Remarks by Mr. Sha Zukang, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs at the Signing Ceremony of the Trust Fund Agreement Between the Government of the People’s Republic of China and the United Nations
Beijing, 22 July 2009

Commissioner Ma Jian Tang,
Ladies and gentlemen,

It is a privilege to address you at the signing ceremony of the Technical Cooperation Trust Fund Agreement between the Government of the People’s Republic of China and the United Nations. This is the first trust fund agreement on technical cooperation for statistics that has ever been signed between the Chinese Government and the United Nations. This is an occasion of special historic significance. On behalf of the United Nations and its Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), I would like to congratulate the Chinese Government on the establishment of the Trust Fund for technical cooperation which aims at strengthening the statistical capacity of China and other countries in Asia. This is indeed an excellent example of South-South Cooperation. I would like to express my sincere gratitude to the Chinese Government for its trust in the Department of Economic and Social Affairs for delivering this large statistical capacity-building project.

As we often say in China, those who do not have the facts should refrain from making decisions. The importance of statistics in decision-making can never be overestimated. Reliable and up-to-date statistics are the foundation for effective national development policies. In a globalizing economy, tackling economic crises and addressing social and environmental issues call for more availability of official statistics at the national, regional and global levels that are more comparable. Implementing agreements on development frameworks, such as the United Nations Millennium Development Goals, also increase such demands. A scientific approach to development requires evidence-based decision-making, and accurate and comparable statistics is a primary precondition for such decisions to be made.

At the United Nations, the development of a sound statistical system at the national level, as well as an effective global statistical system at the world level, is an integral part of our work at DESA and of the United Nations Development Agenda. We have closely monitored the need for quantitative information for the monitoring of national, regional and global trends.

The United Nations Statistical Commission regularly reviews major global trends and assesses the need for globally agreed statistical methodology. UNSD/DESA is pleased to be the secretariat to this apex entity of the global statistical system, which is the most authoritative intergovernmental body in statistics. It has regularly reviewed indicators of global major trends and developed and compiled comparable global statistical methodology and information.

In 2006, the Statistical Commission and later the Economic and Social Council passed a resolution calling on countries to intensify their efforts to strength national capacity to produce up-to-date and high quality statistics. This resolution was drafted in response to a dearth of data on the achievement of the MDGs. The global statistical community was deeply concerned that there still exist in many countries a lack of adequate data to assess national trends in the context of monitoring progress towards the realization of all internationally agreed development goals, including the Millennium Development Goals, and to inform and monitor the implementation of national development policies and strategies.

I am very glad that the Chinese government has fully recognized the importance of having high quality and timely statistics. China’s economic reform programs, launched three decades ago, have effectively transformed the Chinese economy into a market-oriented one, enabling China to become more integrated into the global economy. Thanks to the great effort by the statisticians at the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), together with technical assistance from other developed countries and international organizations, China’s national statistical system has improved tremendously and has adopted international standards in many statistical fields.

China is a country undergoing rapid development, and its statistical practice, products and information are increasingly attracting international attention. As it becomes a global economic player, demand for the data on the Chinese economy and society will increase. It is important for the NBS to further develop its statistical capacity to better meet the needs of data users from China and beyond.

In 2008, the Chinese Government decided to set up a trust fund project to strengthen the statistical capacity of China and other developing countries in Asia, especially in the area of basic statistics. This 5-year project will help China and other developing countries in Asia to develop a better understanding of international practices in a wide range of statistic areas, including: statistical standards and classifications, service statistics, use of administrative data, energy and environment statistics and their relation to the system of environmental-economic accounting, integration of economic statistics, national accounts, Research & Development statistics, population statistics and price statistics. UNSD/DESA and NBS will collaborate closely in the delivery of knowledge transfer, including through workshops, technical consultations, personnel exchanges and study tours. The project will provide an effective platform for China and other developing countries to exchange best practices in statistical methodology and to further strengthen statistical capacity.

I firmly believe that by taking this initiative on capacity development in statistics, China will help the Asian region to bring statistical development to the next level. This initiative will improve the quality and boost the international reputation and credibility of official statistics in this region. In so doing, it will strengthen the global statistical system as well.

It is exactly for these reasons that this Trust Fund Project is of such great importance. In order to further improve the cooperation between the UNSD/DESA and the NBS, we will also support China in sustaining its efforts on statistical capacity-building for years to come, including through its proposed international training centre. In conclusion, I would like to reassure you that UNSD/DESA will be fully committed to do its utmost in diligently executing the project activities and in making this project a success. UNSD/DESA will continue to work in close collaboration with the NBS toward our shared objective of enhanced global statistical development.

Thank you.