• English

Fifty-first Conference of European Statisticians

(Geneva, 10-12 June 2003)
Statement by Mrs. Brigita Schmögnerová,
Executive Secretary

Mr. Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Last year the Conference of European Statisticians celebrated its 50th Anniversary. That was an occasion for the Conference to discuss its past achievements and most importantly to identify the challenges for the future. The discussion focused on "Renewing the Conference of European Statisticians". The Conference looked into challenges such as: the Changing Europe and the role of the Conference; strengthening the role of the Conference and its Bureau in identifying new emerging statistical issues and setting the agendas for their discussion and solutions; focusing on issues of priority interest to different groups of countries in the UNECE region. A major concern of the Conference is preserving its role as the "coordinator of coordinators" and developing further the Integrated Presentation of International Statistical Work.

In order to respond to all these challenges the Conference decided to change the way it works and change the structure of its plenary sessions. During the past year the Bureau of the Conference and its secretariat, the UNECE Statistical Division, have worked hard to implement the decisions of the 50th Conference.

This year the plenary session is organised according to the new structure in three parts: one session to deal with formal business and two seminar sessions to deal respectively with new emerging issues and fundamental issues of statistical systems.

The Conference will open with discussion on Matters arising from the fifty-eighth Annual Session of the Economic Commission for Europe held in March 2003 on the basis of a short paper prepared by the UNECE secretariat. Attention will be drawn to the following issues of relevance to the Conference of European Statisticians:

- Major policy directions of UNECE's work
- Sustainable development in the UNECE region
- The UNECE reform
- Follow-up to World and Regional Conferences and
- Technical cooperation.

As a part of its High-level Policy Segment the 58th Annual Session discussed the general context in which UNECE operates both at the global and regional level and the implications for UNECE work. I recognize that the first seminar session on new emerging issues will deal with one of the main challenges - globalisation. One of the implications for our work is not only monitoring globalisation but also assessing and reporting progress made in the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals at the regional level and within individual countries. In Subprogramme 3 Statistics for the next biennium 2004-2005 we assume- among other things - to focus on and increase capacity in monitoring and reporting on progress in the region towards the Millennium Development Goals. Indicators of achievement will be the level of satisfaction of the statistical offices of member States with UNECE's capacity to produce statistical data related to it.

At the regional level we are to be confronted with deepening and expanding of regional cooperation, EU-integration and EU-enlargement. In order to prevent new divides in the region, UNECE's role will be to facilitate cooperation between the EU and non-acceding countries or country-groupings organizations. Post-enlargement is a challenge for the work of UNECE including Statistics. I assume that this issue will be a part of your discussion perhaps under item 3 Integrated Presentation of International Statistical Work in the UNECE region.

In 2004 we will commemorate 15 years from the beginning of transition. The transition process in CEE and CIS countries differs considerably. Progress achieved in reforms, restructuring and building market institutions is most advanced in the acceding countries which are now recognized as market economies, including the Russian Federation. The UNECE will continue to provide analyses of progress in transition and policy advice if needed but adjustments to post-transition period in our work will sooner or later affect our activities.

Some global and regional efforts to respond more adequately to new challenges under the umbrella of world or regional conferences like the ICfFD, the WSSD, the WAA and regional conferences on ageing and information society in Berlin or Bucharest respectively took place in 2002. At its fifty-eighth Annual Session the Commission discussed the follow-up to the conferences. I would like particularly to underline that the WSSD Plan of Implementation explicitly assigned important tasks to the regions and regional commissions and particularly to promote the integration of the three dimensions of Sustainable Development into their work, including through implementation of Agenda 21. The recent session of the CSD, April 2003 in New-York, made a suggestion to organize Regional Implementation Fora with a focus on monitoring, reviewing and exchanging experiences and lessons learned from national and regional implementation and partnership initiatives. I assume that the next Ad Hoc Informal Meeting of the Commission in June will endorse the role of UNECE in organizing Regional Implementation Fora. We recognize the work of the OECD and Eurostat in the field of Sustainable Development and commitments of the EU and OECD Member States made towards Sustainable Development. Therefore we strongly believe that the CES' initiative in monitoring and reporting sustainable development, if agreed, would be an important contribution to fulfilling this task. Since 11 September 2001 we live in a different world. Security and the fight against terrorism are becoming more and more relevant for economic and social development. Member States at the Annual Session invited the UNECE to work on the economic and environmental dimension of security and so did the ministers of foreign affairs of the OSCE at their ministerial meeting. We cannot proceed further without the assistance of the statisticians and I hope very much you will be dedicated to this.

At this Commission's Annual Session - under the item UNECE Reform - the member States discussed the on-going process of how to better respond to the above indicated challenges, how to further strengthen the Organization. The UNECE reform calls for continued and regular review of the intergovernmental structure that should be carried out with the full participation of the Principal Subsidiary Bodies. I note that in this context, the Bureau of the Conference regularly reviews the ad hoc expert meetings and any joint activities organised within the programme of work of the Conference in order to ensure that they are efficient, relevant and most importantly to ensure that duplication of work is avoided. I would like to encourage you to include the review of publications into your considerations. I would particularly appreciate an increased cooperation in the preparation of the statistical publications of UNECE, Eurostat and OECD.

The attention of the Conference will be drawn to issues related to technical cooperation work, for which the UNECE secretariat has prepared a paper on Technical Cooperation Activities covered by the UNECE Statistical Division for the period June 2002-May 2003. In view of the progress in transition I would like to reiterate that the focus of our technical cooperation will be on the countries in SEE and CIS that need it the most.

Ladies and Gentlemen!
The Integrated Presentation of International Statistical work in the UNECE region is traditionally a main topic for discussion. For the first time this year, the planned statistical work of the other UN regional commissions is presented in a special addendum to the Integrated Presentation. This has been done following the recommendation of the 50th Conference in order to improve the exchange of information and knowledge between the regional commissions and Committees of Statistics. ECLAC, ESCWA and ESCAP have contributed information on their statistical programmes.

Furthermore, the Bureau of the Conference decided to propose to the Conference that an Annual UNECE Statistical Programme be prepared in future starting from January 2004. Of course, the UNECE Statistical Programme has to be in line with the Biennium Programme of Work 2004-2005 as adopted by the United Nations General Assembly this year. We therefore have increasingly to involve the CES or its Bureau in the budget preparatory process which starts two years before the budget adoption.

The Programme will identify the annual statistical activities of the UNECE across the UNECE divisions. It will be also an important tool for the UNECE Statistical Division to be able to coordinate the statistical activities carried out in UNECE under different subprogrammes and in this way to fulfil its mandate. It is proposed that a draft of the first Annual UNECE Statistical Programme starting from January 2004 be prepared for review by the Bureau at its meeting in October 2003.

As already mentioned globalisation and how to measure this phenomenon is the topic of the first seminar session organised by Statistics Canada. The discussion will focus mainly on (i) the impact of globalisation on traditional statistical systems and (ii) the role of international statistical cooperation. Governor David Dodge (Governor of the Bank of Canada) will deliver a keynote speech via a videoconference. Other main contributors include the Bureau of Economic Analyses (USA), Office for National Statistics (UK), France, Canada, IMF and OECD. The issues considered will include measuring the impact of multinational enterprises (MNEs) on national economies which is critical for the National Statistical Offices (NSOs). ITC related issues of measuring MNEs' role that could have negative consequences such as biases in national economic statistics, Gross Domestic Product calculations, and trade and balance of payments statistics will also be discussed. Furthermore, understanding the behaviour and impact of the MNEs is also important for assessing the effects of globalisation. The main questions to be answered by the statisticians are: How best to ensure accurate measurement of the activities of multinational enterprises? How best to assess the impact of foreign MNEs in a given country and the impact abroad of MNEs based in that same country?

Statistical Confidentiality and Microdata is the topic of the second seminar organised by Statistics Sweden. The discussion will focus on: (i) Use of microdata; (ii) Data confidentiality (iii) Legal aspects; (iv) Access to microdata. Several transition countries have contributed papers, such as Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Lithuania, Russian Federation and Ukraine. The UNECE Statistical Division was a member of the organising committee preparing the session. The UNECE secretariat conducted a survey among the CES member countries, which include the UNECE countries plus non-European OECD countries, to identify the main concerns of the countries. A special questionnaire was developed to survey the concerns of the Transition Economies, which served as the basis for preparing an UNECE paper.

The main challenge to a National Statistical Office regarding statistical confidentiality (one of the Fundamental Principles of Official Statistics) and microdata is to strike a balance between confidentiality protection and increased use of microdata. As increased use of microdata implies improved possibility of providing better data to meet the needs of users, this balance lies at the heart of official statistics which should provide an indispensable element in the information system of a democratic society, serving the government, the economy and the public with data. Simultaneously individual data collected by statistical agencies for statistical compilation, whether they refer to natural or legal persons, are to be strictly confidential and used exclusively for statistical purposes. In seeking this balance it is inevitable to combine different measures and actions: both legal, technical, administrative and methodological dimensions should be covered.

Lastly, elections for a new Bureau will take place this year, which is done every two years. Mr. Svein Longva, Director General of Statistics Norway, who is the current Chairman of the Conference and has served for eight years on the Bureau, will have to step down. The UNECE secretariat is grateful to Svein Longva for his contribution to the work of the Conference and would like to congratulate him on the achievements of the CES under his leadership.

Mr. Chairman, I would like to wish success in your deliberations.
Thank you for your attention.