|United Nations System-Wide
Working Party 3
New York, 17-18 January 1996
Working Paper UNEP/EWWP3/1
1.. Since the last Earthwatch Working Party in March 1995, the major events have been the review of Earthwatch at the Commission on Sustainable Development in April and at the UNEP Governing Council in May.
2.. For the third session of the Commission on Sustainable Development (11-28 April 1995), DPCSD as Task Manager for Agenda 21, Chapter 40 and UNEP as Task Manager for Earthwatch cooperated in the preparation of the Report of the Secretary-General on Information for decision-making and Earthwatch (E/CN.17/1995/18) which provided a major overview of the issues involved, including indicators of sustainable development, Earthwatch and Development Watch. A shortened version of the Earthwatch Programme Document was also made available as a background document. The report of the Commission on Sustainable Development included a section on Information for Decision-making (Annex 1) with the following paragraph on Earthwatch.
3.. "The Commission expresses appreciation for the extensive international collaboration in the United Nations system-wide Earthwatch and its responsiveness to the priorities of Agenda 21 and to user needs. It urges Governments and major groups, as well as relevant international organizations and the scientific community, to participate actively in strengthening Earthwatch as an international partnership to ensure an adequate flow of information on the global and regional environment, to support decision-making and to give early warning on the state of the environment. Special attention is drawn to the need for improved delivery of information to decision-makers and to increased participation in environmental observations at the local and national levels within regional and international frameworks. In this regard, the Commission welcomes all appropriate participation in the Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment (GLOBE) Programme, as described in General Assembly resolution 49/112." (E/CN.17/1995/36, para. 5)
4.. The Eighteenth Session of the UNEP Governing Council (15-26 May 1995) had before it the Report of the Executive Director on Earthwatch, environment monitoring and assessment (UNEP/GC.18/4) and the Administrative Committee on Coordination Report to the UNEP Governing Council 1995 on International Cooperation in the Field of the Environment: The United Nations System-wide Earthwatch (UNEP/GC.18/33). The full UN System-wide Earthwatch Programme Document (UNEP/EWWP2/WP.2/rev.1) was also made available as a background document. The Governing Council, in its Decision 18/27 (see Annex II), urged all partner agencies and programmes to cooperate in implementing the system-wide Earthwatch; endorsed the recommendations of the Administrative Committee on Coordination regarding the development of approaches to the linking of socio-economic and environmental assessment and reporting by the system-wide Earthwatch; and requested continuing assistance to developing countries to build capacity to enable them to use and benefit from the data and information acquired through the Earthwatch programme. It should be noted that the ACC had recommended that the Earthwatch Working Party should give further attention to conceptual issues involved in linking socio-economic and environmental assessment and reporting.
5. These reviews have given the system-wide Earthwatch a more distinct profile in the UN system and strengthened general appreciation of the extensive inter-agency cooperation already existing in this field. The next step should be to improve the mechanisms for information exchange, joint programming, mutual collaboration and the delivery of results so that international environmental observations, assessments and reporting become more coherent, efficient and effective. One particular need is to try to reduce the number of different meetings requiring the attendance of limited agency personnel. The present arrangement with four meetings back-to-back is one approach to make more efficient use of limit time and travel funds. Some Earthwatch functions could also be carried out by electronic exchanges by e-mail or through an Earthwatch bulletin board or discussion group, but less than half the focal points for Earthwatch have indicated to the secretariat that they have e-mail addresses or Internet access, and it would be unfair to exclude such a large percentage of the partners in Earthwatch. If a critical mass of focal points active on the Internet can be achieved, the secretariat is prepared to launch and moderate such a group.
Action on decisions of the last Earthwatch Working Party
6. The second Earthwatch Working Party (Geneva, 22-23 March 1995) raised a number of points for further action in its report (UNEP/EWWP2/3; references in brackets are to paragraphs in this report).
7. On the issue of the involvement of environmental convention secretariats in Earthwatch [5,8], a larger number of convention secretariats have been invited to participate in the Earthwatch Working Party. While most have not been able to attend in person, they have expressed a clear desire to be kept informed of and involved in the UN system-wide Earthwatch. There are now 8 convention secretariats and about 40 UN organizations on the Earthwatch distribution list.
8. With respect to the problem of access to environmental information raised both at the Earthwatch Working Party  and by the CSD, the series of meetings arranged back-to-back with this one is designed to cover different complementary aspects. The meeting just prior to this one will have discussed Development Watch and its interface with Earthwatch  in providing information for decision-making at the national level. This Working Party should review those substantive issues concerning environmental observation, assessment and reporting, and their linkage with socio-economic assessments and reports, in the global framework of Earthwatch. The following DPCSD/UNEP meeting on common/compatible systems of access to data should discuss the system-wide mechanics for sharing, integrating and providing access to data and information about sustainable development. The UNEP/DPCSD core data working group meeting next week will consider the specific data sets needed for international environmental assessments and modelling. The need for principles concerning information generation and exchange among the agencies of the UN system, as requested by the last Working party , will be discussed in the following two meetings on common/compatible access to data and on core data sets.
9. The UN System-wide Earthwatch Programme Document was distributed as requested  and was also posted on the Earthwatch World Wide Web site at UNEP Geneva . Printed copies are available from UNEP on request. Information has been solicited from all Earthwatch partners on their World Wide Web sites so that this can be added to the Programme Document. Further improvements in the format should come as the Earthwatch WWW site is developed. It may be appropriate to prepare a revised edition of the programme document in preparation for the 1997 review of progress in implementing Agenda 21, based on up-dates supplied to the task managers at that time.
10. No progress has been made on the idea of an Earthwatch policy bulletin or other short publication of environmental results from across the system for distribution to decision-makers . Since the CSD specifically referred to the need to improve delivery of information to decision-makers, this should be a priority for further work.
11. A UN system-wide Earthwatch World Wide Web site  has been established at http://www.unep.ch/earthw.html. At present it contains the contents of the Earthwatch programme document that can be consulted agency by agency, as well as a version that can be down-loaded electronically. Over 20 addresses of other UN system WWW sites have been obtained so far for cross-referencing with this site, and other sites are under development. The proposals requested for the further development of this site are included in UNEP/EWWP3/2, and more general concepts for a UN information system are described in UNEP/EWWP3/3. It may be appropriate to focus in this meeting on the substantive information from Earthwatch that needs to be digested, formatted and made available through such a system, and leave the mechanics of how to establish and run such a system to the following meeting on common/compatible systems of access to data.
12. On the potential for the use of participatory observations , the Earthwatch Coordination office has been collecting information on existing programmes and methods. One noteworthy expression of interest was at the World Summit on Religions and Conservation (Windsor Castle, 29 April-4 May 1995), where leaders of 9 major religions expressed an interest in exploring how they could contribute to Earthwatch through involvement of their institutions and personnel in participatory observations. There are many educated, motivated people in religious organizations who could help to fill gaps in appropriate types of observations, and this is just one example of organizations that could be involved. The major challenge will be to consider how to build the methodologies, training, support services, data collection and quality control procedures necessary to take advantage of the interest and goodwill in various parts of civil society.
13. With respect to the involvement in Earthwatch of the scientific community and other non-governmental organizations [21,22], contacts have been established with the International Council of Scientific Unions (ICSU), the Human Dimensions of Global Environmental Change Programme (HDP), the Scientific Committee on Problems of the Environment (SCOPE) and some NGOs, but it is not yet clear just how to develop their relationship with the UN system-wide Earthwatch. For instance, ICSU is a co-sponsor with various UN bodies of the Global Observing Systems, but unless ICSU becomes part of Earthwatch, it would not be appropriate to use Earthwatch mechanisms for coordination among the co-sponsors of these systems, thus requiring the organization of separate meetings. Some consideration should be given to the best way to articulate the relationship between these organizations and the UN system in Earthwatch.
14. The third meeting of the Earthwatch Working Party was originally planned for October 1995 as agreed at the last meeting, but shortly after the invitations were issued, the limitations on travel imposed by the Secretary-General due to the extreme financial crisis in the UN forced the postponement of both the Working Party and the associated meetings.
ON SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT
Chapter I. MATTERS CALLING FOR ACTION BY THE ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL COUNCIL OR BROUGHT TO ITS ATTENTION
A. General discussion on progress in the implementation of Agenda 21, focusing on the cross-sectoral components of Agenda 21, and the critical elements of sustainability
1. Information for Decision-Making
1. The Commission, having examined the report of the Secretary-General on information for decision-making and Earthwatch (E/CN.17/1995/18), noted and welcomed the important measures taken by Governments to make information more accessible to decision-makers at the national level, and calls upon national governments to utilize this information for sustainable development at the country level. The aim of such measures includes the development of a comprehensive and coherent information programme, drawing upon public participation in data collection and assessment. In this context, developed countries are urged to utilize both bilateral and multilateral channels to facilitate access by developing countries, and countries whose economies are in transition, to sources of information relative to sustainable development. The Sustainable Development Networking Programme of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is one model for such initiatives.
2. The Commission calls attention to the feasibility study undertaken by UNDP to provide access to information on sustainable development to 35 small island developing States, 2/ which was welcomed by the General Assembly in its resolution 49/122 on the Global Conference on the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States.
3. The Commission expresses its appreciation to the organizers of the six workshops that furthered understanding of the issues addressed in Chapter 40 of Agenda 21, particularly the efforts related to developing a work programme on indicators of sustainable development, and it supports and encourages further work in this area as elaborated in paragraphs 7 and 8 below.
4. The Commission welcomes the contribution of non-governmental organizations to the process of generating information for decision-making, including the articulation of views from local and grass-roots levels and from major groups, and expresses its desire that these activities continue and be integrated, to the extent possible, with those of national governments, organizations of the United Nations system and other intergovernmental organizations.
2/ A/49/414, annex.
5. The Commission expresses appreciation for the extensive international collaboration in the United Nations system-wide Earthwatch and its responsiveness to the priorities of Agenda 21 and to user needs. It urges Governments and major groups, as well as relevant international organizations and the scientific community, to participate actively in strengthening Earthwatch as an international partnership to ensure an adequate flow of information on the global and regional environment, to support decision-making and to give early warning on the state of the environment. Special attention is drawn to the need for improved delivery of information to decision-makers and to increased participation in environmental observations at the local and national levels within regional and international frameworks. In this regard, the Commission welcomes all appropriate participation in the Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment (GLOBE) Programme, as described in General Assembly resolution 49/112.
6. The Commission recalls that, in addition to Earthwatch, which is a global system for environmental information, Agenda 21 in paragraph 40.13, calls for the more effective coordination also of development data, "perhaps through an equivalent and complementary 'Development Watch'". In this context, the Commission noted the cooperative effort of the organizations of the United Nations system to prepare proposals for the creation of such a Development Watch. It requests UNDP, with the Department for Policy Coordination and Sustainable Development of the United Nations Secretariat, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the World Bank, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), and in cooperation with the regional commissions and other interested organizations, to further define Development Watch and, in this regard, to submit a progress report on the implementation of the programme of work for Development Watch to the Commission at its session in 1997, taking into account the need for a close linkage between Development Watch and Earthwatch.
7. The Commission noted the importance of developing, among the organizations of the United Nations system, a common or compatible system of access to their respective data bases, in order to share data fully, to streamline the collection and interpretation of data and to identify data gaps, for the purpose of providing more comprehensive and integrated data to decision makers at the national, regional and international levels. The Commission invites the Inter-Agency Committee on Sustainable Development to refine measures for establishing such a common or compatible system and to report thereon to the Commission at its fourth session. The Commission notes also the rapidly growing number of information systems for sustainable development at the national and regional levels, and invites the Secretary-General to consider ways of enhancing compatibility among and access to these systems and to report its findings to the Commission at its session in 1997.
8. Governments are encouraged to develop or conduct studies on the development of indicators of sustainable development in accordance with specific national conditions. In this context, there is a need for coordination, especially through the Commission, of the many intergovernmental and scientific institutions working in this area, as well as a need for intensive international dialogue.
9. The Commission urges bodies such as the Statistical Division of the United Nations Secretariat, the statistical services of Member States and other appropriate institutions, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the Statistical Office of the European Communities and major groups to cooperate in the development of indicators of sustainable development. Furthermore, the Commission encourages the scientific community, including the project on indicators of sustainable development undertaken by the Scientific Committee on Problems of the Environment (SCOPE), to focus its efforts on the development and improvement of such indicators.
10. The Commission reiterates the importance of developing indicators of sustainable development for use by decision makers at the local, regional and national levels and expresses its appreciation to the organizations, both intergovernmental and non-governmental, and the Governments that have contributed to the process of defining a programme of work for the further development of indicators of sustainable development.
11. The Commission approves the programme of work on indicators for sustainable development contained in annex I to the report of the Secretary-General (E/CN.17/1995/18) and calls upon the organizations of the United Nations system, with the support of other intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations, and through the coordination of the Department for Policy Coordination and Sustainable Development of the United Nations Secretariat, to implement, within existing resources, the following, as outlined in the programme of work: (a) enhancement of information exchange among all interested actors; (b) development of methodology sheets to be made available to Governments; (c) training and capacity-building at the regional and national levels; (d) testing of an appropriate combination of indicators and monitoring of experiences in a few countries; (e) evaluation of the indicators, including those mentioned in the report of the Secretary-General (E/CN.17/1995/18), and adjustment, as necessary; (f) identification and assessment of linkages among the economic, social, institutional and environmental elements of sustainable development; (g) development of highly aggregated indicators; and (h) further development of the conceptual framework for sustainable development indicators, involving experts from the areas of economics, the social sciences and the physical sciences and policy-makers, as well as incorporating non-governmental organization and indigenous views. The Commission requests the Secretariat to provide it with a progress report on the implementation of the programme of work at its fourth session, in 1996.
12. The Commission took note of the Report of the Statistical Commission on its twenty-eighth session, 3/ and expresses its appreciation to the Statistical Commission for its offer to collaborate with and support the Commission in its work on indicators for sustainable development. In this context, the Commission also welcomes the action taken by the Statistical Commission with respect to the international compilation of environmental indicators from national statistical services and looks forward to the contribution of this work to the overall programme of work on indicators of sustainable development. The Department for Policy Coordination and Sustainable Development of the United Nations Secretariat should promote and assist these efforts.
3/ Official Records of the Economic and Social Council, 1995, Supplement No. 8 (E/1995/28).
NATIONS ENVIRONMENT PROGRAMME
The Governing Council,
Recalling General Assembly resolution 48/192 of 21 December 1993,
Taking note of the decision of the Commission on Sustainable Development on this issue,
Having considered the report of the Executive Director on Earthwatch, environmental monitoring and assessment1 , the report of the Secretary-General on chapter 40 of Agenda 21: information for decision-making and Earthwatch2, based on material assembled in partnership by the Department for Policy Coordination and Sustainable Development and the United Nations Environment Programme as task managers for chapter 40 and for Earthwatch, respectively, and the report of the Administrative Committee on Coordination to the Governing Council on the United Nations system-wide Earthwatch3,
1. Takes note of the report of the Executive Director on Earthwatch, environmental monitoring and assessment, and the associated information documents;
2. Urges all partner agencies and programmes to cooperate in implementing the system-wide Earthwatch;
3. Endorses the recommendations of the Administrative Committee on Coordination in its report to the Governing Council regarding the development of approaches to the linking of socio-economic and environmental assessment and reporting by the United Nations Environment Programme and the system-wide Earthwatch;
4. Endorses the refocused strategy of the Programme to undertake, at the request of Governments or their representative bodies, policy-relevant assessment and reporting of environment and development issues of international significance through cooperating networks of appropriate national and regional agencies, organizations or institutions, and to promote the development of data and information management capacity in those bodies situated in developing countries as necessary and appropriate to ensure their full participation;
5. Requests the Executive Director to continue providing assistance, within available resources, to developing countries to build capacity to enable them to use and benefit from the data and information acquired through the Earthwatch programme;
6. Authorizes the Executive Director to transmit her report and the present decision, through the Economic and Social Council, to the General Assembly at its fiftieth session.
The Governing Council,
Recalling its decision 17/11 of 21 May 1993,
Having considered the report of the Administrative Committee on Coordination to the Governing Council at its eighteenth session 4, and the report of the Executive Director on Earthwatch, environmental monitoring and assessment5,
1. Expresses its appreciation to the Committee for its recommendations as an input into the Council's deliberations on the question of system-wide Earthwatch;
2. Requests the Administrative Committee on Coordination to continue to report to the Council at its regular sessions.
The Governing Council,
Recalling General Assembly resolution 2997 (XXVII) of 15 December 1972, by which the Assembly, inter alia, conferred the following functions upon the United Nations Environment Programme: to keep under review the world environmental situation; to coordinate, review and assess environmental programmes within the United Nations system; and to finance, wholly or partly, the costs of new environmental initiatives undertaken within the United Nations system,
Recalling also its decision 17/6 of 21 May 1993 on state-of-the-environment reports,
Further recalling the reconfirmation of the Programme's mandate by the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development,
Noting the call of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development for even greater efforts to coordinate environment and development activities in the United Nations system,
Noting with appreciation previous reports of the Executive Director on the state of the environment,
Stressing the overall objective of the integration of environment and development issues and actions, at the national, regional and international levels, including within the United Nations system,
Deeply concerned that consensus cannot be reached on several essential issues in the field of environment and development within the United Nations system, which delays implementation of the principles and recommendations of Agenda 21,6
1. Requests the Executive Director to prepare a new, comprehensive report on the state of the world environment, which will consist of the following three parts:
(a) The present state of the global environment;
(b) The state of the global environment in the year 2015;
(c) The response: findings, conclusions and recommendations;
2. Recommends the inclusion in parts (a) and (b) of the report all essential problems of and threats to the environment, inter alia , the environmental status of the main components of the global ecosystem (waters, forests, soils and farming lands, ozone layer, etc.), basic trends in environmental change (for example, climate change, coastal and marine degradation, desertification, deforestation and habitat loss, pollution, soil degradation, ozone depletion, etc.); and the global effects of expected development growth, population increase and main trends in consumption, production and urbanization patterns (for example, energy consumption, transportation and sanitation problems, waste disposal, land reclamation and destruction, etc.);
3. Also recommends the inclusion in part (b) of the report of the expected impact of population increase, consumption and production patterns and economic development on the environment;
4. Further recommends the inclusion in part (c) of the report recommended measures and actions that could effectively reverse unwelcome trends and challenge principal threats to the environment and also specific institutional and legal measures for the implementation of proposed actions;
5. Requests that preparation of the report, which shall be undertaken within existing resources, be based primarily on the existing data collected and prepared by the United Nations Environment Programme, in close cooperation with the United Nations Development Programme, the World Health Organization, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the World Bank and other United Nations agencies and bodies, and on the results of research and studies by public and private scientific and statistical institutions engaged in formulation of environmental and development assessments and forecasts;
6. Also requests the Executive Director to consult periodically with the Committee of Permanent Representatives on the preparation of the report;
7. Further requests the Executive Director to submit a first report for the consideration of the Governing Council at its nineteenth session.