The United Nations Statistical Commission, established in 1947, is the highest body of the global statistical system. It brings together the Chief Statisticians from member states from around the world. It is the highest decision making body for international statistical activities especially the setting of statistical standards, the development of concepts and methods and their implementation at the national and international level.
The terms of reference as set forth in Economic and Social Council resolution 1566 (L) of 3 May 1971, reaffirming its resolution 8 (I) of 16 February 1946, as amended by resolution 8 (II) of 21 June 1946, state that the Commission shall assist the Council:
- (a) In promoting the development of national statistics and the improvement of their comparability;
- (b) In the coordination of the statistical work of specialized agencies;
- (c) In the development of the central statistical services of the Secretariat;
- (d) In advising the organs of the United Nations on general questions relating to the collection, analysis and dissemination of statistical information;
- (e) In promoting the improvement of statistics and statistical methods generally.
In resolution 1566 (L), the Council stressed the importance of the Commission's coordination function and the need to achieve an integrated system in the collection, processing and dissemination of international statistics; recognized the interest of the Statistical Commission and the Statistical Division in matters related to the use of computers in the United Nations system; and requested the Secretary-General to undertake, in cooperation with the specialized agencies, concerted action to assist the developing countries in strengthening their statistical systems.
Terms of reference of the Statistical Commission:
Active groups under the Statistical Commission by pillar and type of group
Over the years, numerous groups have been established under the auspices of the Commission in order to examine topics of methodological interest, to develop normative documents and to coordinate the work of multiple actors. Typically, the outputs produced by the groups have been submitted to the Commission for discussion and eventually for endorsement.
The arrangements and mandates of various groups operating under the Commission reflect a spirit of inclusiveness and collective ownership. In order to address the wealth and breadth of official statistics, 10 distinct types of groups have been identified. The group nomenclature is thus composed of the following types: city groups, friends of the Chair groups, task forces, working groups, expert groups, committees, inter-agency and expert groups, partnerships, high-level groups and networks. This website provides a breakdown of the types of groups by sustainable development pillar.
The Statistical Commission considers special issues of concern in international statistical development, methodological issues, coordination and integration of international statistical programmes, support of technical cooperation activities in statistics and organizational matters.
Within the terms of the above resolutions, there is flexibility for the Commission to adjust, where necessary, its priorities and methods to meet new requirements and maintain a balance between matters of current concern and the longer-term development aspects of the statistical system.
Frequency of meetings and reporting
In July 1999 the Economic and Social Council decided that the Commission should meet annually for four days each session, starting in the year 2000.
The Commission submits a report on each session to the Economic and Social Council. The report contains an account of the Commission's proceedings and the action taken on each agenda item.
The Commission may submit to the Council, in the form of draft resolutions, recommendations to States Members of the United Nations, the Secretary-General or the specialized agencies. Any financial implications of the draft resolutions must be brought to the attention of the Commission and the Council before being adopted and must subsequently be approved by the organs of the United Nations having the necessary authority.
The Commission consists of 24 member countries of the United Nations elected by the United Nations Economic and Social Council on the basis of an equitable geographical distribution according to the following pattern:
- (a) Five members from African States;
- (b) Four members from Asian States;
- (c) Four members from Eastern European States;
- (d) Four members from Latin American and Caribbean States;
- (e) Seven members from Western European and other States.
The term of office of members is four years.
The officers of the Commission, also referd to as the Bureau, are the Chairman, 3 Vice-chairmen and the Rapporteur.
In between sessions of the Commission, members of the Commission, the Bureau and the Secretariat consult on the election of the Bureau for the upcoming session. A Bureau is elected for a one year period with the expectation that they will be re-elected to a second one year term if available. Nominations are made by members of the Commission. Elections are held at the beginning of a session. In practice elections have been by acclamation.
At its thirtieth session the Commission decided to give the officers of the Commission (if necessary complemented by any others whose participation is deemed useful by the Chairman) more of a steering role.
Secretariat support and other participants
The sessions of the Statistical Commission are substantively serviced by the United Nations Statistics Division (UNSD) and attended by the regional commissions, other United Nations organizations, specialized agencies and related organizations, non-United Nations international organizations active in international statistical work, and non-governmental organizations.