Annual Report 2020

Road to Bern at international level

With the launch of Road to Bern in January, 2020 was a year full of national and international events. Throughout the year, 17 international events took place, some lasting an hour or two, others several days. Initially they were live events, in Paris and Cairo, in Switzerland at Davos and in Geneva, and in the United States in New York. Then, due to the situation in hybrid and virtual format.

To organise these events aimed at preparing discussions ahead of the United Nations World Data Forum 2021 (UNWDF), the Swiss Confederation (the three departments FDHA, FDFA and DETEC) cooperated with numerous partners from the United Nations, other countries, financial institutions, international organisations, and academia, etc. To mention but a few, the United Nations Statistics Division (UNSD), the Partnership in Statistics for Development in the 21st Century (PARIS21), the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the International Organization for Migration (OIM), the World Health Organisation (WHO), the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the World Bank, the National Statistics Office of Moldavia and many others who helped make these events a success.

The Road to Bern has addressed many topics but in 2020, focus was on the following four: data for social responsibility, funding of data and statistics, gender statistics, and digitalisation. In 2020, digitalisation was the focus of a series of Road to Bern events, namely four dialogues that took place in Geneva, or in virtual format, via Geneva.

These events were all focused on 2030 and the importance of data in achieving the sustainable development goals. Topics covered at these events included the need for more robust institutions and improved innovations, the necessity of more high quality data, the need for increased, better targeted funding of national statistics systems, the state of play 10 years from the 2030 deadline, and the impact of Covid-19 on taking stock of the implementation of the SDGs. Ultimately, all the aspects covered by each one of these events are important in making progress towards the 2030 Agenda.

The speakers at several events were also a highlight: Alain Berset (Federal Councillor and Head of the Federal Department of Home Affairs), Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (Director General of the World Health Organisation), S.E. Ayush Ariunzaya (Minister of Labour and Social Protection, Mongolia), Thomas Gass (Head of the South Cooperation Department of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation), Johannes Jutting (Executive Head of PARIS21 and secretariat of the Bern Network for Financing for Data Development) and Francesca Perucci (Chief of the Development Data and Outreach Branch, UN Statistics Division) made valuable contributions to the events.

As a reminder, the UNWDF should have been held this year. However, due to the current situation a virtual version of the UNWDF was held from 19 to 21 October. The three-day event provided an opportunity to intensify cooperation in the area of data for sustainable development and once again to make an urgent appeal for more funding for better quality data. Discussions will continue throughout 2021 until the next UNWDF 2021 in Bern.

Road to Bern at national level

In 2020, despite the extraordinary situation, the national Road to Bern series offered an abundance of discussions thanks to 14 events and various accompanying publications. At national level, the aim of the Road to Bern was to support the implementation of the 2030 Agenda in Switzerland and to strengthen the role of data in its monitoring.

The Swiss Confederation (Federal Statistical Office, Sectoral Foreign Policies Division of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, Directorate of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, Federal Office for Spatial Development, Federal Office for Gender Equality), academia (Swiss Academy of Sciences (SCNAT), Swiss Academy of Humanities and Social Sciences (SAHS), Centre for Development and Environment (CDE), Science et Cité, Swiss Statistical Society (SSS), University of Bern), the private sector (öbu – Swiss Business Council for Sustainable Development, Entrepreneurs’ Organization Zurich), civil society and other partners (AllianceSud, OceanCare,, Platform Agenda 2030, SDSN Switzerland, Swiss Evaluation Society (SEVAL), Swiss Alliance for Data-Intensive Services, Swiss Union of Cities and Towns) all helped to enhance the Road to Bern 2020.

With statistics at the centre of discussions, the events concentrated on the following main themes: role of data and statistics in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda, innovations necessary in data systems (multi-thematic indicators, data science, participative approaches) to measure progress towards the sustainable development goals (SDGs), current situation of sustainability in Switzerland and the importance of data in political decision-making.

Initiatives such as indicator systems, progress reports or sustainable development indices, used to analyse progress towards the SDGs, have been discussed extensively and have made it possible to gather assessments on the 103 indicators of the MONET 2030 system, which presents an overview of the SDGs in Switzerland. The inclusion of stakeholders from civil society, the scientific community and the public administration in the development, monitoring and assessment of some of these projects was demonstrated by means of two Swiss examples of a participative approach: the indicators of the Federal Council’s legislative programme and the monitoring of sustainable development goals in the cantons and towns. Data science (including big data), the private sector – through the contributions of businesses or data collection, for example, by the energy sector – and the humanities and social sciences have been revealed as new data sources for measuring the SDGs.

Lastly, in parallel to the Rendez-vous Bundesplatz light show on the topic of sustainable development, the public were able to exchange views on the measurement of poverty and inequality as well as on the current situation of sustainability in Switzerland. The series of events was supposed to continue with 11 further evening events. Due to the public health situation, the latter have been postponed until 2021.

In order to extend the reach of the Road to Bern, communication efforts were stepped up through the publication of articles (Bulletin of the Swiss Academy of Humanities and Social Sciences, (Bulletin 1/20, 2/20), Bulletin de la Société suisse de statistique, Un seul monde) or by adding a boxed text with the sustainable development goals to official communications from the Federal Statistical Office. Furthermore, FSO members of staff presented statistics relating to each of the 17 sustainable development goals in 17 videos lasting 17 seconds.

Road to Bern outlook on 2021

With the postponement of the UNWDF from October 2020 to October 21, the Road to Bern has been extended by 50 weeks. We are making the most of this opportunity and as mentioned above will continue our activities. The focus will remain the same: data for social accountability, the funding of data and statistics systems (closely related to Bern Network), gender statistics and digitalisation. Data and pandemics will also be a recurring theme. There is a host of other subjects we would like to discuss with you at national and international level.

From 1 January 2021, we will be seeking dialogue with the general public – some exciting ideas have been brought up. As soon as these have been further developed, we will publish them on our website.

All interested persons are invited to get in touch with us and we look forward to your ideas and suggestions.

We wish you all a good start to the new year 2021, which will surely be more satisfying than the past year. There are only 278 days until the third live UNWDF, which will be held in the Swiss capital of Bern. We are now enjoying a few days off and are very much looking forward to accompanying you on the Road to Bern in 2021 and in particular to welcoming you to the Kursaal in Bern on 3 October for the opening of the UNWDF!

The Road to Bern / UNWDF project team.