Plenary Lecture

Official Statistics and the Politics of Sustainable Development

Professor Paul Allin
Visiting Professor, Department of Mathematics
Imperial College London

Abstract: Sustainable development is increasingly defined in terms of indicators and targets, notably to help put into practice the UN's 2030 agenda for sustainable development. All countries have committed to developing broader measures of progress to complement GDP. There are many challenges to be faced in designing and delivering indicators that will be relevant, reliable, usable and affordable. The official statistics system is envisioned to undertake this work, as a core part of its role to serve governments, economies and the public with data about the economic, demographic, social and environmental situation. Standards, quality control and international collaboration are essential features of official statistics. However, the crucial issue is how new indicators will be used. We look at political demands for new measures of sustainable development and discuss issues concerning their use. We consider the need for active engagement of official statistical offices as well as the involvement of the media, policy-makers and politicians. Will the publication of sustainable development indicators stimulate behaviour change, leading to more sustainable development by consumers and businesses, or will the indicators only be used to record our development?

Brief Biography of the Speaker: Paul Allin is a visiting professor in the department of mathematics at Imperial College London. His research interests are the measurement of national wellbeing and the use of such measures in politics, policy, business and everyday life. He lectures on official statistics and chairs the UK Statistics User Forum. Paul spent his professional career as a statistician, researcher and policy analyst in several UK government departments and agencies, including the Employment Deaprtment, the Equal Opportunities Commission and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. He was the first director of the Measuring National Well-being programme at the Office for National Statistics.

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