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US Federal Agencies Enhance Support to UNEP's North American Environmental Data and Information Programme

Nairobi, 20 January 1998 - A ceremony was held at UNEP headquarters today to publicly recognize the recent decision of several federal agencies of the United States Government to increase their support to the North American node of the Global Resource Information Database of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP/GRID) for the next five years -- 1998-2002.

UNEP/GRID is a decentralized network of centres focussing on, and able to provide and analyze, geographic data-sets concentrating on environmental issues of international significance. GRID centres typically have the ability, expertise, technology and mandate to prepare, analyze and present information about earth resources, the basis of reliable environmental assessments.

The North American node of UNEP/GRID in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, established in 1991, assists UNEP and its partners by bridging the gap between scientific understanding of the Earth's processes and real-life environmental causes and effects. It is hosted by the EROS Data Center of the US Geological Survey (USGS) and is a partnership between UNEP, USGS and the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). As a reflection of its standing within the US Government community, the US Environmental Protection Agency (US-EPA) and the US Forest Service (USFS) have decided to join in this unique partnership beginning 1 January 1998.

The activities of GRID-Sioux Falls are guided by an Advisory Committee with membership from several US federal agencies, representatives from Mexican and Canadian organizations, academic institutions, international scientific bodies, NGOs, UNEP and the UN Development Programme.

The developments in space technology and its applications during the last three decades have provided important tools for environmental planning, management and policy formulation. However, providing this complex information to decision-makers in a timely and understandable format has been a daunting challenge.

In the past two years, GRID-Sioux Falls has been very active in the development and design of scientifically credible information products in a timely manner. Recent activities support decision-making in areas where the international community is actively engaged, such as in the Great Lakes Region of Africa and with the 1997 forest fire disaster in South-East Asia.

The programme has also facilitated the flow of developing country data to the North American scientific community and vice versa. It is also in the forefront of providing information technology tools -- remote sensing, geographic information systems (GIS), data management and advanced Internet technologies. Nearly a million files, freely available, have been transferred from its award-winning Internet site over the past two years.

On an annual basis, over 15,000 people visit the facility while touring the EROS Data Center; most of whom have very little knowledge about the United Nations. GRID-Sioux Falls is an invaluable strategic resource to help UNEP improve its image and visibility in the region.

UNEP, through GRID-Sioux Falls, gains access to world class expertise and unique facilities such as those offered by the USGS EROS Data Center, NASA, US-EPA and USFS. It is a good example of how using major scientific assets of the host country, through a cooperative partnership, directly benefits all parties in the arrangement, including clients in both the developing and developed world.

In the words of Bonnie A. McGregor, Associate Director of USGS: "We are proud of the accomplishments GRID-Sioux Falls has made over the last several years, in partnership with US federal agencies, in the area of scientific data development and dissemination and believe it provides a template for many United Nations activities."

> At today's ceremony in Nairobi, Mr. Taka Hiraishi, Director of UNEP's Environmental Information and Assessment Division, said the new Agreement was "a concrete manifestation of governmental commitment to UNEP's future as the principal UN body in the field of the environment".

The GRID network is comprised of 14 centres world-wide: Nairobi, Kenya; Sioux Falls, USA; Ottawa, Canada; INPE, Brazil; Tsukuba, Japan; Kathmandu, Nepal; Bangkok, Thailand; Christchurch, New Zealand; Arendal, Norway; Warsaw, Poland; Budapest, Hungary; Geneva, Switzerland; Copenhagen, Denmark; Sophia Antipolis, France; and these will shortly be joined by Moscow, Russia.


For further information, please contact:

Dr. Ashbindu Singh
Regional Coordinator
Environmental Information & Assessment Programme-North America
Tel: 1-605-594-6107/6117
Fax: 1-605-594-6519

Mr. Jim Sniffen
Information Officer
Regional Office for North America
UNEP, New York, USA
Tel: +1-212-963-8094/8210
Fax: +1-212-963-7341

UNEP News Release 1998/2

Tuesday 20 Jan 1998
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