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Fundamental Principles of Official Statistics

Extract from the report of the Statistical Commission on its Special Session, held in New York 11-14 April 1994. Official Records of the Economic and Social Council, 1994, Supplement No. 9.


Principle 1. Relevance, impartiality and equal access 

Official statistics provide an indispensable element in the information system of a democratic 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 honor citizens' entitlement to public information.

Principle 2. Professionalism

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.  Accountability

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. 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 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. 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 purposes.

Principle 7. Legislation

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

Principle 8. National Co-ordination

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

Principle 9. International Co-ordination

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. International statistical co-operation

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