Activities

To support countries in strengthening their environment statistics, ESCAP has convened sub-regional workshops and an Expert Workshop on Land Accounting. ESCAP has also participated in workshops and technical assistance at the national level in several member States.

Workshops

Sub-regional Workshops on Environment Statistics

Several countries in Asia and the Pacific have expressed the need to improve environment statistics programmes of national statistical offices (NSOs) to respond to demands arising from the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and other national development priorities.

The workshops on environment statistics for Asia-Pacific sub-regions – Pacific, Southeast Asia, South and Southwest Asia, East and Northeast Asia, and North and Central Asia – offer opportunities  to build capacity on basic approaches to environment statistics, the Framework for the Development of Environment Statistics (FDES) and the System of Environmental-Economic Accounting (SEEA), as well as strategic planning for improving environment statistics. The workshops bring together participants from countries that have expressed a need to strengthen their capacity to:

  • Conduct strategic planning for environment statistics,
  • Identify, document and prioritize available data and statistics,
  • Compile basic environment statistics, and
  • Conduct work planning to improve environment statistics.

The target audience for the workshops is mid-to-senior-level technical staff from NSOs, data providers (environment and natural resource departments) and data users (finance and planning departments).

The workshops are opportunities for participants to:

  • Present their national context with respect to environment statistics,
  • Understand the role and scope of statistical standards (SEEA) and guidelines (FDES), and how they can be used to address the SDGs,
  • Understand the need and approaches to strategic planning and documenting the key datasets in the National Statistical System, and
  • Understand the role of ESCAP in supporting the development of environment statistics.

Participants are provided, in advance, with the ESCAP Diagnostic Tool. They are expected to present a 15-minute overview of the application of the Diagnostic Tool to their country context. In addition, participants from offices with existing environment statistics programmes are invited to present as showcase countries during other workshop sessions.

Expert Workshop

Background

The surface of the earth: the land, freshwater, coasts and oceans, is the space in which most human activities take place. As with business and population registers, coherent and agreed-upon statistics on what exists on the surface of a nation is fundamental to governing and managing it. Land accounting seeks to standardize and integrate the spatial aspects of environmental, social and economic statistics to provide such a foundation.

Monitoring progress towards the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development demands spatially-detailed statistics across many dimensions: for disaggregating statistics by urban/rural, for distinguishing areas with access to clean water and roads, for distinguishing catchment, marine & coastal, forest, agricultural, mountain and protected areas, for distinguishing degraded areas and establishing land tenure, just to mention a few.

Statistically describing a nation’s biophysical area is treated in the SEEA Central Framework (SEEA‑CF) in terms of Land, Forest and Soil Asset Accounts. It is also described in the FDES (United Nations Statistics Division, 2013) as key statistics on land cover, land use, ecosystems and biodiversity. The SEEA Experimental Ecosystem Accounting guidelines (SEEA-EEA, United Nations et al., 2014b) provide further guidance on delineating ecosystem assets, compiling information on their condition, the values of their ecosystem services and linking these values to standard economic accounts. The UN initiative on Global Geospatial Information Management (UN-GGIM) knowledge base on National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI)[1] highlights the experience of countries in integrating such spatial information.

Although many countries have been compiling information on their land, few have experience in integrating and standardizing this information from the many sources and methods used. Integrating this disparate information, through land accounting, is essential to provide a comprehensive picture of the environmental state of a country and to guide plans to improve or maintain this state.

Traditionally, producing land information has not been the core mandate of National Statistical Offices (NSOs). However, for at least 30 years, many NSOs have developed the capacity to conduct spatial analysis and to standardize and integrate land data from many sources. This has required close collaboration with national stakeholders such as departments of environment, natural resources, fisheries, oceans, agriculture, forestry, planning, and land registration. The benefit of including NSOs in this process has been their role as broker between the different departmental mandates, disciplines and standards.

ESCAP, in collaboration with partners, have been providing technical assistance and training on environment statistics and environmental-economic accounting to countries individually and through sub-regional workshops. In all sub-regional workshops, participants presented self-assessments of priorities for strengthening environment statistics. Several countries identified land accounts as priorities. Work is in progress in Nepal, Vanuatu, Myanmar (with the World Wildlife Fund) specifically on piloting land and forest accounts, and in Indonesia on land and ecosystem accounts.

Purpose of the workshop

The overall aim of the workshop is to address member States’ stated requirements for technical guidance on how to begin or improve their land accounts.

The 3-day workshop will bring together NSOs and natural resource departments with regional and international experts. The workshop will consist of four main components:

  1. Case studies by member States’ activities in land, forest and ecosystem accounting, including presentation of objectives, approaches, results and remaining challenges;
  2. Focussed training on aspects identified by participants (including links to SDGs, NSDI, forest accounting, ecosystems and oceans); and
  3. Guided technical assistance and problem-solving labs with regional experts.
  4. Related initiatives and support by international organizations

Member States which have initiated or have expressed their readiness to initiate land, forest or ecosystem accounts will be invited. Two participants from each selected country will be nominated: one from the NSO and another from a natural resources department, both of whom are responsible for producing land statistics.

Participants will be requested to make a short presentation on their priorities, status of work, challenges of land statistics. If work is in progress, they are invited to bring their data (in GIS, maps and tables) for detailed discussion during the technical assistance and problem-solving labs.

[1] National Spatial Data Infrastructure, see: http://ggim.un.org/knowledgebase/KnowledgebaseCategory3.aspx.