President's Column

ISI on the International Stage at the UN

20 March 2023
at the UN

Not everyone is aware that the ISI has consultative status at the United Nations.

What does this consultative status mean for ISI and larger statistical community?

Well, it means that we take an active role in UN discussions on statistics, we are often asked to join working parties, and we attend the annual UN Statistical Commission.

This role follows on naturally from the historic activities the ISI has performed in the past. Prior to the establishment of the UN, it was the ISI that compiled the first publications presenting statistics from countries all over the world. Also it was the ISI Statistical Meetings (now the WSC) which led to agreements on the statistical standards and classifications that countries now follow.




So, in the last week of February we attended the 2023 UN Statistical Commission in New York. We had some snow and it was cold, but the company and discussions were warm.


Gabriella Vukovich


Under the watchful eye of Gabriella Vukovich, ISI EC member who chairs the Statistical Commission, statisticians from across the world approved updated guidance and standards for important areas of statistics, such as prices, population measures, and national accounts. We were especially interested in the discussions on capacity building, Big Data, and Data stewardship. There was an important discussion on the UN’s Fundamental Principles of Official Statistics, where we intervened to support measures for more effective implementation, including setting up a new UN Advisory Board.

The full papers for the UN meeting are here, including the written comments submitted by ISI. However, another important reason for us attending this meeting was the opportunity to advance our agenda on Statistical Capacity Building through bilateral discussions with a number of countries and international agencies.


Conchita Kleijweg, Matthew Shearing, Stephen Penneck


Our Capacity Building Committee, led by Oliver Chinganya and Matthew Shearing, has done valuable work developing its forward strategy. This utilises ISI’s unique infrastructure that can help tackle many of the challenges faced by statistical systems in the modern world. The strategy consolidates our activities and proposes short- and long-term improvements in the use of data and statistics across the globe. This will require funding, and part of our discussions was to establish whether potential funders thought our ideas fitted into their agenda.

We got positive responses and will shortly be sharing the ideas with the membership and inviting feedback. These are all based on our strategic priority to ‘help develop the capacity of statisticians so that they are better able to respond to the emerging global challenges’.

On top of this, we also had a full meeting of our Executive Committee. With our Regional Conference in Zambia now only weeks away, and WSC 2023 in Ottawa on the immediate horizon, these were our main focus.

I hope you agree the new WSC 2023 website is much easier to use. We are making good progress here and can promise you worthwhile discussions and a good welcome in both Livingstone and Ottawa.

Our Public Voice Committee, under Kerrie Mengersen, has developed a good plan for the coming year. Regional on-line seminars are underway, including our most recent one on the Global Role of Statisticians in 2023; our Wikipedia presence is growing; and plans are going forward for a public voice consortium – a network of members willing to be active in writing blogs and running webinars etc.

A new membership development committee is being set up under Gabriella Vukovich, to expand our membership, while we are expanding opportunities for existing members to network in Ottawa through a series of twilight business meetings.

I am very pleased that an updated ISI website is to be launched at the end of this month. It has a more modern design and will be easier to use and to update. One important innovation is the ‘Communities’ feature which will enable members to message and share information with each other. I know this will be valued by Associations and Committees and will be key to our plans to support regional networks of members.

The Executive Committee is supporting plans for Regional Conferences in Macao and Mexico City in 2024 – look out for further details of these in due course. The next WSC after Ottawa will be in The Hague, Netherlands, in July 2025. We conducted a very successful consultation with members about the location of WSC 2027. 474 members gave us their views. There was a strong interest in having the Congress in East Asia, and we will now begin discussions with a number of possible hosts, with a view to announcing a decision in Ottawa.

All in all, we had a pretty busy time in New York and ISI is making very good progress.


Stephen Penneck
President (2021–2023), ISI