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Setting International Statistical Standards Requires India

Context

  • After a two-decade absence, India was recently unanimously elected to the United Nations Statistical Commission (UNSC).The term of membership is four years, starting in January 2024.
  • India could also serve as the commission’s chair during this time.

Relevance:

GS Paper-2: Important International institutions, agencies and fora- their structure, mandate

Mains Question

Examine the impact of India’s appointment to the UNSC (UN Statistical Commission). What possible advantages might India’s presidency of the Commission have? (250 Words)


United Nations Statistical Commission information:

  • Function: The UNSC is in charge of establishing global standards for statistics, promoting their application, and coordinating statistical initiatives among UN agencies and member states.
  • Membership: The UNSC is made up of 24 member nations that were chosen by the Economic and Social Council based on a fair geographic distribution. Four years are allotted to each member’s term.
  • Meetings: The UNSC convenes yearly in New York to review, approve, and discuss new statistical methods and standards as well as current global statistics issues.
  • Work Programme: The UNSC’s work programme entails creating statistical techniques, enhancing data coverage and quality, encouraging the use of statistics in policymaking, and keeping track of advancements made in the direction of the Sustainable Development Goals.
  • Contributions to International Development: By providing precise and timely data to inform policy making and assess progress towards development goals, the UNSC’s work is essential to achieving the UN’s mission of promoting sustainable development and reducing poverty.
  • Cooperation: To ensure that statistical standards are unified and consistent across various development fields, the UNSC collaborates closely with other UN organisations, such as the World Health Organisation, the International Labour Organisation, and the Food and Agriculture Organisation.
  • Publications: Since its founding in 1947, the UNSC has released a variety of reports and books, such as the Handbook of Statistical Organisation, the System of National Accounts, and the Principles and Recommendations for Population and Housing Censuses.
  • Various indicators, such as Gross Domestic Product (GDP), Gross Value Addition (GVA), and other measures that emerge from various statistical processes, such as household survey data, employment-unemployment statistics, price statistics, health accounts, tourism accounts, environment accounts, etc., enable comparisons across countries. It also brings together the chief statisticians of member states from around the world.

India’s relationship with the UNSC dates back 76 years.

  • During that time, two of our esteemed statisticians have served as chairmen of the Commission.
  • P.C. Mahalanobis was the first Indian to preside over it (for the eighth and ninth sessions, which were held in 1954 and 1956, respectively), and V.R. Rao presided over the 19th session in 1976.
  • During the UNSC’s early years, Mahalanobis made ground-breaking contributions.
  • He established a statistical sampling sub-commission, which paved the way for the use of sample surveys in various official statistics fields.
  • Rao improved the statistical agencies of numerous developing nations across numerous regions, particularly for conducting household sample surveys.
  • He is also credited with serving as the chair of the UNSC’s sole meeting outside of a UN mission, which took place in New Delhi in 1976 at the invitation of the Indian government.

System of National Accounts (SNA)

  • The System of National Accounts (SNA) 2025, a framework adopted by UN members for the formulation of national accounts, was finalised and put into effect during India’s tenure.
  • Because some economic activities, like the unpaid work done by women, are not measured, developing economies like India and those in the global south are at a disadvantage.
  • Methods for measuring the value addition of unpaid work need to be reformulated and developed.
  • The shift from physical to online transactions as a result of changes in production, consumption, and spending patterns brought about by digitalization has also given rise to new types of economic activities outside the old SNA framework.
  • Compared to developed countries, where growth in the digital economy is estimated to be between 10-12%, India’s growth is estimated to be around 21%.

India’s Contribution to the SNA 2025 Revision:

  • India should play a significant role in the upcoming revision of the Commission’s SNA in order to reach an agreement on adding more digital industries and products and give nations the ability to precisely measure the impact of digitalization.
  • Other crucial concerns like the effects of climate change and how well-being is measured.
  • A $5 trillion economy with a $1 trillion digital economy can be attained with the help of incorporating economic activities into the revised SNA of 2025 and putting those plans into action.

Conclusion

India’s four-year membership in the Commission is timely, and we should take advantage of this chance to represent the global south in developing statistical standards and assisting in their implementation.


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