INDEPENDENT NEWS AND COMMENT ON WORLD AFFAIRS
August 2016: On 27 July, in a little noted decision on "Cartography," the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) made a change that will have more impact on the future of Sustainable Development than all the meetings of its High Level Political Forum.
Acting on the report of its Committee of Experts on Global Geospatial Information Management (GGIM) established just five years earlier, the Council decided to eliminate all its Regional Cartographic Conferences. In their stead, a much strengthened Expert Committee will streamline all UN work related to geospatial information management, especially in relation to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda, the 2015-2030 Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, the Paris Agreement on climate change and the Small Islands Accelerated Modalities of Action (SAMOA) Pathway.
A prime area of focus will be the development of a global geodetic frame of reference necessary for the efficient use of all aspects of GGIM. The expert committee will oversee all UN System efforts to "strengthen coordination and coherence of global geospatial information management, in capacity-building, norm-setting, data collection, data dissemination and data sharing, among others." It will also help strengthen the integration of statistical and geospatial information management, especially in developing countries, in particular the least developed, landlocked and small island developing States. (Developments in 2017)
With these changes ECOSOC has set in place the integration and harmonization of fundamental geospatial data themes from the national to global levels, building on existing fundamental datasets and identifying strategic priorities. The knowledge-base for geospatial information management will be continuously updated by all users and make critical and relevant information accessible on the Web.
The Expert Committee sees land administration as a predominant theme in its future work. It has noted the increased location-based technological developments around the world that could have an impact on the consideration of legal and policy framework issues relevant to the development of authoritative data. (A "Convention on Geoinformation" proposed by the International Bar Association has been deemed premature.) The framework issues will be important in the collection, use, storage and dissemination of geospatial information.
As usual, the UN has done practically nothing to tell the world about any of this. Young people, especially, should be avidly interested in the prospect that if we don't blow ourselves up in the next few years, the planet will have a living skin of location-specific data accessible from any smart phone. Every phone will also be able to link to the data skin and act as a sensor. We will be a giant step closer to the development of a "global brain" noted in our article on A United Nations for the 21st Century.
A First Century map telling of the sea route from Mediterranean Europe to India is one of the earliest examples of the use of geospatial information. It puts in perspective the dramatic new uses of such information in a digitally connected world.