Beirut, 15 November 2018 (Communication and Information Unit) – As environmental challenges continue to grow throughout the Arab region, countries are recognizing that decision-making processes need to integrate solutions for people and planet based on evidence-based data that can be monitored and measured.
This was the starting point for a workshop organized at the UN House in Beirut on Environment Statistics and Information for Sustainable Development in the Arab Region. The event aimed to provide statisticians from national statistical offices and experts from ministries of environment with an understanding of contemporary approaches to environment statistics, allowing them to identify gaps and deficiencies in environmental data and contribute to the production of regular, accurate and reliable environment statistics.
A main focus was also on the implementation of the Framework for the Development of Environment Statistics (FDES 2013) in the Arab region which has been recognized as a useful tool in the context of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), covering issues that are relevant for policy analysis and decision-making.
Organized by the UN Statistics Division (UNSD), in collaboration with the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), the UN Environment Programme (UN Environment), and the European Environment Agency (EEA), the five-day workshop which kicked off on Monday was attended by representatives from ministries, UN agencies, international and regional organizations, the League of Arab States (LAS), and environment and statistical experts from Iraq, Kuwait, Libya, Morocco, Egypt, Jordan, Mauritania, the State of Palestine, Qatar, Oman, the Republic of Sudan, the Syrian Arab Republic, Yemen, Tanzania and Tunisia.
“The environment dimension of the 2030 Agenda requires a large amount of data that is crucial in monitoring and reporting on the sustainable use of our natural resources and the protection of the environment in the Arab region,” said Roula Majdalani, ESCWA’s acting Deputy Secretary, in her opening remarks.
A key message of the workshop is that the impacts of climate change has made it even more urgent to ensure the availably of accurate and reliable environmental statistics, especially those linked to human activity. The dire situation already developing in the Arab region was underlined, with reference to increased desertification and limited access to clean water.
In this context, the Director of the Statistics Division at ESCWA, Juraj Riecan, highlighted the importance of geospatial references to link data for various surfaces given the transboundary nature of environment conditions.
“In 2017, ESCWA approached national statistical offices and collected information about current practices in integrating geospatial information into environment statistics,” he noted, adding that this information was further refined in 2018.
Mr. Riecan also underlined the role ESCWA has been playing in supporting geospatial information management in the region and integrating geospatial information into other areas of official statistics.
Environment statistics are intended to provide a full and relevant picture, based on reliable and impartial data of environmental conditions, the use of environment resources, waste management, natural events including disasters, impact of human settlement on environment, and environmental protection management.
Speaking about the importance of providing technical support to Arab States and their statistical bodies, UN Environment’s Regional Programme Officer, Abdelmenam Mohamed, highlighted the need to “build capacities in environmental statistics and create a clear vision on sustainable development.”
Meanwhile, to strengthen efforts and help fill exiting gaps the Chief of the Environment Statistics Section at UN Environment, Reena Shah, called to improve monitoring: “It is imperative to bring together the various sectors in a unified and coordinated statistical system.”
On Friday, the workshop concluded with a set of recommendations that addressed, most importantly, the use of official national data in the Global SDG Indicators Database; support to countries on areas of work in environment statistics, geospatial data for SDG and environmental indicators; coordination of data between international and regional organizations and the implementation of the various related frameworks.