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UNEP launches a revised version of EnVoc - multilingual thesaurus of environmental terms

Seoul/Nairobi, 5 June 1997 - The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), launched its EnVoc Multilingual Thesaurus of Environmental Terms, to coincide with the World Environment Day celebrations in Seoul today.

"Five years after the Rio Conference, it is now an opportune time to reflect on the role of information in the implementation of Agenda 21. Throughout Agenda 21, there are hundreds of references to the importance of information for better decision-making in the management of sustainable development" said Ms. Elizabeth Dowdeswell, Executive Director of UNEP while releasing the publication.

Chapter 40 of Agenda 21 states the following: "In sustainable development, everyone is a user and provider of information considered in the broad sense. That includes data, information, appropriately packaged experience and knowledge. The need for information arises at all levels, from that of senior decision makers at the national and international levels to the grass-roots and individual levels. The following two programme areas need to be implemented to ensure that decisions are based on sound information: (a) Bridging the data gap; (b) Improving information availability".

UNEP is addressing both of these issues under the sub-programme entitled Global and Regional Servicing and our global environmental information exchange network, INFOTERRA, is responding to several mandates received from governments to improve information availability.

Although there exists a wealth of information that could be used for the management of sustainable development, one of the major problems encountered within many countries, particularly developing countries, is that information is not adequately managed for a variety of reasons including lack of technology and methodologies for effective access.

Chapter 40 proposed the "establishment of standards and methods for handling information" as one of several activities to address this problem. One of UNEP's contributions to this initiative is the production of a standardized environmental vocabulary entitled EnVoc - Multilingual Thesaurus of Environmental Terms which is a reference tool for both users and providers of environmental information.

EnVoc is the latest edition of the INFOTERRA Thesaurus of Environmental Terms fully revised to reflect emerging environmental concerns and new technologies especially in the field of environmental information. The thesaurus has evolved from an unstructured list of keywords with very limited application to a structured environmental thesaurus with a broad application base comprising of librarians, documentalists, database developers, thesaurus developers, terminologists, GIS specialists, translators, interpreters and environmental information specialists in general.

EnVoc is being published in all six official United Nations languages - Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish. UNEP would like to especially thank the Government of Sweden for funding the production of the thesaurus in the Arabic, English, French and Spanish, under the Agenda 21 Trust Fund. The Russian and Chinese versions are being published with assistance from the Governments of the Russian Federation and the People's Republic of China.

Additionally a number of other Governments have undertaken the translation into their national languages. The initiative taken by these Governments in translating the thesaurus into their national languages is testimony to the importance they attach to environmental terminology and the value of the thesaurus as a reference tool.

UNEP wishes to thank the Italian Government for assistance received from the INFOTERRA national focal point for Italy located in the Institute of Biomedical Technologies of the National Research Council (CNR-ITBM-RRDA) in Rome, during the revision of the third edition of the INFOTERRA Thesaurus and its subsequent integration with the General European Multilingual Environment Thesaurus (GEMET) being developed by the European Environment Agency (EEA).



For more information on EnVoc or other INFOTERRA products and services, contact:
Beth Ingraham,
UNEP Thesaurus Team,
Division of Environmental Information and Assessment,
UNEP, P.O. Box 30552, Nairobi, KENYA.
Tel: 254-2-62-4299; Fax: 254-2-62- 4269;
Web site:

Tore Brevik, Chief or Patricia Jacobs, Information Officer,
Information and Public Affairs UNEP,
P.O. Box 30552, Nairobi, KENYA.
Tel: 254-2-62-3084; Fax: 254-2-62-3692;

Note to journalists:

In Seoul, Korea, during the International Media Conference on Environment and Development the EnVoc Multilingual Thesaurus of Environmental Terms will be launched by the Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme, Ms. Elizabeth Dowdeswell, at 11:00 am at the Hotel Shilla on 5 June 1997.

To order a copy, contact:

SMI (Distribution Services) Limited, P.O. Box 119, Stevenage,
Hertfordshire SG1 4TP England,
United Kingdom,
Fax: (44 1234) 782878,

Published by: United Nations Environment Programme, 1997, 270 pages, A4, paperback
ISBN: 92 807 12608,
Order Price: US$25.00 (plus shipping and handling)

UNEP News Release 1997/23

Thursday 29 May 1997
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