Statistical capacity development and the production of epistemic infrastructures

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Designating statistical capacity development as a target for measurement in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) created a dilemma for statistical decision-makers in the United Nations system, as some saw the inclusion of statistical capacity in SDG17 as a "conflict of interest,"making their work both a goal of the SDGs and a means to achieve them. In 2022, there are five indicators for measuring both the statistical capacity of individual countries and the support provided to strengthen it, including one indicator for measuring a country's ability to monitor the SDGs themselves. In this article, I argue that the epistemic infrastructuring of statistical capacity into the SDG framework is a privileged case. By parsing the interconnections between the data, actors, networks, and processes that constitute statistical capacity on national and global levels, we can understand how central these materialities and processes are in constituting the larger policy agenda of the SDGs as well as debates over the problems that statistical capacity is meant to solve. Like all indicators in the SDG framework, statistical capacity indicators are performative - defined and delineated by the global statistics community that also helps define and delineate the SDG framework's development problems. Unlike other indicators, however, statistical capacity indicators have the added weight of also producing the conditions of possibility for the "SDG framework itself."In this way, debates over what constitutes statistical capacity and its strengthening are also debates about ownership of policy agendas and where tensions between the local and global erupt.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)541-554
Number of pages14
JournalPolicy and Society
Issue number4
Early online date14 Jul 2022
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2022

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • data
  • epistemic infrastructures
  • SDGs
  • statistical capacity


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