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The Fundamental Principles for Official Statistics adopted by the United Nations Statistical Commission, in its Special Session of 11-15 April 1994 are:

Principle 1. Official statistics provide an indispensable element in the information system of a society, serving the government, the economy and the public with data about the economic, demographic, social and environmental situation. To this end, official statistics that meet the test of practical utility are to be compiled and made available on an impartial basis by official statistical agencies to honour citizens’ entitlement to public information.

Principle 2. To retain trust in official statistics, the statistical agencies need to decide according to strictly professional considerations, including scientific principles and professional ethics, on the methods and procedures for the collection, processing, storage and presentation of statistical data.

Principle 3. To facilitate a correct interpretation of the data, the statistical agencies are to present information according to scientific standards on the sources, methods and procedures of the statistics.

Principle 4. The statistical agencies are entitled to comment on erroneous interpretation and misuse of statistics.

Principle 5. Data for statistical purposes may be drawn from all types of sources, be they statistical surveys or administrative records. Statistical agencies are to choose the source with regard to quality, timeliness, costs and the burden on respondents.

Principle 6. Individual data collected by statistical agencies for statistical compilation, whether they refer to natural or legal persons, are to be strictly confidential and used exclusively for statistical purposes.

Principle 7. The laws, regulations and measures under which the statistical systems operate are to be made public.

Principle 8. Coordination among statistical agencies within countries is essential to achieve consistency and efficiency in the statistical system.

Principle 9. The use by statistical agencies in each country of international concepts, classifications and methods promotes the consistency and efficiency of statistical systems at all official levels.

Principle 10. Bilateral and multilateral cooperation in statistics contributes to the improvement of systems of official statistics in all countries.

The notion that international endorsement of a set of principles for official statistics was necessary was born in the Conference of European Statisticians. At the end of the eighties the countries of Central Europe began to change from centrally planned economies to market-oriented democracies. A few years later the Soviet Union was dissolved. Among the many changes that these developments generated was the need for complete transformation of the national statistical systems.

Part of this transformation process was about redefining the role of official statistics, as well making it clear to governments and other users of statistics that a good system of official statistics must meet certain general criteria. In order to get this message across, and to assist heads of national statistical offices to defend the position of their institutes, the Fundamental Principles of Official Statistics were developed.

Source Publication:
Good Practices in Official Statistics website, United Nations Statistical Division, New York.

Cross References:
Principles and practices for international statistics


Statistical Theme: Methodological information (metadata)

Created on Thursday, August 22, 2002

Last updated on Friday, December 2, 2005