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Chapter 25. INTERNATIONAL STATISTICS AND TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE
statistical agencies of the less developed countries. Thus, the focus is on the question: What is the role, and what should be the future role, of the Federal Statistical System in the U.S. foreign assistance program? This is a narrower question than the role of statistics in foreign policy, because foreign policy, the essential province of the Department of State, encompasses the U.S. posture and relationships with all nations, both developed and developing. Rather, the focus here is on the relationships between Federal statistical agencies and the developing world as mediated through the principal agency for foreign assistance, the U.S. Agency for International Development (AID).
The U.S. Government is a highly active participant in a wide range of international statistical activities and programs. Formally coordinated through the Office of Federal Statistical Policy and Standards in the U.S. Department of Commerce, these activities include official representation of the U.S. Government in various intergovernmental bodies, bilateral programs for statistical standardization or data exchange, informal interaction with colleagues and agencies of other nations, and the posting of resident American statistical experts on assignments to provide training and technical assistance to other countries. Although the international activities are greatly varied, they can be grouped into several major categories: cooperative programs with developed countries, either on a direct bilateral basis or through multilateral agencies; training and technical assistance focused on less developed countries (LDC's); and coordination and liaison functions, both within the Federal statistical community and between that community and other countries or international agencies.
In many respects these three groupings shade into one another. The United States, for example, is a member of the United Nations Statistical Commission. The Commission treats statistical questions affecting both the developed and developing countries and is a major official forum for discussion and recommendations on global issues in statistics. The U.S. delegation must be prepared to discuss not only the major statistical questions affecting relationships between the United States and developed countries but also the statistical aspects of development assistance to nations of the Third World. Adequate representation of U.S. interests before the UN Statistical Commission requires extensive coordination and liaison among the scores of Federal agencies with international statistical
Historical Perspectives For nearly 40 years, statistical agencies of the Federal Government have provided substantial assistance to governments of the less developed countries (LDC's) in developing or upgrading their statistical operations, and at the same time have developed cooperative interchanges with statistical agencies in the developed countries. The major forms of international exchange and assistance are described below: 1. Training of LDC technicians in statistical
techniques and operations through courses and workshops held either in the United States or overseas. In addition, what might be called executive training interchanges have enabled statistical officials of the United States and other developed countries to exchange visits, observe one another's operations and acquire direct information on how other nations cope
with similar statistical problems; 2. Overseas technical assistance to LDC
governments. This is carried out through bilateral or multilateral mechanisms, or through long-term resident advisers or short-term assignments, and has been instrumental in the development or improvement of many
statistical systems and operations; 3. Development of new technologies, such as
the computer software packages
Given this blurring of distinctions, the focus of this chapter is principally on one area of international statistics-training and technical assistance provided by U.S. Federal statistical agencies to and for
CENTS/COCENTS (Census Tabulation System and COBOL Census Tabulation System) and case materials such as Atlantida, Providencia, Agristan, and New Florencia, which are specifically tailored to the statistical needs and conditions of LDC's. These activities are designed to enhance technology transfers from
developed to developing countries; 4. Cooperative statistical programs with other
developed nations, through international bodies. This includes, for example, development of the System of Social and Demographic Statistics, the development of international statistical standards or the reconciliation of import and export statistics on a bilateral basis between developed countries. These programs provide technology transfers among developed
countries with secondary transfers to LDC's; 5. Participation of U.S. Statisticians in
international and regional conferences, seminars and working groups. In both formal and informal interaction, statistical officials of the United States and other governments exchange ideas and information on a wide variety of statistical problems and their solutions. These activities build the network of communications which results in a loosely cohesive international statistical community.
In all of these developments, U.S. Federal statisticians played a major and often leading role. Economic reconstruction programs such as the Marshall Plan included extensive interchanges between U.S. statistical agencies and their European counterparts. In fact, the postwar era, with the development of the United Nations system and the increased U.S. involvement in international affairs, laid the foundations for a steady increase on the part of U.S. statistical agencies in international statistics, an increase which has generally continued to the present day.
United States statistical training and technical assistance beginning in the 1950's has been provided to LDC's in the areas of censuses and surveys, vital statistics, national income accounts, labor statistics, and agricultural statistics. The principal agencies involved have been the Bureau of the Census, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Bureau of Economic Analysis, the statistics unit of the Economics, Statistics, and Cooperatives Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and the National Center for Health Statistics. From time to time, agencies such as the Social Security Administration and the Internal Revenue Service have conducted technical assistance programs for LDC's. Today, every general-purpose statistical collection agency in the U.S. Government conducts international activities and programs, although there is considerable variability in the degree of orientation toward LDC's. Many of the statistical analytic and research agencies, as well as a number of the administrative and regulatory agencies, also participate in international statistical programs.
In its earliest years, U.S. statistical training and technical assistance to LDC's were provided under various special arrangements with the Department of State. As the U.S. foreign assistance program was initiated and passed through various stages of development, statistical training and technical assistance were modified accordingly. Federal statisticians worked in close cooperation with the Department of State, U.S. embassies in foreign countries, the various organizations which encompassed the foreign assistance program in the 1940's and 1950's and finally, from the early 1960's with the Agency for International Development.
Technical Assistance and Training to LDC's
In the years immediately before and during World War II, technical assistance was provided to LDC's in statistics on an ad hoc basis, although interchange among developed countries had for many years found its forum in the International Statistical Institute (ISI). In the late 1940's, training and technical assistance in statistics were focused particularly around the 1950 Census of the Americas, a major outgrowth of the formation, in the early years of the decade, of the Inter-American Statistical Institute. In the postwar years the founding of the United Nations was accompanied by the establishment of its statistical functions, to which the United States and other nations contributed highly talented personnel. Those same years were the occasion for the regeneration and reconstitution of the International Statistical Institute, whose first postwar General Conference was held in Washington, D.C. in 1947. The ISI reconstituted itself as a truly international body, extending itself to the full reaches of an altered world.'
From the outset, the scenario was that the Department of State or the foreign assistance program, presented with a need to deploy U.S. statistical expertise in a developing country, approached the appropriate Federal statistical agency and said, in essence: The United States needs to place a U.S. official who is a statistician in a particular country to
'Cf. J.W. Nixon, History of the International Statistical Institute: 1885-1960. The Hague: International Statistical Institute, 1960.
fulfill certain statistical functions which are important to U.S. foreign policy and/or assistance; if funds are provided, can you (the statistical agency) provide the expertise? The Federal statistical agencies in question, willing to cooperate and determining that technical assistance to foreign nations was neither contained in their charters nor prohibited thereby, said, in essence: Yes, if funds are provided, the expertise can be made available.
Thus grew up an interagency symbiosis based on mutually agreed goals. From small and sporadic beginnings, statistical assistance and training to LDC's grew into more or less full-fledged programs, particularly within the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Bureau of Economic Analysis, the statistics unit of the Economics, Statistics, and Cooperatives Service of USDA, the National Center for Health Statistics, and the Bureau of the Census.
An unnoticed continuity throughout the history of the U.S. foreign assistance program is that it has always called upon the Federal Statistical System to provide a variety of forms of assistance to LDC's in statistics. The names and rubrics have changed-in the 1950's it was the Census of the Americas; in the 1960's it was AID's public administration program; in the 1970's it is AID's programs in population, health, education, nutrition, and agriculture—but always there was the call upon the Federal Statistical System to provide statistical training and technical assistance to LDC's.
Thus, over a long period of years, a small but significant pool of talent and expertise existed within the Federal Statistical System which has specialized in the statistical problems of the developing world. To take only one example, the Bureau of the Census has had a cadre of employees who have constituted a kind of statistical “foreign service," spending large portions of their professional careers as resident statistical advisers within LDC's under the aegis and funding of AID (or its predecessors). In isolated cases, the overseas tenure of Federal statistical employees has been so extended that they have become identified as foreign service officers almost as much as employees of essentially domestic statistical agencies.
Despite this continuity of tradition, the Federal statistical agencies, with singular exceptions, have had no legislative mandate to work in the area of training and technical assistance to LDC's. The statistical agencies have always derived their authority and funding from the foreign assistance program. Lacking their own legislative authorization, the statistical agencies have nonetheless developed a lengthy tradition of participation and expertise in the
statistical problems of LDC's. Quite recently, the enabling legislation for the National Center for Health Statistics and the National Center for Education Statistics provided for, but does not mandate, involvement in international research, technical assistance, and training for LDC's as well as developed countries.
One consequence of this historical development is the fact that Federal statistical agencies are almost wholly dependent upon the U.S. foreign assistance program for financing their training and technical assistance activities, for identifying targets of opportunity, and for setting program priorities as to the kinds and amounts of technical assistance and training to be given. Where the technical goals of the statisticians have meshed with the foreign policy goals of the foreign assistance program, the Federal statistical agencies have been able to accomplish some truly significant work in assisting national statistical offices in developing countries to design, develop, and improve their statistical services. On the other hand, fluctuations in the policy goals of the foreign assistance program as dictated by Congress, disinterest and competing priorities on the part of some statistical agencies and U.S. overseas missions have led, on occasion, to the dispersal or loss of carefully nurtured services of U.S. Federal statisticians to LDC statistical agencies.
The opposite side of this coin is the fact that AID (or its predecessor agencies) has almost alone borne the financial burden of U.S. bilateral training and technical assistance in statistics to LDC's. AID has enabled the Federal Statistical System to establish flourishing institutional ties with statistical offices throughout the developing world and to gain the satisfaction and prestige which comes from sharing the technical superiority of the United States with less advantaged colleagues. The Bureau of the Census, with the technical support and assistance of other Federal statistical agencies, has trained over 4,000 statisticians from some 90 LDC's over the past 30 years and enjoys the worldwide esteem bestowed by grateful "alumni" of its training programs, many of whom have moved on to important ministerial positions in their governments. Yet it has been AID funds, not those of U.S. statistical agencies, which have enabled them to build its enviable reputation among statisticians in the developing world.
A final consequence of this largely unintentional pattern of historical development is the fact that the statistical agencies have gradually permeated the U.S. foreign assistance program to a degree and extent to which both the Federal statistical establishment and AID seem collectively unaware. There is no region of
the world and hardly a developing country touched by AID foreign assistance programs where Federal statisticians have not worked hand-in-hand with their AID colleagues. There is scarcely an AID program in which some Federal statistical agency does not have an active interest. In recent years, the Congress has been looking more and more for hard statistical data with which to evaluate AID's program efforts, to assess whether or not U.S. tax dollars are being efficiently and effectively spent to accomplish their foreign assistance purposes. Some of these data are produced by the statistical agencies with AID funds.
of these bodies have statistical functions, and the United Nations includes "a statistical system with a major operating office for general statistics and a coordinating authority” as characterized in the Directory of International Statistics (1975). The major operating office is the UN Statistical Office, a division of the UN Secretariat in New York and part of the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs. The coordinating authority is the UN Statistical Commission. The Secretariat also includes five regional economic commissions, each of which has its own statistical office.
International Statistical Technical Assistance
System To understand the environment in which the U.S. Government conducts training and technical assistance in statistics to LDC's it is useful to consider the major elements in the international statistical technical assistance system. The term international statistical technical assistance system is to be understood in a loose, fluidly defined manner, and consists of roughly the following landmarks:
1. The United Nations statistical system; 2. Other intergovernmental bodies with statistical
programs and functions: 3. The international statistical fraternity, in
cluding international scientific associations with
major statistical interests; 4. The official donor community, consisting of
governmental and intergovernmental agencies which provide funds for international development assistance to LDC's in statistical
fields as well as many other fields; 5. The private donor community, consisting
principally of foundations in the United States and other developed countries which have an interest in international development assistance; and
Through the formal coordinating function of the Office of Federal Statistical Policy and Standards, the U.S. Government officially participates in the UN Statistical Commission and its Working Group on International Statistical Programs; the Committee on Improvement of National Statistics (COINS)—what might be characterized as the conference of statisticians of the Americas, the Conference of European Statisticians, and the Committee on Statistics of the Economic and Social Commission of Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP). The United States is an official member of the foregoing bodies; however, U.S. statisticians usually participate, at least on an observer basis, in the statistical meetings of all UN regional commissions. Almost none of the scores of annual UN conferences, working groups, and meetings dealing with statistics throughout the world fail to include a U.S. Federal statistician, either as an official representative of the U.S. Government, an expert, or an observer.
6. The recipient community, consisting of
ministries of finance and planning, statistical offices and sectoral ministries in LDC's who participate, sometimes marginally, in the business of all of the above.
This pervasive participation in the UN statistical system is not without reason, for in a limited sense the U.S. Federal Statistical System carries out a great deal of what might be properly considered United Nations work. The UN depends for much of its statistical work on the statistical offices of its member nations, especially those of developed countries which are particularly well-endowed with regard to technology and manpower. This means that the U.S. Federal Statistical System makes major contributions in the form of services to the UN statistical system, over and above the annual monetary contribution of the U.S. Government to the United Nations. Of course, it is also true that many other developed countries make similar contributions. Nevertheless, it would indeed be difficult to put a dollar figure on the total amount of U.S. resources which are put into the UN system, in statistics as well as other fields. Many Federal agencies consider, as part of their own operating programs, work which will benefit UN goals and interests and which, at the same time, contribute to the interests of the United States.
The United National Statistical System
The United Nations statistical system is a complex structure in its own right. It consists of the UN Secretariat, nine UN bodies, twelve UN specialized agencies, the International Atomic Energy Agency, and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. All
Federal statistical community and AID in the United States, so there is a companion interrelation between the goals of the international statistical community and the international donor community.
A particularly significant meshing of goals between the international donor community and the international statistical/demographic community occurred in the early 1970's with the establishment of the World Fertility Survey under the auspices of the International Statistical Institute. The survey is funded chiefly by AID and the UN Fund for Population Activities but it is also supported in principle by the majority of the international donor community. The World Fertility Survey is now entering its sixth year, the largest single social science research program ever undertaken. At its conclusion in the early 1980's, the World Fertility Survey will have caused approximately 65 national fertility surveys to be carried out-40 LDC's and 25 developed countries which are internationally coordinated and comparable in content and methodology, and concentrated around the single time period of roughly 1974 to 1979.
Over and above the UN itself, the U.S. Statistical System contributes to other intergovernmental bodies in the statistical field. To name only two major bodies, the United States is substantially involved with the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the Inter-American Statistical Institute (IASI).
Added to the long list of official international and intergovernmental statistical bodies in which the U.S. Government plays a role is a companion list of professional scientific associations of international character in which U.S. Federal statisticians participate as a routine part of their professional activity. These professional societies such as the International Statistical Institute and its affiliates abound in every statistical subject matter and methodological field. They provide a kind of cement between the public and private sectors in international statistics, bringing together the official community, the academic community, and the business and industrial community. They are an important element in the international statistical community, as in any other scientific community, providing nonofficial forums in which ideas can be exchanged and the field advanced.
Still another essential ingredient of the international technical assistance system is the international donor community. These are the agencies such as the United States' own AID and the counterpart agencies in other developed countries such as: the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA), the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), the British Overseas Development Ministry (ODM), the Norwegian Agency for Development (NORAD), and the foreign assistance arms of other developed nations. A number of national development assistance agencies and/or foreign ministries conduct bilateral assistance programs with LDC's and also are the financial mainstays for UN bodies such as the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the UN
Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA). These , agencies form a somewhat separate community of
their own, interacting regularly with one another, providing the funds for technical assistance to developing countries in a broad range of subject fields, many of which involve statistics. Just as there is fluctuation in the meshing of goals between the
'The central importance of bringing together academic and official statisticians was underscored by the International Statistical Institute which created a Committee on the Integration of Statistics to study this problem in 1976. The Committee will develop recomendations for consideration at the 1979 biennial meeting. The American Statistical Association conducted a seminar of experts in March 1978 on the subject “Transfer of Methodology between Academic and Government Statisticians.”
The history of the World Fertility Survey merits study for the lessons it offers for future large-scale international statistical programs to: (1) provide major technical assistance to LDC's and (2) coordinate the efforts of developed countries. The World Fertility Survey illustrates the kinds of massive financial and intellectual resources which can be marshalled for the scientific study of a major social problem transcending national boundaries, especially when a donor community and a scientific community perceive the problem with like urgency and harmony.
In considering the international statistical technical assistance system, one must also take account of the private donor community. Just as the international statistical community includes official national and international agencies and nonofficial international scientific associations, so the international donor community's official agencies have their counterparts in the private foundations. The large number of foundations in the United States alone includes a significant number which channel funds into international development assistance activities. Two of the most notable are the Ford Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation; the former, in particular, maintains regional offices and field representatives around the developing world. Again, the linkages between the private foundations and the official donor community are as close as those between the official statistical agencies and the statistical associations.