Opening Remarks by the Regional Director at the Technical Consultation on Monitoring the Health-Related Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

9-10 February 2017, New Delhi, India

Distinguished participants, ladies and gentlemen,

It is with great pleasure that I welcome you to this Technical Consultation on Monitoring the Health-Related Sustainable Development Goals – or SDGs.

At last year’s Regional Committee, several Member States expressed interest in holding this meeting as early as possible in 2017. We have worked to make this happen.

The SDG era is now well underway and there is much to be achieved: The goal of SDG 3, ‘ensuring healthy lives and promoting wellbeing for all at all ages,’ is one that we are all striving towards.

It is a mark of your commitment to the SDG vision that monitoring and evaluation of the health-related indicators has been a recurrent theme at previous meetings and consultations.

This includes the Regional Consultation on Health, the SDGs and the role of Universal Health Coverage held here in New Delhi last March. As you know, a core part of the discussion centred on the SDGs’ implications for national M&E frameworks, and how measurement and accountability mechanisms can enhance progress.

This technical consultation intends to build on such discussions, and to look in greater depth at how countries within our Region and elsewhere plan to monitor the health-related SDGs. This will help identify ways to enhance national capacity to monitor progress, including through equity analysis.

In pursuing the SDGs, it is important to emphasize that no country is starting from zero, and that health-related indicators will need to be integrated into national M&E frameworks and core indicator sets. National monitoring of health policies, strategies, and plans should remain the first priority in terms of tracking and reporting progress towards improving health and health outcomes.

To this end, this consultation will help align the monitoring of the health-related SDGs with existing national platforms. It will do so in a way that minimizes the burden on health workers and improves the quality, analysis, and use of the indicators for better health policy and planning.

One group of targets and indicators address the unfinished business of the MDGs. Others are new and address emerging priorities, including minimizing the increasing burden of non-communicable diseases. A third group are known as ‘means of implementation’ targets and include health systems indicators. There is a target for Universal Health Coverage, which will be central to achieving progress on other SDG health targets.

Though we plan to explore each of these over the next two days, we will also consider health-related targets and indicators outside of SDG 3, such as those related to poverty or the environment.

So the scope of our discussions will be broad. There are nevertheless a few key points that we will focus on, and on which we have much to learn from one another. After all, six of the Region’s Member States have already held country-specific consultations on M&E in the SDG era.

First, we will clarify indicator definitions and preferred data sources.

Second, we will map out how new indicators can be integrated into existing information systems and future surveys.

Third, we will identify which targets and indicators are most and least applicable to country situations.

Fourth, we will explore means to access and use data from other sectors more effectively.

Fifth, we will review the importance and use of disaggregated data for analysing inequalities to ensure ‘no one is left behind’.

And sixth, we will examine how to deal with discrepancies between nationally reported values and global health estimates.

We anticipate greater clarity on these points will help countries plan activities and initiatives, and will also help crystallize a Region-wide consensus on how to move forward together.

Distinguished participants,

I trust the next two days will be productive in terms of identifying some key actions and steps that can enhance data collection, management and use in your countries. The SDG agenda is an excellent entry point for advancing national efforts and increasing technical assistance to strengthen health information systems.

As a means to inform WHO’s preparedness and strengthen our own capacity to support, our staff will be noting your feedback throughout, and will be keen to follow up with you accordingly.

I am pleased to note the presence of the Asian Development Bank, UNESCAP, UNICEF, and JICA at these discussions, and trust that the coming days will be used as an opportunity to strengthen collaboration between development partners.

I am confident that our discussions will be of immense value in developing and strengthening national capacity for monitoring the health-related SDGs in our Region. I wish you all vigorous and productive deliberations and a pleasant stay in New Delhi.

Thank you.