Fundamental Principles of Official Statistics

United Nations Statistical Commission, 1994


The need for a set of principles governing official statistics became apparent at the end of the 1980s when countries in Central Europe began to change from centrally planned economies to market-oriented democracies. It was 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. Towards this end, the Conference of European Statisticians developed and adopted the Fundamental Principles of Official Statistics in 1991 (CES/702), which were subsequently adopted in 1992 at the minsterial level by ECE as decision C(47). Statisticians in other parts of the world soon realized that the principles were of much wider, global significance. Following an international consultation process, a milestone in the history of international statistics was reached when the United Nations Statistical Commission at its Special Session of 11-15 April 1994 adopted the very same set of principles – with a revised preamble – as the United Nations Fundamental Principles of Official Statistics.

At its forty-second session in 2011, the Statistical Commission discussed the Fundamental Principles of Official Statistics and acknowledged that the Principles were still as relevant today as they had been in the past and that no revision of the 10 Principles themselves was necessary. The Commission recommended, however, that a Friends of the Chair group revise and update the preamble of the Fundamental Principles in order to take into account new developments since the time when the Principles were first formulated. At its forty-fourth session in 2013, the Statistical Commission adopted the revised preamble. 


The Statistical Commission

Recalling recent resolutions 1 of the General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council, highlighting the fundamental importa nce of official statistics for the national and global development agenda,

Bearing in mind the critical role of high-quality official statist ical information in analysis and informed policy decision-making in support of sustainable development, peace and security, as well as for mut ual knowledge and trade among the States and peoples of an increasingly connected world, demanding openness and transparency,

Bearing in mind also that the essential trust of the public in the inte grity of official statistical systems and its confidence in statistics depend to a large extent on respect for the fundamental values and principles t hat are the basis of any society seeking to understand itself and to respect the rig hts of its members and, in this context, that the professional independence and acc ountability of statistical agencies are crucial,

Stressing that, in order to be effective, the fundamental va lues and principles that govern statistical work have to be guaranteed by legal and institutional frameworks and respected at all political levels an d by all stakeholders in national statistical systems,

Endorses the Fundamental Principles of the Official Statistics defined as follows.

Principle 1 Relevance, impartiality and equal access

Official statistics provide an indispensable elem ent in the information system of a democratic society, serving the Government, the economy and the public with data about the economic, demogr aphic, 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 Professional standards and ethics

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

Principle 3 Accountability and transparency

To facilitate a correct interpretation of the dat a, the statistical agencies are to present information according to sc ientific standards on the sources, methods and procedures of the statistics.

Principle 4 Prevention of misuse

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

Principle 5 Cost-effectiveness

Data for statistical purposes may be drawn from a ll types of sources, be they statistical surveys or administrat ive records. Statistical agencies are to choose the source with regard to quality, timeli ness, costs and the burden on respondents.

Principle 6 Confidentiality

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 p urposes.

Principle 7 Legislation

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 p urposes.

Principle 8 National coordination

Coordination among statistical agencies within co untries is essential to achieve consistency and efficiency in the statistical system.

Principle 9 Use of international satandards

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

Principle 10 International cooperation

Bilateral and multilateral cooperation in statist ics contributes to the improvement of systems of official statistics i n all countries.

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1 It includes resolution no 64/267 of the General Assembly, on the World Statistics Day, as well as the resolutions no 2006/6 and no 2005/13, of the Economic and Social Council, respectively to reinforce the statistical capacity and about the World Population and Housing Census Programme.