4 Data for policy and investment decisions

Lessons from recent efforts in data management for improved food security.

Organizers: IFPRI; FAO; World Bank; Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS), Egypt


The World Bank will present its strategy on integrated household surveys as a way to better monitor SDGs and food security. For its part, IFPRI has been updating its collaborative Arab Spatial platform on food security in MENA to help alleviate the knowledge gap that is particularly prevalent in the Region. FAO will present the Food Insecurity Experience Scale (FIES) as a new indicator to track the SDG2 and discuss its merits and challenges. Finally in order to provide a MENA country case, the official statistical agency of Egypt: Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS), will present evidence from the field on what works and what doesn’t with respect to data analysis and availability for sound policy and investment decisions. Our Objective:


  • Identify innovations in data management that would increase the “accountability framework” for attaining the SDGs in the areas of rural poverty alleviation and food security
  • Ensure that key stakeholders are involved in data management for improved policy and investment decisions

Main themes/issues discussed

New initiatives for data management and for measuring SDG related indicators.

Do we have the right data, and is the data we collect relevant enough?

How CAPMAS, the official statistical agency of Egypt, copes with data challenges. 

Summary of key points

The side event explored new and different types of instruments and tools which are needed to monitor food security and assess the impact of investments and policy decisions on food security at the global, national and household level. 

In an interactive panel discussion, IFPRI, FAO and the WB presented their latest collaborative and multi-stakeholder initiatives. The CFS Chair, Ambassador Amira Gornass, set the tone and context of the side-event in her opening remarks and welcomed the focus of this side-event on innovations in the measuring of evolving indicators. On a personal note, she noted her satisfaction with the focus on Middle East and North Africa (MENA) regional databases, a region she knows well and that is going through extremely difficult times.

IFPRI (Clemens Breisinger) presented Arab Spatial which is a regional database and mapping tool that has been extended to monitor food and nutrition security related SDG indicators as well as access and view information spatially for policy and investment decision-making in the MENA region. 

World Bank (Gero Carletto) gave an overview of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) umbrella and underlined the role of big data and new technologies to shape the post 2015 SDG agenda. However, Breisinger pointed out that there are data challenges for SDG 1 and 2 indicators in the MENA region as some indicators remain vaguely defined or are simply not available for countries in the region.  Meanwhile data discrepancies exist and vary from one source to another he pointed. 

Referring to other challenges beyond data availability for the SDG agenda, Carletto raised the question of “Do we have the “right” Data?” He argues that there is also a pressing need to address both the quality and the relevance of data. “It’s not only about data but, integrated data”, he points. Integration of data from different sources is one way to measure the dynamics and the transitions of the complex interactions that need to be analyzed. Carletto thus presented the Living Standards Measurement Study (LSMS)-Integrated Surveys on Agriculture, which is an analytical tool that offers such integrated approach of analyzing the linkages at the household level. 

Similarly, FAO (Carlo Cafiero) presented the Food Insecurity Experience Scale (FIES) which is a new tool to measure food access and is one of the innovative indicators now adopted by SDGs. FIES concept is stemmed from the perspective of the people who struggle every day to get the food they need and the severity of the condition of a household or individual is treated as a “latent” trait inferred from observable facts. Nonetheless challenges remain as the full potential of FIES would be expressed when is included in more large scale households.

Approaching the end of the side event, CAPMAS, Egypt’s official statistical agency, was invited to present its experience as a data provider in the region. The president of CAPMAS, (General Abou Bakr El-Guindy) illustrated the series of developments that the agency undertook to cope with data challenges: CAPMAS relied on tablets by (50,000+) numerators for data collection, enhanced data processing to translate data to valuable knowledge output to inform policy, in addition, the agency improved the dissemination of data through analytical reports and social media to reach out to the wider public. As a national agency, CAPMAS also involved in a series of strategic partnerships with international organizations, for example CAPMAS and IFPRI partnered in building a new Social Accounting Matrix (SAM) for Egypt.

Key outcomes/take away messages

While such initiatives are one step closer to bridge the knowledge gaps that are prevalent in the region, the panel agreed that special efforts will be needed in the future to increase the “accountability framework” for attaining the SDGs. The audience also pointed that there is need to have good governance and institutional structures to ensure that data is used to inform policy making, improve policy design and monitor policy impact, especially for countries in conflict and crisis. Others have commented that CFS is in need of good databases to compile evidence to build its recommendations on.

Key speakers

CFS Chair- Her Excellency Amira Gornass

IFPRI- Clemens Breisinger

FAO- Carlo Cafiero

World Bank- Gero Carletto

CAPMAS- General Abou Bakr El-Guindy