Volume 14, No.2 - February 2010

Feature articles

Promoting a society for all


A ‘society for all’ is a society where men and women, young and old, rich and poor, people with disabilities, indigenous peoples, minorities, and other excluded and disadvantaged groups and individuals are all equal participants. This is a society that is stable, safe, just and tolerant, respects diversity and promotes equality of opportunity and participation.

At the World Summit for Social Development, held in Copenhagen in 1995, Governments made a commitment to foster more inclusive societies where everyone has a stake and responsibilities.

The Commission for Social Development (as mandated by the Economic and Social Council) selected the theme of “Social Integration” for its 2009-2010 review and policy cycle, with a focus on the relationship between poverty eradication, full employment and decent work for all. At its forty-seventh session in 2009, the commission reviewed the theme, and at its forty-eighth session from 3-12 February 2010, the commission will complete the biennial cycle by adopting action-oriented policy recommendations.

We are not living in a society which is for all

The past decades have brought the unprecedented economic growth in human history. While such progress should have meant a better standard of living for all humanity, it has instead resulted in widening inequality and insecurity in most, if not all societies.

Poverty, discrimination, the food and energy crises, and the current global economic and financial crisis, pose significant challenges to governments and societies around the world. Rising unemployment, especially among youth, cuts in social spending and diminished access to credit have contributed to newly-emerging segments of the population falling into poverty, and further exacerbating inequality.

Faced with diminishing resources and growing hardship, people are less able to invest in the nutrition, health and education of their children, thus reinforcing the intergenerational transmission of poverty and exclusion. Socio-economic instability has lead to growing social tension and unrest, jeopardizing social cohesion.

Much has been done to promote social integration

Strategies to promote social integration have been adopted and implemented by many Governments around the world. Good examples of such a practice are policies targeting specific social groups, such as older persons, youth, persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples; anti-discriminatory laws, regional framework for social integration and inclusion, basic social services for all, affordable social protection, conditional cash transfer as well as participatory planning and budgeting.

Statistical analysis of participatory budgeting in Brazil has shown that it increases the share of public expenditure devoted to health care and has resulted in major reductions in child mortality and improved access to basic services. Local governments in other parts of the world have experimented with various innovative approaches as well.

Employment strategies have been implemented in many countries to improve employability at different stages in life in an effort to enhance economic inclusion. Policy examples of this include removing discriminatory barriers to employment, such as those based on race, ethnicity, age, disability or gender, offering employers incentives to hire young, older and disabled workers, and facilitating self-employment.

In some regions, the demographic changes pose major policy challenges for the provision of adequate income support and appropriate health-care services for older persons. Other regions have a vast majority of young population. Some countries are experiencing increasing urban/rural gaps, or rapid urbanization. Consistent and disaggregated data is necessary to enable evidence-based analysis and policy-making to reflect the needs of these specific groups.

Regional, national and local social integration strategies have been developed to tackle the most urgent priorities. For most of the developing world, achieving the provision of basic services for all, including education and health care, is central to advancing social integration. In some countries, priority has been given to policy and regulatory frameworks designed to overcome entrenched discrimination, in others, Governments have focused on improving the situation of specific, vulnerable groups. Attempts have been made in many countries to transform policy and planning processes and make them more inclusive and participatory.

A lot more needs to be done to achieve a society for all

“There is no ‘one-size fits all’ approach to achieve social integration” said Makiko Tagashira, Social Affairs Officer, Social Integration Branch of DESA’s Division for Social Policy and Development.

“Every society is different, and it is important to take into consideration the historical, cultural and contextual backgrounds of one’s own society, when developing social integration strategies. Looking at the local level, there emerge a number of innovative initiatives towards social integration, and we have many encouraging cases to learn from,” Ms Tagashira said.

“A lack of understanding of the conception of social integration, however, remains a challenge, and there is a need for raising awareness of the importance of social integration among Governments, policy-makers and other stakeholders in civil society,” she said.

“It actually takes a long time to change people’s mindset, due to cultural and historical backgrounds and social norms of a given society. While Governments plays a key role in promoting social integration, the responsibility rests with the whole. Full participation of civil society is essential. Governments are responsible for creating an enabling environment to promote social integration for the people, and with the people and by the people.”

“During this 48th session of the Commission for Social Development, action-oriented resolutions are expected to be adopted. Topics such as formulating social integration policies and strategies concomitantly at the normative, institutional and programmatic levels will be addressed. This is the first time, since Copenhagen, that a resolution on social integration will be adopted at the intergovernmental level. This would be a corner stone in the realization of achieving a society for all.”

More information on WESP.

Advancing the global statistical system


Official statistics are playing an increasingly important role within both governments and societies. High quality statistical data is now readily-available at national, regional and global levels for use in such areas as public debate, policy formulation and business decisions.

The forty-first session of the Statistical Commission will be held at United Nations Headquarters, New York from 23 to 26 February 2010. During this session, various statistical items in economic and social spheres will be discussed, such as international trade statistics, development indicators and employment statistics.

An increasing role for official statistics

National statistical systems, which have been charged with the compilation and the dissemination of official statistics in the past, have evolved to become an important national institution. At the same time, the role of Chief Statistician has been recognized as the unbiased source of statistical knowledge and analysis.

The commitment to producing high quality official statistics is manifested in many ways, be it through a population census, household or enterprise survey, or administrative data systems; through gross domestic product, prices or Millennium Development Goals measurement; or through birth and death statistics. The national statistical system has become an indispensable national institution.

The adoption of the Fundamental Principles of Official Statistics by the Statistical Commission in 1994 was a milestone in the codification and the promotion of the basic values in official statistics. Relevance, impartiality, professional standards and ethics, accountability and transparency are among the core values of these principles.

At the national level, these values are often written into statistical laws that guarantee the independence of the statistical system and offer support for professional integrity. Many of the basic values of a functional statistical system are irrevocably linked to quality of official statistics, and thus the quality of the information available to the governments, the economies and the public.

Statistical systems at national levels

At the national level, official statistics have served development in many specific areas of the economy, the demography, social and health matters, and the environment. They have done so by providing basic data for planning and monitoring purposes, without which development in these fields would be severely hindered, and progress or success of policies could not be measured.

One of the best known achievements of official statistics is the population and housing census. An overwhelming number of countries and areas have been carrying out such a census every 10 years, in order to answer some of the most basic questions of any society: How many are we? Who are we? How do we live? In the year 2010, many countries around the world will indeed be conducting their population census.

A global statistical system

The long and outstanding collaboration of national statistical systems has also led to the formation of a global statistical system, whose members use a common language to share their experiences and to advance official statistics at the global level.

One of the major achievements of the global statistical system has been the development of international methods and standards. This has ultimately enabled an international data collection and sharing platform through the application of such methods and standards at the national level and the subsequent production of comparable data at the regional and international levels.

Recent achievements for the global statistical system have included the adoption of the 2008 System of National Accounts, the completion of the International Comparison Project, the agreement on the Principles and Recommendations for Population and Housing Censuses, the approval of methodological guidelines of various sectoral statistics and the fourth revision of the International Standard Industrial Classification for all economic activities.

The World Statistics Day

2010 will welcome the first World Statistics Day on 20 October, to celebrate the many achievements of official statistics. It will highlight the co-operation of statisticians around the world.

World Statistics Day aims at raising awareness of the many contributions of official statistics premised on the core values of service, integrity and professionalism. The Statistical Commission of the United Nations will endorse the observance of the first World Statistics Day.

Malaysian envoy elected to ECOSOC for 2010


The Malaysian diplomat H.E. Mr. Hamidon Ali was elected on 19 January to serve as the next President of the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). “The Council should continue to provide a forum to enhance understanding of the implications of all crises on development efforts and to promote and enhance a coordinated response of the United Nations system,” Mr. Ali said, underlining that the challenge is to keep the focus and follow-up on current and future crises and to promote initiatives to mitigate their impact and prevent more disastrous consequences.