An Interview with Qatar Planning and Statistics Authority on the SDGs Environment Related Indicators

17 Sep 2019

This blog is part of a series of blogs that the Arab Development Portal is conducting with the Arab National Statistical Offices to provide updates on the reforms and plans taking place at the NSOs. 

The environmental sector is particularly important in the Arab region due to the pressing environmental challenges the region witnesses. In fact, the Arab region continues to face critical environmental threats such as desertification, water scarcity, land degradation and low efficiency of natural resource usage.

The average annual precipitation ranges from low levels as in Bahrain, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, where the average precipitation did not exceed 100 million cubic meters in 2017, to a less severe level, as in Sudan and Algeria, where precipitation rate exceeded 200 million cubic meters[1]. Equally, the rapidly growing population and high urbanization rates of 58.8 percent of the total population are putting tremendous pressure on the available natural resources and the sustainability and quality of the environment of the cities in the Arab countries[2].

The region also faces challenges related to the environment statistics sector which is represented by the absence of a clear framework governing the production and collection process. Furthermore, there is limited cooperation between the relevant government institutions, lack of financial resources allocated for the development of this sector and lack of technical staff, as the unit specialized in the production and compilation of environment statistics in some Arab countries is considered one of the smallest units in the government institutions and national statistical offices.

Consequently, all Arab countries are currently attributing particular importance to this sector, especially with the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Arab countries are also working on the production of country-specific Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) environment related indicators.
 

In an exclusive interview with the Arab Development Portal, Khaled Al-Shatarat, environment expert at the Qatar Planning and Statistics Authority (PSA), spoke about the efforts undertaken by the PSA to improve the production and dissemination of environmental indicators, especially that the environmental issues are reflected in the objectives of the Qatar National Vision (QNV) 2030, knowing that the PSA’s experience is considered as pioneering in providing 76% of the total 88 environmental indicators.

 

1. How is the environmental pillar reflected in the Qatar National Vision 2030?
 

Environmental issues have been reflected within the Qatar National Vision 2030 (QNV 2030) by paying due attention and consideration to the environmental development vision along with four other pillars of the vision. Qatar’s vision, QNV 2030, constitutes a beacon and serves as a clear roadmap that guides the country’s economic, social, human and environmental development. QNV 2030 aims to propel Qatar forward by balancing the accomplishments that achieve economic growth with Qatar’s human and natural resources on one hand, and the development needs and the protection of its natural resources (air, water and land) on the other.

As such, the National Vision represents a reflection of the environmental issues through its focus on developing a legal framework and building effective environmental institutions to preserve Qatar’s environmental heritage. QNV 2030 emphasizes the importance of supporting the international efforts to reduce the adverse effects of climate change and encourages regional cooperation among countries around the Arab Gulf to adopt preventive measures to mitigate the negative impacts of economic activities, along with developing a comprehensive plan that adopts a clear policy of urbanization and population distribution. In addition, QNV 2030 emphasizes the importance of increasing citizen’s awareness of their role in protecting the country’s environmental heritage.

 

2. How does the PSA coordinate with the other government institutions? What is the role of each party in terms of environmental indicators?
 

The aspirations for Qatar’s economy, society, people and environment, embodied in the QNV 2030, have been translated through a national development strategy in various sectors, including the National Environment Strategy, which is shared by the private and public sectors, civil society and Qatar citizens, through a collaborative mechanism.

The process of integrating the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development into the National Development Strategy came at the same time as the development of the Second National Strategy 2018-2022. Government institutions, the private sector, civil society organizations and research and academia are working hard to support the implementation of the second national development strategy, which includes environmental indicators and the goals and objectives of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The tools used for reporting on the progress achieved in the implementation of the Second National Development Strategy are the same technology innovation and scientific research tools used in the implementation, monitoring and follow-up processes in order to report on progress in the SDG indicators, including environmental indicators.

 

3. What challenges do you face in collecting and monitoring SDGs environmental indicators?
 

The main challenges are:

  • The lack of clarity of the metadata of some of the SDGs indicators especially those related to the environment statistics, given that some are still under methodological development and given that the environment statistics remain a recent topic and data related to this topic is still difficult to provide.
  • The lack of availability of statistical data that are required to calculate the SDGs related indicators from the relevant data producers.
  • The absence and sometimes partial application of statistical methodologies, as well as weak application of statistical evidence by the producers of the required data.
  • The rapid population growth, economic prosperity and mega-projects which imposed a burden on the production of statistical data and relatively the production of the SDGs related indicators.
  • The lack of well-trained and skilled staff that can work on the SDGs indicators, along with insufficient time required to meet with the task force.
  • The frequent and abundant requests from custodian agencies and international organizations, which sometimes impede the work and exert pressure on the producers of the required data.
  • The lack of clarity of the methodologies and calculation methods for Tier II and Tier III SDGs indicators. 
  • The absence of international experiences that can be considered as best practices.

 

4. Can you give us an idea about the availability of SDGs indicators and in particular the environment related indicators?
 

The Planning and Statistics Authority—represented by the Department of Statistics and in cooperation with some ministries and other governmental institutions— has been producing national indicators that are related to the SDGs and their targets (all SDGs indicators). Currently there are 186 available indicators, representing 76.3% of the total number of 244 indicators, while 37 indicators (representing 15.1% of the total number of indicators) are not available. The availability of these indicators requires surveys or administrative records. Furthermore, 11 indicators are being monitored and 7 indicators do not apply to Qatar, representing 4.5% and 2.9% of the total indicators, respectively. Custodian agencies are responsible for the calculation of three indicators making up 1.2% of total indicators.

On the other hand, out of the 88 environment-related SDGs indicators, 67 indicators are available in Qatar, representing around 76% of the total indicators, in contrast with 15 unavailable environment-related indicators or 17% of the total indicators. Their availability requires running surveys or administrative records among other efforts. As for the indicators that do not apply to Qatar, they amount to 6 indicators, representing 6.8% of the total indicators relevant to the environment sector.

 

5. What are the main sources of data specific to environment indicators?
 

The SDGs indicators, including the SDGs environment related indicators, were adopted according to the principle of Mixed Approach which was represented in the administrative records of data producers, namely ministries, governmental and private institutions, the general census data sources, specialized data survey sources such as the labor force survey, household income and expenditure survey, the scientific research and development survey, multiple indicator cluster survey (MICS), etc.

 

6. How do you overcome the challenges and how are you working on producing the unavailable SDGs indicators?
 

To overcome the abovementioned challenges and produce the unavailable indicators, we mainly:

  • Review the executive plans of national authorities, including the SDGs, which are approved and adopted by various authorities, and ensure their consistency with the national development strategy plan (as mentioned above, the second national strategy is directed towards the SDGs).
  • Identify the mechanisms used to achieve the second national development strategy and what it includes from the sustainable development goals, through consultation with various governmental agencies, the private sector and civil society organizations.
  • Improve and develop the statistical work to reflect improvement on all SDGs related areas.
  • Work in collaboration with national partners to develop their statistical and administrative records in order to meet the statistical needs of the SDGs indicators.
  • Develop statistical capacity building programs in the field of sustainable development to qualify and train national civil servants.
  • Adopt the necessary innovations and technology used in the production of statistical data to contribute to the calculation of the SDGs indicators.
  • Form a national committee team and task forces that are responsible for monitoring progress towards the implementation of the SDGs and the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development.
  • Publish a statistical report on the sustainable development indicators, i.e. a national report and reference to follow up on the implementation of the SDGs and thus measure the progress achieved towards their achievements.
  • Use an electronic link for databases with different producers in order to obtain data in a timely manner, which is necessary for measuring and reporting the SDGs indicators. This database is adopted by the General Census of Population and Housing.
  • Benefit from the technical support available from the regional and international institutions and organizations related to the SDGs indicators especially Tier II and Tier III indicators.

 

7. What is Qatar’s future plan regarding the environment sector and its related indicators?
 

  • Further link international priorities, including future sustainable development goals, to the objectives of the national development strategy for the environment.
  • Produce in the near future the maximum number of statistics related to the Framework for the development of Environment Statistics (FDES), which in turn aims to achieve several objectives, including the SDGs indicators and the objectives of the National Development Strategy for the environment.
  • Produce the environment indicators through specialized environmental surveys given the lack of resources at present to provide these data from the administrative records.
  • Work in cooperation with data producers on building a database for the environment sector and its related indicators.
  • Further develop statistical capacity-building programs from this time forth in the environmental field to qualify and train national civil servants.
  • Increase the use of the required innovations and technology that are used in the production of the environmental statistical data such as mathematical modeling, GIS and other techniques, in order to contribute to the calculation of environmental indicators.
  • Increase the frequency and diversification of publication methods related to the environment sector and indicators, knowing that the Environment Statistics report and Environment Statistics Bulletin, along with other specialized publications, are published every two years.
  • Open up to regional and international best practices and exchange experiences with stakeholders that are working in the environment sector and its indicators in order to maximize benefit from the regional and international organizations’ services in this field.
     
 

[1] United Nations Statistics Division. 2018. Statistical Database. [Online] Available at: https://unstats.un.org/home/ [Last accessed 1 July 2019].

[2] Population Division of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs of the United Nations Secretariat. 2018. World Population Prospects. [Online] Available at: https://population.un.org/wup [Last accessed 27 June 2019].

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