Ladies and gentlemen,
At the outset, I would like to extend, on behalf of the Director-General of FAO and on my own behalf, our warm welcome to you all to this expert consultation on Analysis and Dissemination of Census and Survey Data. I am pleased to have this opportunity to greet colleagues from ministries, universities and statistics agencies in the region. I also want to thank experts from ESCAP and ADPC for joining this consultation at the FAO regional office in Bangkok.
You are well aware that FAO, as the leading Organization in fighting against hunger, needs to make recommendations or to give advice to decision-makers on international, regional and national issues relating to food and agricultural developments in the region. It is FAO’s firm belief that decisions on policy, strategy and programmes for food security and sustainable agriculture development should be supported by timely and reliable statistics and information.
Given that significant amounts of resources have been and will be committed in the future to rural development programmes that require continual monitoring and evaluation, the impact of improper or ineffective policies can have costly implications. In order to promote efficient use of these resources, FAO is taking the initiative to develop guidelines and caveats for countries and agencies which collect, analyze and disseminate agricultural sector data. As a knowledge organization, FAO realizes the need for continuous learning and adaptation to newly emerging requirements. A primary objective of this expert consultation is thus to learn from each other and – in doing so – strengthening FAO’s technical assistance and capacity building activities for the further development of statistical analysis programmes in the member countries.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Since 1960 FAO has collected information on food and agriculture from countries and placed it into databases for processing, analysis and dissemination (and further analysis). During the development of these databases there have been lively debates about the quality of the data, the absence and/or scarcity of data or data items (indicators), as well as the lack of adequate data analyzing capabilities. However, for many years we have witnessed good improvements at both country and global levels as documented by the enhanced quality of data published in yearbooks (with FAO data symbols identifying the source of the data). In addition to hard copy availability, the data now also reside in FAOSTAT and are readily accessible over the Internet by an unlimited number of data users. But, this latest technology is a double-edge sword. While the Internet greatly improves accessibility, end users often fail to effectively use the data in day-to-day decision–making processes.
Of special concern is the treatment of those datasets which have missing parameters or incomplete values. Special well-justified circumstances necessitated the use by FAO of “estimates” when official data were not available. It follows that steps are needed by end users to incorporate this differentiation into their analysis methodology. Thus, I need not overemphasize the importance in accessing reliable information and in knowing how to carry out the right types of analysis to support policy development, monitoring and evaluation processes.
The theme of this expert consultation is therefore to help countries to improve capacity in using and analyzing existing databases for formulating and monitoring agricultural and rural development policies. Specifically, the consultation will review selected analysis procedures with professionals who have experience in analysis and dissemination of agricultural sector data. This consultation also provides an opportunity to discuss relevant issues associated with the improvement of the quality of data and with a methodology for dissemination of food and agricultural statistics in support of national food security and poverty alleviation programmes.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Several key issues – such as the identification of characteristics of individuals who are vulnerable to food insecurity and poverty, the assessment of the economic impacts of natural disasters and the development of gender profiles for rural and urban communities – are associated with the types of analysis procedures that will be reviewed during your meeting. Given the impact of globalization, both domestic and international markets are affected by the expansion of trading partners and by the availability of agricultural products. In addition, international trade of food products is putting increased demands on all actors in the food chain to meet stringent food quality standards. As a result, the formulation, monitoring and evaluation of policies need a clearer understanding of relationships within the country and within the global environment of those issues that are critical to the sustainability and expansion of a nation’s food and agriculture sector. This requirement calls for both comprehensive databases as well as modern analysis methodologies to monitor the increased dynamics of present food production and trade environments.
Allow me to also point out two other important activities that FAO is undertaking at this time. A major multi-disciplinary project in FAOSTAT is currently in progress. This project has been accorded very high priority by the FAO Governing Bodies. By the end of the project, in December 2005, it is expected that the FAOSTAT database will have an expanded scope (number of data items covered) with improved quality. The exchange of data between the countries and FAO is also expected to be much improved with better methods available to process the data received from member countries. In conjunction with the redevelopment of FAOSTAT, a country level component – CountryStat – has been designed to facilitate the organization of national data and integration into FAOSTAT. The status of the development of this component will be one of the topics discussed in the consultation.
Second, the World Programme on Census of Agriculture 2010 (WCA2010) is under preparation. It contains several crucial recommendations regarding the collection of data. It also stresses the importance of establishing linkages between censuses and major surveys in order to reduce cost and improve efficiency and compatibility within the national statistics system. During this consultation these linkages will be examined in the context of analysis and dissemination. Typical analyses of census data will be presented and one system for dissemination of the results will be demonstrated. Your inputs will be helpful in finalizing recommendations for WCA2010.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Both statisticians and data users are targeted in this consultation because effective collection and processing of data are crucial to reliable analyses. With your broad experience and diverse backgrounds, it is hoped that your feedback will help FAO to provide users with the quality and completeness of data in FAOSTAT that they need and with analysis tools that they can use and benefit from. And perhaps the proceedings of the consultation will be helpful to developers and users of other agricultural sector databases available from the Internet.
I believe that at the end of the consultation, FAO will have much better insight about the treatment of incomplete and missing data using various types of analyses for decision-making. During the next four days I encourage you to contribute to the discussions about these steps.
Let me again reiterate my pleasure that you are participating in this expert consultation. With my best wishes for a productive and successful outcome of your consultation and stay in Bangkok.