Sustainable development through geospatial information

UNOG Open DayStatisticians, technicians, ministers, geospatial information management authorities, development experts and other stakeholders showcased the vital role of the collection of geographic information for the realization of a sustainable, inclusive world for all, at the Fifth Session of the United Nations Committee of Experts on Global Geospatial Information Management (UN-GGIM), which took place from 3-7 August at the United Nations Headquarters in New York.

“The monitoring of the Millennium Development Goals over the past 15 years taught us that data are an indispensable element of the development agenda.” Mr. Wu Hongbo, Under-Secretary General for Economic and Social Affairs said during the meetings, emphasizing the importance of geospatial information in the opening of this year’s session. “Knowing where people and things are, and their relationship to each other, is essential for informed decision-making, and to measure and monitor the outcome.”

Throughout the conference, delegates focused on the finance, governance, common principles, policies, methods, mechanisms and standards behind the collection of geospatial information.

The committee of experts further aimed to finalize the guidelines to assist Member States in implementing and adopting international geospatial standards and best practices. They addressed geospatial issues that are closely related to sustainable development and the post-2015 agenda.

Peacekeeping - MINURSOGeospatial information is a crucial part of the foundation for development work, as it provides us with important information about where social, environmental and economic conditions occur. It shows development experts detailed information about everything from droughts to rising sea levels, from growing population numbers to declining agricultural yields, and from urbanization patterns to immunization trends.

“While the challenges before us are numerous, so are the opportunities to make a real difference to global development,” Wu said. “This committee of experts, and geospatial information, has a valuable role to play.”

The global importance of geographic information gathering was universally recognized earlier this year, when the first Geospatial resolution was adopted by the General Assembly.

This year’s session saw more than 290 participants come together in New York, showing a growing awareness for the need of geospatial information, as well as a wider reach of the UN initiative on Global Geospatial Information Management (UN-GGIM).

UN-GGIM aims at playing a leading role in setting the agenda for the collecting and processing of global geospatial information and promoting its use to address key global challenges. It consists of experts designated by member states, with specific knowledge drawn from the interrelated fields of surveying, geography, cartography and mapping, remote sensing, land/sea and geographic information systems and environmental protection. It also comprises observers, who are experts from international organizations. The committee has been up and running for five years, with conference sessions taking place each year.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Mrs. Ban arrive in Madrid.In the previous session, which took place in August 2014, the Committee reached the consensus that the understanding of geographic and geospatial information in sustainable development, particularly at the policy and decision-making levels, needed to be enhanced. Since then, a multitude of accomplishments have been made, among which the formulation of the first geospatial resolution adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in February this year. “This landmark resolution recognizes the global importance of location and positioning for many areas of development.” Wu said in his opening statement at this year’s session.

This year, the committee moved towards the formulation of more operable solutions to the problems to realize sustainable development; a more hands-on approach to preparing the international community to adopt and successfully implement  the Sustainable Development agenda in September this year.


Read more: United Nations initiative on Global Geospatial Information Management (UN-GGIM)