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Eye on Earth : Summary of Outcomes

// 11 Oct 2015

Executive Summary of the Outcomes of the 2015 Eye on Earth Summit

6-8 October 2015, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
A call for practical actions to support informed decision-making and the 2030 sustainable development agenda
  1. The purpose of this Executive Summary is to present a concise overview of the 2015 Eye on Earth Summit, its main outcomes and future implementation arrangements with respect to the Summit outcomes under a new governance structure that will be established to oversee Eye on Earth operations from 1 January 2016 onwards.
    A. Introduction
  2. The second Eye on Earth Summit was convened on 6-8 October 2015 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (UAE), under the gracious patronage of the President of the United Arab Emirates, His Highness Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan and organised by the Eye on Earth Alliance with generous sponsorship from the Government of Abu Dhabi. HH Sheikh Nahyan Bin Zayed Al Nahyan attended the official opening of the Summit.
  3. The Summit brought together a unique blend of thought leaders that included governmental policy-makers, scientists, researchers, technology developers, advocacy groups and non governmental organisations, and representatives of international organisations, all of whom were focussed on a common agenda – to address a wide array of issues underpinning the Summit’s theme: informed decision-making for sustainable development in recognition of the importance the outcome of the Rio+20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development and the subsequent process to agree a set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) leading up to the UN Sustainable Development Summit (25-27 September 2015, New York).
  4. The Summit was attended by approximately 740 participants from over 62 countries, The audience included representatives of governments, scientific and research centres, universities, technology companies, donors, regional and international organisations, UN major groups and stakeholder and UN agencies, funds and programmes. The importance of engaging youth groups, particularly young scientists, in environmental issues was promoted through the organisation of a number of competitions focussed on data generation and visualisation and the winners received awards.
  5. The structure of the programme across the 3 days of the Summit was as follows:
    Day 1: Data Demand
    Day 2: Data Supply
    Day 3: Enabling Conditions
  6. The Summit programme was comprised of 6 plenary sessions, 26 breakout sessions and 19 side events. In the margins of the Summit a Souq (marketplace) was organized to showcase the eight Special Initiatives endorsed at the 2011 Eye on Earth Summit; provide a forum for showcasing project proposals to interested donors and partners; and to facilitate a series of lightning talks to highlight various issues relevant to the Eye on Earth community. A number of keynote speakers, including H.E. Razan Khalifa Al Mubarak, Secretary General of the Environment Agency-Abu Dhabi and UNEP Executive Director, Achim Steiner, addressed important aspects of Summit theme. The breakout sessions were aimed at identifying transformative actions to implement the Eye on Earth mission statement in line with the Summit theme.
    B. Overall Summit Outcome
  7. The Summit noted the importance of the outcome of UN Sustainable Development Summit and the adoption of the report Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The Eye on Earth Summit 2015 also acknowledged the need to report in a systematic way on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The Summit generated renewed interest in addressing the enormous challenge of identifying and delivering the environmental and associated socio-economic data needed to track the SDGs on a global scale, and sharing knowledge among stakeholders engaged in the implementation of Agenda 2030. The Summit’s plenary and breakout sessions generated a lively debate on data demand, data supply and the enabling conditions in response to the Summit’s theme.
  8. The main outcome of the Summit was a comprehensive action-orientated package detailing a number of mechanisms, recommendations and practical actions (which are outlined in Section C) embracing environmental and associated socio-economic data demand, data supply and the enabling conditions needed to support informed decision-making and the 2030 sustainable development agenda.
  9. Data and information challenges and opportunities for the SDGs was a common thread in most of the deliberations throughout the Summit, and the general consensus that emerged was that:
    – Country reporting against the SDGs requires diverse data that is timely, relevant and reliable.
    – The disparate nature of the data provider landscape will require close collaboration and engagement of a wide array of governmental and non-governmental stakeholders, including the private sector, to support the SDG reporting process.
    – Capacity building and technology support must be intensified with strong donor support in order to assist developing countries in meeting their reporting obligations.
    – Mechanisms to support people in greatly scaling up field data collection will be essential.
    – Innovative products and services, and innovative approaches will be need to track the SDGs.
    – The Eye on Earth Network has a key role to play in facilitating institutional networking and collaboration for tracking progress towards achieving the SDGs.
    – Data mobilisation has a substantial cost, and this must be projected to maximise efficiency and ensure appropriate budgeting for long-term monitoring.
  10. The Summit highlighted the role of citizen science groups in supporting governments to fill data gaps, particularly across the environmental and social dimensions of sustainable development. Citizen Science was a major focus area within the Summit agenda and there was general consensus that reporting against SDGs must include citizen science data. To this end, a global coalition of citizen science groups will be established by the relevant actors and the Eye on Earth Alliance will continue to engage citizen science groups so that new data can be generated in areas where gaps are evident. The importance of citizen engagement in decision-making processes was also highlighted.
  11. 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.
  12. The Summit was an excellent networking opportunity to foster collaboration among an eclectic mix of stakeholders. Diversity and informality are two major strengths of the Eye on Earth Network and participants welcomed the engaging nature of the second Summit in line with the Eye on Earth brand mantra of – convene, converge, collaborate. The Summit is establishing its own global niche as the “Davos for Data” by building networks and capacity across diverse knowledge communities to improve decision-making for sustainable development.
    C. Action-oriented package of proposed interventions
  13. 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 sustainable development perspectives). The priority areas addressed by these statements included:
    – Data needs of policy-makers
    – Capacity building for reporting against the SDGs
    – Harnessing the Data Revolution
    – The role of technology support
    – Mechanisms for inter-regional networking and knowledge sharing
    – The data needs of the Arab Region
    – Data issues of Small Island Developing States (SIDS)
    – Data issues relevant to polar and cold regions
    – Building knowledge for healthy lives
    – An action plan to implement Principle 10 of the 1992 Rio Declaration. Collectively, the institutions engaged in crafting these statements will drive forward specific actions under the evolving Eye on Earth Network and programme of work.
  14. Another notable outcome was a call from 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 sustainable development agenda. Narrow in scope, these SIGs aim to bring together communities of experts to find solutions to very specific data issues. More than 30 proposals were received during the Summit and they cover a wide range of issues from both a thematic and geographic perspective where products and services need to be designed and developed; networking needs to be enhanced; and capacities need to be strengthened.
  15. The following is a list of the SIGs proposed during the Summit:
    – Technical infrastructure development to support the Global Network of Networks (GNON)
    – Institutional support for implementing GNON
    – Filling data gaps in polar and cold regions
    – Integrating data across polar and cold regions
    – Infographics and visualisation tools for awareness raising on polar and cold region issues
    – Visualising financial data to monitor the implementation of the SDGs.
    – Country sustainability dashboard for the SDGs
    – Data support for integrated environmental assessment in the Arab region
    – Peace and security in the Arab region
    – Delivering data from the Arab region
    – Accessing satellite imagery data for the Arab region
    – Citizen science data for the Arab region
    – Synchronizing and exchanging health and environment data
    – Capacity development for air quality monitoring systems
    – Inter-regional networking and knowledge sharing
    – Towards a global Open Water Map
    – Strengthening collaboration among water institutions in the Arab region
    – Filling data gaps on ocean acidification
    – Innovative use of new data and technologies to support SDG indicators
    – Enhancing interchange and coordination between national statistical offices and national space agencies and geospatial organizations in developing countries
    – Towards the development of a Network of Data Innovation Networks
    – Developing new data and interoperability standards, increasing global data literacy,
    – Establishing a platform for analysis and visualization of SDG data and indicators;
    – Building a global citizen science coalition
    – Migration and Environment – Exploring Sustainability Solutions (Europe and Africa)
    – Geospatial tools for urban water resource management
    – Space technologies (data and applications) for water security
    – River basin monitoring and management
    – Urban metabolic information systems for water security
    – Capacity building in executive/continuing education for water security professionals
    – Freshwater biodiversity
    – Regional Water Security Interest groups
    – Delivering an action plan for Principle 10 in Latin America and the Caribbean
    – Delivering an action plan for Principle 10 in the Arab region.
    – Delivering an action plan for Principle 10 in the pan-European region.
    – Implementing the Arab Region Green University Network
    – Sustainability dashboard design for green university campus
    – Design and development of MOOCs to support the Eye on Earth work programme.
  16. Some of the SIGs fall under the umbrella of the 3 existing foundational and 5 existing thematic Special Initiatives endorsed at the 2011 Eye on Earth Summit. Other SIGs are either cross-cutting or fall outside the existing 8 Special Initiatives. Proposals for additional SIGs are expected to follow through the ongoing process to finalise the Eye on Earth governance framework and the enlargement of the Alliance. Seven of the proposals aim to focus on addressing specific data issues within the Arab region.
  17. The Summit Outcome Document will be made available soon on the Summit website ( The proceedings of the Summit, which will include detailed reports on all sessions, will be available in early November 2015.


1 The Eye on Earth Alliance is comprised of 5 organisations – the Abu Dhabi Global Environmental Data Initiative (AGEDI), the Group on Earth Observations (GEO), the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Resources Institute (WRI).

2 Refer to the final version of the Eye on Earth Summit 2015 programme on

3 The mandate for the Eye on Earth Network is anchored in the Rio+20 outcome document, specifically para 274 – We recognize the importance of space-technology-based data, in situ monitoring and reliable geospatial information for sustainable development policymaking, programming and project operations. In this context, we note the relevance of global mapping and recognize the efforts in developing global environmental observing systems, including by the Eye on Earth Network and through the Global Earth Observation System of Systems. We recognize the need to support developing countries in their efforts to collect environmental data.

4 A Special Interest Group is an expert group drawn from the membership of the Eye on Earth Network that convenes around a topic of mutual interest related to the vision and mission statement to identify and agree upon a solution or course of action.