In February 2008 the UN Common Database was replaced by UNdata. The new dissemination portal is a product of The United Nations Statistics Division (UNSD) developed in partnership with Statistics Sweden and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA). The new site is hosted by the United Nations Statistics Division of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) and is designed to provide users with a single entry point for the UN statistical Databases. UNdata is as such an attempt to solve the problem of dispersed data resources by pooling major UN databases and those of several international organizations into a single Internet environment. UNdata thus complements some of the UN data sources covered elsewhere in this guide.
UNdata covers a range of databases, within several topics. A full list of available datasets/databases can be found here.
Excel, CSV, txt and on-screen tables.
1970, 1980 to present.>
Data types and sources
The statistics available at UNdata are produced by United Nations Statistics and Population Divisions as well as other United Nations agencies and National Statistical Offices. According to their website, UNdata also includes estimates and projections.
The main topics of the Undata includes Crime, Education, Energy, Environment, Finance, Food and agriculture, Gender, Health, HIV/AIDS, Human development, an Indicator Database, Industry, Information and Communication Technology, Labour, National Accounts, Official Development Assistance, Population, Refugees, Tourism, and Trade.
The database is in principle universal in scope with data for most countries and territories (including some that no longer exist), though the data coverage varies across countries.
Time coverage and updates
In most cases time-series are available from 1970 or 1980, with some starting around 1950. Updates are made regularly. A record showing when each database was last updated is available here.
The UNdata provides footnotes and metadata on sources and definitions for each series. The glossary provides technical definitions and standards verbatim from their original sources as approved by an oversight inter-governmental body. The site also provides a wiki which provides links to metadata sections on each database homepage. The UNdata site itself thus contains little metadata except from the above mentioned glossary and wiki, but relies on the existing documentation available on each database homepage.
Access conditions and cost
Available free of charge.
Data can be found in three different ways; by using the search function and typing in keywords or a combination of such e.g. year, country and topic, by browsing the list of databases using the explorer function, or by using the advanced search function found under the “more” button which allows for a more refined search.
The database is intuitive and easy to use. Users can customize their desired table by using filters and by rearranging and sorting options.
Excel, CSV, text and on-screen tables.
Comparability and data quality
UNdata presents data from all countries within a standardised framework. However, most of the data come from the statistical systems of member countries and the quality therefore depends on how well these national systems perform. Also, as pointed out elsewhere in this guide, a standardised framework does not always imply that the data are truly comparable.
At country level, the database should be a good source for contextual data. First, it is a conveniant hub for data stemming from the UN organizations, it contains a wide range of time-series, some of which have a fairly long time scope. Furthermore, it has a nearly universal coverage, with data for almost all countries in the world and many territories and dependencies. And lastly, the site contains a good system for retrieving documentation for each indicator, with references to the original data sources.