2022 marks 30 years since the Fundamental Principles of Official Statistics, now a General Assembly-endorsed global standard, were first developed and adopted at the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE).
Created by the Conference of European Statisticians, UNECE’s highest decision-making body made up of the national chief statisticians of member countries, these principles were devised at a time of immense change and upheaval across the region. As centrally-planned economies transitioned to market economies in many member States, statisticians realized more than ever that they needed a shared framework to define the principles that guide what they do. Such a framework helps to secure the trust and credibility upon which effective statistics depend. There are many differences across countries in how their statistical production is organized, what data they gather, what needs they fulfil, yet these central principles are universal.
The principles underlie everything that the producers of official statistics do: from the methods for collecting, processing and storing data to the ways that statistical offices disseminate statistics and communicate with those who use them. The principles ensure independence from political influence and the right and duty to publicly correct misuse or misinterpretation of statistics. They safeguard the trustworthiness of official statistics, enabling them to play a unique role as a public good that underpins sustainable development and democracy.
By marking this 30th anniversary, statistical offices across the region are recognizing the continued and increasing importance of the principles in guiding what they do. As the sheer amount of data produced increases everywhere, those who rely on facts to shape their decisions are faced with a vast range of possible sources to which they can turn. At the same time, deliberately misleading uses of data, selective use of figures and incorrect interpretations abound.
With their collective manifesto for serving society with impartial, relevant and accurate information to guide decisions, the community of official statisticians will continue upholding and being led by the Fundamental Principles for 30 more years and beyond.
To celebrate this anniversary, starting on 31 January, selected CES member countries will lead a series of campaigns marking each of the principles in turn. The first principle relates to ‘relevance, impartiality and equal access’, which will be highlighted by Canada. Participating countries will take the lead in showcasing the ways in which they fulfil the principle, how this impacts everyday life, and why this matters to society.
The ten principles will be celebrated at two-week intervals from January to June, culminating in the 70th plenary session of the Conference of European Statisticians on 20-22 June.
In summary form, the principles are:
- Principle 1: Relevance, impartiality and equal access
- Principle 2: Professionalism
- Principle 3: Accountability
- Principle 4: Prevention of misuse
- Principle 5: Cost-effectiveness
- Principle 6: Confidentiality
- Principle 7: Legislation
- Principle 8: National coordination
- Principle 9: International coordination
- Principle 10: International statistical cooperation.
The campaign can be followed and joined on social media with the hashtags #FPOS30 and #cesUNECE, supported on Twitter by @unecestat and @UNECE.