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South-South network of Global Environment Outlook collaborating centres for integrated environmental assessment and reporting

Background:

The lack of appropriate resources and know-how related to environmental assessment leads to sub-optimal decision-making based on incomplete or inconsistent information about the state of the environmental resources and the impact of environmental policy on development. Conversely, if resources and know-how are made available, environmental assessment gaps and information quality can be improved, leading to more optimal decision-making and improved management of environmental resources.

In 1995, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) launched a cross-sectoral, participatory and consultative approach to environmental assessment called the Global Environment Outlook (GEO) process, which involves a wide range of partner institutions, including about 40 GEO collaborating centres. The outputs generated to date include three issues of the GEO report series, with the fourth due in 2007; GEO annual statements and regional and subregional assessment reports, such as those on Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean and the Caucasus; and a version of GEO for youth. In addition, the UNEP Division of Early Warning and Assessment is involved in other global environmental assessment activities, such as the Global International Waters Assessment and the Global Marine Assessment, for which UNEP provides leadership and coordination, and the Land Degradation Assessment in Drylands and the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, in which UNEP is a key partner.

The UNEP Division of Early Warning and Assessment has been supporting global environmental information exchange networks such as UNEP-Infoterra (established in 1977), which operates through a system of Government-designated national focal points, and UNEP.net (launched in 2001), which involves partner institutions and individual national focal points. Both networks provide a wide range of environmental information, products and services. The main lesson learned from those networks is that for a high quality assessment (a) full-scale participation of the collaborators is needed, not only in providing data and information but also in content development and reviewing and revising materials, (b) collaborating institutions themselves must be nodes of regional multisector networks rather than solitary expert bodies and (c) a mechanism should be available for collaborating institutions to benefit from each other’s experiences and methodological resources.

The proposed project takes into account the lessons learned from UNEP environmental information networks and the experience gained from various GEO capacity-building activities. The project focuses on strengthening South-South cooperation among recognized developing-country institutions.

The project will establish a network and provide opportunities for identifying, analysing and documenting expertise and innovative practices; exchanging ideas and experiences relating to the environment and integrated environmental assessments; discussing conditions required for application; and reviewing and seeking solutions.

The project will be implemented in four regions: Africa, Asia and the Pacific, Latin America and the Caribbean and Western Asia.

Objective:

To improve environment-related policy formulation and informed decision-making processes at the regional and subregional levels, through enhanced South-South cooperation on the effective application of integrated environmental assessments.

Expected accomplishments:

  • Increased exchange of lessons learned and good practices among GEO collaborating centres and those involved (or to be involved) in integrated environmental assessment (IEA) at the interregional and intraregional levels
  • Enhanced capacity of GEO collaborating centres to undertake IEA and reporting at the regional and subregional levels
  • Improved regional and national capacity to support environmental policy formulation and informed decision-making processes

Implementation status:

The major impact of the project has been a more coherent focus on the UNEP Global Environment Outlook/Integrated Environment Assessment (GEO/IEA) methodology and capacity building, resulting in improved recognition and application by governments and stakeholders in Africa, Asia and the Pacific, Latin America and the Caribbean and West Asia. The development of a customized City IEA methodology is an important additional tool which allows UNEP to respond to increasing demand from city administrations.

The GEO Collaborating Centres (GEO CCs) have played a key role in achieving this impact through south-south cooperation including capacity building, customizing and delivering the methodology, experience sharing as well as in disseminating the case studies. The organization of the regional events helped significantly in strengthening the CC network and exchange of information and experience, especially about the IEA process, and interaction between the GEO CCs and governments in the region, which has helped strengthen the CCs capacity as well. The project has also strengthened the IEA network and established a link between national IEAs, regional and global process.