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sabato, Luglio 20, 2024

Ngarsaim Espoir Beram (JPO at FAO): the importance of data and statistics to achieve the SDGs

ROME, 7 NOVEMBER – Ngarsaim Espoir Beram from Chad is part of the Office of the Chief Statistician at the FAO, where he is in charge of SDG monitoring and reporting. He is among the recipients of the Italian JPO programme 20/21 edition, having secured one of the few spots intended for applicants from least developed countries.

With a marked interest in statistics, Mr. Beram has a solid background in the regional and country offices of various international organizations located in the African continent. He is keen to use his knowledge and experience to contribute to a more efficient allocation of resources and, as a consequence, to regional and international development. Today, he shares how harmonized data and statistical production processes is essential for the achievement of the SDGs.

What are the experiences (educational and professional) that led you to the UN?

I hold a double master’s degree in Development Economics from the University of Auvergne (France), after studying Statistics at the Sub-Regional Institute of Statistics and Applied Economics (ISSEA) of Cameroon. As part of my Master’s studies, my first professional experience was in the Overseas Development Institute (ODI), a think tank based in London. I then worked at the National Institute of Statistics of Chad for more than a year, an experience that allowed me to understand the strengths and weaknesses of the national statistical system. Having realized the lack of capacities in development planning, I moved to the UN Economic Commission for Africa in Ethiopia, which marked my first experience with the UN, as part of the one-year Fellowship Programme for Young African Professionals.
The knowledge and skills gained through this fellowship programme have been decisive in my following 3-year work experience in Chad, offering consultancy services to UN agencies such as UNDP and UNICEF and the World Bank in order to support the Government in developing reports, designing programmes and projects as well as monitoring progress in their implementation. As an example, I contributed to the development of the first national SDG progress report for Chad. While working at the World Bank in the field of project management, my desire to take on new challenges at the regional or international level and contribute to the debate on development issues led me to apply to the JPO programme, where I was selected by FAO. I first heard about this programme on the UN DESA website in 2018, and this was my second application.

What does your daily work at the FAO consist of?

Although I joined the FAO in times of COVID, a well-established rotation plan, which combines remote and in-person work, made it easy to adapt to a new city alongside my family while also being able to deliver my work program. Furthermore, my assignment with FAO occurred in a context of transition to its new Strategic Framework, which relies, among others, on data generation, control, use and ownership as one of the critical overarching accelerators to enable real time innovative technologies and decision-making. As such, I have been actively taking part to the revision of FAO Statistics and Data Quality Assurance Framework that provides guiding principles for the production of quality data and statistics by the Organization. FAO has also recently engaged in the process of modernizing its statistical system through a large-scale data dissemination project in which I am involved. Lastly, I have been supporting the coordination of FAO’s contribution to the monitoring framework of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, especially in the Africa region.

My daily work consists in supporting the development and implementation of new standards, mechanisms and tools for an improved quality of FAO’s statistical activities, databases and information systems to ensure the organization’s transformational change towards the achievement of the 2030 Agenda. Thus, creating the conditions for increased compliance with these standards remains my ultimate goal.

What are your specific contributions to the monitoring framework of the FAO-related SDGs?

FAO is the custodian UN agency for 21 food and agriculture-related SDG indicators. Some of these indicators are also included in the reporting frameworks of regional programmes, such as the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) of the African Union Commission (AUC). Therefore, the FAO is closely working with the AUC to harmonize their respective frameworks for indicators of common interest in order to reduce potential inconsistences and reporting burdens on countries. My achievements in this specific area of work include drafting notes on how to strengthen this collaboration, assessing the quality of the AUC biennial data review and the alignment of their indicators with the global SDG monitoring framework. More recently, I produced an analysis on the biennial review with specific recommendations for improvements, which was presented and discussed at a workshop on the critical analysis of that process, held in Yaoundé.

What makes the JPO programme in FAO a unique experience?

First, the JPO programme differs from other programmes in which I have participated in that it includes a one-month orientation session, which prepares the selected candidates from all the participating organizations for a smooth and successful onboarding.

Second, FAO places particular emphasis on the career development of the staff, providing them with trainings through its Career Accelerator Labs. This helps to pave the way for the formation and refinement of career choices. In addition, FAO’s promotion of close collaboration among staff members, regardless of their grade, and the involvement of junior staff in high-level assignments are conducive to their professional growth. For example, I have been assigned to a Technical Working Group consisted of experts from diverse agencies, in which I represent FAO.

Third, my assignment with the FAO’s Office of Chief Statistician (OCS) gives me the privilege to have an overview of all the statistical activities of the organization and interact with external regional and international institutions. This is the case with the Statistical Data Warehouse project where I have the opportunity to work closely with the FAO Fisheries and Statistics Divisions, and the OECD.

Finally, I have always been passionate about sustainable development and food security, whose achievement is the main goal of FAO. This passion is an additional source of motivation for my work and my achievements.

How do you intend to use this experience in your future endeavors?

The emergence of new types of data and new demands for statistical information is putting a great pressure on national statistical systems and challenging statistical offices in their central role of national data coordinators. Similar coordination problems can be experienced in International organizations where the internal statistical system is decentralized in several thematic statistical units, often working in silos. For this reason, working in the Office of the Chief Statistician, gives me the opportunity to contribute to the coordination and quality assurance of the statistical of the entire Organization, actively participating in High profile corporate projects, such as the modernization of its statistical information systems and the development of a new statistical data warehouse. Participating in the design and the implementation of this modernization project is an opportunity for me to develop a solid expertise, which can be replicated in other national, regional or international organizations.

I would be eager to participate in regional initiatives, and regarding my continent in particular, aiming to support the modernization of national statistical systems and to develop their capacities to produce and disseminate high quality data and statistics. This would help reduce the associated costs and accelerate progress in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda. Indeed, I believe that the more standardized the statistical activities are within a region, the more effective is the coordination of regional and global programmes or agendas.

What do you mean by standardization?

Data and statistical production processes and information systems in different international or regional organizations, countries and private companies often differ in terms of the language used and their characteristics, making it difficult to have a comprehensive and effective use of data, internally, and to exchange data between organizations. Therefore, my desire is to later contribute to the harmonization of the data and statistical production processes in order to enhance the use of a common language and standards within and among national statistical systems. This has, in turn, important implications for data processing and, therefore, for quality assurance, and effective policy formulation and implementation. In addition, the standardization of statistical information systems would also entail highly reduced costs in the production and access to data and statistics as well as reporting burdens on countries.

Advice to young people interested in a career like yours?

Be flexible in your professional choices and invest time in learning new skills on-the-job. It is often difficult for young people to get a job that perfectly matches both their interests and educational background, but this should not prevent them from being flexible enough to make the most of every professional experience and patiently work to refine and enlarge their skills as well as their career opportunities. (@giorgiodelgallo)

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