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Eye on Earth Summit 2015 and achieving the SDGs

14 October 2015 06:30 pm - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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The Eye on Earth Summit (www.eoesummit.org) is the convergence of a series of initiatives by several organisations over the past few years that collectively address the global challenge of increasing access to information to support sustainable development. The Eye on Summit 2015 is committed to helping the global community to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 2030. The Eye on Earth Governance/Alliance is represented by the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi (EAD) through the 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). The 3rd Eye on the Earth Summit took place in Abu Dhabi from 6th to 8th October 2015. 

The Summit brought together a unique blend of leaders that included governmental policy-makers, scientists, researchers, technology developers, advocacy groups and NGOs, and representatives of international organisations, all of whom were focused on a common agenda – to address a wide array of issues underpinning the Summit’s theme: informed decision-making for Sustainable Development (SD) in recognition of the importance the outcome of the Rio+20 UN Conference on SD and the subsequent process to agree a set of SDGs leading up to the UN SD Summit 25-27 September 2015, New York. 

The structure of the three day summit was as follows; Day one – Data demand; Day two – Data supply and Day three – Enabling conditions. The Summit programme was comprised of 5 plenary sessions, 26 breakout sessions and 19 side events. The lead organizations for the Special Initiatives on Foundational, Global Networks of Network -AGEDI & GEO; Environmental Education - UNEP; Access for All – WRI & UNEP; on Thematic, Biodiversity - AGEDI & IUCN; Disaster Management –UNEP; Community Sustainability and Resiliency –UNEP; Oceans and Blue Carbon – AGEDI & UNEP and Water Security – UNEP & UN-Water. 

Razan Khalifa Al Mubarak of EAD called on Summit delegates and the wider global community to support the efforts of Eye on Earth to improve the availability of, and access to data and information for SD. “It is no longer possible for one entity, agency, government or region to work independently. No one member can carry the burden alone. We must share the responsibility and collectively strengthen our resolve as the task ahead is too large and too important. We need to commit to a shared future where environmental and societal data can improve decisions that lead to a more sustainable planet,” said Al Mubarak. 

The UN Under-Secretary-General, and Executive Director UN Environment Programme Achim Steiner mentioned that that the environment was no longer viewed as an add-on, but part of the DNA of the SDGs, which themselves represent the first time all nations have come together to work in the same direction. He highlighted “big data” as crucial in developing systemic approaches for global responses to problems with local impacts, noting that schemes connecting the world of data with practical solutions will guide progress in the future. At the Summit, the UNEP launched the ‘Implementation Guide for the UNEP Bali Guidelines for the Development of National Legislation on Access to Information, Public Participation and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters.’

Inger Andersen Director General of the IUCN mentioned at the Summit that, “the UN has just agreed on the bold 2030 Agenda for SD. In Paris this December the world’s governments must reach agreement on how to tackle climate change. We have reached the halfway mark for the 2011–2020 Strategic Plan for Biodiversity and its 20 Aichi Targets. And next year’s IUCN World Conservation Congress will be a crucial milestone in turning these agreements into action”. 
The overall summit outcomes were; The Summit noted the importance of the outcome of UN SD Summit and the adoption of the report transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for SD. The Eye on Earth Summit 2015 also acknowledged the need to report in a systematic way on the SDGs; A comprehensive action-orientated package detailing a number of mechanisms, recommendations and practical actions embracing environmental and associated socio-economic data demand, data supply and the enabling conditions needed to support informed decision-making and the 2030 SD agenda; Citizen Science was a major focus area at the Summit agenda. It emphasized that reporting against SDGs must include citizen science data, Global coalition of citizen science groups will be established and Eye on Earth Alliance offering citizens science groups a convening space in Summit and other events; The Eye on Earth Alliance partners also agreed to formalise a governance framework and institutional arrangements by the end of 2015. The five existing Alliance members – AGEDI, GEO, IUCN, UNEP and WRI – announced plans to enlarge the Alliance strategically to support regional and thematic interests. By the close of the Summit, six expressions of interest were received from major organisations around the world to join the Alliance and the Summit was an excellent networking opportunity to foster collaboration among an eclectic mix of stakeholders. 

The Summit produced a set of action-oriented statements embracing various policy, institutional, programmatic, and technical level interventions needed to support informed decision-making for SD perspectives. Another notable outcome was a call from several participating organizations to establish Special Interest Groups (SIGs) on priority issues and problems where data delivery, information access and knowledge sharing needs to be enhanced to support the 2030 SD agenda. The entities are united in their efforts to commit resources and facilitate connections to help close the data gap that currently hampers decision- and policy-making for SD. Together, the Eye on Earth Alliance partners will engage with more government agencies, UN organisations, NGOs, the private sector, academia and civil society from across the globe to help advance the mission of Eye on Earth. 
Vidya Abhayagunawardena can be reached at vidyampa@hotmail.com
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