IAOS is an association founded in 1985. It is an international non-governmental organization (NGO), which was created and developed as a specialized section of the International Statistical Institute (ISI) . It is thus an Association of physical and legal persons who have scientific or professional interest in the field of official statistics. IAOS brings together producers and users of official statistics. It is run by an Executive Committee elected for a period of two years. The objectives of IAOS are:
The general aim of IAOS is “to promote the understanding and advancement of official statistics and related subjects and to foster the development of effective and efficient official statistical services through international contacts among individuals and organizations, including users of official statistics as well as research institutes” (Statutes, Article 2.1). IAOS thus encourages international contacts and professional co-operation among its members and in particular with those from developing countries. It organizes conferences and meetings focusing on multiple aspects and problems of official statistics. These activities are carried out by IAOS independently or in collaboration with other organizations.
IAOS constitutes a unique, special case of non-governmental co-operation within the international scene. Its field of work (“official statistics”) consists of activities, which are normally carried out by “official” bodies belonging to governmental administrations. By way of consequence, most of the current members of IAOS are either civil servants working within the framework of official statistical services, or the official statistical services as such (with the status of “institutional members”). Of course, members of IAOS act and express themselves in their personal capacity. However, the fundamental ground of their interest and action in the IAOS framework lies in their professional, scientific or managerial role within official statistical bodies (and also, in many cases, in the commitment of their own official bodies within the international statistical co-operation).
There is a very positive aspect in the apparent ambiguity of the institutional profile and current membership of IAOS (an unofficial forum aiming at the advancement of official statistics). Such an ambiguity constitutes perhaps the key element which allows the Association to play a dynamic and innovative role within the scene of the international statistical co-operation. Indeed, as an “unofficial” forum, IAOS allows official statisticians to develop informal exchanges and free discussion on new challenges, emerging issues and new methods of work. In this sense, IAOS has a natural vocation to act as an interface between, on the one hand, the structures and programs of statistical co-operation developed within the framework of intergovernmental or supranational organizations and, on the other hand, the need for flexible structures and methods of professional co-operation, experimental work and free scientific exchanges.
The IAOS has a universal vocation. This not only means that membership is open to persons of all countries of the world, but also that the activity of IAOS is based on universally agreed conception and principles of official statistics. Indeed, all current members of IAOS endorse and promote universal ethical values and good practices as expressed in the Declaration on Professional Ethics for Statisticians adopted by the ISI in 1985, as well as in the Fundamental Principles of Official Statistics adopted by the United Nations Statistics Division in 1994. Moreover, as IAOS members are professionally active in all continents, the Association seems in a particularly good position for promoting and monitoring the implementation of such ethical values, fundamental principles and good practices all over the world.
NSIs and international agencies are based on hierarchical structures and a complex organization. Their commitment within the international statistical co-operation is usually reflected by the high hierarchical level of the staff who attends meetings and conferences. This would be also the case of their involvement in the activities of IAOS and there is therefore a risk that, in fact, the Association remains a club of people of senior and top management levels. Thus IAOS meetings would simply add to other frequent meetings among the same people. The Association seeks to promote dynamic and innovative professional co-operation. IAOS has to make way for juniors. Not only does the Association itself urgently need rejuvenation, but it is also important that young statisticians have the opportunity to benefit from professional exchanges within a “free-thinking environment”. The trans-generational and trans-hierarchical communication is also essential to ensure the transmission of the knowledge, experience and values in order to constitute a culture of the statistical profession. IAOS therefore actively encourages membership of young official statisticians as well as their involvement in the organization and implementation of the Association’s activities.