Prince of Wales, better known in the Netherlands as Prince Charles, who has been dedicated to promoting sustainable development for many years. Mr. Tjin-A-Tsoi was invited in the light of CBS' leading role – along with other national statistical offices – in the monitoring of progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In addition, CBS' professional and innovative communication policy has attracted a great deal of international attention. A presentation given by Mr. Tjin-A-Tsoi expounded on this new communication policy.

New initiatives

The aim of the forum was to bring together people who are currently addressing the realisation of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (known as the SDGs or Global Goals) from very different perspectives, allowing them to jointly develop new initiatives towards achieving these goals. The SDGs are the new international benchmark for sustainable development in 193 countries. At the core of the UN ‘2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development’ are 17 SDGs with 169 targets, which apply to the period 2015-2030. Over the past few years, CBS has actively contributed to the formulation of a first list of indicators which can be used to measure the progress of the developments towards these SDGs.

Measure what matters

HRH The Prince of Wales has been engaged for many years in work related to the achievement of sustainability goals as were adopted by the United Nations in 2000 in the form of the Millennium Development Goals. The SDGs build on these. In that context, the Prince focuses on bringing together national and local governments, businesses, investors, non-governmental organisations, citizen groups as well as groups involved in defining standards and monitoring progress. Approximately 150 people from these various groups were present at the ‘Measure what Matters’ forum, allowing for interesting discussions. Investors are not just making financial projections on potential investment targets, but are also offering advice on whether an investment is actually sustainable. Large insurers have become increasingly aware of the need to control environmental risks for their corporate clients. Individual companies no longer base their performance merely on the corporate financial results, but also show that they are actively contributing to sustainable development. The representatives of various cities presented ways in which they take their responsibility and work together around the world to improve security, air quality or energy consumption.

Communicating about progress

Altogether 17 different main goals have been set by the UN for sustainable development, each goal containing various targets. Given the large number of targets, covering a wide selection of spheres ranging from poverty reduction to equal rights to the environment, measuring progress is not an easy task and certainly cannot be captured in a mere figure. Hence the theme of one of the workshops, ‘Communicating about progress’. At this workshop, Mr. Tjin-A-Tsoi explained how CBS is trying to bring statistical output to the attention of the widest possible public in an appealing way. This was referred to by the DG as ‘actionable intelligence’. Another development which caught the interest of the audience was how prosperity in a broad sense has become a topic recently adopted by the Dutch House of Representatives on their political agenda, a topic which is reported on by CBS in an annual parliamentary meeting. In summary, CBS' new approach towards communication garnered much interest, not only from The Prince of Wales, but from all the other attendants as well. The meeting therefore offered an excellent opportunity for CBS to make new contacts and take note of the initiatives of others. These can help CBS in further shaping the framework for monitoring progress towards the SDGs. On the other hand, CBS could offer advice to others on the correct way to map this progress and the most appealing way to communicate on this with the outside world.

Advisory group

The highlight of the day was a special breakout session with a number of participants forming an advisory group convened by HRH The Prince of Wales. The group exchanged ideas with the Prince on the topic of ‘measure what matters’. Mr. Tjin-A-Tsoi was a member of this advisory group. The Prince was extremely well informed and interested. Above all, he called on the attending participants to come forward with concrete actions and steer away from a mere round table discussion. This call did not go unheeded; many of the participants submitted one or more particular commitments. CBS will primarily continue its involvement in establishing statistically sound indicators for the goals and the monitoring of these goals. In addition, CBS will help other countries set up a robust measuring system. Furthermore, also as part of the outcome of this meeting, CBS will look into possible ways to assist cities around the Netherlands in jump-starting the SDGs.