Second Session of the United Nations Committee of Expert on
Global Geospatial Information Management

New York, 13 – 15 August 2012

The United Nations Committee of Experts on Global Geospatial Information Management was established to be the official United Nations consultative mechanism on place, locality and geography. UNCE-GGIM plays a leading role in setting the agenda for the development of global geospatial information, while promoting its use to meet key global challenges.

The second session of the UNCE-GGIM was convened at the United Nations Headquarters in New York by the Secretariat of the UN Committee of Experts on GGIM, United Nations Statistics Division, Department of Economic and Social Affairs. In his opening remarks, United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, Mr. HongBo WU said that understanding and analysing geospatial information has become a key driver of competition and underpins new waves of productivity growth, innovation and services. He also said that the recent Rio+20 (the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development) has recognized that solid geospatial information is crucial for both sustainable development and humanitarian assistance and this provided a clear mandate for the future work of UNCE-GGIM.

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At the first meeting on 13th August 2012, the Committee elected Ms Vanessa Lawrence (United Kingdom) and Mr. Mansoor Ahmed Al Malki (Qatar) as co-chairs with Mr. Derek Clarke (South Africa) as the rapporteur. Members of the Committee are all representatives of UN Member States. FIG has consultative status with the Department of Economic and Social Affairs and President CheeHai TEO attended the meeting.

The Working Group on future trends in geospatial information management tabled its analysis and report and was congratulated for its efforts within a short period of time. In the ensuing discussion, member states discuss the desire for options in their respective evolution to create national geospatial information authorities and request mechanisms for governments to engage each other in learning and sharing. The need to review the impact on member states with limited access to technology was discussed especially in an era of rapid technological changes. It was opined that there is a need to reduce this technological divide. The importance of geodesy and global geodetic reference system has emphasized.

On this particular subject, a report by the United Nations sponsored Permanent Committee on GIS Infrastructure for Asia and the Pacific was well received. It was recognised that geodetic reference system is a highly technical issue but necessary and Member states were urged to take this into serious consideration including the need to maintain a national geodetic reference system and infrastructure as well as the commitment to contribute towards the regional and global geodetic reference system. It was resolved that there shall be further consultation and an informal consultation involving both FIG and International Association of Geodesy (IAG) on the margins of the upcoming United Nations Regional Cartographic Conference for Asia Pacific (UNRCC-AP) be organized by the secretariat. The informal consultation will discuss the technical issues related to the global geodetic reference system. It was also resolved that a questionnaire be sent to member states to ascertain the current status in the adoption and maintenance of a globally referenced geodetic reference system.

Additionally, the Secretariat is requested to organize a special session on global geodetic reference system during the Second GGIM High Level Forum in Doha, Qatar scheduled for 4th – 6th February 2013 as well as to chart a road map towards the eventual endorsement of a global geodetic reference frame.

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The Second Session of the United Nations Committee of Experts on Global Geospatial Information Management (UNCE-GGIM)
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Ms Helen Kerfoot (Canada), outgoing Chair of UNGEGN, addressing the closing meeting of the 27th Session of UNGEGN

The Committee also discussed on its contribution to the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) and its implications, the development of a knowledge base for geospatial information and develop a global map for sustainable development.

The proposal to develop a statement of ethics and code of conduct for the geospatial information community was also considered by the Committee. Member states opined that there are in existence various rules and codes within governments and national geospatial information communities, particularly those promoted and maintained by professional organization. Many opined that a statement of ethics may be too strong and suggested instead a statement of shared principles. It was resolved that further consultation is necessary in developing a statement of ethics and code of conduct.

FIG is of the opinion that whereas cultures, political systems, awareness and understanding of professional practice differ from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, there are certain fundamental principles that should apply to all. FIG is supportive of a consultative process that will lead to a set of core (or shared) values and statement of ethical principles.

Prior to the second session of UNCE-GGIM, FIG President observed the closing meeting of the Tenth United Nations Conference on Standardization of Geographical Names (UNCSGN) as well as the closing meeting of the Twenty-seventh Session of the Group of Experts on Geographical Names (UNGEGN) that was held at the UN Headquarters in New York between 31st July and 10th August 2012. UNGEGN’s outgoing chair, Ms Helen Kerfoot (Canada) was recognized for her twenty years of contributions as Vice Chair and Chair of UNGEGN with a commendation from the United Nations Secretary General that was read out to all delegates at the closing meeting of the 27th Session of UNGEGN.

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Group photograph of participants at the 19th Meeting of the International Steering Committee on Global Mapping

The President also observed the 19th Meeting of the International Steering Committee on Global Mapping (ISCGM) held at the Millennium Plaza Hotel, New York on 12th August 2012.

CheeHai TEO
September 2012

5 October 2012