|United Nations System-Wide
Working Party 2
Geneva, 22-23 March 1995
Working Paper UNEP/EWWP2/WP.1
Progress in implementing the UN System-wide Earthwatch
Since the Earthwatch Working Party last June, UNEP as the Earthwatch Coordination office and as IACSD-designated Task Manager for Earthwatch has continued the in-depth study of Earthwatch and reviewed the implementation of Agenda 21 Chapter 40: Information for Decision-making, which includes Earthwatch, in close cooperation with DPCSD and all the system-wide partners, to produce a coordinated set of outputs:
-- The Secretary-General's Report on Chapter 40: Information for Decision-making, to be submitted to the CSD in April 1995, prepared jointly by DPCSD as Task Manager for Chpt. 40 and UNEP as Task Manager for Earthwatch, contains general information on data collection and information delivery in implementation of Agenda 21, including many issues appropriate to Earthwatch.
-- The ACC Report to the UNEP Governing Council 1995 on international cooperation in the field of the environment focuses on the UN System-wide Earthwatch, to emphasize the importance all organizations place on Earthwatch as a system-wide activity for which UNEP is expected to provide leadership and direction.
-- The report to the UNEP Governing Council (May 1995) on Environmental Monitoring and Earthwatch requested by GA resolution 48/192 describes UNEP's contributions in the context of the system-wide Earthwatch.
-- The UN System-wide Earthwatch Programme Document assembles the information on contributions to Earthwatch in the submissions to the Task Managers using the questionnaire agreed at the last working party, as well as other basic information on Earthwatch, to provide a reference document and to encourage collaboration and joint programming. It should also assist in preparing funding proposals for system-wide cooperative activities.
Earthwatch has also
been included among the issues in the series of regional consultations
with users of environmental information that the UNEP Environment Assessment
Programme has been organizing since mid-1994. The feed-back from
users has been important in making the renewed Earthwatch more results
The UN System-wide Earthwatch Coordination office has continued informal networking and linking among cooperating organizations and with the international scientific community, and has encouraged closer collaboration on the development of indicators of sustainable development in cooperation with DPCSD, UNSTAT, the SCOPE project on indicators, and other partners.
Inter-agency action for the implementation of Earthwatch
Several specific actions were agreed at the Earthwatch Working Party in June 1994 to implement the terms of reference, in roughly the following priority order. Actions already taken under each are listed, if any. Decisions on the implementation of each should be taken during the meeting.
a) A strategy should be developed, as part of the in-depth study, to draw on the capacities of all the partners to distribute key Earthwatch outputs more widely and effectively to key target groups around the world.
A proposed strategy is being prepared for consideration by the working party.
b) UNEP should request ideas from all the partners as the basis for proposals for specific Earthwatch outputs to reach beyond agency constituencies, with those that receive broad support to be included in the reports.
While no inputs were received from partners in response to the request contained in the initial invitation to this meeting, some ideas have been prepared for discussion. Other proposals will be welcomed at the meeting.
c) Plans should be prepared to assemble a package of funding proposals for the implementation of Earthwatch, including support to the three Global Observing Systems, a certain number of sectoral assessments, harmonization and capacity building activities to fill critical gaps in coverage, etc. for presentation to a donor's meeting to be organized in late 1995 or early 1996.
Some inputs to the Task Manager included additional financial requirements, but these are still very incomplete. The assembly of the Earthwatch Programme document is a first step towards the preparation of coordinated funding proposals. The scope of these proposals and the strategy for fund-raising activities should be considered by the meeting.
d) Ad hoc groups of agency
experts could be asked to make specific recommendation on the use of
electronic networks for Earthwatch, both within the UN system and in
its outreach, to:
No action taken as yet. The working party may wish to identify experts to participate in one or more ad hoc groups addressing these items.
e) A technical working group
should be established to identify priorities for harmonization, standardization
and quality control of data, to compile a summary of existing activities
in this area, and to recommend approaches to solve particular priority
f) An ad hoc group should
meet to review the problems of data access and the constraints to the
free flow of data and information, and to propose common strategies
to be pursued by all parts of the system in dealing with countries,
the private sector, commercial information suppliers and users, and
NGOs, with the aim of achieving the freest flow possible of information
required for sustainable development and its accessibility to all who
g) A government-nominated expert group should be convened at an appropriate time to review and comment on the proposals for Earthwatch. It was decided to postpone any such advisory expert group meeting to review Earthwatch until after the GC and CSD meetings, when it might be useful in Earthwatch implementation.
The working party should consider this proposal again and decide what action should be taken.
Relationship between Earthwatch and Development Watch
The first Earthwatch Working Party felt that since environmental information within the UN system should not be considered in isolation from human activities, and the decision-making requirements for sustainable development require the integration of environmental, social and economic information, the proposed Development Watch should be closely linked to Earthwatch. The informal expert group on Development Watch: Monitoring Progress on Sustainable Development, convened by DPCSD and UNDP in New York on 15-16 December 1994 (report available as an information document), proposed that a Development Watch should be established to assist all decision-makers, especially those at the national level to understand the interaction among physical (environmental), social and economic phenomena and the policy options these interactions suggest. It would use existing data and focus on developing methodologies for analysing processes of aggregation of that data and identifying their linkages. It would be operational at the national level, where it would seek to measure physical (environmental), economic and social phenomena in relation to targets established by the respective countries themselves. With respect to the relationship to Earthwatch, the expert group agreed that Earthwatch is primarily a global information system, while Development Watch would be based on national information systems. They are not, therefore, fully analogous, but complementary. Earthwatch would serve as a feeder of information into Development Watch and the two systems would be fully coordinated. Whenever appropriate, Development Watch outputs could be produced in cooperation with Earthwatch.
The proposals for Development Watch are included in the Secretary-General's report to the Commission on Sustainable Development on Chapter 40: Information for Decision-making. If the CSD response is favourable, the proposals will be developed further.