New UN Sustainable Development Report Promotes Global Indicators

by Matt Ball on January 31, 2012

A high-level United Nations panel on global sustainability has just come out with a report outlining a far-reaching sustainable development strategy. Titled “Resilient People, Resilient Planet: A Future Worth Choosing“, the report is being described as “a new blueprint for sustainable development and low-carbon prosperity.” Central to the report is a call for a science advisory board and a regular Global Sustainable Development Outlook report that sets a framework of metrics and integrates knowledge across different sectors.

The proposals made by the panel are aimed at progress primarily in three key sectors: empowering people to make sustainable choices; working towards and sustainable economy; and strengthening institutional governance to support sustainable development.

All-told there are 56 recommendations that will go before the Rio+20 gathering that is scheduled to take place in Brazil in June this year. Among all of these, here are some key objectives that have implications for inputs and analysis from geospatial technologies, including:

  • “Expanding how we measure progress in sustainable development by creating a sustainable development index or set of indicators.” GIS can help compile and track these indicators.
  • “Establishing a periodic global sustainable development outlook report that brings together information and assessments currently dispersed across institutions and analyses them in an integrated way.” GIS can provide a compelling input toward integrating and analyzing these inputs.
  • “Incorporating social and environmental costs in regulating and pricing of goods and services, as well as addressing market failures.” GIS is the ultimate true cost accounting tool to measure broader social and environmental impacts on pricing.
  • “Managing resources and enabling a twenty-first-century green revolution: agriculture, oceans and coastal systems, energy and technology, international cooperation.” GIS systems are the backbone for precision agriculture, the management of coastal systems, and as enablers for intelligent infrastructure for improved energy efficiency.
  • “Building resilience through sound safety nets, disaster risk reduction and adaptation planning.” Disaster planning and mitigation is a key GIS contribution that is advancing in terms of real-time collaboration, and long-term planning.

Connectivity is seen as key to advancement, and central to the report is a call for governments to work with appropriate stakeholders to provide citizens, especially those in remote areas, with access to technologies, including universal telecommunications and broadband networks, by 2025. With this increasingly connected world, a combination of sensors and systems is key to monitoring and advancing sustainable development.

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