‘A key milestone for FAO Statistics’ - First meeting of the IAGFS

Statistics on food and agriculture have a critical role in designing and targeting policies to reduce hunger, malnutrition and rural poverty. They provide the foundation for evidence-based decision making for governments and the international community, and play an essential role in measuring and monitoring progress towards national and international development goals and targets.

In order to ensure that FAO produces the best possible quality statistics, the International Advisory Group on FAO Statistics (IAGFS) was recently formed and the first meeting took place at headquarters on 19-20 September. The establishment of this Advisory Group marks the beginning of a new dialogue and partnership to improve food security and agricultural statistics at the national, regional and global levels.

The mandate of the IAGFS is to advise FAO on statistical priorities, best practices in data compilation, analysis and dissemination, and on the design and implementation of major FAO statistical projects and capacity development programmes. It follows recent changes made by the Director-General to strengthen internal statistics governance, namely the creation of the role of Chief Statistician and the Inter-Departmental Working Group on Statistics.

The two-day meeting attended by international organizations, Regional Statistical Commissions and FAO Technical Committee Chairs provided a valuable opportunity for gathering input on the FAO statistical programme of work from stakeholders, and represented a significant step towards increasing country engagement and voice in statistical matters.

Opened by the Director-General, the meeting also provided an opportunity to demonstrate a few of the instruments being developed and used to strengthen FAO statistics, such as the implementation of a corporate quality assurance framework, the corporate Statistical Programme of Work 2014-15, and the new Statistical Data Warehouse.

At the IAGFS, FAO reiterated its dedication to developing and strengthening partnerships with international organizations, and the statistics community. Pietro Gennari, Chief Statistician explained how, ‘working together with partners, existing gaps can be transformed into opportunities for collaboration, and the efforts of key stakeholders can be better coordinated and harmonized’.

FAO also committed to continuing to improve the quality of the global public goods that it produces.  High profile products such as the undernourishment indicators, the Agricultural Market Information System (AMIS), the FAO Food Price Index, the FAOSTAT corporate database and the State of Food Insecurity publication are some examples of products which are employed worldwide by a variety of external users for information, decision-making and policy development in the fight against hunger.

The changes being made to FAO statistics are key in moving towards a more effective and streamlined statistical system. The Director-General highlighted that these changes ‘will guarantee that more reliable and higher quality data are produced and disseminated by FAO’, and also noted that ‘improved statistics will help FAO to better monitor and understand the impact of its work, at the global and country levels’.

These improvements will also ensure that FAO continues to meet its commitments to member countries, governments and international organizations as an independent and authoritative facilitator and supplier of food security and agricultural statistics.