SD DIMENSIONS / Women and Population / Resources
Posted 20 May 1997

New York,
10-14 February 1997

UNFPA Thematic Workshop on Indicators

Prepared by Stella Ogbuagu, Senior Officer (Women, Population and Development), FAO Women and Population Division

IN LINE WITH the provisions of the International Conference on Population and Development(ICPD), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has increasingly emphasised the need to develop, in collaboration with other Agencies, NGOs and University communities, indicators for the monitoring and assessment of the impact of national development efforts and international aid on the quality of life of citizens of developing countries. To further the work that has already been done in constructing reliable, valid, relevant and useful indicators, a Thematic Workshop on Indicators was convened in New York, 10-14 February 1997.

Highlights of discussions

The development of indicators is by no means easy. There is still much imprecision in the definition of some concepts including indicators themselves, mainstreaming gender, unmet needs, qualitative indicators, etc. Though much work has already been done, many concepts clearly require further operationalisation to avoid differential interpretations.

Data for the development of "robust and contextually-relevant" indicators are either not easily available or are of poor quality in some of the developing countries. In such situations, it was considered critical to strengthen national capacity to step-by-step build up Integrated National Information System that will provide adequate qualitative and quantitative data for the construction of indicators.

Relevant research is required to supplement information in areas with incomplete civil registration and poor census/survey data. However, as much as possible such research plans need to be precise, feasible and fundable to match prevailing financial realities.

Indicators in the Reproductive Health area are far more advanced than in Population and Development and Adovacy ( the two other UNFPA core areas ). Even at that, there are still problematic indicators including maternal mortality ratio, adolescent reproductive rate, etc. which require further clarification and refinement.

In the area of Population and Development, much work is needed in order to build a set of robust and appropriate indicators. Some of the selected indicators, for example, absence/presence of national population policy still pose problems of lack of clarity. This is because in some cases, the existence of a population policy may not be matched by visible activity toward implementation, whereas in other situations there may be vigorous population activity even in the absence of a well articulated policy.

For Advocacy and IEC, the problem was whether to handle them jointly or separately given their differential goals, concerns and target audiences. Eventually, a different set of indicators was selected for each but with the understanding that both are tools for promoting activities in the other thematic areas. Still, developed indicators need further refinement

Gender and poverty were treated as cross-cutting themes. Therefore, indicators for monitoring both are diffused in the three core thematic areas.

Reporter's comments

The pervasiveness of poverty in the developing countries and the emphasis on its alleviation by Cairo, Beijing and Rome, among other International conferences, suggest that special attention be given to poverty alleviation. Therefore, it is important to develop a separate set of indicators for monitoring and assessing the effectiveness of specific alleviation programmes at different levels but particularly in the rural areas.

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