Developing the capacity of statistical systems to respond to ever-changing demands is a core component of UNECE statistical work, linked directly to several of the targets of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Key tools used for capacity development have traditionally been face-to-face workshops, advisory missions and in-person visits to assess statistical systems. With such face-to-face activities made impossible since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, UNECE and its partners have had to rethink how best to continue supporting national statistical systems at a time when this support is needed more than ever. Webinars and online meetings go some way to meeting these needs, of course, but they are not enough by themselves to meet the development needs of the national statistical offices (NSOs) across the UNECE region.
Faced with these challenges, UNECE has innovatively repurposed resources to support in-country COVID-resilient micro-projects in statistics.
These micro-projects are three-way partnerships between UNECE, UN Country Teams and NSOs. Local experts are engaged to collaborate with the statistical offices to produce specific outputs that help the country to strengthen its capacities in collecting, analyzing or disseminating statistical information. Working with national experts allows countries to make the most of local knowledge, and builds in-country experience that remains long after the projects are completed.
Among the many micro-projects supported by UNECE since the pandemic began are:
- Development of a web-based national reporting platform for SDG statistics in Bosnia and Herzegovina, built using ‘Open SDG’ software and launched in April 2021.
- Using new data sources and visualization techniques to explore the impact of COVID-19 on economic and social conditions in Albania, including impacts on progress towards the SDGs, presenting the findings with user-friendly dashboards and fact sheets, and exploring how the crisis has affected methods for the compilation of price statistics.
- In Serbia, UNECE supported a project to explore the statistical needs of local authorities in relation to the pandemic, to help the NSO better identify and meet demand.
- Serbia has also benefited from a project to undertake innovative ‘rapid surveys’, with the first three exploring the impacts of the pandemic on specific sectors: mini grocery stores, educational establishments and micro and small enterprises.
- Dissemination of statistics has been at the centre of a capacity development project in Montenegro in which local experts identified areas for improvement in the statistical office’s approach, with a follow-up project to support implementation of their proposals now in the making.
- UNECE support in Kyrgyzstan is helping local statisticians to support the National Statistics Committee as they deliver on the recommendations of the recent Global Assessment of the National Statistical System, including putting into action the new Law on State Statistics, and developing a new national statistical strategy.
- In partnership with UNFPA and other country-based agencies, UNECE is supporting a project in the Republic of Moldova to assess the success of their national statistical strategy and to formulate a new version of the strategy, focusing on mainstreaming modernization and innovation into statistical production.
- The potential of new data collection methods such as using tablets and online surveys is being explored in Montenegro, where UNECE, in partnership with the UN Country Team and the Office of the Resident Coordinator, is supporting the training of staff to make use of these modern techniques.
- As Ukraine develops plans to overhaul its census-taking method, hoping to switch to a modern register-based approach for its 2030 census, UNECE will support a national expert to review the legal framework that will underpin this transition.
- In Armenia, the NSO aims to modernize its migration statistics through greater use of administrative data in conjunction with data from the forthcoming population census. UNECE along with IOM and the Office of the Resident Coordinator will support a project to examine the potential of these sources and develop statistical techniques.
As we all continue to adjust to new and evolving realities brought about by the pandemic, the needs of member countries for technical assistance must continue to be met. UNECE’s flexible approach to capacity development in official statistics is helping to meet these needs, and the positive appraisals so far suggest that even after the pandemic, this blended approach combining in-person and in-country support will continue to characterize capacity development of the future.