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Development Account Projects

Strengthening statistical capacity in the region of the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia

Background:

Statistics and indicators are critical tools for countries in policy-making and for socio-economic planning. They are needed for assessment of the current situation to set objectives for the future, and to measure progress and development. The Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) in its resolutions 1999/55 and 2000/29, stressed the importance of relevant, accurate, and timely statistics and indicators for evaluating the implementation of the outcome of the recent international conferences.

A substantial gap still exists between the demand for information and the ability of most countries to routinely supply this information, both in terms of the availability and the quality of data. Most countries still need national and international support to strengthen statistical capacity-building and to make progress in the development of relevant statistics and indicators. The ECOSOC has reaffirmed the importance of statistical training and has urged United Nations organizations, including the Secretariat, to mobilize the required resources and coordinate their efforts to support national statistical capacity-building in developing countries.

Objective:

To strengthen national statistical systems in the countries of the ESCWA region and To promote interregional cooperation among national statistical systems of Western Asia

Expected accomplishments:

  • Improved organization of the statistical systems and strengthened capacity of the countries in the region to develop and disseminate policies and practices;
  • Strengthened capacity of the countries to routinely produce statistical data in specific statistical areas such as the production of macroeconomic indicators and social statistics;
  • Development of common methodologies and classifications for the collection of data and common statistical priorities in areas such as economic and social statistics;
  • Strengthened coordination and communication among countries;
  • Upgraded technological capacity to promote networking among statistical offices in the region;
  • Strengthened capacity of the Statistics Division of ESCWA in promoting regional statistical. coordination

Effects and Impact:

The census-taking workshops have succeeded in establishing expert networks. Staff members from national statistical offices in the region now exchange information, experiences, and knowledge through these networks. The Census Study Visit Programme further extended and intensified these networks as did the Census Management workshop and the census-related IT workshops. As members of the regional community of statistics offices, Oman and Egypt agreed to test new approaches using new technology in census processing. Oman is testing handheld devices, while Egypt is testing software for electronically readable Arab questionnaires. Two workshops were held around these tests to share the results and to study their applicability for the region.

All member states reported progress over the duration of the project in one or more of the priority areas, parts of which they attributed to the project; member states also deemed the high level steering committee a successful governance body. In particular, choosing the area of population and housing censuses (census management and use of IT) as a project priority proved very timely as many countries of the region conducted their censuses during or shortly after the end of the project. In this area, many countries reported to have benefited enormously from the related workshops and study tours and were able to integrate many recommendations into their own census management. In addition, countries reported improved organization of the statistical offices and systems as well as improved knowledge of environment statistics.