“Knowledge is an asset that grows when shared”
Establishing and maintaining effective partnerships and networks to keep the world environmental situation under review underpins the work programme of DEWA and is consistent with UNEP’s role as a catalytic organisation by mobilising institutional cooperation at the relevant level. The multidisciplinary nature of environmental issues and themes coupled with the fragmentation of data and information across different institutional custodians, makes it imperative to have structures in place to harness the best available scientific data to support scientific assessment and early warning, and report on the state of the environment from global down to local level.
On the communications side, the dissemination of policy-relevant assessment findings to policy-makers enables effective policies to be formulated in response to pressing environmental concerns. In addition, the provision of access to environmental information facilitates sound decision-making at the relevant level by a broad spectrum of stakeholders ranging from governmental officials to the ordinary citizen.
Partnerships are normally agreed between UNEP and one or more organisations that have a well-defined stakeholder interest in the delivery of UNEP’s programme of work. A framework Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) or Letter of Agreement (LOA) is usually signed and describes the agreed areas of cooperation. UNEP has established or been part of a number of partnerships in support of its early warning, assessments and capacity development programmes. These partnerships are quite diverse and cover issues such as geographic information systems, environmental information sharing, production of assessments with collaborating centres and so on. ECOLEX is one example of a partnership agreement.
Networks tend to be broader than partnerships in that many more institutions are engaged in the working relationship. Again, the network members share a common objective and tend to collaborate on an in-kind basis to derive mutual benefits form the working relationship. The GEMS Water network is an example of a networking relationship.
Over the past three decades UNEP has spawned a number of environmental information networking activities, namely ENRIN, GEO, GRID, Infoterra and lately the Africa Environmental Information Network (AEIN), that have stakeholder involvement at the global, regional, sub-regional and national levels. All of these networks deal with some aspect of environmental data and information from collection and management through to access, exchange and dissemination, though not necessarily in all countries.
Some examples of partnerships and networks include: