25 February 2010
Press Conference

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Press Conference on Challenges Faced by Countries Emerging from Conflicts


in Conducting Census of Housing, Population

 


The 2010 world census was crucial in helping countries emerging from conflict better plan national development strategies and institute democratic reform, United Nations experts on census gathering said this afternoon at a Headquarters news conference.


“The year 2010 is very important because it is the climax of the 2010 round of the population and housing census,” said Paul Cheung, Director of the Statistics Division of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA).


So far this year, 78 countries had conducted a census, covering 21 per cent of the world population, and another 61 planned to do so, Mr. Cheung said.  By year’s end, 63 per cent of the world’s population would be counted.  That figure should reach 94 per cent in 2011.


Rogelio Fernandez Castilla, Executive Coordinator on Censuses of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), said censuses were particularly important for countries that had experienced war and other forms of conflict.  “The census becomes a key tool to organize society, allocate resources and even to guide some democratization efforts,” he said.


Government census officials from Liberia, Iraq and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, also at the press conference, agreed with that assessment.  They were in New York to take part in the Statistical Commission’s annual session, which was coordinating the 2010 World Census Programme.


“Recently, the Iraq census has been viewed as a potential peacemaking tool that could be employed for national reconciliation,” said Nuha Al-Sharma, Executive Census Director of Iraq’s Central Organization for Statistics and Information Technology (COSIT).


Iraq’s political changes and turmoil in 2003 made it impossible to conduct the 10-year census in 2007; the last census had been conducted in 1997, Ms. Al-Sharma said.  Iraq’s House of Representatives was relying on the 2010 census results to determine distribution of oil revenues, electoral seats and which ethnic group would hold positions of local authority in disputed areas.


But, outdated technology, the dearth of census experts in Iraq and security risks in areas where people were opposed to the process were formidable challenges, she said.  UNFPA and Egypt’s Statistical Office were helping Iraq overcome them with technical support.  There was also a proposal to set up an independent commission for census monitoring comprised of Iraq and international census experts.


Edward Liberty, Director General of the Liberia Institute for Statistics and Geo-Information Services, said his Government had partnered with UNFPA to determine the objectives, timetable and budget estimates for its 2008 census. 


The expectations were great that the Liberian Government that took office in 2006 could improve people’s lives, he said.  But, reliable information on housing, education, health and other socio-economic indicators was lacking and many records were destroyed during Liberia’s war.  Officials decided to conduct a census early on to assess needs and determine national indicators based on the Millennium Development Goals.  Its results were currently being analyzed.


Grégoire Kankwanda Ebulelang, Director of the National Statistical Institute (NSI) of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, said his Government was preparing to conduct its second census in July 2011, the first national census in 27 years.  Some 70,000 pollers would canvass the country to collect information.  But, it would be difficult to reach everyone in the vast country, due to its poor transportation and communications infrastructure.  Mobilizing resources for census-taking would also be a challenge, because humanitarian aid remained the top priority. 


On a question about whether the Iraq census included ethnic data and whether it captured allegations of ethnic cleansing in oil-rich areas near Kirkuk, Ms. Al-Sharma said all Iraqis were counted in the census and ethnicity was not included in census questionnaires.


Concerning United Nations plans to conduct a census in Haiti, Mr. Cheung said it would be difficult to do so now, because of the difficult circumstance.


As to whether the Congolese Government was working with the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC), he said MONUC would provide planes and helicopters to transport census workers to remote areas.


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For information media • not an official record