Your Excellency, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, President of the Republic of Liberia;
Your Excellency, Ambassador Joseph N. Boakai;
Hon. Speaker and members of the Legislature;
Your Hon. The Chief Justice and Associate Justices;
Hon. Minister of Foreign Minister and Cabinet Ministers and Heads of Autonomous Agencies;
Your Excellency, Ambassador Jordan Ryan, the Deputy Special Representative of the U.N Secretary General and OIC -UNMIL;
The Doyen and Members of the Diplomatic Corps;
The Chairman and members of the Board of Directors of LISGIS;
Development partners
Members of the Inter-Faith and the Fourth Estate;
Ladies and gentlemen:

Twenty three years ago this noble nation decided to have a complete head count of its entire people. This head count was made possible by an Act of Legislation and the selfless dedication of statisticians, demographers, development planners and even the ordinary people. That process of collecting, compiling, evaluating, analyzing and publishing or otherwise disseminating demographic, economic and social data pertaining to all persons in our country was known as the 1984 National Population and Housing Census.

The 1984 Census was the third and the last national census since the declaration of Liberia's independence and it registered a total of 2.1 million people in the country. The first national census was conducted in 1962 and it disclosed a population of 1.1 million; while the second, which was carried out in 1974, revealed a population of 1.5 million. Unfortunately, Liberia did not participate in the 1990 and 2000 Rounds of the World Population and Housing Censuses due to the civil crisis.

Thus far, this statistical anomaly has made present and future population projections of Liberia questionable. Hence, there is a strong need to up date the national socio-economic and demographic database through a comprehensive and holistic process of data collection and analysis like the census. Additionally the existing vacuum of reliable data on Liberia has made planning for development purposes to be an exercise that is fraught with errors and the misapplication of national and international resources.

Ladies and gentlemen, censuses around the world are useful for policy making, planning, research and administrative reasons. It also has many important uses for business, industry and labor. The census being a tool for development is used for the assessment of the quality of housing, the formulation of housing policy and programs, and accessibility to social services such as water and sanitation, health, and education. Furthermore, the census is used to create electoral boundaries and sampling frames for sample surveys.

Upon this background and due to the unavailability of reliable data, it has become compellingly important for Liberia to be a part of the 2010 Round of the World Population and Housing Censuses.

Hence, in 2006 the government of Liberia requested UNFPA's support for the formulation of a road map to conduct the 2008 Population and Housing Census including a comprehensive census mapping program.

Therefore, after twenty three years, it is gratifying to note that the Act empowering the Executive Branch of Government to conduct the census within 20 months has been passed into law by the National Legislature and printed into hand bill on June 7, 2007. We also pleased that the Liberian people and our development partners, have gathered here today to witness the official launching of the 2008 National Population and Housing Census by our dynamic President, Her Excellency, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. The census has the following objectives.

1. To participate in the 2010 Round of World Population and Housing Censuses;
2. To provide up-to-date socio-economic and demographic data as well as social amenities and poverty profile to meet the planning and development needs of the country;
3. To know the present size and structure of the population and its spatial distribution among counties, districts, clans/townships, cities, and Localities;
4. To provide a bench mark for Monitoring and Evaluating various national and international development goals, such as Interim Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (IPRSP), Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), International Conference for Population Development (ICPD), New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD) , etc.;
5. To construct an updated master sampling frame for future sample surveys and;
6. To provide a geo-referenced spatial database on administrative units, enumeration areas (EAs), localities, and social amenities.

The overall cost of the census has been estimated at US$ 5.6 million, with an up-to-date commitment of US$ 1.9 million from the Government of Liberia and its development partners. Notwithstanding, a funding gap of US$ 3.7 million still exist and needs to be addressed. Out of this amount the government and its development partners will need to raise US$2.8 million between now and December, 2007 for the undertaking of the actual census scheduled to be held in March, 2008.

Expanding further, we would like to recognize the contribution of our valuable development partners, that is, the UNFPA has provided an initial amount of about US$1.2 million to support technical assistance in mapping, questionnaire design, the processing of the Pilot Census data, the training of LISGIS staff in GIS and census mapping, the provision of GIS equipment and materials, vehicles and motorbikes for cartographic mapping and the payment of DSA to census personnel.

The Government of the United States of America, through USAID, has also provided an initial amount of about US$0.2 million to procure additional GIS equipment and materials and communication equipment for the use of census personnel. Additionally, the vehicles that were provided to LISGIS by the US Government to conduct the 2006/07 Liberia Demographic and Health Survey (2006/'07 LDHS) have been very, very useful for the commencement of the census mapping exercise, and we hope and pray that the US Government will continue to permit us use these vehicles until we complete the 2008 NPHC.

Also, UNMIL has and continue to contribute to the census activities. For example, UNMIL has provided various types of GIS data such as satellite imageries for thirteen cities and topographic maps covering the entire country. Additionally, UNMIL assisted LISGIS to install the GIS equipment and software that were purchased by UNFPA and the training of LIGIS staff in the use of GPS equipment. UNMIL Communication Unit is now assisting us with the advocacy and public awareness campaign of the census.

Ladies and gentlemen, we are pleased to inform you that, with the support provided thus far, the planning process for the conduct of the census has commenced with the census mapping, which aims at:

1. Updating the census base maps;
2. Incorporating administrative boundaries that are supported by legal instruments such as Legislative Acts, Decrees or Executive Orders:
3. Estimating the population through household counts and listing:
4. Creating enumeration areas with workload so that the enumerator will complete the enumeration in the allotted time;
5. Covering the land area completely without omission or overlaps;
6. Providing a set of enumeration areas and maps for the planning, management and administration of the census enumeration and outputs of results. Thus:

a) Before the census, the mapping will assist LISGIS to recruit the required census personnel and to determine logistic requirements like vehicles, motorcycles, questionnaires, notebooks, pens, mats, bags, etc.;
b) During the enumeration each enumerator will use an EA map to locate his/her enumeration area boundaries, determine what area to cover, plan the best route of travel, mark the location of houses for possible return visits and update the EA map for future use;
c) After the census enumeration, LISGIS will provide the census results by counties, districts, clans,/townships, towns and villages;
d) In addition, a sampling frame will be made available for future surveys to be conducted more scientifically; and
e) The maps and geo-referenced data sets will provide a good basis for the analysis and dissemination of the census results using GIS approach.

As we speak, LISGIS has completed the Pilot Census, which was used to test the census maps, questionnaire, manuals and logistics. The results of the Pilot Census are being analyzed, evaluated and will be reviewed with the stakeholders to make the necessary improvements on the census instruments and the logistical plan.

Additionally, we have completed the mapping of about 35 districts and 173 clans with legal instruments out of more than 64 old and newly created districts as well as more than 300 old and newly created clans/townships. Hence, this means that we have a lot of work to do in order to meet the deadline, but we assure you we will surely meet the deadline.

Meanwhile, as we move forward with this worthy undertaking, we call on the cooperation and support of the Minister of Internal Affairs and the Local Authorities, members of the press, civic organizations and the entire residents, particularly the citizens of Liberia, throughout the length and breath of our nation as this is indispensable to the success of the census.

Ladies and gentlemen, as we welcome you to this program marking the official launching of the 2008 National Population and Housing Census, we wish to thank, in particular, the President of the Republic of Liberia, Her Excellency Ellen Johnson Sirleaf as well as the Government and people of Liberia for her commitment and support to the 2008 census project and the production of statistics as a whole.

Additionally, we want to thank our development partners especially the UNFPA, USAID and UNMIL and all those who are contemplating on assisting us with the census. We recognize the services of Phoenix, a communication and management consultant firm, the Management and Staff of the Monrovia City Hall, the Fourth Estate, etc. for their assistance in planning and executing this launching program. Not forgetting, we recognize the support of the Chairman and Members of the Board of Directors, Management and Staff of LISGIS as well.

Finally, we wish to welcome all and sundry to this auspicious occasion, and hope that the expected 2008 Census results will be used by both national and international stakeholders as an empirical tool for the rebuilding and development of Liberia and the sustainability of our nascent democracy.

I thank you!