Italy’s development co-operation strategy explicitly recognises statistical capacity building as a priority area, with a specific focus on technical support, training and funding for population data in select partner countries. The Italian Agency for Development Cooperation (AICS) partners with Istat, Italy’s national statistical office, to deliver technical support and also with various multilateral organisations.

The policy vision of Italy’s development co-operation is outlined in the Three-year Programming and Policy Planning Document 2019-2021 (PPPD). In a framework built around the five ”Ps” of the 2030 Agenda – people, planet, prosperity, peace and partnerships – the three year programme makes the 2030 Agenda central to Italy’s development co-operation, reflects the commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and helps focus on populations at risk of being left behind. It also recognises statistical capacity building as one strategic priority area, focusing on three areas. First, technical support to strengthen the capacities of national statistical organisations and systems, with the overall goal of producing SDG indicators by modernising their production and dissemination, and developing the countries’ statistical governance. Second, training statisticians in partner countries to develop sustainable capacities to produce and analyse data at the best disaggregation level. And third, support to population censuses and statistics to produce reliable, crucial information with a view to informing strategies to leave no one behind.

The 2015 Italian Action Plan: Statistics as Knowledge: Indispensable for Cooperation, Strategic for Development also cites the need for reliable and up-to-date data on development co-operation, where statistics play a strategic role in policy design and for good governance. It states that AICS should work with its partners towards strengthening the capacity of national statistical offices for the development of modern statistical systems, including adequate resources, governance structures and quality control.

Italy’s support to statistics and data development in partner countries is funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation (MFAIC) through the agency, AICS. According to OECD data and research,1 the agency disbursed an average of USD 5.6 million per year (in 2018 prices) to data- and statistics-related activities between 2017 and 2019, a significant increase compared to previous years (Figure 1). In line with its stated priorities, Italy’s support has been focused on population data and statistics, especially civil and vital registries and general statistical capacity development. Ethiopia and Mozambique were key partners in this regard. Alignment and consistency with national strategies for the development of statistics and the countries’ national development plans is always sought in the design and implementation of projects.

Istat is AICS’ key institutional partner for data- and statistics-related projects and programmes. One example of the close co-operation between AICS and Istat is the two-year programme to support statistical capacity in Myanmar’s Central Statistical Organisation.2 Istat is active in international co-operation, implementing projects funded by Italian bilateral ODA or by multilateral organisations (e.g. the European Union). Currently active projects include technical assistance to peer organisations in Ethiopia, Lebanon, Myanmar, the Palestinian Authority, the United Republic of Tanzania, Viet Nam and member countries of the Caribbean Community and support in the context of the European Union’s statistical capacity development through participation in the MEDSTAT programme and, since 2019, the Statistics through Eastern Partnership (STEP) project.

Italy’s support covers the main aspects of statistical processes and products, including methodology and quality frameworks; domains of statistical production (population, economic, social, environment, gender and agriculture statistics); and more recent priorities such as geospatial information, new data sources (e.g. Big Data) and data integration, development of statistical registers, the SDGs and metadata frameworks. Moreover, cross-cutting areas such as institutional frameworks; organisational and administrative setup; planning, communication and dissemination; and users’ engagement are becoming increasingly important in Italy’s co-operation in the area of data and statistics.

Italy provides about half of its financial assistance through support for multilateral initiatives, including in partnership with the United Nations Population Fund, the United Nations Children's Fund, the United Nations Institute for Training and Research and the World Bank. To a minor extent, support was also provided to regional statistical training centres, with the funding of a training project between Italian universities and the Eastern African Statistical Training Centre in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Finally, Italy is also active in international fora and contexts, such as the Partnership in Statistics for Development in the 21st Century and the Bern Network.

Between 2017 and 2019, 66% of Italy’s official development assistance (ODA) to data and statistics aimed to strengthen participatory development and good governance (Figure 2). Improving the health of mothers and their children (34% of disbursements in 2017-19) and the quality of life of persons with disabilities (23%) are also policy objectives frequently associated with Italy’s support in the area of data and statistics. In line with priorities identified in Italy’s strategies, 47% of Italy’s support aims to strengthen population statistics, while 19% aims to strengthen general statistical capacity.

In general, Italian development co-operation provides support according to geographic priorities that reflect traditional historical, political and cultural ties and are often influenced by geographic proximity. Also, Italy looks for ‘win-win’ situations, in which criteria for country selection reflect both the partner country’s context and needs and Italy’s foreign policy priorities and international commitments.

Between 2017 and 2019, around half of Italy’s ODA to data and statistics was allocable to specific countries. This share was often targeted to specific priority partners such as Burkina Faso, Ethiopia and Mozambique (Figure 3 and Figure 4)

Italy’s support between 2010 and 2019 has also been noteworthy for a high share of allocable ODA targeted to low-income countries (LICs) and fragile contexts (Figure 5): Ethiopia and Mozambique, the two main recipients of Italian ODA to data and statistics over this time period, are both classified as fragile LICs. Iraq is also classified as fragile.

Between 2017 and 2019, 53% of Italy’s ODA to data and statistics was provided in the form of project-type interventions and 40% in the form of contributions to specific programmes or pooled funding (Figure 6).

Since 2014, significant shares of Italy’s ODA for data and statistics were channelled through multilateral organisations, with the remainder allocated to domestic public sector actors and, to a lesser extent, non-governmental organisations (Figure 7). Key multilateral partners include the United Nations Population Fund, which Italy supported by funding the 4th general population and housing census in 2017 in Mozambique, and the United Nations Children’s Fund, with which Italy collaborated to strengthen Ethiopia’s civil registration system. Italy also contributed to the United Nations Institute for Training and Research for the implementation of a programme to support statistical capacity in small island developing states. Finally, Italy also supported the World Bank’s Center for Development Data (C4D2), a Rome-based hub for fostering methodological innovation and strengthening capacity in household surveys in low- and middle-income countries.


← 1. The analysis in this profile is based on official data reported by members to the OECD’s Creditor Reporting System. It is published under the responsibility of the OECD. OECD analysts mined the database using a text search with manual curation. Where relevant, members contributed additional data to fill gaps. Please see the methodological annex for further details on the data analysis.

← 2. To learn more, see Di Cori (2017): Strengthening Myanmar’s Statistical Capacity Through Peer-to-Peer Co-operation.

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