Reporting Requirements and Information Systems-
Synergies Between the Conventions on Biological Diversity,
Climate Change and Desertification and the Forest Principles

Lauretta Burke
World Resources Institute

 1. Introduction

 2. The Reporting Burden

 3. Convention on Biological Diversity

 5. Framework Convention on Climate Change

 6. Convention to Combat Desertification and Drought

 7. Forest Principles

 8. Agenda 21

 9. Analysis of Synergies and Overlap in the Reporting Requirements

      Implementation and Reporting

      Common Data

10. Current Streamlining Activities

11. Recommendations

       A) Opportunities for Streamlining the Reporting Process

       B) Reporting on Forests

       C) Investments in Information Management Capacity

       D) Information Sharing and Coordination

       E ) Improved Coordination Throughout the Policy Development Process

12. References

Appendix A - Abbreviations Used in this Report

1. Introduction

During the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in 1992, two global conventions were opened for signature and Agenda 21 was formalized. Since then many countries have expressed concern over the increasing number of national reports they are required to submit in compliance with these conventions and other international agreements. The benefits of reporting are many. The reporting process results in increased awareness regarding environmental and social conditions within countries and to improved and more coordinated environmental strategy development, both at the national and international levels. Despite these valuable benefits, reporting is a financial and administrative burden for each country that must provide information, and is particularly difficult for countries with limited environmental information capacity.

This discussion document examines the reporting requirements of the Conventions on Biological Diversity, Climate Change, and Desertification and the non-binding agreement on Forest Principles. The goal is to identify redundancies in requirements related to the implementation of these conventions and to determine common data needs for policy development in these areas.

The analysis is based on literature review, interviews with experts on each of the conventions, Forest Principles and Agenda 21, and a survey of public information on the Worldwide Web (WWW). Additionally, the paper draws on individual country reports and responses to reporting requirements. This information was synthesized and redundant data requirements and common information needs were identified.

The following section presents reporting requirements of the individual conventions, Forest Principles, and Agenda 21 are presented individually, followed by an analysis of the redundancies, a description of current activities related to streamlining information requirements, and some recommendations for efficiency improvements. This discussion paper addresses both reporting related to implementation of the instruments and data needs for policy development.

2. The Reporting Burden

Most countries have prepared at least one report on its environment. These reports range from basic data on environmental conditions and trends, to an assessment of problems and development of strategies for addressing these issues. In the past few years, environmental reporting has become an essential policy instrument used by governments and private organizations to heighten public awareness, inform policy-makers and citizens of emerging and long-neglected problems, strengthen national and regional research and monitoring capacities, and hold institutions accountable for implementing policies and practices (WRI et al., 1996a).

National reporting on the environment is driven by a wide range of international agreements and results in an array of types of national reports, including Agenda 21 National Reports; Environmental Strategies and Action Plans; State of the Environment Reports; National Biodiversity, Climate Change, and Forestry Assessments, Strategies and Action Plans; and UNCED National Reports.

The rate of national reporting is on the rise as a result of the requirements of many international agreements, conditions related to securing funding from donors, increased concern about global and national environmental problems, and out of a desire for more coordinated, targeted and effective national strategies . In 1996, a collaboration of WRI, IIED and IUCN released the third edition of a summary of national environmental studies. Of the 414 reports included, two-thirds were published in 1993 or later (WRI et al., 1996a.)

Of the 208 countries and regions included in the report:

55 produced Agenda 21 National Reports for 1994

61 produced Agenda 21 National Reports for 1995

89 produced National Biodiversity Assessments, Strategies and Action Plans

21 produced Climate Change Assessments, Strategies, and Action Plans

48 produced Forestry Assessments, Strategies and Action Plans

100 produced Environmental Strategies and Action Plans

86 produced State of the Environment Reports

157 produced UNCED National Reports

Examination of this report reveals some patterns with regard to national reporting. Countries do not tend to submit both Agenda 21 reports and national Biodiversity plans. 71 countries have submitted reports under Agenda 21, 89 countries have prepared national Biodiversity Assessments, Strategies or Action Plans, while only 39 have done both (WRI et al., 1996a).

3. Convention on Biological Diversity

The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), opened for signature at UNCED in 1992, came into force in December 1993. Over 166 countries have signed the Convention, making it one of the most broadly supported international environmental agreements. The Convention's three objectives are the conservation of Biodiversity, the sustainable use of its components, and the equitable sharing of benefits from the use of genetic resources.

The CBD is one of a family of international environmental agreements related to Biodiversity. Other agreements include the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) , the Migratory Bird Convention, regional conservation conventions, and numerous regional fisheries conventions.

Reporting Requirements under the CBD

Article 26 of the CBD addresses reporting requirements:

" Each Contracting Party shall, at intervals to be determined by the Conference of the Parties, present to the Conference of the Parties, reports on measures which it has taken for the implementation of the provisions of this Convention and their effectiveness in meeting the objectives of this Convention." (CBD, Article 26).

Reporting focuses on the implementation of the convention, rather than the status of biota. Initially, reporting will emphasize Article 6, General Measures for Conservation and Sustainable Use, which requires (a) the development of national strategies, plans or programmes or adaption of existing plans for the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity to address the provisions of the convention; and (b) the integration of the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity into relevant sectoral or cross­sectoral plans, programmes and policies (Glowka et al., 1994). The first national reports will be due at the fourth meeting of the COP in 1998 and shall use the "Suggested Guidelines for National Reporting on the Implementation of Article 6" as contained in Decision II/17 of the COP 2. These guidelines are summin Box 1 below.

In the future, it is likely that Article 7, Identification and Monitoring, will also have related reporting requirements. Article 7 calls for an inventory of species, genetic materia, and habitats, monitoring of adverse impacts on biological diversity, and establishment of information management systems for the above information (WRI, 1995). Reporting on biological resources is not currently required.

The need to formulate or develop national biodiversity studies strategies and action plans has also been stressed in Chapter 15 of Agenda 21 which calls on governments to develop "new or strengthen existing strategies, plans or programmes of action for the use of biological resources, taking account of education and training needs" and "to undertake country studies or other methods to identify components of biological diversity important for its conservation and sustainable use."

To date more than 148 countries and the European Commission have ratified the CBD and are in the process of adapting or developing measures, strategies, programmes or plans to implement the Convention. Activities toward this goal are at different stages of development in each country. Progress depends on existing infrastructure such as national legal instruments, policies, institutional arrangements, information, trained personnel and available funding (

The Global Environment Facility (GEF) is the interim financial mechanism for the CBD. In addition to funding projects aimed directly at the conservation of biological diversity, the GEF funds "enabling activities," which prepare the foundation for design and implementation of effective response measures. These include helping recipient countries to develop national strategies, plans and programs, perform inventories, and prepare national communications to the CBD (GEF, 1996). To date, 55 countries are approved and 20 countries are in process for funds for enabling activities related to biodiversity (personal communication, GEF).

In light of the extensive range of international agreements related to biological diversity and the fact that specific biodiversity indicators and implementation targets have not yet been specified by the COP, an effort to identify such indicators has developed out of the Global Biodiversity Forum (GBF). In April 1997 the GBF will host a meeting in New York on biodiversity indicators and implementation targets which will examine and evaluate biodiversity indicators in general and in light of their value to the implementation of the CBD.

Box 1- Suggested Guidelines for National Reporting on the Implementation of Article 6

(as contained in Decision II/17 of the COP 2 - UNEP/CBD/COP/2/19.

Supplements to these guidelines were proposed at COP 3.)

The national report to the COP should contain:

· a brief summary of the biodiversity action plan report and its strategic recommendations

· a description of why biodiversity is important to the country

· an explanation of the country's commitment to the provisions of the convention

· a description of the aims and objectives of the NBAP

· a description of the legal and policy framework that provides the mandate and instructions for preparation of the action plan report

· a short summary of the nation's biotic assets, protection capacity and ongoing programs

· an explanation of institutional arrangements, with a view to informing people of the manner in which the strategic recommendations will be implemented

· a statement of the vision for biodiversity, its place in society, and on the equitable sharing of the benefits and costs

· a summary of the gaps between the current situation in the country and the stated vision, goals and objectives, including a summary of strategic recommendations, activities and policies and tasks that have been selected to cover the gaps

· list public and private partners in the process

· a presentation of the detailed activities, tasks and policies to be implemented, and related organizational responsibilities

· a timetable for implementation of the various tasks, and , where possible, noting signposts to help signal progress or delay

· a budget for the plan of action

· a plan for tracking the results of the action plan and for monitoring changes in the economy, environment and society. (Suggested indicators should be provided.)

Data Needs for Policy Development and Analysis

The current reporting requirements under the CBD focus on implementation of Article 6. This information is valuable for the evaluation of institutional, legislative and capacity-related issues. However, a broader base of information is required for developing, evaluating and prioritizing strategies and policy options for the conservation of biological diversity. There are many base (core) data sets which are fundamental to assessment of biological resources and pressures on these resources, many of which are also valuable for analysis related to the other conventions. Some of these base data layers relevant for biological diversity are listed in Box 2. These data sets are geographic in nature, so inherent in them is information on location and area of each feature.

2- Some Core Data Sets for Biological Diversity

· vegetation type

· forest type (with information on characteristics such as density)

· climate (temperature, precipitation, etc.)

· topography (elevation, slope, aspect)

· surface hydrology (lakes, rivers, streams)

· soil type

· flora and fauna (species type and density information)

· endangered species habitat

· protected areas (by type and status)

· wetlands

· roads

· other infrastructure (transmission lines, etc.)

· human settlements

· indigenous peoples homelands

· population (count and density)

5. Framework Convention on Climate Change

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (FCCC) was opened for signature at the 1992 UNCED meeting. By June 1993, when the treaty was closed for signature, 165 states (plus the EU) had signed. To date, it has been ratified by 145 countries (

The Convention establishes specific obligations for particular categories of states. It distinguishes between members of the OECD, countries in transition to a market economy, and developing countries. OECD countries and countries in transition to a market economy are listed as "Annex I Parties." The Convention requires OECD countries to take the strongest measures, while the states in transition to a market economy are allowed a certain flexibility. The Convention recognizes that compliance by developing countries will depend on financial and technical assistance from developed countries. In addition, the needs of least developed countries and those that are particularly vulnerable to climate change for geographical reasons are given special consideration (

Article 12 of the FCCC, Communication of Information Related to Implementation, establishes reporting requirements, but draws a distinction between requirements for Annex I Parties (OECD and Parties with Economies in Transition) and Non-Annex I Parties:

Annex I Parties were required to submit their first national communication by April of 1994, with the second national communication due by April of 1997. The national communications include detailed information on national circumstances (optional), greenhouse gas (GHG) inventories, mitigation policies and measures, emission projections including the country's energy consumption, energy intensity ratios, and per capita GHG emission ratios. Reporting is based upon guidelines adopted by the COP and IPCC - See Box 3 below.

Non-Annex I Parties are required to submit their report within three years of accession. Least developed countries will submit at their discretion. The first Non-Annex 1 reports are expected beginning April 1997. Reporting is based upon guidelines adopted by the COP. Non-Annex 1 Parties should provide a national inventory of estimates of anthropogenic emisby sources and removals by sinks of all greenhouse gases not controlled by the Montreal Protocol, a general description of steps taken or envisaged towards FCCC goals, and any other relevant information.

3- Guidelines for Preparation of Communications by Annex I Parties

(from UN FCCC Guidelines,March, 1994)

National Communicat

1) a description of the full range of actions to implement convention obligations,

2) an inventory of all anthropogenic emissions and removals of all greenhouse gases not covered by the Montreal Protocol, and

3) a qualitative discussion of uncertainty in data and underlying assumptions.

GHG Inventories

Within the first national communications, Annex I parties were required to report on CO2, CH4 and N2O, and encouraged to report on other GHGs (PFCs, HFCs, SF6) and precursor gases (CO, NOX, and VOCs). Parties are now expected to report on all six of the listed GHGs, and are still encouraged to report on precursor gases.

Inventory data should be presented:

· on a gas-by-gas basic,

· with emissions and removals listed separately,

· with a base year of 1990 (estimated)

· by sector (energy, industry, agriculture, forestry and other)

The use of IPCC Guidelines for reporting is encouraged.

Other Basic Data

National communications may also include basic data reflecting "National Circumstances, " including: data on

· population - (growth rates, population density and distribution, GHG emission per capita)

· geography - (area by land use)

· climate - (temperature, precipitation, heating and cooling degree days)

· the economy - (GDP per capita, growth rates, GDP by sector, GHG emissions per GDP)

· the energy sector - (energy prices, energy taxes, energy subsidies, vehicle taxes, energy consumption by sector and fuel type)

· a social profile - (literacy rate, average dwelling size, vehicles per capita, and personal freight traffic by mode)

Extensive data reporting is required under the FCCC. Key components include the inventory of GHG emissions and removals by gas and sector, the description of policies and measures implemented to reduce GHG emissions by gas and sector, and the optional background data section, "National Circumstances".

The first national communications by Annex 1 Parties were submitted in 1994. Parties tended to provide good coverage on GHG emissions for the six main GHGs listed above. Only a few parties, however, provided inventory data for removals of CO2 by sinks. The land use change and forestry source category was problematic in many cases. Scientific uncertainties and difficulties in data collection gave rise to low confidence in the figures and led to a lack of comparability among countries (FCCC/SBSTA/1996/3).

The GEF is also designated as the interim funding mechanism for the FCCC. GEF funds enabling activities to support the preparation of national communications to the FCCC. At present 97 countries are either partial or fully approved for enabling activities (personal communication, GEF).

Data Needs for Policy Development and Analysis

It is important to note that emissions and removals of CO2 through land use change and forestry are treated separately from other sectors. In order to evaluate changes in CO2 sequestration within this sector, reliable and detailed data sets are required reflecting land use and forest by type and biomass density. Box 4 reflects some of these data sets.

4- Some Core Data Sets for Climate Change

· population (count and density)

· roads

· railroads

· power transmission lines

· power generation facilities (by type, capacity)

· forest type (with information on characteristics such as biomass density estimate)

· climate (temperature, precipitation, etc.)

· wetlands

· rice

· agricultural lands (by type)

· fertilizer use

· landfills

· human settlements

6. Convention to Combat Desertification and Drought

The Convention to Combat Desertification in Those Countries Experiencing Serious Drought and/or Desertification, Particularly in Africa (CCD) was opened for signature in 1994. As of January 15, 1997, 115 countries had signed and 62 had ratified the convention (

The CCD calls upon each party to establish national strategies and action programmes and to file reports on the implementation of the Convention with the COP. Article 26, Communication of Information, distinguishes reporting requirements for "Affected Country Parties" and "Developed Country Parties." Affected Country Parties are required to provide a description of the strategies established and of any relevant information on their implementation. Groups of Affected Country Parties are permitted to make joint communications on measures taken at the subregional and/or regional levels. Developed Country Parties are required to report on measures taken to assist in the preparation and implementation of action programmes, including information on the financial resources they have provided, or are providing, under the Convention. Details of reporting requirements will be determined at COP 1 in September of 1997.

At present, no definitive list of indicators have been proposed to monitor implementation of the convention or biophysical and socioeconomic conditions on the ground. Earlier this year, the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee for the Elaboration of an International CCD (INCD) met and reported on ongoing work on benchmarks and indicators (UN/INCD -- A/AC.241/Inf.4). The report encourages selection of only a limited number of indicators, focused on the problems related to implementation of the convention, and encourages a hierarchical, decentralized, "bottom-up" approach to indicators. This recognizes the need for some indicators tailored to local situations, in addition to a standardized minimum set of indicators for worldwide reporting (see Box 5 for sample indicators).

5- Sample Proposed Indicators for CCD Implementation

· Functional National Coordination Unit established (status, resources, etc.)

· Effective participation of actors involved in defining national priorities (methods, representativeness, etc)

· Effective support from international partners (degree of participation of developed countries and international organizations, resources available, etc.)

· Institutional framework for coherent and functional desertification control (measures identified and adopted)

· National Action Plans as part of the National Economic and Social Development Process (coherence with other strategic frameworks)

· Coherent and functional legal and regulatory framework

· Measures adopted to facilitate access by local actors to funding

· Functional mechanisms for monitoring and evaluation of desertification established

· Implementation of inventory and adaption projects

The CCD has linkages to the other conventions, and to broader sustainable management issues. It recommends that countries incorporate their plans related to desertification and drought into their broader sustainable development strategies and action plans. The CCD has cross-linking references to the contribution that combating deforestation can make to achieving the objectives of the climate and biodiversity conventions and it encourages joint programmes.

Data Needs for Policy Development and Analysis

Closely related to the CCD, Chapter 12 of Agenda 21 encourages a land-condition-based prioritization focusing on implementation of preventive measures for lands that are not yet degraded or which are only slightly degraded. However, severely degraded areas should not be neglected. Programme elements include:

· strengthening the knowledge base and developing information and monitoring systems for regions prone to desertification and drought, including the economic and social aspects of these ecosystems;

· combating land degradation through, inter alia, intensified soil conservation, afforestation and reforestation activities; and

· developingand strengthening integrated development programmes for the eradication of poverty and promotion of alternative livelihood systems in areas prone to desertification

The geographic data sets relevant to evaluating and combating desertification have much in common with the data sets listed for analysis of biodiversity and climate. For desertification assessment, there is increased emphasis on agricultural activities and social and economic conditio. While the other conventions tend to be global in coverage, it is worth noting that the CCD only applies to dryland areas. A comparison of the data needs for all four of the instruments is presented later, in Section 9.

7. Forest Principles

Two major UNCED agreements, the CBD and the FCCC, recognize the broader role that forests play in the maintenance of global ecosystems. Global forests, as a significant repository for carbon, are a subject of the Climate Convention, while forests, as a haven for many of the world's species (and many at greatest risk) are a subject of the Biodiversity Convention.

While there have been proposals to expand the CBD to address forest loss, there is still no consensus among the signatory countries. Under the Climate Convention, forests have become a major factor in joint implementation agreements because of their important role in regulating the Earth's temperature. Under both conventions, nations are likely to continue to develop potential mechanisms to support forest-related activities over the next several years (WRI et al., 1996b).

Forest Principles is non­legally binding and there are no formal reporting requirements. Forest Principle 2c relates to information provision, "The provision of timely, reliable and accurate information on forests and forest ecosystems is essential for public understanding and informed decision-making and should be ensured." This principle is supported by Forest Principle 12 which relates to the strengthening of institutions for assessment and management of forests.

Although there is not, at this time, a requirement for national reporting, there is on-going research and discussion related to the development of methods to evaluate the sustainablity of forest management practices. One area of growing consensus regarding forest monitoring relates to the development of criteria and indicators for the sustainable management of forests. In 1990, the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO) became the first intergovernmental body to produce criteria and guidelines for the sustainable management of tropical forests. ITTO established "Target 2000", a goal that by the year 2000, all forest products should come from sustainably managed forests (WRI et al., 1996b).

Following the International Tropical Timber Agreement, renegotiated in 1994, three separate processes emerged that cover a broad range of general guidelines for the sustainable management of forests. Two focus on boreal and temperate forests - the Pan-European Helsinki process, and the non-European Montreal process. One focuses on tropical forests - the Tarapoto Declaration of the Amazon Treaty Organization regarding Amazon forests. Similar processes are underway for Central America and Africa (WRI et al., 1996b).

By the third session of the CSD, it became apparent that there was a need for an inter-governmental forum to focus on the priority issues related to forests. The CSD established an "Open-ended ad hoc Intergovernmental Panel on Forests" (IPF) for this purpose ( Although a priority of the IPF is to develop criteria and indicators, not much progress has been made in this area due to the consuming an divided debate on the need for a global convention on forests.

Data Needs for Policy Development and Analysis related to Forests

As the extent, condition and contents of forests are central to both the CBD and the FCCC, there are many recurring core data sets. Table 1 in Section 9 presents a comparison of data needs for the four instruments.

8. Agenda 21

117 National Councils for Sustainable Development were established by countries to help plan and implement Agenda 21, the international plan of action agreed to at UNCED in 1992 (WRI et al, 1996). In Agenda 21, each country agreed in principle to develop a "national strategy for sustainable development" to "ensure socially responsible economic development while protecting the resource base and the environment."

Of the forty chapters of Agenda 21, the four with the greatest relevance to the three conventions and Forest Principles are:

Chapter 9 Protection of the Atmosphere

Chapter 11 Combating Deforestation

Chapter 12 Managing Fragile Ecosystems: Combating Desertification and Drought

Chapter 15 Conservation of Biological Diversity

These chapters of Agenda 21 are closely related to and support the three conventions and Forest Principles. As such, information reported under Agenda 21 is in essence a high-level summary of a country's's progress toward sustainable development. Countries implementing Agenda 21 were expected to do annual reports on implementation every year beginning in 1994. "Country Profiles" are currently being prepared by the Department for Policy Coordination and Sustainable Development (DPCSD) on behalf of the Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD), largely based on national Agenda 21 reports, and assembled UN statistics. These will soon be available on the CSD homepage. See Box 6 for details of information in Country Profiles.

6- Relevant Information Contents of Country Profiles

The country profile report for each of chapters 9, 11, 12 and 15 allows for summaries of implementation issues, relevant agencies and structures responsible for decision making, capacity building and technology issues, financial support and expenditures and for reference to other national reports related to the specific chapter. Additionally:

Chapter 9 - Protection of the Atmosphere - Country profiles for Chapter 9 provide summary information on international agreement signing for both ozone-depleting substances and for climate, including the year of the latest report to the Montreal Protocol and FCCC Secretariats. A limited number of statistical indicators are provided reflecting estimated emissions of GHG (CO2 and CH4), with regard to change over time (for 1980, 1990, and the most recent year available.)

Chapter 11 - Combating Deforestation - Country profiles for this chapter provide a summary of the status of forest resources. Statistical indicators include forest area and protected forest area, deforestation rate and reforestation rate, and roundwood production.

Chapter 12 - Managing Fragile Ecosystems: Combating Desertification and Drought - Country profiles for this chapter established whether the country is a signatory to the CCD and the year of the latest report to the convention. The only statistical indicator provided is the area of land affected by desertification, with estimates for 1980, 1990 and the most recent year available.

Chapter 15 - Conservation of Biological Diversity - The country profiles for Chapter 15 establish participation (signing and year of last report) for the CBD and CITES. Statistical indicators include protected area as a percentage of total land area and number of threatened species.

9. Analysis of Synergies and Overlap in the Reporting Requirements

An analysis of the overlap in reporting requirements should focus both on current requirements and on anticipated needs. Currently, the CBD requires reporting on activities and structures related to implementation of the convention, but will eventually require reporting on biota. The FCCC requires reporting on GHG inventories, land use / forest inventories, projections on emissions and sequestration, in addition to activities related to implementation of the convention. The CCD, which has not yet formalized reporting requirements, wimost likely require reports on physical and socioeconomic conditions in dryland areas, in addition to activities to implement the convention. The Forest Principles does not currently, and may never, have any requirements for national reporting.

The discussion of information overlap will be divided into two areas - reporting related to implementation and common core data needs.

Implementation and ReportingImplementation and Reporting

Activities related to implementation of the three conventions have several general common areas, but are to a large extent unique. In their most simforms, the CBD is concerned with measures to protect species, habitats and genetic resources, encouraging and governing the exploration and use of genetic resources, and equitable and wise resource use. The FCCC is concerned with improving efficiency and reducing GHG emissions from the energy, transport and industrial sectors, as well as from land use change. The CCD is concerned with the socioeconomic conditions, land use and associated risk of desertification in dryland areas of the world.

There are four main areas of overlap among the conventions, two of which are physical in nature, while two are institutional. The first institutional issue is that there are many common information / data needs for effective policy formulation, and this information often becomes a part of the reporting to the COPs. This issue will be addressed below, under "Common Data."

The second institutional issue relates to planning and implementation. In reporting to the COP, the Parties are reporting, inter alia, on implementation of action plans and particular activities aimed at conservation, mitigation, institutional strengthening, and improving efficiency. These activities might be part of a broad sustainable development or environmental action plan developed with a full range of environmental and sustainable development goals in mind. Or, these activities might be derived from wholly separate (perhaps isolated) ministries and agencies working specifically on a forestry, biodiversity, desertification, or climate change action plan.

· There are greater opportunities for synergy in programs, efficiencies in program implementation and reporting, and better balance and coverage with regard to the range of environmental objectives, if strategies and action plans for each of the instruments developed with greater coordination from the beginning.

Regarding the physical areas of overlap under the instruments, there are two main areas. One is the role of forests - forests as biotic resources and havens for species, as sinks for carbon, as a stabilizer of local climate and soils, and as an economic resource. The second major area of overlap relates to the potential effects of climate on dryland areas and on biotic resources in general.

· The greatest opportunity for synergistic reporting relates to information about the resource base -- the status and trends of forests and land use. National forestry programs have tremendous implications related to the conservation of biological diversity, the mitigation of CO2 emissions, and for forests as a renewable natural resource and source of livelihood.

All four instruments which are the subject of this document acknowledge this linkage. Although there is text in each about the linkage, it is not clear how much collaboration actually takes place among groups responsible for each of the instruments. How much sharing of core data sets occurs? How much sharing of human resources? How much collaboration on the development of indicators meaningful to more than one instrument? How much joint policy development?

· Forests need to be treated holistically as a vital resource for local and national well-being, as a biologically diverse resource, and as a sink for carbon.

Climate is a primary factor controlling the distribution of biota, including forests and the potential for agricultural production. Potential climate change effects have profound implications for the biological resources which are the subject of each of the instruments. These resources are also relevant as a potential source of GHG emissions and sink for carbon. They are inextricably linked.

· This points to the need for coordination in the development of monitoring programs. In particular, inter-ministerial coordination is essential.

In many countries, responsibilities for the protection of biological diversity might be spread across many agencies. One might be responsible for protected areas management, one for forests, and another for endangered species. Once again, interagency coordination on resource planning, development of common, useful indicators is essential to improving efficiency in planning and reporting.

Common Data Common Data

There are two general areas of common data sets - national profile data and core geographic data sets.

a) National Profile Data) National Profile Data

The FCCC made optional the provision of an extensive set of national background data which is relevant to the country's current and future emissions of GHG and land use change. Similar background information is important to the evaluation of current activities and stresses in dryland areas (under CCD) and to the evaluation of the value of and stresses on biological diversity. A substantial amount of basic national profile data is reported under Agenda 21.

There is a good opportunity for harmonization of efforts and efficiency improvements in this area. Current efforts in this area are described in Section 10.

b) Core Geographic Data Sets) Core Geographic Data Sets

The second area of great potential for data sharing relates to core geographic data sets for policy development and analysis. Table 1 reflects suggested core data set needs to support each of the instruments. Most of these data sets are critical to several of the instruments. In particular, information on land use, vegetation, forests, soils, climate, hydrology, population and settlements, and roads and other infrastructure is required by at least three of the four instruments.

Table 1 - Core Data Set Needs BD For Des CC
land use (by type) X X X X
vegetation (by type) X X X
forests (by type, condition, density) X X X
forest production and export information X X
soils (by type) X X X X
agriculture (by type) X X
rice cultivation X
fertilizer use X
wetlands X X
climate (temperature, precipitation, etc.) X X X X
topography (elevation, slope, aspect) X X X
surface hydrology (lakes, rivers, streams) X X X
estimate of areas' risk of desertification X
flora and fauna (species type and density info) X
endangered species habitat X X
protected areas (by type and condition) X X
human settlements X X X X
indigenous peoples homelands X X X
population (count and density) X X X X
roads X X X X
other infrastructure (transmission lines, etc.) X X X X
power transmission lines X
power generation facilities (by type, capacity) X

Coarse, often out-of-date, geographic data sets exist for many of these themes for the whole world. However, these are not of adequate quality to serve as the basis for policy analysis.

· Investment in information management infrastructure and in geographic data set development in countries where human, technological, facility and financial capacity and data are currently lacking could be an efficient and complementary means of promoting implementation of the three conventions and forest principles.

10. Current Streamlining Activities

Streamlining of National Reporting Requirements is being considered by the IACSD, the CSD, and the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). The IACSD, for example, has concluded that "possibilities for streamlining the process exist, particularly in the area of identifying and simplifying requests, and the information available could be used in a more effectivemanner" (Draft report to IACSD).

In July, 1996, the IACSD "endorsed the proposal that streamlining, at this stage, should be pursued by seeking a division of labor between the content of the reporting to the CSD and the reporting the conventions and agencies. Through this process, the Country Profiles being prepared for the CSD would become a first access document containing general institutional and macro-economic information with cross references and linkages to other data bases holding more specific information collected by the conventions and organizations of the UN systems. Moreover, countries would be encouraged to indicate to whom they had already reported certain information. This process will eventually require common core data se, computerization of the country profiles and mutually accessible data bases." (Para, ACC/1996/12).

In December 1996, the UN Division for Sustainable Development (DPCSD) convened a meeting on streamlining of national reports in preparation for the fifth session of the CSD which is scheduled for April 1997. Among the conclusions of this meeting, the following are relevant to this discussion paper:

· Information with relevance to Agenda 21 would be shared in such a manner that governments would not be requested to provide the information to more than one UN organization or convention secretariat.

· Information mandated from legally-binding instruments as well as by decisions and resolutions of intergovernmental bodies will continue to be provided to the respective convention secretariats. The respective secretariats will make this information available, as appropriate for Agenda 21.

· Organizations that have not yet done so will move toward making their information available electronically, on a country-by-country basis.

· Country profiles being prepared by the DPCSD on behalf of the CSD should serve as a basis for streamlined socioeconomic information of relevance to sustainable development, in cooperation with the UN Statistics Division / DESIPA, by linking with the relevant databases for the UN System (Draft IACSD).

Streamlining of biodiversity-related instruments is the subject of several initiatives. The Global Biodiversity Forum / BIONET initiative was described earlier. UNEP convened a meeting addressing the overlap amongst international agreements concerning biodiversity. As a result, WCMC is being commissioned to perform this analysis. There is an opportunity to tie these initiatives to the broader process of identifying indicators which would be useful to the other conventions as well.

11. Recommendations

A) Opportunities for Streamlining the Reporting ProcessA) Opportunities for Streamlining the Reporting Process

Currently, there are redundancies in the reporting requirements for each of the conventions and Agenda 21. This leads to an inefficient use of the often scarce resources available for environmental information management and reporting.

· The redundancies between reporting requirements under Agenda 21 and the conventions must be dealt with. Coordination of the timing of reports is essential. If reporting deadlines are out of phase, an additional reporting burden could result.

· The redundancies between Agenda 21 and the conventions can be dealt with in one of three ways: (1) CSD Primary - If Agenda 21 reports continue to be a requirement of the CSD, these could serve as the main source of country profile data, with pointers to more detailed data when available; (2) Joint Primary - General background (country profile) information could be provided to CSD, while actions specific to the conventions would be reported to the convention secretariat only; (3) Secretariat Primary - Reporting to relevant secretariats could serve as the main vehicle for reporting, with this information being forwarded to the CSD. The merits of these three approaches need to be evaluated.

· Reports to the conventions need to be kept at a sensible level so that countries are able to accommodate requirements, but also need to include adequate and useful information for evaluation of progress toward implementation of the conventions. Development of a more standardized reporting framework would reduce the burden of provision of the same information to more than one organization / secretariat. In order to develop a standardized reporting framework, it is essential to identify the information which is most useful to the secretariats for evaluation of convention implementation and progress and to define in what form this information is required. This is fundamental to streamlining reporting requirements and harmonizing efforts.

B) Reporting on Forests B) Reporting on Forests

Forests resources are the subject of each of the four instruments examined in this paper. National forestry programs have tremendous implications related to the conservation of biological diversity, the mitigation of CO2 emissions, and for forests as a renewable natural resource and source of livelihood.

· There are great opportunities for synergistic reporting and policy development in the area of forest resources. Forests should be treated holistically as a vital economic resource, as a biologically diverse resource, and as a sink for carbon. Sharing data on forest status and trends and coordinated reporting on forests should be priority areas of any effort at streamlining.

C) Investments in Information Management Capacity C) Investments in Information Management Capacity

Reporting does not occur with any degree of consistency. Many reporting requirements are not fulfilled, and reports are frequently submitted late, incomplete, or not at all (GAO, 1992.) This is often the result of a lack of financial and technical resources within the relevant ministry or organization.

· There is a need to build a national capacity for environmental information management in many countries in order to improve the reporting process.

D) Information Sharing and CoordinationD) Information Sharing and Coordination

There are significant opportunities for efficiency improvement related to sharing base data sets and coordinated data development.

· Sharing information on data holdings, data sources and information systems is a good initial step toward information coordination.

· There are opportunities for using common shared data sets, particularly core geographic data sets and country profile information. Some of the core geographic data sets which are valuable to several of the instruments are land use, roads, vegetation, forests, soils, climate, human settlements, population density, and location of indigenous peoples' homelands. Data of sufficient quality are not currently available for all countries. In many areas, environmental planning would benefit greatly from the development of adequate core data sets. Joint funding of such data sets should be considered.

· Information management related to the implementation of the four instruments and the CSD is likely to be spread across many national (and sometimes regional) agencies. Use of an information clearing house or focal point can be useful for synthesizing information and as an efficient multilateral means for information sharing. Information sharing within and between countries can bring considerable benefits, including increased coordination and cooperation.

· Information sharing capabilities have been greatly enhanced in recent years through developments on the Internet / WWW. Although these capabilities are not yet present in all countries that are party to the conventions, these capabilities are increasing and spreading at a remarkable rate. The WWW as a decentralized means of information sharing and exchange should be considered.

E ) Improved Coordination Throughout the Policy Development ProcessE ) Improved Coordination Throughout the Policy Development Process

Different ministries and agencies tend to be responsible for the fairly separate activities under the conventions on BioloDiversity, Climate Change, and Desertification, and the Forest Principles. This is true throughout the planning and implementation process - from the development of strategies and action plans, through reporting under the individual instruments. There are opportunities for synergies throughout the process. These include sharing core data sets, developing joint strategies for forests with consideration of biodiversity and climate effects, developing of the related action plan for implementation of joint activities, and shared reporting.

· The capacity available to develop national strategies is already a scarce resource. Efficiencies, synergies, and cooperation can be achieved by coordinating the development of action plans on forests, biological diversity and climate jointly. This will lead to greater efficiencies in the long run than simply focusing on the efficiencies of shared reporting.

Exchanging informon data holdings and project activities, sharing data, and working to coordinate reporting are all important steps in the broader, valuable goal of improving coordination in national environmental strategy development and implementation.

12. References

Convention on Biological Diversity (COB), 1992.

GAO (General Accounting Office), 1992. "International environmental agreements are not well monitored" GAO/RCED-92-43.

GEF (Global Environment Facility), 1996. "Operational Strategy," GEF, Washington, DC.

Glowka, L., F. Burhene-Guilmin and H. Synge, 1994. "A Guide to the Convention on Biological Diversity," Environmental Policy and Law Paper No. 30, IUCN World Conservation Union, Gland, Switzerland.

Groomkbridge, B. And M.D. Jenkins, 1996. "Assessing Biodiversity Status and Sustainability," World Conservation Monitoring Centre (WCMC), Cambridge, U.K.

Ministry of the Environment, Republic of Indonesia, 1995. "Indonesian Country Report on Implementation of Agenda 21," Indonesia.

SARDC and IUCN, 1996. "Directory of Environmental Information and Organizations in Southern Africa," INTERAISE, Harare, Zimbabwe.

United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification in Countries Experiencing Serious Drought and/or Desertification, Particularly in Africa (CCD), 1992.

UN/DSD/DPCSD, 1996. "Indicators of Sustainable Development Framework and Methodology," August, 1996, New York.

UN Framework Convention on Climate Change Documents:

-Guidelines for the Preparation of First Communications by Annex I Parties, March 28, 1994.

-Report on the Guidelines of r the Preparation of the First Communications by Annex I Parties, Feb 13, 1996 (FCCC/SBSTA/1996/3)

-Review of the Implementation of the Convention and the Decisions of the First Session of the COP, July 18,1996

-Decisions to Promote the Effective Implementation of the Convention, July 17, 1996

UN General Assembly / INCD - Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee for the Elaboration of an International CCD (INCD), "Report on ongoing work being done on benchmarks and indicators", November, 1996. (A/AC.241/Inf.4)

WCMC (World Conservation Monitoring Centre), 1996. "Guide to Information Management in the Context of the Convention on Biological Diversity, " UNEP, Nairobi, Kenya.

WRI (World Resources Institute), 1995. "National Biodiversity Planning: Guidelines Based on Early Experiences Around the World," WRI, Washington, DC.

WRI (World Resource Institute), International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), and the World Conservation Union ( IUCN), 1996a. "World Directory of Country Environmental Studies," 3rd Ed., WRI, Washington, DC.

WRI, UNEP, UNDP, and the World Bank, 1996(b). "World Resources Report (WRR) 1996-97, " Oxford Press.

Worldwide Web Sites (WWW)

UNEP/ Biodiversity -

UNEP/ Desertification -\incd.html


Climate Fact Sheet -

Climate -

Climate Convention -

Agenda 21 / Biodiversity -

Appendix A - Abbreviations Used in this Report

CBD Convention on Biological Diversity

CSD Commission on Sustainable Development

COP Conference of Parties

DPCSD UN Department for Policy Coordination and Sustainable Development

DSD UN Division for Sustainable Development

DESIPA UN Department for Economic and Social Information and Policy Analysis

ECOSOC UN Economic and Social Council

FCCC UN Framework Convention on Climate Change

GEF Global Environent Faciltiy

IACSD Interagency Committee for Sustainable Development

IIED International Institute for Environment and Development

IPCC Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

IPF Intergovernmental Panel on Forests

IUCN World Conservation Union

GBF Global Biodiverstiy Forum

GHG greenhouse gases

NBAP National Biodiversity Action Plan

OECD Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development

UNCED United Nations Conference on Environment and Development

WCMC World Conservation Monitoring Centre

WRI World Resources Institute

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