What is it about?

The Fundamental Principles of Official Statistics are ten simple rules created by the top statisticians of the UN's European region in response to the dramatic political, social and economic changes of the early 1990s. Offices that produced official statistics in the former Eastern Bloc found their roles radically changed and needed a common code to define and guide their new mission. This paper examines how the principles went from filling this specific need to becoming a global standard that now guides and motivates official statisticians across the world. The paper offers simple real-life explanations of each principle and asks what role the principles now play, 30 years after they were formulated.

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Why is it important?

The paper was written as part of the 30th anniversary year activities organized by UNECE, the region of the United Nations in which the principles were first developed. Wishing to do more than simply mark an anniversary by looking back at the past, the authors of the paper wanted to prompt real reflection on whether and how the principles are still relevant and needed.


Anyone who works in official statistics knows about the Fundamental Principles, but few could actually say off the top of their head what they all are, and even fewer still would be able to explain in non-jargon terms why each of the ten actually matters. And yet we're all quite convinced that they DO matter, as we learn this from the moment we enter the field and we repeat it and hear others repeat it with an almost religious zeal. It was fascinating for me not only to write this paper but to organize the associated anniversary activities with national statistical offices around the region and beyond, as I was forced to think through and articulate exactly what each principle really implies. It brought to light the intense interconnection between them all -- how so many of them are linked to building trust in official statistics and how trust in turn is central to making official statistics actually worth anything at all.

Fiona Willis-Nunez
United Nations Economic Commission for Europe

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Thirty years on, the Fundamental Principles of Official Statistics remain the shared foundation of an informed society, Statistical Journal of the IAOS, September 2022, IOS Press,
DOI: 10.3233/sji-220049.
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