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UN-GGIM reflects on major achievements in Seventh Session

The UN-GGIM Seventh Session took place from July 31 to August 4 in New York.

In its quest to boost the efficiency of the Working Group, the UN-GGIM committee agreed on developing an easy-to-understand guide that facilitates the use of the principles and instruments for those users who are not familiar with geospatial information management concepts.

The Seventh Session of the UN Committee of Experts on Global Geospatial Information Management (UN-GGIM) was successfully concluded on August 4, 2017, in New York. The formal committee session was opened by the Under Secretary General of DESA, Liu Zhenmin, who welcomed almost 400 delegates from about 90 countries and international organizations active in the field of geospatial information management. The committee focussed on 17 crucial agendas, including: the contribution of regional committees and UN-GGIM networks to the global geospatial information agenda; strengthening geospatial information management; a global geodetic reference frame; land administration and management; national institutional arrangements; global fundamental geospatial data themes; geospatial information and services for disasters; national geospatial data and information systems; marine geospatial information; legal and policy frameworks, and implementing the 2030 Agenda through geospatial information and its integration
with statistics.
Some of the major decisions taken in the session are:

Global geodetic reference frame

The committee emphasised on the formal establishment and composition of a subcommittee on Geodesy and agreed with the proposed Terms of Reference and transition plan. It also encouraged further membership from developing countries with the assistance of the regional committees. On the same lines, the panel supported the planned activities of the subcommittee, including: the development of the roadmap implementation plan; the development of the position paper describing the appropriate governance arrangements; building the GGRF web of communication experts; and developing a five-year strategic plan.

Determination of global fundamental geospatial data themes

The committee adopted the proposed minimum list of Global Fundamental Geospatial Data Themes, subject to minor suggested amendments. It supported the offer of UN-GGIM: Europe, including domain experts, to continue the work to develop more details for each theme, and to work with the Secretariat and other groups to draw up plans for promoting and socialising the proposed minimum list with the wider community, including the non-geospatial community.

National geospatial data and information systems

The committee welcomed the numerous offers of cooperatioon and support by Member States as collaboration is much required to develop an overarching geospatial framework that goes beyond just technical matters. Countries should be able to refer to the efforts made by others when implementing integrated, evidence-based decision-making solutions that maximize and leverage national systems tailored to their own situations.

The committee also reinforced the need to leverage and build upon the ongoing activities of the Committee and Member States, including guides, standards and frameworks, and the sharing of good practices and experiences in the development of the country level action plans and roadmaps to operationalize and ensure the sustainability of the geospatial framework.

Trends in national institutional arrangements in global geospatial information management

The committee in its quest to boost the efficiency of the Working Group agreed on developing an easy-to-understand guide that facilitates the use of the principles and instruments for those users who are not familiar with geospatial information management concepts. The panel also noted the suggestions to consider linking together the independent efforts and documents of the activities of the committee’s Expert and Working Groups – in particular the global geodetic reference frame, fundamental data themes, geospatial standards, legal and policy frameworks, shared principles, and national institutional arrangements – so that they provide a coherent overview of fundamental geospatial information development.

Legal and policy frameworks, including issues related to authoritative data

The committee endorsed the establishment of the Working Group on Legal and Policy Frameworks for geospatial information management, its Terms of Reference and initial composition as proposed, and encouraged the participation and contribution of Member States to the Working Group, noting the need for appropriate expertise and diversity.
It also requested the Working Group to develop mechanisms for Member States to build capacity to address the legal and policy matters that have an impact on the collection, dissemination and application of geospatial information, and in this regard, appreciated the development and preparation of the Compendium on the Licensing of Geospatial Information, and that the Compendium has had wide reviews and consultation.

Integration of geospatial, statistical and other related information

Importance was given on the Statistical Commission’s objective to strengthen the mandate of the Expert Group to become the overall coordination group for all activities in the area of the integration of statistical and geospatial information and for regional statistical bodies to develop and strengthen partnerships with the regional committees.
The committee supported the proposal that the Expert Group should actively contribute to the work of the 2020 Population and Housing Census to promote the integration of statistical and geospatial information and the implementation of the Global Statistical Geospatial Framework, and to build and strengthen knowledge management and capacity in developing countries, especially the small island developing States.

Geospatial information for sustainable development

The committee welcomed the alignment of GGIM’s Strategic Framework with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and discussed ways to support the alignment.
In opening remarks to the Seventh Session of GGIM, Liu Zhenmin, UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, observed that the committee’s agenda includes items that are “closely aligned” to the needs of the 2030 Agenda and the 17 SDGs. He noted that the broad and integrated nature of the 2030 Agenda requires innovative ways of tackling development challenges, and highlighted that the ways in which countries collect, process, and manage data need to undergo a similar revolution, to ensure the monitoring and evidence-based decision making for the SDGs.
The committee, acknowledging that the global geospatial information environment is one that is dynamic, innovative and with new technologies, methods and processes emerging, agreed that data availability and quality remains one of the biggest challenges for Member States, and when available, must also be accessible, consistent and sustainable for the production of indicators to inform on the agreed goals and targets, in accordance with national priorities and needs.

Geospatial information and services for disasters

The Working Group on Geospatial Information and Services for Disasters (WG-GISD) has published a “Strategic Framework on Geospatial Information and Services for Disaster” to guide all stakeholders and partners in the management of geospatial information and services in all phases of disaster risk management.
The committee agrees that the framework will ensure the availability and accessibility of quality geospatial information and services across all phases of the emergency cycle, and as a means to reach out and engage with decision-makers, and endorsed the consideration for drafting a resolution, presenting the Strategic Framework, for adoption by the Economic and Social Council.

Marine geospatial information

The committee gave a thumbs up to the Terms of Reference and establishment of the Working Group on Marine Geospatial Information, and welcomed the participation and contribution of Member States to the Working Group, noting the need for appropriate technical expertise, and good geographic representation. It also noted that, given the complexity and broad scope of marine geospatial information, it is critical to ensure that the Working Group engages with the appropriate subject matter experts to ensure that the Working Group remains focussed, within scope, not political in nature, and connected to the activities of other UN-GGIM Working Groups where and as appropriate.
Overall, one year on from the adoption of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) resolution, at the Seventh Session of UN-GGIM, the delegates expressed great satisfaction with the efforts of Member States in taking strategic actions to implement the resolution and strengthen geospatial information management. The committee foresees more worthwhile efforts from the Member States to have a stronger geospatial information management framework in place in near future.