What's next for the Eye on Earth Alliance?

By Molly Anders 13 November 2015

A view of the Eye on Earth Summit, held Oct. 6-8 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. The summit, hosted every four years in a different city, convenes more than 50 nonprofit, government and industry stakeholder members in the EoE community. Photo by: Eye on Earth Alliance

The Eye on Earth Alliance, comprised of the World Resources Institute, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, the United Nations Environmental Program, the Intergovernmental Group on Earth Observations, the Abu Dhabi Global Environmental Data Initiative and the Environmental Agency of Abu Dhabi will sign a governance agreement in the coming months, Devex has learned.

Not much will be known about the details of the arrangement until an official announcement in December, but the agreement will move EoE — born out of Principle 10 of the 1992 Rio Declaration on Environment and Development — toward establishing a multilateral secretariat for convening organizations, funding and tools related to the promotion of environmental protection and conservation through the use of data.

“It’s something we’ve been talking about among ourselves for a while — it will elevate EoE’s work and help build an environmental community around the use of data,” Janet Ranganathan, vice president for science and research at WRI told Devex on the sidelines of the EoE Summit in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. “This will also encourage organizations and governments to join the alliance.”

Similar to the secretariat that coordinates the Paris climate conference — known as COP21 — governance agreements with U.N. affiliates typically bring administrative and financial rules and regulations under U.N. standards. The alliance will welcome new government agency and organization stakeholders, who will contribute resources to EoE initiatives to grow the secretariat, while streamlining funding and grant-making capacities. Current EoE projects revolve around the alliance’s eight special initiatives, and are chosen and seed-funded by alliance members.

“The particular structure of the alliance has been an ongoing conversation, we [at IUCN] want to make sure it’s not exclusive, so others can come in and be part of it,” Inger Andersen, director of IUCN told Devex in a phone interview. “It has to be all shoulders to the wheel, so we know what we have in terms of data and others who have similar assets feel they can add to the overall picture.”

One U.N. employee speaking under the condition of anonymity told Devex that IUCN was hesitant to sign the agreement. Asked whether forming a secretariat might create problems for the organization or its partners, Andersen singled out data ownership as one potential area of concern.

“The idea from our point of view is to support a platform through the EoE where many of our products may be used, but that they also have their own profile,” she said.

Established in 1948 and the world’s oldest environmental organization, IUCN utilizes more than 15,000 specialists and scientists, offering several branded initiatives and tools to make use of environmental data.

“These [tools] are so much older than the EoE initiative, so we want to make sure this is taken into consideration,” Andersen said.

But as long as the secretariat “maintains IUCN standards” and makes them available to a wider audience, Andersen said, “we welcome it.”

Achim Steiner, executive director of the U.N. Environmental Program, added that visions for EoE should be based on “what countries will look like 20-30 years in the future.”

“For the international community, we’ve attracted a group of specialists that regard the EoE as a bet worth taking, but we can use these relationships also as a reflection of how we collect data as well as transact it as action,” he told Devex at the EoE Summit.

The EoE Summit, hosted every four years in a different city, now convenes more than 50 nonprofit, government and industry stakeholder members in the EoE “community.” After its first summit in 2011, EoE issued the EoE Declaration and outlined 14 guiding principles. Eight special initiatives and working groups were then established, and the U.N. Council on Sustainable Development named the EoE Summit a member state Rio+20 preparatory meeting.

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About the author

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Molly Andersmollyanders_dev

Molly is a global development reporter for Devex. Based in London, she covers U.K. foreign aid and trends in international development. She draws on her experience covering aid legislation and the USAID implementer community in Washington, D.C., as well as her time as a Fulbright Fellow and development practitioner in the Middle East to develop stories with insider analysis.


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