The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) is the designated authority of the UN system in environmental issues, at the global and regional level. Its mandate is to coordinate the development of environmental policy consensus by keeping the global environment under review and bringing emerging issues to the attention of governments and the international community for action. The link between poverty and the environment is a basic theme in current UNEP work.
UNEP’s main responsibilities are to review the status of the global environment and gather and disseminate environmental information. It provides the world community with improved access to meaningful environmental data and information, and builds the capacity of governments to use environmental information for decision-making and action planning for sustainable human development.
Six priority areas define UNEP’s focus on the environmental challenges of the 21st century:
- Climate change
- Disasters and conflicts
- Ecosystem management
- Environmental Governance
- Harmful substances
- Resource efficiency
UNEP’s role is one of coordination and advocacy and does not actively and directly supported statistical capacity building as such. However, keeping the global environment under review requires the availability of a wide range of data and indicators at all levels – from global to local. Apart from working with various collaborating centres on specific environmental data e.g. with UNEP-WCMC on biodiversity and UNEP GEMS-Water on freshwater quality, UNEP supports and takes actively part in various initiatives and mechanisms, including the One UN Data effort, the Committee for Coordination of Statistical Activities (CCSA), the Inter-secretariat Working Group on Environment Statistics, the MDG Indicators Inter-agency Expert Group (IAEG), the Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS) and others. UNEP has also teamed up with the UN Statistical Division to help improve the biannual Environmental Questionnaire which focuses on developing countries and is coordinated with the Joint Questionnaire of OECD and Eurostat.
These efforts have resulted in the development of a core database on the global environment for use in UNEP’s assessment and reporting activities, called the GEO Data Portal (http://geodata.unep.grid.ch) and targeting UNEP’s Global Environment Outlook process. Various regional Data Portals are currently under development, building capacity at the regional levels and integrating more detailed and specific data for use in regional, national and even city-level assessment work.
The Bali Strategic Plan for Technology Support and Capacity Building calls upon UNEP to strengthen national capacities in data collection, research and analysis in the monitoring of environmental issues and capacity building activities in this area are beginning to evolve. Among others, UNEP supports UNSD together with (sub)regional UN or other international bodies with various workshops on data collection in parts of Africa and elsewhere. Various pilot initiatives have been taken to help improve data collection and the use of environmental data and indicators, such as through the Africa Environment Information Network which is assisting 13 African countries to gather relevant data and prepare environment reports.
Received October 2010