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Knowledge Bases

UNEP undertakes, supports and is a partner in a number of environmental assessments with different thematic and geographic coverage. Environmental assessments are key vehicles for promoting the interaction between science processes and the various stages of the policy and decision-making cycle. They underpin decision-making by UNEP Governing Council, multilateral environmental agreements, regional ministerial environmental forums, the private sector and national and local authorities.

Assessments are fundamentally communication processes, not simply reports, which share many similar features, regardless of their scope. The following characteristics define an environmental assessment:


It is a critical, peer-reviewed evaluation of information, for purposes of guiding decisions on a complex public issue, following a well-defined process.


The scope (topic under consideration) is defined by multiple stakeholders, who are typically decision makers. Findings are policy-relevant but not prescriptive, and reflect, for example, an "if . then ." approach.


It is conducted by a credible group of experts with a broad range of disciplinary and geographical experience and representation, in a balanced and transparent manner.


It reduces complexity but adds value by summarizing, synthesizing and building scenarios, and identifies consensus by sorting out what is known and widely accepted from what is not known or not agreed. Environmental assessments constitute a key component of the proposed Environment Watch system emanating from UNEP's Science Initiative.

Integrated Environmental Assessments

UNEP in West Asia seeks to provide leadership and encourage partnership in enhancing linkages between science and policy in environmental assessments. It works to promote and raise awareness on Integrated Environmental Assessment (IEA) concepts and methodologies in the region, and the importance of producing national and regional environment outlook reports.

Integrated Environmental Assessments, using the methodology developed by the GEO process, aim to answer the five basic questions on the environment: What is happening and why? What are the consequences? What is being done about it? Where are we heading?, and what actions could be taken? It provides a participatory, structured approach to linking knowledge and action. The "integrated approach" is an umbrella term for:

  • linking the analysis of environmental state and trends with the policy analysis;
  • incorporating global and sub-global perspectives;
  • incorporating historical and future perspectives; iv) covering a broad spectrum of issues and policies; and
  • integrating the consideration of environmental change and human well-being.

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