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In recent years, representatives from national statistical agencies have started to meet informally to address selected problems in statistical methods. Some of these groups have become formally known as "city groups". This page provides background information on the genesis and the workings of the city groups.
The list to the left shows you which groups are presently active and which are the topics under discussion. Clicking on the groups will provide you with a short report on each group, containing information on the purpose of the group, the year of creation, recent meetings, documentation, future plans and points of contact. Where available, links with group webpages are provided.
The first of these groups was the group that is now known as the Voorburg group. Its name derives from the city in the Netherlands where it first met. The experience with the Voorburg group in particular and with other city groups has shown that the international community can benefit greatly from such a process. It is important to note also that technical expertise and certainly practical experience resides mainly with national statistical offices. It was, therefore, recognized that these informal consultation groups are an innovative way to use country resources to improve and speed up the international standards development process. This view was also expressed by the Expert Group on Critical Problems in Economic Statistics in its report to the Statistical Commission (contained in document E/CN.3/1997/2)
The challenge, however, was to create a balance between two seemingly conflicting forces. On the one hand these relatively small groups need to be able to work as effectively as possible, free from unnecessary bureaucratic interference. On the other hand, since much of the work of these groups could result in proposed international standards, it was necessary that the viewpoints of those countries who often lack the resources to directly participate in the city groups be recognized and considered.
The mechanism to accomplish this was to allow city groups to set their own working agendas while requiring precise terms of reference approved by the Statistical Commission. Therefore, since its twenty-ninth session in February 1997 the Statistical Commission discusses regularly the work of the city groups. It reviews the accomplishments of existing groups and examines the terms of reference for proposed new groups. Based on this it encourages the existing groups to continue their work and identifies a number of critical problems around which new city groups might be formed.
In order to preserve maximum flexibility city groups as a matter of principle determine their own individual mechanism of work. Still, there exist some common characteristics.
City groups are informal groups of experts primarily from national statistical agencies. Participation by representatives is voluntary as is the existence of the group itself. If there is insufficient interest in the group then it either is not created or soon ceases to exist. Each representative is expected to fund his or her participation in the group. While each group sets its own working procedures generally a key criterion for participation is the ability of each member to contribute a substantive paper to each meeting of the group. It is usually the responsibility of the host to prepare a volume of proceedings after each meeting. The host country may change after each meeting.
If your office possesses a particular expertise or interest in one of these fields, you are strongly encouraged to contact the convener and to participate to the extent possible in the working of the respective group. In those cases where the appropriate expertise exists and resources permitting, the Statistics Division and other international organizations will try to speak for those unable to attend. Furthermore, the Statistics Division will assist in making the findings of these groups more widely available.
For more information please contact:
Ms. Li Wang