The United Nations Statistical Commission, established in 1947, is the highest body of the global statistical system bringing together the Chief Statisticians from member states from around the world. It is the highest decision making body for international statistical activities, responsible for setting of statistical standards and the development of concepts and methods, including 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.
In resolution 6 of 24 July 2006, the Council encouraged the strengthening of statistical capacity of the relevant international agencies; called upon the United Nations system, including the United Nations Statistics Division and regional commissions and international agencies to support national efforts in building and strengthening national statistical capacity; urged all stakeholders to support developing countries and countries with economies in transition in strengthening statistical capacity in support of development; and called upon the international agencies under the coordination of the United Nations Statistics Division to improve coverage, transparency and reporting on all indicators in order to enhance the database on all MDGs.
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. At its 51st session, the Commission endorsed the Reference framework for groups under the Statistical Commission as a useful and flexible guideline. In order to address the wealth and breadth of official statistics, the Commission decided to have eight distinct types of groups. The group nomenclature is thus composed of the following types: city groups, friends of the Chair groups, task forces, working groups (including partnerships), expert groups, committees (including high-level groups), inter-agency and expert 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 referred 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.
At its forty-fifth session the Commission supported the recommendation to strengthen the role of the Bureau to play an active role in the intersession period, consulting and informing countries and international organizations in the process.
Over the years the Statistical Commission has put forward a number of resolutions to ECOSOC and the GA. These resolutions bring the work of the Commission and related programmes to the forefront of international debate on statistics. Some key resolutions adopted by the Council and/or the General Assembly include the following:
In resolution E/RES/2013/21 of 24 July 2013, the Council endorsed the Fundamental Principles of official statistics which was introduced and endorsed by the General Assembly at its sixty-eighth session of the General Assembly as resolution 68/261 of 29 January 2014. The Fundamental Principles of Official Statistics contain a set of principles that are essential to ensure that national statistical systems in such countries would be able to produce appropriate and reliable data that adhered to certain professional and scientific standards.
On 3 June 2015, the General Assembly adopted resolution A/RES/69/282, in which it designated 20 October 2015 as the second World Statistics Day and decided to celebrate the Day every five years on 20 October. The third Day will be held on 20 October 2020.
On 10 June 2015, Economic and Social Council adopted resolution E/RES/2015/10 on the 2020 World Population and Housing Census Programme. The Programme recognizes population and housing censuses as one of the primary sources of data needed for formulating, implementing and monitoring policies and programmes aimed at inclusive socioeconomic development and environmental sustainability. It further recognizes population and housing censuses as an important source for supplying disaggregated data needed for the measurement of progress of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, especially in the context of assessing the situation of people by income, sex, age, race, ethnicity, migratory status, disability and geographic location, or other characteristics.
In resolution A/RES/71/313 of 6 July 2017, developed by the Statistical Commission, the General Assembly adopted a global framework of indicators and statistical data to monitor progress, inform policy and ensure accountability of all stakeholders as the follow-up and review mechanism for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
At its 51st session, the Commission recommended to the Council for adoption a draft resolution on "Strengthening coordination of the statistical programmes in the United Nations system". The draft resolution requests more effectively strengthening coordination of the statistics programmes within the United Nations system; requests the Statistics Division to provide adequate support to the coordination function of the Statistical Commission by improved functional coordination, improved regional and national coordination, improved coordination with other professional networks; and improved system/secretariat coordination.
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.