Conference resolves to push for data access at Rio+20

December 16, 2011

[Abu Dhabi] A conference pushing for greater access to environmental and societal data ended in Abu Dhabi today (15 December) with a Declaration recognising that every individual should have appropriate access to information on the environment held by public authorities.

The declaration drawn up by governments and civil society organisations from around the world at the four day Eye on Earth Summit will form part of the input to the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCED) to be held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in June 2012.

Read the full story on SciDev.Net

The Arab world: ‘Scarce data in a water-scarce region’

December 15, 2011

[Abu Dhabi] Data-sharing is part of the answer to problems arising from the Arab region’s most serious challenge, water.

Water is potentially a matter of conflict and death as well as life in the Arab region, which is why it is such a sensitive subject — on the ground and in negotiations for United Nations conferences such as the Eye on Earth Summit in Abu Dhabi (12-16 December) and next year’s Rio+20 meeting in Brazil.

Read the full story on SciDev.Net

Abu Dhabi gets an atlas; Arab region to follow in 2012

December 15, 2011


This blog article has been produced for Eye on Earth Summit 2011 by SciDev.Net Conference Service, which maintains all editorial independence.

The Environment Agency Abu Dhabi (EAD) has launched the Environmental Atlas of Abu Dhabi Emirate, at the Eye on Earth summit in Abu Dhabi (12–15 December).

The 200-page full-colour Atlas highlights the natural heritage of Abu Dhabi through a narrative interwoven with stories, case studies, facts and statistics, illustrative figures, anecdotes, photographs and thematic maps.

The deputy Secretary General of EAD, Jaber Al Jaberi, said that the project is a tool to facilitate data access for  children, as “they can easily learn about Abu Dhabi’s environment”.

But insiders told SciDev.Net it was a result of the competitive spirit that exists among the emirates, which have just celebrated the 40th anniversary of their union. Not to be overshadowed by its neighbour Dubai  Abu Dhabi wanted to show the world it is a leader in  environmentalism.

The Atlas showcases the remarkable story of Abu Dhabi’s environmental heritage and highlights its profound influence on the past, present and future of human and cultural development. By informing and educating the reader, it aims to raise awareness and present a call for action to protect the environmental richness and diversity of the emirate.

The Atlas is facilitated by the Abu Dhabi Global Environmental Data Initiative (AGEDI) in partnership with the UN Environment Programme (UNEP). They are now working on a similar project – The Arab Region Atlas.

The programme manager of AGEDI, Catherine Armour, said that we need these kind of atlases to provide us with data that help us to make right decisions.

Faris Sayegh, senior consultant at GPCGIS, a global network of information professionals, said: “The Arab Region Atlas is putting the spotlight on the impact of human activities in the Middle East and North Africa region, and documenting climate change impacts using current and historical satellite images, and a narrative based on extensive scientific evidence.”

The Arabic Atlas is expected to be published 2012, and it will aim to draw the attention of decision makers and the public to environmental changes, and help them in taking the right decisions.

Rehab Abd Almohsen

The sense and sensitivity of technology for all

December 14, 2011

[Abu Dhabi] The dazzling prospect of environmental information technologies available to everyone in the world was conjured up at the Eye on Earth Summit in Abu Dhabi this week. The vision, however, comes with a caution.

The optimistic scenario arises from a combination of geospatial technology and new online services, said Jack Dangermond, CEO and president of the US-based Environmental Systems Research Institute (ESRI).

Read the full story on SciDev.Net

African environment policies hampered by ‘secrecy and low priority’

December 13, 2011

[Abu Dhabi] Africa has sufficient environmental data but storage and access are major challenges, Nigeria’s Federal Minister of Environment, Hadiza Ibrahim Mailafia, told SciDev.Net during the Eye on Earth Summit in Abu Dhabi (12-15 December).

She said Africa was also grappling with a lack of both human and technological resources to handle the data and make it publicly accessible.

“Every country has a bureau of statistics and what is needed is a more dedicated approach, including sensitisation of the people on how to access it,” she said.

Read the full story on SciDev.Net

Will all other environmental summits depend on Eye on Earth?

December 9, 2011

This blog article has been produced for Eye on Earth Summit 2011 by SciDev.Net Conference Service, which maintains all editorial independence.

Squeezed between the COP17 Climate Change summit in Durban, which ends on 9 December, and the ‘big one’ on sustainable development — Rio+20 in June — a much lower key, but no less important environmental event will be taking place,

Under the auspices of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Environment Agency — Abu Dhabi , the Eye on Earth Summit in Abu Dhabi (Dec 12–15), could well be the environmental summit all others depend on:  the one that points out the importance of data networks for making environmental decisions.

Everyone knows the data is out there, but how do you access it in a useful way? This is a particularly pertinent question for developing and emerging countries.

The idea of the summit is to strengthen existing data access by creating linked networks, or by launching new ones. But it’s not just about technical systems, it is about the right to information and how it can be accessed by those who need it to improve lives, combat climate change and biodiversity loss, and protect against disasters. That’s why you need ministers in the room, not only scientists.

The Eye on Earth Summit declaration at the end of the four day meeting of ministers, international organisation officials, luminaries such as Bill Clinton, Jane Morris Goodall and Philippe Cousteau, just to name a few, will go to Rio+20. But the conference is much more than a political statement. UNEP’s Peter Gilruth tells me that his wishlist for the summit includes an agreement that developing countries will be supported in building capacity to maintain information networks.  Countries in the North and the South should both be able benefit from the information age.

Yojana Sharma

Does social science need rebranding?

November 21, 2009

Some would argue poor living conditions and gender inequity affect health more than the biological causes of disease. Flickr/LivingWaterInternational

As Forum 2009 closed on Friday, we were left with some thoughts on the future direction of global health research. The conference in general was heavily weighted towards the need to drive health systems research and research on the social determinants of health.

Mention these issues to many lab scientists, however, and they would argue that these fields of study are far too “soft” a science for them to engage with.

This is what really damages research into the social factors affecting health. Traditional robust methods of interrogating an issue and gathering data such as randomised controlled trials have no traction when you are thinking about how a health system functions or when you are trying to evaluate a complex health intervention.

These don’t fit into neat scientific boxes in the way that parasite counts or viral loads do.

But transforming these fields will require rigorous evidence – how else will we know what changes to make to improve health systems across the developing world?

It’s good news then that the EU announced yesterday at the meeting that its next call for grants in January 2010 would focus heavily on research into the social determinants of health.

Some would argue that poor living conditions and gender inequity affect health even more than the biological causes of disease. There is only one way to find out, of course: more research, and more robust evaluation of that research.

Priya Shetty,,

Global health’s ′Cinderella′

November 18, 2008

Described as the ″Cinderella″ of global health by chair Richard Horton, editor-in-chief of The Lancet, the session on non-communicable diseases (NCD) certainly shared the topic’s luck.

Technical problems struck first when a video from Ala Alwan, WHO assistant director-general of non-communicable diseases and mental health, on ″After Bamako: Taking the agenda forward″ was unable to be played.

Noise from a couple of rooms off the back of the hall where the session was being held also plagued the talk, although the sharp questions that were asked during Q&A showed that the audience hadn’t allowed that to distract their attention from the speakers.

Horton also pointed out that ″if NCD is Cinderella, mental health is the ugly stepsister″; for while WHO has recently developed a programme for tackling NCDs, mental health is still not being given the attention it deserves. Especially when depression is among the top three causes of disability around the world.

One of the speakers, Sania Nisthar, president of non-governmental agency Heartfile, Pakistan, also brought up the interesting situation where researching NCDs in her country has indirectly led to the improvement of the health information system.

For example, morbidity surveys are based on assessment of risk factors rather than actual cause of death as overlapping diseases make it difficult to accurately define the cause of death.

Data on these risk factors are integrated into general demographic surveys due to resource constraints. Researchers using this data have discovered gaps in the data collection, which has resulted in them reviewing and refining the methods of national health data collection in order to facilitate their own research into NCDs, thus improving the health information system.

Shiow Chin Tan, SciDev.Net

%d bloggers like this: