International cooperation high on the agenda at CBS

/ Author: Miriam van der Sangen
CBS DG Angelique Berg and DG Geir Axelsen (Norway) meeting with Mathias Cormann, OECD Secretary General
© Herve Cortinat, © OECD
In June of this year, Director General Ms Angelique Berg of Statistics Netherlands (CBS) was appointed vice-chair of the Bureau of the OECD Committee on Statistics and Statistical Policy, also known as the CSSP. Together with the Bureau chair (Director General of Statistics Norway Mr Geir Axelsen) and second vice-chair Sir Ian Diamond from the UK, Ms Berg will shape the CSSP agenda during the next two years. In this interview, she shares more details and discusses some other international projects carried out by CBS.

Economic development

During a visit to the OECD headquarters in Paris last October, both vice-chairs were able to familiarise themselves with a variety of topics related to the OECD and CSSP. The OECD was established 60 years ago. The primary focus of this global organisation is economic development. In recent decades, the OECD has extended its role to the social domain, for example by tackling gender inequalities.

Providing direction to policy

The OECD’s core mission is: ‘Better policies for better lives’, providing direction to international economic policies. At present, 38 highly developed market economy countries are OECD members. To become a member, countries must meet strict criteria; peer reviews are conducted in a number of different areas, including national statistics. The OECD suggests their policy should be based on factual evidence, which is where statistics come into play; ‘evidence-based policy-aking’ is one of the key priorities set by the incumbent Secretary-General of the OECD, Mr Mathias Cormann.


The main purpose of the initial exploration by both Directors General was being able to set priorities among the topics to be discussed in the OECD-CSSP over the next two years. The two Directors General took stock at the end of their exploration. According to Ms Berg, a major topic of discussion will be access to data in general and microdata in particular: ‘This is eminently a topic where countries can learn a great deal from each other, and frontrunner countries like to share their ‘best practices’ with others. Another important topic will be Business Process Redesign, i.e. redesigning and upgrading of organisational processes in order to safeguard quality, speed, cost effectiveness, and service. Finally, a topic that obviously cannot be missed is Artificial Intelligence (AI): implementing AI in statistics, but also using AI to improve the findability and accessibility of statistics.’
Director General Ms Angelique Berg of CBS and Director General of Statistics Norway Mr Geir Axelsen meeting with Mr Mathias Cormann, OECD Secretary General
© Herve Cortinat, © OECD

Director General Ms Angelique Berg of CBS and Director General of Statistics Norway Mr Geir Axelsen meeting with Mr Mathias Cormann, OECD Secretary General

Inflation and energy prices

However, these are not the only focus areas. Ms Berg adds: ‘Another example is measuring natural capital and incorporating it into the national accounts; a complex subject that attracts a great deal of attention from policy makers. Furthermore, we want to focus on inflation, CPI and energy prices. We’re facing a major challenge in properly calculating the government benefits paid to citizens. That sort of information is necessary in policymaking.’


As part of the initial exploration, Ms Berg met with current and former CBS colleagues who work at the OECD or conduct special assignments for the organisation. Ms Berg: ‘Personally, I always find it inspiring to watch CBS making a big mark on all sorts of developments in the field of international statistics. A substantial part of the work done by CBS deals with international statistical obligations and international cooperation.’

Cooperation and coordination

The bulk of CBS’ international work – at least 80 percent – is determined by European statistical regulations. Along with the European Union’s statistical office Eurostat, the national statistical agencies of the 27 EU member states work together in the European Statistical System (ESS). Ms Berg explains: ‘The ESS is aimed at enhancing mutual cooperation and coordination between the statistical agencies to arrive at comparable national statistics within the European Union. To that end, all parties involved work towards harmonisation and standardisation. It was also the reason why CBS’ Board of Directors travelled to Brussels and Luxembourg last week to meet face to face with important strategical partners and Dutch staff at work there. We like to invest in good relations and continue to strengthen mutual trust.’

Combining forces outside the EU as well

CBS is not only active at the European level. Many members of staff, from directors to experts, are represented in various working groups within international organisations such as the UN, UNECE, UNSD, etc. As these organisations play an important part in the development and implementation of statistical standards, concepts and methods, it is good to join discussions and give guidance within these gremia. Ms Berg explains how CBS is pulling together with leading organisations to draw up plans and elaborate proposals for new developments in statistics: ‘After all, everyone is facing the same issues, such as declining response rates, or the best dissemination channels for statistical outcomes. Cooperation and exchange in these areas is therefore helpful. Not only do we share our knowledge and information with others, but we gather the same from others in return. CBS does so in, for example, the High-Level Group on the Modernisation of Statistics, a group of pioneering countries that explores new methods and technologies.’

Technical assistance

Aside from participating in work groups within international organisations and various collaborations, CBS also provides technical assistance. Ms Berg: ‘We receive requests for technical assistance from all corners of the globe. It makes us very proud, but we must weigh carefully which countries we lend assistance to and where we are unable to do so. As CBS has a large number of unfilled vacancies, we must focus on efficient deployment of our staff and make the right choices. In doing this, we should also look at other NSIs. An example is climate change: many countries have already been very active in this area, so it’s not always productive. Finding the right balance is truly important. In that respect, we like to join the programmes of the Dutch Ministries of Finance or Foreign Affairs as well as the World Bank and the IMF.’
To find out more on international activities at CBS, please contact the CBS international department.