Decisions by Topic: Information for Decision-Making & Participation
Commission on Sustainable Development
[Arabic] [Chinese] [English] [French] [Russian] [Spanish] 9th session of the Commission on Sustainable Development
E/CN.17/2001/19 - Information for decision-making and participation

Decision 9/4
Information for decision-making and participation


1. The availability and uses of information are issues that cut across all chapters of Agenda 21 and its implementation. Countries in all regions of the world have made substantial efforts to improve the quality, coherence and cost-effectiveness of data and information-gathering in the years since the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED). In this context, it is essential to increase investment in human beings, recognize the value of diverse views and appreciate the power of stakeholder participation if countries wish to take advantage of the opportunities that the new knowledge economy presents. A more effective role for an independent, objective media in support of sustainable development is to be promoted. However, there remain significant gaps in the availability and uses of information in many countries. Those developing countries suffering from inadequate infrastructure and information systems and those parts of the population too poor to tap into new information sources are being left behind. Developing countries, in particular, need technology transfer and capacity-building, and will require adequate, predictable, new and additional financial resources, in accordance with chapter 33 of Agenda 21, and paragraphs 76 to 87 of the Programme for the Further Implementation of Agenda 21, to modernize or establish their information systems.

Guidance to the multilateral system

2. The Commission, recognizing that enhancing information for decision-making in order to achieve sustainable development will require international cooperation and actions compatible with national priorities and circumstances, and seeking to provide assistance to developing countries as well as countries with economies in transition to achieve sustainable development:

Improvements in functioning, coherence and coordination

(a) Encourages international organizations, including international convention secretariats, to rationalize their requests for information with respect to voluntary national reports so as to avoid duplication and unnecessary burden on countries, particularly developing countries. The international organizations should build on existing efforts to improve the compatibility of data-collection methodologies. The purpose of the data requests should be clearly specified, and there should be a demand driven shift from available information to needed information;
(b) Calls for strengthening access by developing countries to information on sustainable development and measures to ensure that the commercialization of information does not become a barrier to developing countries in this regard;
(c) Encourages greater access to Internet information for persons with disabilities;
(d) Urges strengthened cooperation and coordination among global observing systems and research programmes for integrated global observations, taking into account the need for sharing, among all countries, of valuable data, such as ground-based observation data and satellite remote-sensing data;
(e) Encourages countries and relevant international organizations to develop information systems, which make the sharing of valuable data possible, including the active exchange of Earth observation data;
(f) Calls for promoting the development and wider use by developing countries of innovative technologies, such as global mapping, geographical information systems, video transmission technology and Internet technology for the dissemination and use of satellite data.

Training and capacity-building

(g) Encourages countries, particularly developed countries, with the cooperation of relevant international organizations, as appropriate, to:
(i) Assist in training and capacity-building, particularly in developing countries, which will help promote wider use of information and communication technologies, including satellite data, and their application;
(ii) Assist Governments of developing countries to develop the needed technological infrastructure for sustainable development through, inter alia, transfer of technology, including transfer of necessary hardware and software, and implementation of capacity-building programmes to this effect;
(iii) Assist in strengthening national information systems and statistical agencies to ensure that efforts in data collection and analysis are efficient and effective and able to meet a range of decision-making requirements;
(h) Calls for assisting countries, particularly developing countries, in their national efforts to achieve accurate, long-term, consistent and reliable data and use of satellite and remote-sensing technologies for data collection and further improvement of ground-based observations.

Approaches to indicators of sustainable development

3. The Commission, recognizing that any indicators developed under its work programme on indicators of sustainable development are intended only for use by countries at the national level on a voluntary basis, suited to country-specific conditions, and shall not lead to any type of conditionalities, including financial, technical and commercial:
(a) Reiterates the need for the Commission to keep under review the full range of indicators with full participation and ownership of Member States of the United Nations, with a view to avoiding duplication, as well as ensuring the transparency, consistency and reliability of these indicators;
(b) Emphasizes, in accordance with Council resolution 2000/27, that the indicators used by the United Nations Secretariat in the context of the coordinated and integrated follow-up to major United Nations conferences and summits should be developed with the full participation of all countries and approved by the relevant intergovernmental bodies;
(c) Notes the important role that national Governments of the 22 testing countries played in developing its work programme on experimental indicators of sustainable development, and in this context notes the usefulness of the above-mentioned exercise and requests that further work on these and other indicators be undertaken, in accordance with Council resolution 2000/27;
(d) Encourages the further work on these and other indicators for the purpose of sustainable development in line with national conditions and priorities in defining and implementing national goals and priorities for sustainable development, including integration of gender aspects, and encourages the involvement of all national stakeholders, as appropriate;
(e) Stresses the need to further develop indicators on means of implementation to evaluate progress towards conference goals in creating an enabling environment for development;
(f) Urges developed countries and international organizations to assist developing countries, as appropriate, in establishing the basic capacities for the development of national indicators of sustainable development through, inter alia, financial support, capacity-building, technical assistance and twinning arrangements;
(g) Recalls the invitation of the Council to the Statistical Commission to serve as the intergovernmental focal point for the review of the indicators used by the United Nations system for the integrated and coordinated implementation of and follow-up to major United Nations conferences and summits at all levels, and the methodologies employed in formulating them, including in the context of the elaboration of the common country assessment, and to make recommendations with a view to facilitating future consideration by the Council.

Recommendations for activities at the national level

4. At the national level, Governments, taking into account their priorities and respective national circumstances, with the support of the international community, as appropriate, are encouraged to consider to:
(a) Take measures to ensure access to environmental information, public participation in decision-making and access to judicial and administrative proceedings in environmental matters in order to further principle 10 of the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, taking into full account principles 5, 7, and 11 of the Declaration;
(b) Collect and provide access to relevant information for decision-making for sustainable development, including gender-disaggregated data, incorporating indigenous and traditional knowledge into information bases for decision-making, as appropriate;
(c) Establish guidelines to help distinguish between specialized information that can be effectively commercialized from information that should be freely available to the public;
(d) Develop strategies to improve access by all segments of society to information and communication technologies, including the Internet to increase public awareness about sustainable development;
(e) Incorporate data and findings from research and monitoring activities into the decision-making process;
(f) Incorporate sustainable development performance information produced by major groups, including the private sector, in relevant decision-making processes;
(g) Promote, with private sector participation, measures to give developing countries access to information essential for sustainable development;
(h) Foster sustainable development in cooperation with international organizations, by encouraging and providing needed technological infrastructure, in particular to developing countries, and implementing capacity-building programmes that reach out to all sectors of society;
(i) Develop strategic partnerships with non-governmental organizations and the private sector to stimulate innovative data-generation, collection and analysis methods;
(j) Encourage the application of traditional and community knowledge to sustainable resource and community management.

[Arabic] [Chinese] [English] [French] [Russian] [Spanish] 3rd session of the Commission on Sustainable Development
E/CN.17/1995/36 - Information for Decision-Making

1. Information for decision-making

1. The Commission, having examined the report of the Secretary-General on
information for decision-making and Earthwatch (E/CN.17/1995/18), noted and
welcomed the important measures taken by Governments to make information more
accessible to decision makers at the national level, and calls upon national
Governments to utilize this information for sustainable development at the
country level. The aim of such measures includes the development of a
comprehensive and coherent information programme, drawing upon public
participation in data collection and assessment. In this context, developed
countries are urged to utilize both bilateral and multilateral channels to
facilitate access by developing countries, and countries whose economies are in
transition, to sources of information relative to sustainable development. The
Sustainable Development Networking Programme of the United Nations Development
Programme (UNDP) is one model for such initiatives.

2. The Commission calls attention to the feasibility study undertaken by UNDP
to provide access to information on sustainable development to 35 small island
developing States, 2/ which was welcomed by the General Assembly in its
resolution 49/122 on the Global Conference on the Sustainable Development of
Small Island Developing States.

3. The Commission expresses its appreciation to the organizers of the six
workshops that furthered understanding of the issues addressed in chapter 40 of
Agenda 21, particularly the efforts related to developing a work programme on
indicators of sustainable development, and it supports and encourages further
work in this area as elaborated in paragraphs 7 and 8 below.

4. The Commission welcomes the contribution of non-governmental organizations
to the process of generating information for decision-making, including the
articulation of views from local and grass-roots levels and from major groups,
and expresses its desire that these activities continue and be integrated, to
the extent possible, with those of national Governments, organizations of the
United Nations system and other intergovernmental organizations.

5. The Commission expresses appreciation for the extensive international
collaboration in the United Nations system-wide Earthwatch and its
responsiveness to the priorities of Agenda 21 and to user needs. It urges
Governments and major groups, as well as relevant international organizations
and the scientific community, to participate actively in strengthening
Earthwatch as an international partnership to ensure an adequate flow of
information on the global and regional environment, to support decision-making
and to give early warning on the state of the environment. Special attention is
drawn to the need for improved delivery of information to decision makers and to
increased participation in environmental observations at the local and national
levels within regional and international frameworks. In this regard, the
Commission welcomes all appropriate participation in the Global Learning and
Observations to Benefit the Environment (GLOBE) Programme, as described in
General Assembly resolution 49/112.

6. The Commission recalls that, in addition to Earthwatch, which is a global
system for environmental information, Agenda 21, in paragraph 40.13, calls for
the more effective coordination also of development data, "perhaps through an
equivalent and complementary ?Development Watch?". In this context, the
Commission noted the cooperative effort of the organizations of the United
Nations system to prepare proposals for the creation of such a Development
Watch. It requests UNDP, with the Department for Policy Coordination and
Sustainable Development of the United Nations Secretariat, the United Nations
Environment Programme (UNEP), the World Bank, the World Health
Organization (WHO) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United
Nations (FAO), and in cooperation with the regional commissions and other
interested organizations, to further define Development Watch and, in this
regard, to submit a progress report on the implementation of the programme of
work for Development Watch to the Commission at its session in 1997, taking into
account the need for a close linkage between Development Watch and Earthwatch.

7. The Commission noted the importance of developing, among the organizations
of the United Nations system, a common or compatible system of access to their
respective databases, in order to share data fully, to streamline the collection
and interpretation of data and to identify data gaps, for the purpose of
providing more comprehensive and integrated data to decision makers at the
national, regional and international levels. The Commission invites the
Inter-Agency Committee on Sustainable Development to refine measures for
establishing such a common or compatible system and to report thereon to the
Commission at its fourth session. The Commission notes also the rapidly growing
number of information systems for sustainable development at the national and
regional levels, and invites the Secretary-General to consider ways of enhancing
compatibility among and access to these systems and to report his findings to
the Commission at its session in 1997.

8. Governments are encouraged to develop or conduct studies on the development
of indicators of sustainable development in accordance with specific national
conditions. In this context, there is a need for coordination, especially
through the Commission, of the many intergovernmental and scientific
institutions working in this area, as well as a need for intensive international

9. The Commission urges bodies such as the Statistical Division of the United
Nations Secretariat, the statistical services of Member States and other
appropriate institutions, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and
Development, the Statistical Office of the European Communities and major groups
to cooperate in the development of indicators of sustainable development.
Furthermore, the Commission encourages the scientific community, including the
project on indicators of sustainable development undertaken by the Scientific
Committee on Problems of the Environment (SCOPE), to focus its efforts on the
development and improvement of such indicators.

10. The Commission reiterates the importance of developing indicators of
sustainable development for use by decision makers at the local, regional and
national levels and expresses its appreciation to the organizations, both
intergovernmental and non-governmental, and the Governments that have
contributed to the process of defining a programme of work for the further
development of indicators of sustainable development.

11. The Commission approves the programme of work on indicators for sustainable
development contained in annex I to the report of the Secretary-General
(E/CN.17/1995/18) and calls upon the organizations of the United Nations system,
with the support of other intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations,
and through the coordination of the Department for Programme Coordination and
Sustainable Development of the United Nations Secretariat, to implement, within
existing resources, the following, as outlined in the programme of work:
(a) enhancement of information exchange among all interested actors;
(b) development of methodology sheets to be made available to Governments;
(c) training and capacity-building at the regional and national levels;
(d) testing of an appropriate combination of indicators and monitoring of
experiences in a few countries; (e) evaluation of the indicators, including
those mentioned in the report of the Secretary-General (E/CN.17/1995/18), and
adjustment, as necessary; (f) identification and assessment of linkages among
the economic, social, institutional and environmental elements of sustainable
development; (g) development of highly aggregated indicators; and (h) further
development of the conceptual framework for sustainable development indicators,
involving experts from the areas of economics, the social sciences and the
physical sciences and policy makers, as well as incorporating non-governmental
organization and indigenous views. The Commission requests the Secretariat to
provide it with a progress report on the implementation of the programme of work
at its fourth session, in 1996.

12. The Commission took note of the report of the Statistical Commission on its
twenty-eighth session, 3/ and expresses its appreciation to the Statistical
Commission for its offer to collaborate with and support the Commission in its
work on indicators for sustainable development. In this context, the Commission
also welcomes the action taken by the Statistical Commission with respect to the
international compilation of environmental indicators from national statistical
services and looks forward to the contribution of this work to the overall
programme of work on indicators of sustainable development. The Department for
Policy Coordination and Sustainable Development of the United Nations
Secretariat should promote and assist these efforts.

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