Measuring Sustainable Development with Geospatial Information

22 August 2012

Measuring Sustainable Development with Geospatial Information

22 August 2012
Press Release
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Measuring Sustainable Development with Geospatial Information


NEW YORK, 15 August (United Nations Statistics Division) — At the second session of the United Nations Committee of Experts on Global Geospatial Information Management (UNCE-GGIM), held at United Nations Headquarters from 13 to 15 August, more than 200 delegates met to discuss future trends in geospatial information management and management strategies.

Mapping tools have become an important part of everyday life.  A compass has been replaced by a smartphone, a hard-copy map with rich digital information on a location and its surroundings.  Apart from simplifying life, these new tools also serve a broader purpose — to increase understanding of the surrounding landscape, to monitor how the environment is changing and to help people make well-informed decisions.

In recognition of the important role of geospatial information, the newly formed United Nations Committee of Experts on Global Geospatial Information Management met for its second session; the first session was organized in Seoul, Republic of Korea, last year.  The second session was attended by leading experts from Member States across all regions of the globe, with delegates drawn from the fields of surveying, geodesy, geography, cartography, mapping, remote sensing, hydrography, meteorology and environmental protection.

The three-day expert group meeting covered a variety of major issues, which impacts nations, communities and people across the globe.  The Committee discussed the major trends and challenges that will need to be addressed in the coming years, in order to ensure that the benefits of having accurate, maintained and reliable geospatial data — information about the geography of the environment and surroundings — are realized in all nations.  Several resolutions were adopted, including on the provision of high-quality and reliable geospatial information to deliver sustainable social and economic development, and on the development of a global knowledge base for geospatial information.

Wu Hongbo, Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations Department for Economic and Social Affairs, said, “The recent Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development recognized that geospatial information is crucial for both sustainable development and humanitarian assistance.  It provides a clear mandate for the future work of the UN Committee of Experts on GGIM.  This high-level consensus provides critical momentum.  It also reflects the United Nations Economic and Social Council’s vision that building effective geospatial infrastructures and promoting greater use of geospatial information are part of a new frontier in harnessing science and technology for advancing sustainable development.”

During the meeting between the Co-Chairs and Ameerah Haq, Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations Department of Field Support, Ms. Haq emphasized the fundamental importance of geospatial information in support of nation-building, particularly in post-conflict areas.  She cited examples such as Afghanistan, Timor-Leste and Sudan based on her field experience.  Furthermore, she pointed out the fundamental importance of geospatial information in the context of land and resource management.

Dr. Vanessa Lawrence CB, Co-Chair of the UNCE-GGIM and Director General and Chief Executive of Ordnance Survey, added:  “It is especially pleasing to see the recognition of accurate, maintained geospatial information across many areas of the globe, with many countries and states using location information to support their economies, aid development and underpin fundamental decision-making.”

Location information is playing an important role in sustainable development, with accurate geospatial information already assisting better decision-making in water management, food supply, agricultural planning and sustainable energy.  It is essential that countries worldwide establish and implement accurate, reliable and up-to-date geospatial information as part of achieving success under the outcomes of Rio+20.

The UNCE-GGIM is raising the awareness and benefits of geospatial information, as well as promoting best practice on geospatial management.  However, before the world sees the full potential of geospatial information, there is a need to support all States across the globe to ensure that part of the basic infrastructure of each nation is accurate, reliable and maintained geospatial information.

The term “geospatial information” describes data on a specific place.  Today, geospatial information is used by Governments, organizations and individuals around the world to enable effective decision-making, support analysis to understand complex situations, drive efficiencies and underpin economic growth.  The global recognition of the power of accurate, maintained geospatial information has resulted in the desire of world leaders to use this data to tackle global issues, including sustainability.

Ten years ago, many key technologies, such as social networking, cloud computing, and smartphones did not exist.  The UNCE-GGIM was established to be the official United Nations consultative mechanism on place, locality and geography.  It plays a leading role in setting the agenda for the development of global geospatial information, while promoting its use to meet key global challenges.  The UNCE-GGIM is in a unique position to act as a coordinating point to ensure that all Member States and all citizens benefit from the value of geospatial information.

Further information on the United Nations Committee of Experts on Global Geospatial Information Management can be found on its website:

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.