World Statistics Day, celebrated for the first time on 20 October worldwide, paid tribute to statisticians’ outstanding work in producing and disseminating data needed for responding to everyday challenges and for measuring progress in people’s lives.
Statistics are a daily part of national and international life and policymaking, but this is the first time the international community has formally paid tribute to official statistics by dedicating an international day to them. Over 100 countries and areas and some 40 international agencies marked the Day with special events and activities.
The General Assembly designated 20 October as World Statistics Day to recognize the vital role that the production of reliable, timely statistics and indicators plays in society. These facts and figures provide an important tool for assessing different situations and needs. Statistics data allow issues to become visible, thus making the identification of needs and the implementation of solutions possible.
Statistics allow for informed policy decisions and the monitoring of their implementation, for example, the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. These are data produced and disseminated by national statistics offices, other government departments’ statistical units and by many United Nations, international and regional statistical units.
“Statistics are a vital tool for economic and social development… For development to succeed, we need data collection and statistical analysis of poverty levels, access to education and the incidence of disease,” stated Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in his message on World Statistics Day.
Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs Sha Zukang stressed that there is much to celebrate after more than 60 years of work on official statistics at the United Nations. “Official statistics from countries around the globe are produced in a reliable, accurate, scientific and comparable manner is a great collective accomplishment. It is the result of the service, professionalism and integrity demonstrated on a daily basis by dedicated experts in the national statistical systems across the world,” he said.
“The notion of a global professional statistical family, that transcends political, economic and cultural differences among countries, is perhaps the biggest achievement of all,” said Paul Cheung, Director of the Statistics Division, in his own message for the Day. “We, at the UN, are committed to assisting countries so that every citizen in the world can rely on a well-functioning system that regularly produces, analyses, and disseminates relevant and quality statistics — statistics that respond to users’ needs and concerns, statistics that can help us respond to new challenges and bring about policy changes,” he adds.
Some key activities were scheduled to mark World Statistics Day. These included public events such as conferences, seminars, round tables, lectures, press briefings, messages by senior officials (including Heads of State), television quizzes, information in schools on upcoming census, commemorative stamps, exhibits, etc., were organized in over 100 countries and areas by national statistical offices, international organizations, civil society organizations or universities.
In addition the publication “The World’s Women 2010: Trends and Statistics” was launched at United Nations Headquarters in New York and at the World EXPO in Shanghai (at a joint United Nations-China ceremony). This report illustrates the direct contribution of official statistics to social progress. The World’s Women 2010 presents both progress and shortcomings in the path towards gender equality, from health and education to decision-making and gender-based violence.
Many international entities and United Nations agencies organized joint conferences or round tables to mark World Statistics Day, notably in Geneva, Santiago, Vienna and Washington. In Barbados, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) explained its statistical work to schoolchildren. In Brussels, Eurostat briefed the media on how the European statistical community supports statistical institutions in developing countries.