News in 2016

Report from the 5th session of UNGGIM 

3-7 August 2015, New York, United States

The Fifth Session of the United Nations Committee of Experts on Global Geospatial Information Management (UN-GGIM) was held in NY, 3-7 August 2015. The session was attended by 290 participants (216 representatives from 85 Member States, 7 from 1 non-Member State, 67 from organizations of the United Nations and observers for intergovernmental, non-governmental and other organizations). FIG President participated in that event. The Co-Chair of the Committee, Vanessa Lawrence CB opened the session.
During the opening session, the Committee of Experts congratulated Dr Vanessa Lawrence CB for her achievements and the Under-Secretary-General of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), Mr. Wu Hongbo awarded her a certificate of appreciation. The committee then elected the following new officers:

Co-Chairs: Tim Trainor (United States of America), Rolando Ocampo (Mexico), Li Pengde (China)
Rapporteur: Abdoulaye Belem (Burkina Faso)

FIG President Chryssy Potsiou attended the meeting

Dr Vanessa Lawrence receives the certificate of appreciation

The global importance of geospatial information was formally recognised by the United Nations when UN-GGIM was established by the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) in July 2011, recognizing that there was no global Member State driven mechanism to discuss critical issues and set directions on the production, management and use of geospatial information within national and global policy frameworks and therefore it was an urgent need to take action in order to strengthen international cooperation in this field. As mentioned in the website ( the Committee of Experts is a formal inter-governmental mechanism that coordinates global geospatial information production and management, and is composed of government experts from the national geospatial information authorities from more than 100 United Nations Member States, as well as experts from relevant international organizations, the private sector, and other major global stakeholders from the geospatial information industry and civil society, who participate as observers. Since 2011 the Committee members have met and worked together at the annual sessions, the three High Level Forums that have been convened, and a number of international technical capacity development workshops and related fora.

The following text is a summary of information formally provided by UNGGIM, to help newcomers understand this initiative.

The Committee of Experts considered a detailed draft of the review of the work of the Committee during the 2011-2015 period and noted the considerable achievements and progress made, as well as the challenges that remain. With very limited resources but, importantly, with strong engagement and commitment by Member States and the international geospatial community, the Committee of Experts has established and organised itself quickly and delivered concrete results towards achieving its mandate. Over the past five years the Committee has produced key tangible outputs that may briefly be summarized as following:

  • Establishment of a working group, in 2011, to elaborate a detailed inventory of issues and a proposed work plan of actions to be implemented. The inventory was endorsed in 2012 and included a number of issues such as: the global geodetic reference frame; the global map for sustainable development; the adoption and implementation of international geospatial standards; the determination of global fundamental datasets; geospatial information to support the sustainable development goals and the post-2015 development agenda; the development of a knowledge base for geospatial information; the identification of trends in national institutional arrangements in geospatial information management; the integration of geospatial, statistics and other information; the legal and policy frameworks; the development of a statement of shared guiding principles; the development of geospatial information and services for disasters; and land administration and management.
  • Establishment of five UN-GGIM regional coordination committees, in Asia and the Pacific, the Americas, the Arab States, Europe and Africa, for making joint decisions, setting directions, promoting common principles, policies, methods, mechanisms and standards for the interoperability of geospatial data and services, and providing a platform for the development of effective strategies on how to build and strengthen national capacity concerning geospatial information, especially in developing countries, in the context of the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction. A consolidation of the various inter-governmental geospatial organs within the UN system is currently taking place (such as: PCGIAP and PC-IDEA have been renamed as UN-GGIM-AP and UN-GGIM: Americas, in 2012 and 2013, and now report annually to the Committee of Experts; the UN Regional Cartographic Conferences are no longer required and there is a proposal that should be removed from the UN calendar, with their mandates and obligations assumed by the Committee of Experts; the formal UN Regional Cartographic Conference format is no longer necessary and its  removal from the UN calendar of conferences and meetings was recommended, with its mandates and obligations assumed by UN-GGIM and UN-GGIM-AP)
  • Organization of annual sessions; three High Level Forums on Global Geospatial Information Management, in October 2011 in the Republic of Korea, in February 2013 in Qatar and in October 2014 in China. The Fourth High Level Forum will be convened in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in April 2016.
  • Contribution to increasing the visibility and awareness of geospatial information, as an essential integrative tool to monitor and measure sustainable development, to policy and decision-makers and the diplomatic community.
  • Formulation and endorsement of a resolution on ‘A Global Geodetic Reference Frame for Sustainable Development’ in a landmark decision by the General Assembly on 26 February 2015. The resolution calls for greater multilateral cooperation on geodesy, including the open sharing of geospatial data, further capacity-building in developing countries and the creation of international standards and conventions, and outlines the value of ground-based observations and remote satellite sensing when tracking changes in populations, ice caps, oceans and the atmosphere over time.
  • Current development of a road map for the global geodetic reference frame to ensure that Member States are able to leverage the importance of geodetic data sharing, methods, sustainable funding and infrastructure to support growing societal needs, including those monitoring progress towards the sustainable development goals.
  • Endorsement in 2013, of the strategic report “Future trends in geospatial information management: the five to ten year vision”; available in eight languages it serves as a technical guide for Member States in the preparation of their national geospatial information strategies and plans. The Future Trends report was reviewed, updated and ratified by the Committee at its fifth session in 2015.
  • Adoption in 2015, of the ‘Guide to the Role of Standards in Geospatial Information Management’ and the ‘Companion Document on Standards Recommendations by Tier’ as the international geospatial standards best practice for spatial data infrastructures. Documents are being translated into the official UN languages with the support of relevant Member States. 
  • Initiation of regional capacity building projects, such as the one led by the National Administration of Surveying, Mapping and Geoinformation (NASG) and the UN-GGIM Secretariat titled ‘Geospatial Information Management Capacity Development in China and other Developing Countries 2013-2017’; the ‘Strengthening of Spatial Data Infrastructures in Member States and Territories of the Association of Caribbean States’ project led by the government of Mexico providing financial and technical support to 19 countries in the Caribbean region (Caribbean Project); and at global level the ‘Strengthening the geospatial information management capacities of developing countries for better policy making at national, regional and international level’ project led by the UN Statistics Division during the period 2012-2015.
  • Establishment of partnerships with international bodies such as the Group on Earth Observations (GEO), the International Federation of Surveyors (FIG), the International Cartographic Association (ICA), Technical Committee 211 of the International Standards Organisation (ISO/TC 211), the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC), and many others
  • Development of the “UN-GGIM knowledge base” which provide information about issues like: the status of national geospatial information management and systems; global geodetic information management; the status of mapping in the world; the integration of geospatial and statistical information; geospatial information management best practices and case studies in countries; training manuals; and publications on geospatial information.
  • Creation of the Expert Group on the Integration of Statistical and Geospatial Information, in 2013, composed of national experts from both the statistical and geospatial communities, to address “the critical importance of integrating geospatial information with statistics and socio-economic data and the development of a geospatial statistical framework, especially in the context of the on-going debate on the post-2015 development agenda”

At its fifth session, the Committee of Experts among other decided to:

  • Work closely with the statistical community, both at a national and global level, by providing inputs into the processes to develop the global indicator framework under the auspices of the Inter-agency Expert Group on SDG Indicators (IAEG-SDGs), as many goals have a geospatial dimension. As a means to do so, the Committee established a task team of Member State geospatial experts to assist in developing the inputs, building on existing work; the need to support the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030 with the appropriate indicators was emphasized. It was also stressed that there is a need for resources and strong commitment of decision-makers for the implementation of the global indicator framework.
  • Encourage Member States and the relevant working group (WG), in their efforts to develop the road map, to commit to undertaking a programme of outreach that highlights experiences and best practices for the global geodetic reference frame, particularly in developing countries and encouraged the WG to continue its efforts to build on global and regional experiences and initiatives and to report back to the Committee of Experts at its next session on its progress towards delivering the road map
  • Support the initiative proposed by the Regional Committee of United Nations Global Geospatial Information Management for Europe to lead the working group to liaise with other regional committees of United Nations Global Geospatial Information Management to bring together the consideration about the fundamental geospatial data themes, with a view to developing an agreed minimum set of global fundamental geospatial data themes, and supported the establishment of the GlobeLand30 International Advisory Committee.
  • Note that the Expert Group for the  Integration of Statistical and Geospatial Information would undertake to develop the global geospatial-statistical framework for presentation to the Statistical Commission and the Committee of Experts in 2016.
  • Endorse the establishment of an expert group to undertake the work needed to advance the activities related to land administration and management, and recommended that the group will collaborate with other relevant professional bodies and experts working in the field to avoid duplication of work. It also approved and supported the convening of the fourth High-Level Forum on Global Geospatial Information Management, to be held in Addis Ababa 20-22 of April 2016, with a focus on land administration and management, and with a particular emphasis on sharing experiences, including benefits and challenges, considering “fit-for-purpose” aspects, digital land registers, cadastres, and other land data needs, demonstrating practical examples of land administration success stories.
  • Encourage the WG on the trends in national institutional arrangements in geospatial information management to continue its work and improve collaborations to avoid duplication of work and report in the next session.
  • Discuss recent developments in legal and policy frameworks, including issues related to authoritative data, and also noted that the geospatial community now needed to be more proactively engaged with issues relating to the collection, use, privacy, provenance and, accessibility of data, as well as issues related to the use of unmanned aircraft systems (drones) and other potentially intrusive devices; a relevant conference will be planned within 2016.
  • Adopt the final published “Guide to the role of standards in geospatial information management” and the “Technical compendium” as the international geospatial standards best practice for spatial data infrastructure, and encouraged all Member States to adopt and implement the recommended standards.
  • Take note of the report on the coordination of United Nations activities related to geospatial information management and encouraged the continuation of efforts.
  • Note the announcement of the completion of the report on the status of topographic mapping in the world by the International Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing and the proposal to establish a working group for possible future maintenance
  • Request that the document entitled “Future trends in geospatial information management: the five to ten year vision, Second Edition” will be finalized in 2016, and encouraged Member States to continue to contribute to the knowledge base portal.
  • Propose to stage a map exhibition, focusing on sustainable development, in August 2016 during the sixth session of the Committee
  • Welcome the Economic Commission for Africa as the secretariat of the Regional Committee for Africa
  • Note the efforts of the Arctic Spatial Data Infrastructure in delivering regional data and the need to ensure continued cooperative efforts to support science and decision-making
  • Adopt the agenda for its sixth session and decided to recommend to the Economic and Social Council that its sixth session be held at United Nations Headquarters in New York from 3 to 5 August 2016

In her statement to UN-GGIM, FIG President Chryssy Potsiou congratulated the UN-GGIM and the member countries for including land administration to the UN-GGIM agenda. She stated that FIG believes this is a major step towards achieving the post 2015 development goals. She further stated that, although we all live in the era of a globalised economy, not all citizen of this world experience the benefits of inclusive and efficient land administration that provides transparency in the management of land and the necessary infrastructure to the people, especially the low-income earners, to acquire access to capital, to improve their living standards and to protect the planet. FIG strongly believes in the land administration concept and has already developed long activity, in-depth research, international cooperation with FAO and the WB and a series of publications in this field. FIG declares its strong commitment to continue its cooperation with the UN-GGIM in this field and to build upon the existing experience and knowledge, avoid any dublication of efforts, avoid any time delays, and work closely, hand in hand with the countries, in an joint mission to translate these words into action.

At this critical stage in the global development cycle, Member States have specified that they seek to further expand the mandates of the Committee to enable it to function as the global governing body on all issues related to geospatial information in order to effectively and efficiently support the emerging geospatial demands for Member States and global agenda such as the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Chryssy Potsiou

06 January 2016