Census data on religion and ethnicity is too sensitive. So...ummm...why was it collected in the first place.

February 26, 2016

A new Myanmar Times article reveals that government officials are not willing to release the census results on religion and ethnicity because they are too sensitive.

This is hardly a surprise, and while the census was being designed there were repeated calls - including internationally by the International Crisis Group - for the census to leave out questions of religion or ethnicity.

Yet the donors supporting the census, most prominently the UNFPA, failed to listen to warnings about the survey design.

The census is, of course, a valuable tool to assist with development in Myanmar. Knowing how many adults and children Iive in particular townships or village tracts can be extremely important, for example in health service planning.

But the arguments for inclusion of religion and ethnicity are far less compelling. What tangible purpose, which was so important as to outweigh the dangers of collecting the information, was this information ever intended to serve?

In several other countries census projects simply don't bother with that information.

The Myanmar Times article quotes a UNFPA spokesperson who plays down their role and puts responsibility back on the Myanmar government for decisions about the census information.

I understand UNFPA's (and other donors such as DFID and Australian Aid) desire to distance themselves from such a sensitive topic. But I don't buy the argument that they just played an advisory role to the government and had no real decision making power in what questions to include and what information to release.

Providing millions of dollars for the census put them in a position to have huge bargaining power. If there was a UN agency for Protection of Toe Nails I reckon they would have included a question about it.

Unfortunately UNFPA and others failed to foresee the sensitivity of information about religion and ethnicity - and failed to mount an argument about why it was so important in the first place.

If this story about the sensitivity of the census data gets any bigger, I suspect we will see UNFPA and the other census donors retreating further into their offices. 

In 2013 every donor wanted their logo on census documents. Right now they might be running around trying to take it off.

From: Tamas http://www.mmtimes.com/…/19137-census-data-could-shatter-tr…

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