ITAB statement of October 23, 2015

23 October 2015

Note: The International Technical Advisory Board (ITAB) was formed in January 2013. ITAB’s role in the 2014 Population and Housing Census in Myanmar is to provide advice to the Government on proposed census processes and activities. In addition, they ensure that the census follows international guidelines and good practice. The views and opinions expressed by ITAB do not reflect the official policy or position of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).

On behalf of the International Technical Advisory Board (ITAB) for the 2014 Census of Myanmar, we would like to thank you all for attending this press briefing.

This is the 6th meeting in country together with the Department of Population and UNFPA, to review technical aspects for the implementation of the Census. The role of the Board, as demographic, statistical and census experts, is to provide technical advice to the Government to ensure Census compliance with international standards and to share our experiences from census taking in other countries.

The main results of the 2014 Census were publically released in May 2015 according to schedule, providing for the first time in more than 30 years, extensive data on the demographic and social characteristics for more than 10 million households in Myanmar. It is remarkable to see that the Department of Population was able to release the main results within just one year from data collection.

The dissemination phase of the census is one of the most important in the census process. The census data need to be made easily accessible to users, in formats that are user-friendly and meaningful to their work.

We have heard from the Department of Population that since the release of the data a wide range of stakeholders have used the data, such as Ministries at Union and State level, civil society organizations, development partners, and academia for policy, programs and research. The census data have also been critical to the preparation of targeted responses during the recent flood crisis.

ITAB recognizes the efforts of DOP to acknowledge the non-enumerated population in the main results and emphasizes the importance of continuing to recognize this gap in all future releases.

The significant interest and demand for the data and the desire to learn how to use it, has prompted the Department of Population and UNFPA to undertake dissemination workshops in all districts across the country. In light of the success of these and the rising demand, ITAB members welcome the continuation of these workshops and advise to increase the involvement of stakeholders such as academia, civil society, and the private sector.

During the current in-country ITAB meeting of October 22- 23, the discussion was primarily focused around two aspects: the release of a sample of the microdata and the release of outstanding data on occupation, industry, religion and ethnicity. The ITAB also had the honour to meet with the National Advisory Committee members today- this was an opportunity to share experiences as advisory bodies with the census and discuss recommendations for the next steps of the census.

ITAB recommends that the Department of Population continues to exercise its role as custodians of the census data with transparency and independence. After the completion of the thematic reports ITAB recommends that a sample data set is also made available to research institutions for more in-depth analysis. ITAB stressed the importance of establishing safeguards for the protection of the confidentiality of individual respondents.

In regards to the release of outstanding data, the ITAB members recommended that, according to census principles and standards, all data that is collected should be released as soon as available. On the topic of the release of data on occupation and industry, ITAB is pleased to hear that the coding has been completed and that the data will be published and made available by the end of the year.

On the release of the data on religion, the ITAB recognizes the sensitivity of the information at this time in Myanmar. The meeting with the National Advisory Committee provided important insights into the contextual dynamics and how and when the data should be shared. There was a consensus from the discussions this morning on having the data released as soon as possible at State and Regional level.

ITAB members recognize that the upcoming elections and other national processes underway raise sensitivities around the release of census data.

Whilst there is an ongoing process on establishing a new ethnic classification for Myanmar, the ITAB recommends that the release of the collected census data is released based on self-declaration, in a non-hierarchical form, for example in an alphabetical order. This ensures that it is published in a transparent, inclusive, and value-free format for an open consultation at state and union level. In the future, once a new ethnic classification is ready, the data can be produced for this classification.

ITAB stands ready to provide technical advice in the remaining stages of the census operation.