ESCWA celebrated the first World Statistics Day at the UN House in Beirut, under the auspices of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad El Hariri who was represented by State Minister Jean Ogasapian, and in the presence of many diplomats, officials and statistics users.
"We have assembled today to give honour to statistics, to a profession that accompanies each of us throughout the life," the head of ESCWA Statistics Division Juraj Riecan said. He added that the motto of the World Statistics Day this year is "Service- Professionalism- Integrity." "Statistics is at the first place service to those who want and need to be informed, they help us to understand the world and to take decisions," Riecan said. He pointed out that the region is eager for statistical capacity-building and for learning new methods and techniques.
Ogasapian said in his statement, "the primary objective of the World Statistics Day is to draw attention of data producers to the need for striving to get the correct figures because they are essential in sustaining the development process." "Since our country direly needs sustainable development conducive to a decent life and to economic and social welfare, it is necessary to give the greatest attention to statistics based on indicators and statistical data reflecting the real conditions lived by these communities, and so that governments' policies will be based on accurate figures and scientific evidences in order to improve livelihoods and not take impromptu decisions that are often wrong and incompatible with reality," the minister added.
Director of ESCWA Information and Communication Technology Division, Yousef Nusseir, delivered the message of the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon for this event. The message stressed the importance of statistics in decisions-making processes and in identifying future directions for these policies. "Collected in surveys and censuses, statistics affect the planning of schools, hospitals, roads and much else," Ban said. "They are a central consideration in justifying almost every aspect of budgets and programmes that enable hungry children to be fed or that provide shelter and emergency health care for victims of natural disasters," he added.
Nusseir also made a statement on behalf of ESCWA Executive Secretary Rima Khalaf, who considered the celebration of this day a tribute to the work of staff in statistical agencies all over the world. She pointed out that each figure read in the media or in publications is a contribution from many women and men. This celebration is not only for the achievements of official statistics, but it extends as well to the recognition of their importance in the future exploration, she added. "It is an opportunity to reconsider our commitments to address challenges facing the official statistics system in our region, and we, in ESCWA, are committed to assist the Member Countries in building national institutional frameworks for official statistics," she said. She added that this work includes support for the development of strategies for statistical work and the implementation of the fundamental principles of official statistics according to international rules and standards.
The Director General of the Lebanese Central Bureau of Statistics Maral Totalyan said "the promotion of statistical culture to enhance statistical awareness and the need for serious statistics are the responsibility of cultural and media institutions, on whose shoulders lies the task of sensitizing civil society actors to their need for essential indicators to advance society and hold governments accountable on their economic and social policies," she added. "We, as national statistics organizations producing official statistics do not deny our responsibility for providing the maximum and highest-quality statistics."
For his part, the Chairman of Association of Lebanese Industrialists, Nehmat Frem, believes that the industrial sector in Lebanon needs to develop its competitiveness and scale. He enumerated some of the indicators that Lebanese industrialists wish to have access to, including real energy prices for industry, industrial land prices and their areas, in addition to the costs of transportation and communication. "The Lebanese industry today constitutes 12 percent of the Gross Domestic Product, and our ambition is to raise that to 16 percent by separating industry from politics," he added.
At the end of the ceremony, ESCWA distributed certificates of appreciation to representatives of the statistical offices in Member Countries. The UN General Assembly decided to observe 20 October as an official statistics day in order to celebrate the many achievements of official statistics around the globe. In one of its resolutions, the Assembly recognized the long history of official statistics, noting the significance of national capacities to produce statistics and indicators that are reliable and timely to measure the progress a country achieves and to form an indispensable basis for informed processes of making decisions and policies.