Guidelines for dissemination of investment data

As part of its analytical work on investment and investment policies, UNCTAD's Division on Investment and Enterprise collects and/or uses data on foreign direct investment (FDI), on operations of transnational corporations (TNCs), on international production and global value chains (GVCs).

Data collection in the Division is an integral part of the analytical process, with Division's substantive officers working closely with counterparts in national agencies responsible for respective data types (e.g. central banks, statistical offices, ministries or investment authorities), and with secondary data providers.

Data collection as well as dissemination is also part of the Division's integrated work on research and policy analysis, technical assistance and inter-governmental consensus building.


The purpose of this note is to provide clarity and transparency on how the Division disseminates different types of data to users. Dissemination in the context of this note is intended as the distribution of data, as opposed to analyses based on the data as contained in the Division's published reports.

The Division data provision is based on the following principles of high standards:

  1. Coverage and timeliness: Dissemination of accurate, reliable, comprehensive, and timely FDI data is essential for research and policy analysis, and a basis for policy formulation, implementation and assessment.

  2. Quality: Data quality is top priority. Data users are provided with information to assess quality and quality improvements. Furthermore, the Division works with country-counterparts (including through technical assistance) and secondary data-providers to improve data where possible.

  3. Integrity and transparency: The Division identifies all government institutions or sources at the origin of the data; the Division is transparent on methodologies used and provides information about revisions as appropriate.

  4. Access to the public: Statistics are a public good. The Division provides ready and equal access and ensures simultaneous release to all interested parties. The Division follows the following guidelines for data dissemination:

    1. Dissemination focuses on data where the Division is a "primary source"; i.e. where the Division is collecting data from national sources. (This is the case for FDI flows and stocks and activity data of foreign affiliates (FATS).)

    2. Dissemination of secondary data (i.e. where the Division acts mostly as an aggregator or user of statistics acquired from private data providers) remains limited to the publication of statistics that directly underpin analyses in the Division's published reports. Data dissemination in this case mostly takes the form of downloadable annex tables to publications.

      The Division refers requests for further data of this kind to original sources (this applies, e.g., to cross-border M&As and greenfield investment projects), in accordance with agreements with data providers, in order to avoid copyright infringements, and to leave responsibility for accuracy and continuous updates with original sources.

    3. Where the Division and other organization create new datasets such as UNCTAD-Eora data on GVCs, methodologies are published to ensure that the approach is replicable. GVC data are at this moment disseminated through the Eora MRIO Database.

      Users can also obtain GVC data from UNCTAD on request. It should be noted any such data would represent a snapshot extraction of data from original sources which may be subject to continuous revision/updating.

    4. FDI data are subject to continuous revisions and updates on the part of official sources. The Division reflects updates in datasets after a process of verification and confirmation. Dissemination of data that is in the process of verification or updating can be restricted.

      At any point in time, published or downloaded data represents a snapshot of best-available data, and may not correspond to data published subsequently. Further statistical issues and notes of caution for users of data are contained in the Methodological Notes published on the Division website.

    5. As part of analyses in its reports, the Division includes estimated data where necessary. The Division ensures transparency and replicability of methods where such estimates or projections are included in annex tables of published material.

    6. (vi) The Division datasets include full time series. Availability of latest year data follows time lags dictated by publications of periodic trend monitors and the flagship annual World Investment Report, to allow for verification/confirmation of data where applicable, to ensure that embargoes are respected, and to ensure equal and simultaneous access for all.

    7. Users of the Division FDI data are requested to provide appropriate acknowledgement. "UNCTAD, FDI/TNC database". In academic articles, books or other publications except news media, users are requested to add the web-link to the data:

    8. For further information on the databases mentioned above, please contact the Division on Investment Enterprise.



Division on Investment and Enterprise
Palais des Nations Geneva

Tel: +41-22-917-5760
Fax: +41-22-917-0498


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