Data Standards For United Nations
SYSTEM-WIDE REPORTING OF FINANCIAL DATA
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Recognising the new demands for the UN-system in terms of its system-wide financial information, HLCM at its 34th session in September 2017 endorsed a joint initiative with the United Nations Sustainable Development Group to establish an ad-hoc UN team on “The UN’s future data cube” in an effort to move away from a data structure that had historically been mapped on data categories and data-compilation approaches developed in a pre-Sustainable Development Goals era and to replace them with a road map for a more encompassing and disaggregated “system-wide data cube” that would be compatible with the Sustainable Development Goals.

The new demands for UN system-wide financial information have come from, inter alia, adoption in recent years of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (A/Res/70/1), the Addis Ababa Action Agenda of the Third International Conference on Financing for Development (A/Res/69/313) and the 2016 Quadrennial Comprehensive Policy Review (QCPR) of operational activities for development of the United Nations system (A/Res/71/243). The 2016 QCPR requested the UN “to continue to strengthen the analytical quality of system-wide reporting on funding, performance and programme results for the United Nations operational activities for development, aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals, and in this regard calls for the publication of timely, reliable, verifiable and comparable system-wide and entity-level data, definitions and classifications”. In addition, the Secretary-General’s reports on the repositioning of the UN Development System of July (A/72/124) and December (A/72/684) 2017 picked up the theme of increased harmonization and transparency of UN system data.

The ad-hoc team on “The UN’s future data cube” was created with representatives from across the UN system. The team was co-chaired by the CEB Secretariat on behalf of the HLCM and the Multi-Partner Trust Fund Office on behalf of the UNSDG. The membership of the ad-hoc team consisted of 18 UN entities, a broad-based group of UN colleagues that actively participated throughout the process and included the UN Secretariat, and various Funds and Programmes and Specialised Agencies.

The key planned deliverables of the team were a set of data standards for a more encompassing and disaggregated “system-wide data cube” that would be compatible with the SDGs, and a roadmap for the implementation of the agreed data standards. The data cube initiative was completed as planned in December 2018 after the approval by HLCM and UNSDG of six data standards for the reporting of UN system-wide financial information:

  • UN entity - Prescribes which UN entities should report their financial data in future UN system-wide data collection exercises.
  • UN system function - Provides definitions for functions carried out by UN System entities, to facilitate consistent reporting by entities of expenses against the four main functional areas of the UN.
  • Geographic location - Defines the geographical locations (global, regions and countries) under which financial information should be reported, as well as provides guidance for the allocation of expenses to these locations.
  • UN grant financing instruments - Provides definitions for the grant instruments and the various modalities in which funds are received by UN system entities
  • Sustainable Development Goals - Introduces a common UN methodology and format for reporting financial information against the SDG goals and targets 
  • Reporting on revenue by contributor - This standard provides guidance on reporting revenue received by contributor.

 Members of the inter-agency ad-hoc team can access team working documents here: http://www.unsceb.org/content/uns-future-data-cube