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Developing countries need to strengthen their statistical systems to produce quality data for monitoring the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), say Sarah B. Macfarlane and colleagues from the University of California in this correspondence to Nature.

The researchers argue that there is a gap between national capacity to monitor development indicators and international expectations. While agencies and donors want national estimates for global comparison, individual countries need empirical data at a sub-national level.

International agencies must provide coordinated support to help countries produce both, say the authors. Otherwise, there will always be holes in the data.

But, in a separate correspondence, Paul Cheung from the UN statistics division argues that real progress has already been made.

UN statisticians have reviewed monitoring data and made recommendations for improvement. Efforts to help countries produce and use data have been scaled up — a global statistical system has helped to conduct surveys and censuses in difficult areas and improve registration systems.

Now, all but 17 of the countries involved in monitoring the MDGs have trend data for at least half the indicators, says Cheung. And many countries are researching and assessing their own programmes and implementing goal-based strategies based on the data.

Link to full articles in Nature:
Millennium: invest in country statistical systems
Millennium: big effort has produced statistical results

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