The who, what, how  and why of the Asi-Pacifc Expert Group on on disaster-related statistics

Q: Who  participates in the Expert Group?

A: Two professions working together:

The Expert Group comprises professionals from two separate areas of expertise: statisticians from official statistics organizations and disaster information experts from disaster management agencies. The experts work in the governments of a variety of countries in the Asia-Pacific region. The group also comprises a number of recognized international experts involved in statistics and/or disaster risk management. 

The United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) created the "Expert Group on Disaster-related Statistics in Asia and the Pacific" in 2014 through  resolurtion 70/2 (E/ESCAP/RES/70/2)  

The resolution stressed "the importance of disaggregated data related to disasters in enabling a comprehensive assessment of the socioeconomic effects of disasters and strengthening evidence-based policy-making at all levels for disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation."  

Q: What is the value-added of a statistical framework for disaster-related statistics?

A: The Expert Group is tasked with developing a framework and guidelines for production and dissemination of a basic range of disaster-related statistics.

Disaster managers usually produce post-disaster reports on the occurrence and impacts for individual disaster events. Many disaster management agencies have developed databases, using use tools such as DesInventar for to capture information on damage, loss and other effects of disasters.

Not all countries in Asia and the Pacific currently have national databases or repositories of statistical information on disasters that are well-functioning and regularly updated for use in achieving integrated disaster risk reduction as a part of broader sustainable development planning at national or local levels.

Also, the information that is available  is not always comparable over time and between countries or across different types of hazards.

With the emergence of international demand for monitoring disaster-related indicators (for the Sendai Framework and Sustainable Development Goals monitoring), there is a growing and urgent need for improved quality, particularly international comparability, of disaster-related stastistics.

A statistical framework, when accompanied by guidelines for statistics production and dissemination, will help official sources of statistics in govenments produce summary statistics, over time and that can meet the multiple demands for improved evidenced-based disaster risk reduction policies and progress monitoring for the internationally-agreed goals and targets. 

The framework can  be used as a tool to bridge disaster and risk management information with the socio-economic statistics. The bridge between these two domains of statistical information is essential for producing indicators.

Q: How does the Expert Group function?

A: The Asia-Pacific  Expert Group is developing the Disaster-Related Statistical Framework (DRSF) as a reference and guidance source to help official sources of statistics to produce data that towards a basic range of good quality for national policy development purposes and  for producing indicators.

The DRSF is  under development by the Expert Group through a consultative process, in which documented advancements in technical recommendations are posted for comment and discussion on this website. The Expert Group also holds regular in-person meetings and occasional special workshops  to discuss progress, develop concrete recommendations on key methodological questions and adopt priorities for further research. 

After agreeing on the basic infrastructure of a provisional draft for the DRSF, the Expert Group organized and reviewed pilot studies, based on currently available data from four of the participating countries. The pilot studies were used to to identify good practices and the key methodological questions that will require special attention or further research as the Expert Group works to finalize its recommendations.

 Q: How does development of a statistical framework relate to indicators and terminology?

A: Indicators are also closely linked to statistics. Statistics are needed to produce indicators and the indicators of interest to policy-makers are usually a good reference for statisticians understand the demands to help design and prioritize their data collections so that the information will be used  for assessing progress and designing new policies. 

Alththough the Asia-Pacific Expert Group was established before the adoption of the Sendai Framework on Disaster Risk Reduction and the development of the global SDG indicators, the Expert Group aligned its work to these global indicators initiatives in order to maximize the utility and relevance of the official statistics and ensure there are no duplications or misalignments in recommendations for statistics or for indicators.

The basic conepts in the  Sendai Framework  and relevant SDG target and indicators provide the foundation for the scope of the draft DRSF.   hus, the Expert Group’s  work has dual benefits for the region by helping with improvement of statistics at the national level while also building capacities for ultimately meeting the broader demands for monitoring the new global indicators.

 Q: What are the benefits of working on the DRSF  regionally?

A: A key characteristic of most international statistics is that they are based on official  statistics produced at the national level.  Hence, good international statistics require good national statistics. International statistics are produced on the basis of reports from national statistical systems; these reported data are grouped or re-grouped, and adjusted according to the appropriate statistical standard.

Official statistics from national sources are harmonized, internationally, via the development and adoption of official recommendations for statistics by the international statistical community, especially the United Nations Statistics Commission.  Often, statistical methodological development, including advancements that were eventually adopted globale,  is initiated at regional levels or at least by a selected group of member States and qualified experts.

Asia and Pacific is in  a natural position to take a leading role for methodological development on the topic of disaster-related statistics for many reasons. Asia and Pacific is exposed to the highest disaster risk of all other regions and also governments in this region have extensive and relatively advanced experienced with producing and disseminating  disaster-related statistics for policy.  The Resolution 70/2 created an early opportunity for the Expert Group, with support from UNESCAP as secretariat, to embrace this potential role of leadership via the development of the forthcoming Disaster-related Statistics Framework (DRSF).

Do you have more questions about the Asia-Pacific Expert Group? If so, please send them to stat.unescap@un.org and we will post the answers on this web page.