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Eye on Earth set to overcome sustainable development data challenges
October 6, 2015, 5:04 pm
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The second Eye on Earth Summit opened in Abu Dhabi today, with leaders of the Summit Alliance partner organisations highlighting the critical role the movement is playing in promoting dialogue and driving international action to help overcome the challenges associated with data to support informed decision-making for sustainable development.

Representing the Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi (EAD), Abu Dhabi Global Environmental Data Initiative (AGEDI), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and new partners Group on Earth Observations (GEO), the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and World Resources Institute (WRI), these global thought leaders stressed the urgency of the need to foster a culture of collaboration and find global solutions to make environmental, social and economic data more available and accessible to achieve the global sustainable agenda.

“Global agreement this year on major intergovernmental commitments on sustainable development has brought into sharp focus the need for transparent, timely and accurate data and information on the state of the world’s resources. These global agreements are creating a tipping point for the role of data in sustainable development and Eye on Earth will help to accelerate this transition,” stated HE Razan Khalifa Al Mubarak, Secretary General, EAD.

In September, the 17 new Sustainable Development Goals were unanimously adopted by 193 UN Member States.  In March, the UN also adopted the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, and in December the 2015 Paris Climate Conference (COP21) will, for the first time in over 20 years of UN negotiations, aim to achieve a legally binding and universal agreement on climate change.

UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner said, “If good data drives better decisions, open data drives better collaboration. We will need both to meet the challenges of a sustainable future for our planet and its peoples. When information and knowledge are made accessible to everyone across the social spectrum, informed choices and decisions can be made at all levels that support the goals of sustainable development.”

The Eye on Earth Alliance expects the 2015 Summit to drive further international action to revolutionise the way we collect, access, share and use data and information for sustainable development. Themed “Informed Decision-Making for Sustainable Development”, delegates will aim to identify how governments, technology, the scientific community and citizen participation can enhance access to quality data and information.

“By harnessing the data revolution for sustainable development, we have an opportunity to create a real turning point in our modern environmental history. This Summit, and the wider efforts of the Eye on Earth Initiative, will help us to pool our collective intelligence and resources to protect the future of the planet and humanity,” said Inger Andersen, Director General, IUCN.

“The global reach and contributions of the major organisations that currently represent the Eye on Earth Summit Alliance will bring significant momentum to the Eye on Earth movement as we work together in engaging many more actors in decisions that affect the health of the planet and all of its inhabitants,” said Barbara Ryan, Secretariat Director of GEO.

Since its founding in 2011, Eye on Earth has seen its reach and impact grow. The eight Special Initiatives created to deliver the Eye on Earth mission have brought together more than 500 scientists, government officials, academics, NGOs and ordinary citizens through projects focused on data, data analytics and decision support systems to improve decision-making for sustainable development. Members of the Special Initiatives have identified an additional 120 projects to help close the data gap that currently hampers decision- and policy-making for sustainable development. These project proposals, some of which require funding, are being presented during Eye on Earth Summit 2015. They have also been made available to nations, funding organisations and interested philanthropists.

During the three-day Eye on Earth Summit delegates, will aim to reach consensus on several outcomes, including the formation of new partnerships, guidelines for the implementation of data governance frameworks and the promotion of new environmental data policies in countries where this is most needed.

“Good decisions start with good data, but decision makers often lack the tools to gather, understand and make use of the growing quantities of information now available to them,” said Janet Ranganathan, Vice President for Science and Research at the World Resources Institute. “The Eye on Earth Summit aims to spark innovations in the way people collect, use, and share data to tackle the world’s biggest challenges. Through Eye on Earth, we can help bridge the gap between governments, businesses, citizens and the data they need to make better decisions.”

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