Numbers and Rights
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16 July 2015

Any population census is always about the numbers: how many people live in a locality, how many people have employment, different levels of education, and for the first time in the 2014 census in Moldova what housing conditions do people have, and how many face difficulties in terms of disability.

But a census is also about rights: we need accurate numbers to define policies so people have access to education, health, jobs, social assistance. Duty bearers need to know the numbers so they can respond effectively with public resources for rights holders at national and local level. And the process itself of undertaking the census should be rights-based - clear communication and information to explain the census process; public debate on the results; respect in how questions are presented, confidentiality on individual answers and the right to express one’s own views.

A further aspect that links the numbers with rights is the legal dimension. For the first time, the 2014 census in Moldova is governed by a national legal framework which describes the legal rights and responsibilities. In preparation for the census, UNFPA harnessed international technical assistance to ensure that the questionnaires and methodology are developed by NBS in alignment with international standards. Public funds from the national budget and donors have been provided and accountability standards apply to those funds. The data from the census is vital for a range of other laws and conventions, including for example meeting national commitment in CEDAW.

Ultimately there is no right number. The census is not about meeting a target, for example, increasing the number of people in a locality. The census is about accuracy and reality, for example, how many people are present in a locality and what actions are needed to respond to their circumstances.

The current delay in processing the data gathered during the enumeration exercise in May 2014 is a serious concern. Our view is that the national budget required to complete the process should be allocated immediately. So much depends on having accurate data, this is just too important an opportunity to miss, and unless Moldova acts swiftly it will be one of the few countries in the world that did not complete a census in the 2010 Global Round.

Even more important though, is the fact that without accurate numbers, the country will fail to meet the rights of citizens.

In 1994, at the International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo, the global consensus shifted from “counting people” to “making sure that everyone counts”. In essence, from just the numbers towards the question of quality and the significance of fulfilling rights.

I hope that Moldova will publish accurate date from the census before the deadline set by international standards – August 2016, will use that data for public discussions and formulate policies and plans using that data to meet the rights and aspirations of its people no matter what language they speak, what education and employment they have, where they live, or whatever challenges they face from poverty, exclusion or disability. Because everyone counts.

Ian McFarlane

UNFPA Representative, Moldova, for Ziarul de Garda

UN Partner Agencies