Angel Gurría, Secrétaire général de l'OCDE

OECD Statistics Day: Bringing the OECD statistical community together


Remarks by Angel Gurría, OECD Secretary-General

OECD Conference Centre, 12 September 2011
(As prepared for delivery)
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am pleased to see the OECD statistical community together and to welcome you all to our Statistics Day.

Drawing on facts and real-life experience, the OECD strives to understand what drives economic, social and environmental change. We measure, compile and analyse data to provide evidence for policy making and to predict future trends. We produce statistics on all manner of topics, we compare countries’ performances, we set standards and identify best practices.

Better policies from better data

Official statistics are a key “public good”. They are the raw material upon which the high quality analytical work of this and other organisations, governments and academia depend. They are not an end in themselves. They are a means to inform decisions and lie at the core of rigorous, evidence-based policy making. The ongoing fallout from the financial crisis has highlighted, even more than in the past, the need for statistics that can help policy makers to put the world economy on an inclusive and long-term growth path.

Statistics are a central pillar of our work. You, the OECD statisticians, are making this possible by providing the data quickly, making them available in an internationally comparable format, and producing important analysis to help member countries design their policies.

Some would say that statistics are the DNA of the OECD, one of its most fundamental building blocks. Indeed, the OECD is known internationally for its meaningful, high-quality, timely and regular data. A great deal of our international reputation is associated with the high-quality and trusted data we produce on a regular basis. We need to continue to invest in this core work to maintain our competitive edge at a time when more and more data are available everywhere - what some refer to as “data deluge”.

Our path-finding role in the measuring progress discussions over the years shows that effective evidence-based policies need innovative statistical measures that reflect the new dimensions of our societies. We need innovative measures in order to provide a new perspective on the necessary focus of policy action. To think creatively and mark real advances in statistics, we need to raise new questions, look into new possibilities and explore from a new angle what we normally take for granted.

The OECD statistics community, working together, is constantly demonstrating its creativity. Our statisticians innovate in the production of data, the exploitation of new data sources, the analysis of new data but also in the presentation and dissemination of statistics and information.

Innovation et statistiques à l’OCDE

Au fil des ans, nous avons contribué au développement de standards statistiques internationaux qui sont désormais en vigueur partout dans le monde. Vous, nos statisticiens, avez participé à la rédaction de nombreux manuels et guides méthodologiques de portée internationale sur des sujets émergents dans un vaste ensemble de domaines. Il s’agit, par exemple, des comptes nationaux, des parités de pouvoir d’achat, de la recherche et le développement, de l’environnement.

Pour aborder des problèmes nouveaux, l’OCDE a continuellement développé des indicateurs pertinents dans des domaines qui étaient jusque là ignorés par la statistique publique. Ce fut, dans les années soixante, le cas des statistiques de la recherche et développement et des indicateurs de la science et de la technologie. Ce fut plus tard le cas de toute une série d’indicateurs sociaux et environnementaux qui sont devenus la référence internationale. Je pourrais citer, parmi bien d’autres, les statistiques sur les performances des systèmes d’éducation qui sont produites par le biais de l’enquête PISA ou celles sur les performances des systèmes de santé contenues dans la base de données internationale sur la santé. 

Et nous continuons d’être au cœur de l’innovation statistique internationale. Alors qu’il y a partout un regain d’intérêt pour des indicateurs mesurant le bien-être des populations et le progrès des sociétés au-delà du PIB, nous avons encore une fois montré la voie. Nous avons été les premiers au rendez-vous de l’innovation avec la sortie en mai dernier de nos indicateurs de bien-être et Your Better Life Index, ainsi que la publication How’s Life? qui paraîtra en octobre prochain. De même, nous avons été les premiers à publier un ensemble d’incateurs pour la croissance verte.  

Working together : the OECD Statistical Community

Horizontal projects, such as the Better Life Initiative and the Green Growth Strategy have demonstrated the value-added for the Organisation of the OECD statistics community working together. The success of these projects owes much to you and your willingness and enthusiasm to bring together your expertise in your respective field of competence to a common project. Without your hard work, we would never have had such an impact at the Ministerial Council Meeting and Forum last May.

And I am told that you are now working together very effectively in the area of microdata. I am very pleased about this development as we all know that today microdata are increasingly used in empirical economics to allow finer and more relevant analysis of incresingly complex phenomena. The respect that the OECD statistical community has generated over the years is enough for countries to consider providing their microdata despite confidentiality and privacy problems, as they are confident that the OECD and its statisticians can be fully trusted. This is testimony of the high ethics you display in your everyday work and which you can be proud of.

Quest for statistical information is one of the principle reasons for visits to the OECD website.

Last year, 2.1 million users visited OECD.Stat, our corporate statistics distribution tool. In some months there were close to 130 thousand visitors. These users  have viewed 12.8 million pages in OECD.Stat.
OECD.Stat is another example of the statistical community at its best. It required strong cooperation over many years across almost all of OECD directorates to become the success it has now. Such is its success today that a number of other international organisations and national statistics offices around the globe are now using our system. All this has been made possible because of the collective effort of the OECD statistics community.

A challenge today is to continue to extend data coverage to the emerging economies and the G20 throughout our databases. I am confident that together, counting on your professionalism, this challenge can be met. 

Mesdames et Messieurs,
Comme vous le savez peut-être, le mot «statistique» vient du latin «statisticum collegium» qui veut dire «conseil d’état». Puis le mot «statistica» emergea dans l’Italie médiévale; signifiant «homme d’état» ou politicien. Au 18ème siècle, en Allemagne, le mot «Statistik» fut introduit pour parler de la collecte des faits par l’état. L’objectif principal de la statistique en tant que discipline aux 18ème et 19ème siècles était de fournir aux gouvernements des informations sur les gens qu’ils gouvernaient.

Continuing to provide trusted information to governments to help them make policy choices that improve the lives of their citizens should remain one of our utmost objectives. This is your job.  So let me take this opportunity to thank you. What you do for this Organisation is vital.
Enjoy your Statistics Day!


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