Oct 08, 2015

Eye on Earth Special Initiatives demonstrate critical role of data for Sustainable Development

(MENAFN Press) At the second Eye on Earth Summit in Abu Dhabi today, experts highlighted the achievements of the movement’s Special Initiatives in providing data, tools and frameworks to help inform decision-making for sustainable development. The Special Initiatives are the engine and driving force behind Eye on Earth and a key component of the success of the global movement in closing the data gap to support informed decision-making.

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The Special Initiatives were created, following the inaugural Eye on Earth Summit in 2011, to conceive and facilitate numerous data-related projects all over the world. They cover eight subject areas: equal access, linked networks, environmental education, water security, biodiversity, oceans and blue carbon, community sustainability and resiliency, and disaster management.

Since their launch, the Special Initiatives have brought together more than 500 scientists, government officials, academics, non-government organisations and citizens to focus on data creation, discovery, access, and analytics, as well as decision support systems and procedures needed to improve decision-making for sustainable development.

A core part of their work has been to help nations, civil society and other stakeholders understand the importance of data and information for achieving the outcomes of several emerging global frameworks, and to enable their engagement in the creation, discovery and use of data. These include the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), as well as the recently adopted UN Sustainable Development Goals.

“Through the Special Initiatives a number of pilot projects have been undertaken across many disciplines and in many parts of the globe. The result of these has been an improved capacity for decision-making, and a growing uniformity of approach when it comes to interoperable data and policy support,” stated Costis Toregas, Associate Director, GW Cyber Security Policy and Research Institute and a Facilitator of three Special Initiatives.

Among the 2011 pilot projects are 11 that were selected by Eye on Earth to receive seed-funding. Since their implementation in 2013, they have significantly improved the development of environmental and social information, and human and technical capacity critical to achieving the post-2015 global sustainable development agenda.

Project successes have included

  • The commitment by governmental and civil society stakeholders in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) to create a regional instrument on Principle 10 of the Rio Declaration, considered the gold standard for the promotion of environmental democracy
  • Collaboration between local and national governments in the Arab region to create a Spatial Data Infrastructure that can help local communities best prevent, prepare for and recover from disaster situations

Technical capacity building in the fields of environmental indicators, data infrastructures and web map services in Latin America and the Caribbean, with a view to their replication in the Arab region and beyond

Development of a new information architecture that enables the automated sharing, discovery and integration of existing data networks “ even when they (as they usually do) use inconsistent terms and concepts

Developing a global educational network to mainstream environment and sustainability practices and curricula into universities around the world, including the successful facilitation of a MOOC

Capacity building among decision makers in Europe and the Arab region to understand emerging technologies and their potential to support sustainable development, with a particular focus on water security

The introduction of best-in-class data collation methodologies and tools

The harnessing of citizen science and crowd sourcing of data to support sustainable urban planning and management, and to provide governments with a more refined understanding of neighborhood-level data and needs.

“Eye on Earth’s Special Initiatives are helping to lay essential groundwork, not only through their groundbreaking projects, but also through the multiple opportunities for networking and cross sectoral engagement they afford. The cross-regional and interdisciplinary cooperation being fostered wouldn’t really happen otherwise at this scale,” said Derek Gliddon, National Partnership and Development Manager, Abu Dhabi Global Environmental Data Initiative (AGEDI, and Facilitator of Global Network of Networks Special Initiative.

“The Special Initiatives have worked hard to develop a true community of practice which cuts across organisation, budget and mission. They bring together governments, industry, NGOs and academia united by the same objective: to find creative ways to improve the use of data and analytics in sustainable development questions, and to strengthen the decisions of policy makers,” said Viktor Lagutov, Head of the Environmental Systems Laboratory, Central European University, Budapest and Facilitator for the Water Security Special Initiaitve.

In providing a platform for dialogue and collaboration, the Special Initiatives continue to facilitate new partnerships and project development opportunities, particularly public-private cooperation between technology companies and NGOs. Esri is now working closely with the Ecocitizen World Map project that is managed within the Community Sustainbability and Resiliency Special Initiative and Google has partnered with the Environmental Education Special Initiatives to provide state of the art software to students interested in sustainable development, both a result of the Eye on Earth process.

“Sustainable development cannot be achieved through political agreements, financial incentives and technological solutions alone “ it will also require a change in the way citizens and societies think and act. The diverse elements of the post-2015 development agenda are linked by the need for environmental education at all levels, and Eye on Earth is helping all nations to build this capacity,” said Brian Waswala, Environmental Education and Training Specialist at the United Nations Environment Programme, and Facilitator of the Environmental Education Special Initiative.

Members of the Special Initiatives have identified another 120 data-realted issues that will improve the efficiency and efficacy by which environmental sustainability is acheived. These project proposals, which require funding, are being presented during Eye on Earth Summit 2015, and have also been made available to nations, funding organisations and interested philanthropists.

Commenting on the role that the Eye on Earth Special Initiatives can play in aligning programmes of work, Jane Glavan, Climate Change & Blue Carbon Partnership Project Manager at AGEDI and Facilitator of the Biodiversity and Oceans and Blue Carbon Special Initiatives said: “Transformational change on broad, large-scale and global issue like sustainable development comes from increased cross-sector coordination rather than isolated interventions from individual organisations. The more data we can collect and put in the hands of people who have the power and political will to effect real world change, the better our planet stands to be. We want to encourage more people to align their work with the Eye on Earth Special Initiatives and to use our growing global network of connections to advance their projects.”

The Eye on Earth Special Initiatives have produced a booklet of case studies outlining specific project outcomes over the last four years. It is available at http://www.eoesummit.org/special-

About Eye on Earth

Despite technological and scientific advancements, decision makers often lack vital data on the state of the world’s resources. Eye on Earth is a global movement that aims to improve access to and sharing of environmental, social and economic data, to better inform decision-making for sustainable development. Its primary goal is to convene thought and action leaders, converge on key areas of mutual importance, and collaborate on initiatives to close the data gap.The mission of Eye on Earth is achieved through the work of the Summit Alliance Partners, eight targeted Special Initiatives, and the Eye on Earth Summit. For more information, please visit www.eoesummit.org. About the Environment Agency “ Abu Dhabi (EAD)Established in 1996, the Environment Agency “ Abu Dhabi (EAD) is committed to protecting and enhancing air quality, groundwater as well as the biodiversity of our desert and marine ecosystem. By partnering with other government entities, the private sector, NGOs and global environmental agencies, we embrace international best practice, innovation and hard work to institute effective policy measures. We seek to raise environmental awareness, facilitate sustainable development and ensure environmental issues remain one of the top priorities of our national agenda. For more information, visit www.ead.ae For media enquiries, please contact:EAD Press Office:Sobhia Akram El MasriTel:9712 693-4637Mobile:97150 442-5096Email:pressoffice@ead.ae About the Abu Dhabi Global Environmental Data Initiative (AGEDI)Under the guidance and patronage of His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the United Arab Emirates, AGEDI was formed in 2002 to address responses to the critical need for readily accessible, accurate environmental data and information for all those who need it. With the Arab region as a priority area of focus, AGEDI facilitates access to quality environmental data that equips policy makers with actionable, timely information to inform and guide critical decisions. AGEDI is supported by Environment Agency “ Abu Dhabi (EAD) on a local level, and championed by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) regionally and internationally. For more information, visit www.AGEDI.aeFor media enquiries, please contact:AGEDI Press Office:Larissa Owen “ PR & Outreach Manager, Abu Dhabi Global Environmental Data Initiative (AGEDI)Tel: 9712-693 4436 Email: larissa.owen@ead.ae About the Group on Earth Observations (GEO)Established in 2005, GEO strives to improve the world’s observation systems and provide policy makers and scientists with accurate and useful data that can be used to make informed decisions on issues affecting the planet. GEO’s primary focus is to develop a Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS) to enhance the ability of end-users to discover and access Earth observation data and convert it to useable and useful information. GEO is headquartered in Switzerland. For more information, visit www.earthobservations.org For media enquiries, please contact:GEO Press Office:Robert J. Samors “ Senior External Relations Manager, Group on Earth Observations Tel: 41 (0)22 730 8317Email: rsamors@geosec.orgAbout the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)IUCN helps the world find pragmatic solutions to our most pressing environment and development challenges. IUCN’s work focuses on valuing and conserving nature, ensuring effective and equitable governance of its use, and deploying nature-based solutions to global challenges in climate, food and development. IUCN supports scientific research, manages field projects all over the world, and brings governments, NGOs, the UN and companies together to develop policy, laws and best practice. IUCN is the world’s oldest and largest global environmental organization, with more than 1,200 government and NGO Members and almost 11,000 volunteer experts in some 160 countries. IUCN’s work is supported by over 1,000 staff in 45 offices and hundreds of partners in public, NGO and private sectors around the world. For more information, please visit www.iucn.org. For media enquiries, please contact:IUCN Press Office:Lynne Labanne, Senior Communications and Marketing Officer, IUCN Tel: 41 79 527 7221 Email: lynne.labanne@iucn.org About UNEPUNEP is the voice for the environment in the UN system. Established in 1972, UNEP’s mission is to provide leadership and encourage partnership in caring for the environment by inspiring, informing, and enabling nations and peoples to improve their quality of life without compromising that of future generations. UNEP is an advocate, educator, catalyst and facilitator promoting the wise use of the planet’s natural assets for sustainable development. It works with many partners, UN entities, international organisations, national governments, non-governmental organizations, business, industry, the media and civil society. UNEP’s work involves providing support for: environmental assessment and reporting; legal and institutional strengthening and environmental policy development; sustainable use and management of natural resources; integration of economic development and environmental protection; and promoting public participation in environmental management. For more information, visit www.unep.org For media enquiries, please contact:UNEP Press Office:Shereen Zorba, UNEP, Head of News and MediaTel: 254 788 526000Email: shereen.zorba@unep.orgAbout the World Resources Institute (WRI)WRI is a global research organization that turns big ideas into action at the nexus of environment, economic opportunity and human well-being. Our 450 experts and staff work with partners in more than 50 countries; we have offices in Brazil, China, Europe, India, Indonesia and the United States. For more information, visit http://www.wri.org For media enquiries, please contact:WRI Press Office:Michael Oko, Director of Strategic Communications and MediaTel: 202-729-7684Email: moko@wri.org