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GEO-3: GLOBAL ENVIRONMENT OUTLOOK  
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GEO report series

The GEO reports are produced using a regional and participatory approach. Input is solicited from a wide range of sources throughout the world, including the collaborating centre network, United Nations organizations and independent experts.

Working together with the GEO Coordinating Team in Nairobi and the regions, the CCs research, write and review major parts of the report. During the preparation of the report, UNEP organizes consultations inviting policy makers and other stakeholders to review and comment on draft materials. Drafts also undergo extensive peer review. This iterative process is designed to ensure that the contents are scientifically accurate and policy relevant to users in different parts of the world and with different environmental information needs.

Previous reports published are GEO-1 in 1997 and GEO-2000 in 1999. The third in the series, GEO-3, places major emphasis on providing an integrated assessment of environmental trends over the 30 years since the 1972 Stockholm Conference.

The analysis of environmental trends takes into consideration the widest possible range of social, economic, political and cultural drivers and root causes - demographics, production and consumption, poverty, urbanization, industrialization, governance, conflict, globalization of trade, finance, information and others. It also investigates the relationships between policy and environment, showing how policy can impact the environment and how the environment can drive policy.

For structural and presentational clarity, sectoral areas are used as the entry points for assessment. However, the cross-cutting nature of environmental issues is also emphasized, with integrated analysis of themes and policy impacts where appropriate, and emphasis on geographical and sectoral interlinkages.

Description and analysis are primarily targeted at global and regional levels but include sub-regional differentiation where appropriate. The analysis focuses on priority issues, with assessment of vulnerability, hot spots and emerging issues.

The report analyses the increasing human vulnerability to environmental change to determine extent and impacts on people. The report breaks with the tradition of most environmental assessments which are organized around environmental resources rather than around human concerns.

Using a 2002-32 time frame, GEO-3 also contains a forward-looking and integrated analysis, which is based on four scenarios and linked to the major issues of current concern. The global-level analysis is extended to regions and sub-regions, identifying potential areas of vulnerability and hot spots of the future, and drawing attention to policy implications. Contrasting visions of the future are developed for the next 30 years using narrative and quantitative approaches.

The final chapter of GEO-3 presents positive policy and action items, linked to the overall conclusions of the assessment and targeted at different categories and levels of decision makers and actors. It elaborates the conditions and capacities required for successful application of policies and actions.

GEO supports the principle of access to environmental information for decision making

The GEO report series addresses one of the important objectives of Agenda 21 which emphasizes the role of information in sustainable development. One of the Agenda 21 activities involves the strengthening or establishment of mechanisms to transform scientific and socio-economic assessments into information suitable for both planning and public information. It also calls for the use of both electronic and non-electronic formats.

This objective has been further reaffirmed by the MalmöMinisterial Declaration of May 2000, which among other issues states that:

  • To confront the underlying causes of environmental degradation and poverty, we must integrate environmental considerations in the mainstream of decisionmaking. We must also intensify our efforts in developing preventive action and a concerted response, including national environmental governance and the international rule of law, awareness-raising and education, and harness the power of information technology to this end. All actors involved must work together in the interest of a sustainable future.
  • The role of civil society at all levels should be strengthened through freedom of access to environmental information to all, broad participation in environmental decision-making, as well as access to justice on environmental issues.
  • Science provides the basis for environmental decision-making. There is a need for intensified research, fuller engagement of the scientific community and increased scientific cooperation on emerging environmental issues, as well as improved avenues for communication between the scientific community, decision makers and other stakeholders.

Note: the Declaration was adopted by ministers of environment in Malmö, Sweden, at the First Global Ministerial Environment Forum