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RIO GROUP ON POVERTY STATISTICS

Purpose

The main objectives of the Rio Group on Poverty Statistics are to harness the experience and concerns of different groups and organizations in the world that are working on the measurement, interpretation and use of poverty statistics, especially when such work is being conducted by, or in close contact with, statistical offices. The identification of the indicators, methodologies and statistical sources allows the identification of the most up-to-date information on matters of poverty measurements, common procedures and best practices. In addition, the Group works in the identification of operational difficulties and fosters the cooperation among experts to improve the quality and relevance of measurements. The Rio Group synthesized its accumulated experience in a Compendium of Best Practices, published in September 2006.

Active years

1996 - 2006

Participants

Countries

Argentina, Australia, Belarus, Botswana, Brazil, Canada, Chile, France, India, Indonesia, Mexico, the Netherlands, Nigeria, Peru, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, the United States of America and Uruguay.

Organizations and other institutions

Centro Latinoamericano de Demografía, Economic Commission for Africa (ECE), Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), Statistical Office of the European Communities (Eurostat), Human Sciences Research Council, Inter-American Development Bank, International Labour Organization (ILO), Latin American and Caribbean Institute for Economic and Social Planning, London School of Economics and Political Science, Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Pan American Health Organization (PAHO)/World Health Organization (WHO), Partnership in Statistics for Development in the Twenty-first Century (PARIS21), Townsend Centre for International Poverty Research, United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), United Nations Statistics Division and World Bank.

Meetings

First meeting, Santiago, 7-9 May 1997
Second meeting, Rio de Janeiro, 13-15 May 1998
Third meeting, Lisbon, 22-24 November 1999
Fourth meeting, Rio de Janeiro, 15-17 October 2001
Fifth meeting, Rio de Janeiro, 13-15 November 2002
Sixth meeting, Rio de Janeiro, 12-14 November 2003
Seventh meeting, Rio de Janeiro, 6-8 December 2004
Eighth meeting, Rio de Janeiro, 24-25 August 2006

Topics considered

Measurements oriented towards synthetic indicators or policy for poverty alleviation; analytical classifications of synthetic indicators of poverty statistics: absolute poverty (poverty lines and unmet basic needs approach), relative poverty, objective and subjective poverty; poverty dynamics; relationships between poverty and other conceptual categories used in social policy, such as social exclusion, vulnerability and social rights; international comparisons; international strategies to alleviate poverty, their objectives, goals and means of implementation, and strategies for the improvement of information.
For all those topics, a good number of common methodologies and procedures have been examined and compared. The Rio Group has identified: (a) the most important methodological and statistical challenges in which participants are working; (b) statistical sources, concepts and classifications used for poverty measurements; (c) work under way to improve the timeliness and quality of sources and estimates; (d) international experience with respect to moving towards common practices in the measurement of poverty; and (e) institutional agreements towards the comparability of measurements in different regions.

Products

The agenda and documents of the meetings of the Rio Group can be found on its website (www.ibge.gov.br/poverty). Papers and final reports of the first four meetings have been published by ECLAC in print (document codes LC/R.1814, LC/R.1960, LC/R.1998 and LC/R.2096, not available on-line).
The Compendium was finished in August 2006 and published in September 2006. It pays special attention to established practices in poverty measurement. Established practices are those carried out, on a continuous basis, by a national, regional or international organization that publishes periodically results on poverty measurement and the methodologies and statistical sources used, and disseminates those estimates publicly. The practices of a few research institutes, closely related to official measurements, have also been included.

The Group embarked upon a major effort to collect information on different experiences and then to systematize that information. It was found that most practices fit quite well into a small number of categories. But it was also seen that less statistically developed countries had to use “shortcuts” in terms of procedures and calculations due to their lack of statistical infrastructure and experience.

The Group therefore decided that, rather than describe those shortcuts in detail, it would be more useful to concentrate on specifying the best practices in the field so that disadvantaged countries could evaluate the steps or stages needed to move towards better measurements.

The fact that the majority of group members come from national statistical offices guided the compilation of material towards measurement practices implemented in relation to their institutional context (even though they did not necessarily represent the official figures of the country in question). This excluded from the discussion those issues or proposals that pertained exclusively to the academic sphere, even though it was recognized that most of the now-widespread measurement approaches originated there. In addition, the shortage of resources limited the participation of many national institutions other than statistical offices, such as NGOs or government social agencies.

Nevertheless, the compendium is considered to be representative of most well-developed practices in poverty measurement. As a consequence, this Compendium offers a “menu” of poverty measurement approaches and methodologies. A discussion is also provided of the most important aspects relating to their implementation. In cases where no measurement method has been adopted, this menu should allow the reader to choose among the available options based on his/her needs and constraints. It is also, however, intended to provide a general guide for the improvement of measurement methods that have not been fully applied.

Planned activities

During its last meeting the Group agreed that an important stage of work has finished. It fulfills the mandate given to the Group by the Statistical Commission of the United Nations. The Group also verified that the work in the area is intense and therefore during 2006 there has been further progress in the area of poverty measurement that is not fully portrayed in the Compendium. Due to these circumstances, the meeting agenda covered relevant areas where work is underway. The large amount of ongoing research provides a great and efficient opportunity for maintaining international cooperation. It is a great asset that most members of the Group are working in the introduction of innovations in the practices. As a result of the work of the Group, cooperating institutions have built a network, which members recommend to keep in operation.

Points of contact

Mr. Eduardo Pereira Nunes
Instituto Brasileiro de Geografia e Estatística
Av. Franklin Roosevelt, 166, RJ, 10º andar
20021-120 - Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Tel: 55 21 2142 4503 / 02 / 01
Fax: 55 21 2142 0893
E-mail: eduardo.nunes@ibge.gov.br

Ms. Elisa Caillaux
Instituto Brasileiro de Geografia e Estatística
Av. Chile, 500, RJ, 8º andar
20031-170 - Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Tel: 55 21 2142 0351
E-mail: elisa.caillaux@ibge.gov.br

Mr. Pedro Sáinz
Consultant, Instituto Brasileiro de Geografía e Estatística
Tel: 569 98730803
E-mail: pedro.sainz@gmail.com

Mr. Juan Carlos Feres
Division of Statistics and Economic Projections
Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean
Av. Dag Hammarskjöld 3477, Casilla 179-D
Santiago, Chile
Tel: 56 2 210 2408
Fax: 56 2 210 2472
E-mail: juancarlos.feres@cepal.org