While several countries have conducted a population census at least three times in three decades and some even six times, including the mid-decade/intercensal survey, Myanmar has conducted only one such census during this period due to internal conflicts. Without data, the country’s development efforts cannot succeed. Leaving no one behind, with an emphasis on addressing the needs of specific groups within a population, including the most vulnerable, which is the overarching principle of the 2030 Agenda, will not be viable without reliable data on which to base the plans, programmes, targets and commitments made in the SDGs.
As part of overall efforts to ensure that the 2014 Myanmar Census met international standards on data quality, the South-South cooperation modality was adopted to tap into international expertise and increase the technical skill requirements of the census. South-South cooperation, facilitated by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Country Office, enabled technical exchanges between the Department of Population (DoP) and national statistical offices in the region.
Through this modality, several technical assistance arrangements were put in place, including: (i)capacity- building on training methodology and development of training guidelines, with enumerator’s and supervisor’s manuals by international consultants from India and Australia; (ii) study tours by DoP staff to India and Thailand; (iii) opportunities for the DoP to conduct in-house reviews of the census experiences from Cambodia and Democratic Republic of Korea; (iv) regional training on the Census and Survey Processing System (CSPro) hosted in Myanmar, funded by UNFPA, with participants from DoP and four countries in the region; (v) sharing of Myanmar census experiences in planning, technical, and managerial approaches for the Egypt, Haiti, and Pakistan population census; and (vi) creation of the International Advisory Board for the Myanmar Census, which included experts from Australia, China, India, Japan, Republic of Korea, Singapore, Switzerland, and the United States of America (a variety of officials from statistics offices, university professors and independent consultants), which was a venue for providing assistance and a forum for discussion on technical, political, management, administrative, and all other aspects of the census.
The innovative approach taken to conduct the training ensured quality training for 128,000 census workers. DoP staff were very well informed on how to properly administer a four-layer training to ensure uniform delivery throughout the 413 townships, 74 districts and 15 states/regions in the country. A training guide for trainers was developed, which contributed to effective training, a vital component for ensuring successful census operations. This training approach was replicated by the DoP when the census data were disseminated in about 400 townships in the country. Participants were able to assess the importance of census data in planning, programme development and project monitoring, especially at the subnational level.
The study tours by 10 DoP staff to the Registrar General and Census Commissioner of India and six staff to the National Statistical Office of Thailand enabled DoP to learn good census practices from these countries. Both have a long history of successful census operations. Learning from their experiences facilitated the DoP planning process, including mitigation of risks in all aspects of census operations – not only the technical aspect, but also political, logistics and administrative aspects and overall management. Four DoP staff are currently on study leave to obtain a Masters’ degree in demography in Thailand (Mahidol University) as part of succession and sustainability planning supported by UNFPA.
The November 2014 regional CSPro training was hosted in Myanmar. Attendees included 21 participants from DoP, Laos Statistics Bureau, Maldives National Bureau of Statistics, Bhutan National Statistics Bureau and Timor- Leste General-Directorate of Statistics. This served as a good platform for information-sharing among countries in the South that had recently conducted a census. As the venue for this learning and capacity development, Myanmar contributed to South-South cooperation in the region.
Myanmar’s census experiences were also shared with staff from the Cambodia National Institute of Statistics and the Central Bureau of Statistics of the Democratic Republic of Korea when they visited DoP. They observed Myanmar’s good practices, especially in data processing where Myanmar adopted the scanning technology for data capture.
The next population census in Myanmar will be held in 2024. DoP will definitely apply the learnings acquired - the knowledge, lessons and skills - through South- South cooperation, which contributed significantly to the overall success of the 2014 census. This approach, which has proven effective, will be continued in the upcoming census, specifically in the areas of data collection through the use of state-of-the-art data management and computer-assisted personal interviewing (CAPI), which other countries in the South had implemented. Through a continued South-South cooperation, Myanmar seeks to be at par with other countries in the region in census taking.