Talking GI at UN-GGIM

Guest blog by James Norris from the OS Policy team

If you haven’t come across it before, UN-GGIM (United Nations Committee of Experts on Global Geospatial Information Management) is a formal part of the United Nations (UN). UN‑GGIM provides a forum for strategic discussions on geospatial industry topics, such as legal and policy frameworks, international standards or the global geodetic reference frame. Member States from the UN nominate attendees to represent them and OS are part of the UK delegation.

The UN Headquarters where the meeting took place

The UN Headquarters where the meeting took place

So how did we represent the UK?

The meeting itself follows an agreed agenda, with formal papers published ahead of time, allowing for a lot of preparatory work goes on in advance. We consulted with a range of key stakeholders across not only from Westminster but also the Devolved Administrations and UK Industry and drew up briefing notes.

During the Session, agenda topics are introduced, either by leaders of the Working Groups, or by Member States with a significant interest in the topic; the floor then is open for general debate and discussion. Formal interventions can be made by representatives of Member States – this is where the briefing notes come in. Some of the topics have a wide scope and potential impact, such as legal and policy frameworks, so a considered and balanced approached was taken reflecting the views of the wider UK.

Okay, but what did we achieve?

The primary achievement for UN‑GGIM was the continued support and backing of Member States to advance and promote the importance of geospatial information to senior policy and decision makers. UN-GGIM has also made significant progress in a number of topics including the adoption of a UN General Assembly Resolution for a Global Geodetic Reference Frame. The resolution is the first of its kind to be agreed by the United Nations and recognises the global importance of location and positioning for many different areas of development. Also adopted at the meeting were important guidelines for international geospatial standards, and examples of good practice. This is an area where the UK, through its work with Ordnance Survey International and the Kingdom of Bahrain, was cited as a global example of cooperation and partnership.


The full committee room, discussing the role of UN-GGIM in Africa

Other key achievements related to sustainable development and the post 2015-sustainable development agenda, as well as the application of geospatial information to land administration and management. The final outcomes document for the session has recently been published on UN-GGIM website and can be viewed here.

Another key topic that was discussed was the adoption of the Second Edition of the report “Future Trends in geospatial information management: the five to ten year vision”, read a draft here. We authored the first version, published in 2013 and the second edition. And as well as exploring new areas, it highlights changes to the trends identified in the original report, showing how the role of governments is changing, and documenting the increasing role of data collection technologies and processes.

The 2015 version of the Future Trends report observes that in a world which is increasingly driven by the consumer, the most significant geospatial information changes will not come through singular technologies, rather the linking of multiple technologies and policies. The updated report explores these ideas through a series of themes, focusing on four emerging and developing trends: Artificial intelligence and Big Data; Internet of things and smart cities; Integration of statistics and geospatial information; and, Indoor and outdoor mapping. The report has taken into account submissions from representatives from UN Member States as well as individuals and organisations from across the world. We’ll share more on the report when it is formally published.

Our former Director General and Chief Executive, Vanessa Lawrence has been Co-Chair at UN-GGIM since 2011 and stepped down at this session. In recognition of her work, a certificate of appreciation was presented by the Under-Secretary-General of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Mr. Wu Hongbo, to Vanessa. The write up of the presentation, and the text on the certificate, can be found here.

Under-Secretary-General Wu Hongbo presenting an Award of Certificate of Appreciation to Dr Vanessa Lawrence

Under-Secretary-General Wu Hongbo presenting an Award of Certificate of Appreciation to Dr Vanessa Lawrence

UN-GGIM continues to grow in both reach and influence across both the UN System, but also national organisations and Governments. It was an honour to be part of the UK delegation to UN‑GGIM again this year, and I look forward to working with other government departments and organisations in the year.

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