'Everyone counts,' Ban says, stressing importance of census data in improving lives

School girls in Sierra Leone

11 July 2010 – With dozens of countries carrying out United Nations-supported national censuses this year, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon marked this year's World Population Day by stressing the importance of gathering information to bolster good governance, transparency and accountability.

“Population data helps leaders and policy-makers to make informed decisions about policies and programmes to reduce poverty and hunger, and advance education, health and gender equality,” Mr. Ban said in his message for the Day.

He underscored the importance of solid data to effectively respond to humanitarian crises.

The theme of this year's Day is “Everyone counts,” and “to be counted is to become visible,” especially for women and young people, the Secretary-General said.

Data sorted by age and gender can help decision-makers better respond to the needs of women and youth in a bid to create a more equitable society, he added.

Also emphasizing the importance of gathering reliable information is Thoraya Ahmed Obaid, Executive Director of the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), which is helping carry out censuses in many parts of the world, including Iraq.

“With quality data, we can better track and make greater progress to achieve the Millennium Development Goals [MDGs],” she said, referring to the eight anti-poverty targets with a 2015 deadline.

Such data, she said in her statement for World Population Day, can also help to “promote and protect the dignity and human rights of all people.”

Also assisting countries carry out censuses is the UN Statistics Division (UNSD), which establishes a Global Programme on Population and Housing Census every decade, with Member States reviewing the methodology and techniques at every round.

For the latest decade, nearly 100 countries and areas have already carried out a census, resulting in more than 2 billion people – representing roughly one third of the world’s population – having been calculated.

Events to celebrate the Day will be held around the world, including in Timor-Leste, which is carrying out its census this month, with UNFPA assistance.

“With an estimated annual population growth of 3.2 per cent and with a lot of internal migration taking place as the result” after dozens of people were killed and 155,000 others – or about 15 per cent of the population – were driven from their homes in an eruption of violence partly due to regional tensions, said Pornchai Suchitta, the agency's Country Representative in the country.

The small South-East Asian nation, which the UN shepherded to independence in 2002, faces numerous challenging obstacles in its census, which will take place between 11 and 25 July.

Timor-Leste, which does not have an address system, is a mountainous country with hard-to-reach rural areas and extremely low media penetration, complicating the census operation.


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