Administrative agency Statistics Sweden (SCB) trains residents in interview techniques.
Reliable statistics important for a good democracy
Building up a good statistics authority in a war-torn country, where the state is weak and where the governing was previously done from the Serbian capital Belgrade, cannot be easy. Kosovo’s statistics office is under-manned and there is a lack of financing. Employees’ skills are often insufficient for modern statistics work. Veronica Ekman, who is project co-ordinator for Statistics Sweden’s projects in Kosovo and its neighbouring countries, sees it as an interesting challenge.
“We give training and advice,” she says. “There is a risk that those we train will leave the office. But we hope that their knowledge will be of use within public administration.”
One central issue is to ensure that the statistics office becomes an independent authority. This is important because the statistics must be neutral and correct, and not influenced by other interests. A law on this has been produced but the process of getting it through parliament has been slow.
Sida regards the statistics project as a project for democracy. Ekman agrees.
“Political and economic decisions are to be based on reliable information, such as on the consumer price index, the labour force situation or agricultural production,” she says. “Statistics should also be accessible to everyone. Democratic decisions can then be made based on these statistics.”
Women’s position in focus
One of the results of the co-operation, which began in 2001, has been to divide statistics between men and women, illustrating the inequalities that should be addressed.
“Recently, people from different authorities had a discussion about inheritance,” Ekman says. “The statistics suggest that sons inherit more than daughters, although the law states that it should be divided equally. With good statistics, we can see what’s really happening.”
Statistics Sweden has one person on-site on a long-term basis, plus two local employees for the project. It also sends experts on short assignments and organizes study visits to Sweden. Most of the training is done at the statistics authority’s headquarters, but it has also trained statistics collectors at its local offices.
“Things are progressing,” Ekman says. “Kosovo’s laws, systems and ways of working are becoming more adjusted to the EU and we’re seeing the quality improve.”
Ekman believes that the project is also creating a better co-existence between former enemies.
“The regional work, which is a part of our programme in the Balkans, is really nice,” she says. “We can see how relations between the countries are improving. They’re helping each other and going on study visits on their own initiative. Serbs are not officially allowed to travel to Kosovo’s capital Pristina within the statistics project, but a neutral venue is chosen for the meeting.”
According to the current agreement, the project will continue until 2012, with funding for more than SEK 20 million from Sida.