Events from September and October 2020

  • 3-4 September 2020, SEVAL Congress 2020 “Participating in evaluation – illusion or necessity?” 

In 2020, the Swiss Evaluations Society (SEVAL) held its annual congress from 3 to 4 September in Fribourg. Various methodological workshops, conferences and working groups were held on the subject of participation in evaluation, which consists in integrating interested groups from civil society, the sciences and the public administration into at least one of the phases of the evaluation. Participation is also important as part of monitoring, to collect data and provide information on a given system’s status or situation in the long-term. It is certainly used as a governing device in politics, but is not intended to assess the effectiveness of isolated decisions. 

Participative approaches with key players from the scientific community and the public administration have been developed in particular for monitoring sustainable development and the goals of the Federal Council’s legislative programme. During its methodology workshop, the Federal Statistical Office presented these approaches, showing how different groups can be involved in the design and ordinary activities of a monitoring system, without compromising the independence and principles of official statistics.

More information available at:

  • 5th October 2020, 15th Session of the Asia-Pacific Statistics Coffee Series: Financing statistical development

The United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), in collaboration with the Swiss Embassy in Bangkok, organised the 15th session of the Asia-Pacific Stats Café on the theme of “Financing Statistical Development” online.

The Asia-Pacific Stats Café is a series of webinars, initiated by the statistics division of the ESCAP in response to requests for advice from countries and as an opportunity to share experiences related to the impact of COVID-19 on national statistical systems.

This 15th session took the form of a webinar, as well as a 15-minute question-and-answer session, focusing on data and statistics on financing for development in the Asia-Pacific region. In this session, some of the recent developments in financing for development data, including The Bern Network on Financing Data for Development, were presented. S.E. Ayush Ariunzaya (Mongolian Minister of Labour and Social Protection), Mr Thomas Gass (Head of the Cooperation Department of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, Switzerland), Mr. Johannes Jutting (Executive Head of the Partnership in Statistics for Development in the 21st Century (PARIS21) and secretariat of the Bern Network on Financing Data Development), Ms. Francesca Perruci (Chief of the Development Data and Outreach Branch, Statistics Division, UN DESA and Secretariat for the UN World Data) and others participated online to provide input to the discussion.

  • 5 and 12 October, Science Café “The power of numbers” in Bern and Thun

The science cafés on the topic of the power of numbers by Science and City took place on 5 October and 12 October. The panel consisting of Georges-Simon Ulrich, Director of the Federal Statistical Office, Martina Bräm, former Design Director, Digital Paid Media, Tamedia AG, and Prof. Reinhard Riedl, Co-Director of the Institute for Digital Enabling at Bern University of Applied Sciences.

In particular, the public and the panelists were able to exchange views on the importance of data in political decision-making, the availability of data, their transparency and their independence from political issues. The risks and opportunities of big data were also discussed, distinguishing them from statistics.

You can find the science café programme here:

  • 12 October 2020, 2nd ASEAN Forum on SDGs with National Development Planning Agencies

The 2nd Forum organised by ASEAN took place online. It provided a platform for dialogue between national development planning agencies and inter-agency coordination platforms of ASEAN member states to take stock of the implementation of the SDGs, particularly in the current context of the Covid-19 pandemic.  In addition, within the framework of the Decade of Action, the second forum discussed strategies to strengthen statistics and data to monitor progress towards the implementation of the sustainable development goals.

At the first panel discussion focusing on the topic “Five-year implementation of SDGs in ASEAN: progress, lessons learned and the way forward”, Mr Arman Bidarbakhtnia (Head of Statistical Data Management Unit, Statistics Division, ESCAP) and Ms Orawan Yafa, ACSDSD Executive Director, each intervened to express their views.

The second roundtable was devoted to “Strengthening Data and Statistics to Advance the Implementation of SDGs in ASEAN”. Mr Johannes Jutting (Executive Head of the Partnership in Statistics for Development in the 21st Century (PARIS21)) intervened in particular to discuss possible strategies to better generate and collect usable data.

  • 14 October 2020, 4th dialogue of the Road to Bern via Geneva: Use of data

The fourth dialogue dealt with the last step relating to the data, i.e. the use of the data. The aim is to make the data (“big data”) easier to use.

 While data are more available than ever before, estimates suggest that up to 90% are unusable due to lack of relevant context, despite their potential to improve decision-making, policy development or the monitoring of the implementation of SDGs. What can be done to change this negative trend and make the available data more contextual? Part of the answer to this question lies in the power of data visualisation.

The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and the World Economic Forum were co-hosts of this ZOOM meeting.

For information, Road to Bern via Geneva will not stop at this fourth dialogue but will continue throughout 2021.

  • 15 October 2020, Data innovation in official statistics – “Road to Bern” webinar

The UN Global Working Group (GWG) on Big Data in Public Statistics organised a webinar jointly with the Federal Statistical Office (FSO) on the topic of data innovation in public statistics.

The GWG is an intergovernmental body subordinate to the UN Statistical Commission. It comprises 30 countries and 16 international organisations. It works with a large number of experts to prepare recommendations on the use of big data, data science and advanced technologies to produce more timely and relevant statistical indicators. Ronald Jansen (Assistant Director of the United Nations Statistics Division) was present to represent the GWG as an expected speaker at this webinar.

The FSO has taken the initiative to include data science in its portfolio of activities, which will benefit not only the Federal Statistical Office but also other departments of the federal administration. Bertrand Loison (Vice Director of the FSO, Switzerland) as the second speaker of the webinar introduced him to the FSO’s competence centre for data science, which will start its activities on 1 January 2021.

The winners and runners-up of the hackathon competition on the use of AIS data organised by the GWG (“Blue Carbon team” and “Data Caliber group”) presented their applications in this webinar.

  • 19-21 October 2020, Virtual United Nations World Data Forum 2020

The Virtual United Nations World Data Forum took place from 19 to 21 October 2020 in digital format due to COVID-19. The online 2020 edition brought together more than 10 000 participants from over 100 countries. It was opened by high-level representatives on 19 October. Federal Councillor Alain Berset, Head of the Federal Department of Home Affairs, the Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations Amina J. Mohammed, the General Director of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Mark Suzman and other special guests took the floor.

The virtual forum included three high-level plenary sessions, 30 live parallel sessions, plus more than 30 pre-recorded sessions and virtual exhibitions. Several key topics were discussed including ways to improve the use of data for policy-making and the development of response measures to COVID-19, strategies to protect privacy and trust in data, as well as solutions to improve data availability and the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The three-day event provided an opportunity to intensify cooperation in the area of data for sustainable development and to once again make an urgent appeal for more funding for better quality data.

As a reminder, initially scheduled for October 2020, the United Nations World Data Forum (UNWDF) will take place from Sunday 3 October to Wednesday 6 October 2021 in Bern.

  • 21 October 2020, Rendez-vous Bundesplatz – side event. Do social inequalities in the world jeopardise sustainable development?

For this first side event within the framework of Rendez-vous Bundesplatz, the Centre for Development and Environment (CDE) of the University of Bern led us to question ourselves on inequalities and poverty.

The evening began with a welcome by Jacques Ducrest, Federal Council Delegate for the 2030 Agenda, Brigitte Roux, initiator and producer of the Rendez-vous Bundesplatz light show, and Reto Nause, Director of Security, the Environment and Energy of the City of Bern, who stressed the importance of sustainable development in response to the current pandemic.

CDE researcher Christoph Bader then presented data on poverty and global income and wealth inequality from various angles, demonstrating the different stories that can be drawn from them. Over the last 40 years, the benefits of economic growth have reached the richest parts of the population, creating great levels of social inequality around the world. The discussion between Sabin Bieri, director of the CDE, and Thomas Gass, vice-director and head of the South Cooperation Department of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) continued on this theme.

  • 22 October 2020, Rendez-vous Bundesplatz – side event. Is Switzerland a developing country?

The second side event of Rendez-vous Bundesplatz questioned the sustainability of Switzerland and the implementation of the 2030 Agenda, 5 years after its signature. The panellists, National Councillor Aline Trede, Jacques Ducrest, Federal Council Delegate for the 2030 Agenda, and Eva Schmassmann, Director of the Coordination Office of the 2030 Agenda 2030 Platform, discussed these topics under the mediation of Daniel Hitzig, Head of Media and Communication at Alliance Sud.

The participants were enthusiastic about holding a discussion on sustainability in Switzerland directly on the Bundesplatz, while at the same time pointing out the need to bring this topic directly to Parliament, where it is still insufficiently addressed. A stronger role for the Confederation was also questioned in anticipation of the new strategy for sustainable development and its concrete planning as called for by the 2030 Agenda platform. Finally, the discussions also touched on the various themes of the 2030 Agenda, in particular support for economic growth, differentiated by the development stages.

The discussion is available from the following link:

  1. 22 October 2020, the FSO presents itself: the people behind the statistics and what companies can learn from them

The Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO) Switzerland was founded in 1999 and has more than 140 members today. The Zurich office invited Georges-Simon Ulrich, Director of the Federal Statistical Office, to present the role of official statistics. Initially planned as a face-to-face meeting, the conference was ultimately held online.

The Director’s presentation began with a brief overview of the Federal Statistical Office (FSO), its fields of action and new developments. A focus on the link between the FSO and companies then followed with an overview of the members of EO Zurich. The impact of companies was also emphasised in the context of sustainable development monitoring, another element of the FSO’s specifications. The presentation ended with a discussion between the Director and the members of EO Zurich.

  1. 28 October 2020, Forum ö 2020: And now? Together, let’s build the future of the Swiss economy!

Forum ö, which takes place every year, took place virtually for the first time. It was in this new format that various presentations, stimulating discussions, question and answer sessions and collaborative dialogues were held. Topics ranged from the 2030 Agenda to the importance of a regenerative economy in the face of today’s challenges to a generational dialogue.

The workshop “Dialogue between the Federal Government and Industry: Common Added Value of the 2030 Agenda” served as a starting point for the “Forging the Future” series from the forum ö and its partner companies, which will seek to develop solutions in subsequent workshops:

  1. International climate change and the resilience of value chains: how can companies get ready for this?
  2. What are the ways towards new cooperative approaches for buying recyclable products?
  3. Company transformation & change in values: personal responsibility?
  4. Implementation of the sustainable development goals: how to get things started in the company?
  5. Sustainable professional education and training: how do we do it in Switzerland – and who is involved?

For more information on the event see:!-5311.html