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National Geospatial Information Infrastructure as a new paradigm of cartography

Interview with  Chairman of State Committee of Land and Cartography Garib Mammadov

Q: Mr. Mammadov, we would like you to provide an insight into the foreign relations of the State Committee of Land and Cartography…

A: Founded by national leader Heydar Aliyev, Azerbaijan`s development and international integration strategy is today being successfully developed by President Ilham Aliyev. Azerbaijan is the first country in the South Caucasus and Central Asia to become a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council, and this is a remarkable event. This should be considered as the growing international prestige and improving image of Azerbaijan on the international scene.

Founded by the Decree of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan dated September 6, 2001 the State Committee of Land and Cartography is the authority in geospatial information management.

The United Nations initiative on Global Geospatial Information Management (UN-GGIM) is one of the top priority cooperation platforms of the State Committee of Land and Cartography. UN-GGIM aims at playing a leading role in setting the agenda for the development of global geospatial information and to promote its use to address key global challenges. It provides a forum to liaise and coordinate among Member States, and between Member States and international organizations. In 2009, the United Nations Statistics Division/DESA (UNSD) convened in New York an informal consultative meeting with geospatial information experts from different regions of the world, and discussed how to better coordinate the various regional and global activities on geospatial information and the related management issues.  In 2010, at the 18th United Nations Regional Cartographic Conference for Asia and the Pacific (UNRCC-AP), and the 41st session of the United Nations Statistical Commission, the issue of global geospatial information management was also discussed. The United Nations Secretariat was requested to initiate discussion and prepare a report for the approval of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) on global coordination of geospatial information management, including the consideration of the possible creation of a United Nations Forum on GGIM. In July 2010, ECOSOC requested the Secretary-General to submit to the Council at its 2011 substantive session a report on global geospatial information management (see the full text E/2010/240). This decision paved the way for subsequent GGIM preparatory activities. At its substantive session in July 2011, ECOSOC considered the report of the Secretary General and adopted a resolution to create the United Nations Committee of Experts on Global Geospatial Information Management. From 24 - 26 October 2011, the First High Level Forum on Global Geospatial Information Management, and the First Session of the United Nations Committee of Experts were held in Seoul, Republic of Korea. This was the first time that experts from 90 countries met in the context of a United Nations initiative to enhance global cooperation in the field of geospatial information management. The Forum concluded with the acceptance of the Seoul Declaration on Global Geospatial Information Management (GGIM). The Second Session of the Committee of Experts was successfully held in New York in August 2012. The meting was attended by 148 participants from 61 Member States and 34 representatives from United Nations organizations and inter-governmental and non-governmental organizations. The discussions were centered around eight areas of concern. Based on the discussions, nine decisions covering critical issues such as the future trends for geospatial information, development of a knowledge base, a global geodetic reference system and developing a global map for sustainable development were adopted by the Committee. The Third Session of the Committee of Experts was held in July 2013 in the United Kingdom, combined with the Ordnance Survey's historical Cambridge Conference.

Q: What issues were discussed at the fourth session of the Committee of Experts?

A: The Fourth Session of the United Nations Committee of Experts on Global Geospatial Information Management was held from 6-8 August 2014 at the United Nations Headquarters in New York. Preceded by a UN Global Forum on the Integration of Statistical and Geospatial Information and a number of technical side events, the Fourth Session of UN-GGIM brought together senior executives from national geospatial information and statistical authorities within Member States, and international geospatial experts from across the globe.

With more than 280 participants from 87 countries, 17 international organisations, 11 UN bodies, and 31 private sector/non-goverment entities, the discussions and outcomes further recognised and determined the critical role of geospatial information management and the need for strengthened collaboration and joined initiatives, to advance the development and use of geospatial data and tools to support sustainable development and related global agendas.

I led Aerbaijan`s delegation at the event, which included chair of the State Committee`s Geospatial and Information Technologies, Foreign Relations Department Javid Abdullayev and director of State Aerogeodesy Institution Elchin Maharramov.

Ministers and senior leaders from United Nations Member States and international organizations participated for three days to discuss mapping and location issues that affect the world.

The use of authoritative geospatial information is beginning to change the way in which global challenges such as climate change, disease pandemics, food shortages, economic crises and disaster recovery situations are predicted, monitored and managed.  One example is where authoritative geospatial data is used by emergency services in rapidly changing environments, such as landslides, floods and earthquakes, enabling them to gain situational awareness of the disaster areas faster; saving more lives as a result.

In his opening speech of the session, Wu Hongbo, United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, said:  "It has only been three years since the Committee of Experts started its worthy journey that has already resulted in a number of early achievements.  The level of Member State participation has increased, as evidenced by the attendance figures over the past two sessions.  The number of work areas has grown, where expert and working groups that have been created; and your work has really drawn much wider attention and support from the international community."

Mr. Hongbo went on to say "the agenda for this session has important new and existing strategic issues progressed from the second and third sessions... these topics address the challenges at national, regional and global levels".

The Committee of Experts successfully dealt with strategic issues, such as the enhancement of the global geodetic reference frame; the identification of approaches for legal and policy frameworks, including privacy laws required to support the use of authoritative geospatial data; the development of global mapping for sustainable development; the establishment and implementation of geospatial standards; the linkage of geospatial information to statistics; and the definition of a shared statement of principles for the global geospatial community.  Throughout the event, the capacity development of countries, through training, advisory services and encouraging good governance of geospatial information management, was keenly supported.

Significantly, the event provided the foundation for a more sustainable global geodetic reference framework, which will ensure that more consistent locational positioning will be available across the globe.  This is especially important as precise positioning is being applied in virtually every aspect of people’s lives, from civil engineering and transportation, to sustainable development and emergency management.

Q: What other events did you attend on the sidelines of the session?

A: Several important events were held on the sidelines of the Session of the Committee of Experts. One of these events was the United Nations Global Forum on the Integration of Statistical and Geospatial Information, which took place in the UN Headquarters in New York from 4-5 August. The geospatial and statistical professional communities are major contributors of information used as evidence in decision-making processes across many sectors, both public and private. With the increasing complexity of national and global challenges and issues, the need to understand the interrelationships across the economic, social and environmental pillars is becoming critical. In today’s global community, there is a clear recognition of the need to and value of linking geospatial information (which includes much environmental information) and statistical information (which includes much socioeconomic information) to improve the relevance of the evidence on which decisions will be made. The challenge being faced is how

best to achieve this integration in an effective and consistent way.

The Global Forum on the Integration of Statistical and Geospatial Information aimed to continue the global consultation and communication on the development of a global statistical-geospatial framework, initiated by the UN Statistical Commission and UN-GGIM, and the work of the Expert Group on the Integration of Statistical and Geospatial Information. The Forum provided a platform for leaders in the statistical and geospatial communities to come together for the following purposes: To develop a shared sense of strategic purpose for the Integration of Statistical and Geospatial Information; To have a common voice in information discussions, such as the Post-2015 Development

Agenda; To better understand emerging information agendas; To jointly set the direction for technical capacity development; To jointly acknowledge the importance of the Integration of Statistical and Geospatial Information so that the international collaboration efforts at the operational and technical level can proceed with authority; To jointly acknowledge the need for a mechanism, such as a global statistical geospatial framework, to facilitate consistent production and integration approaches for geo-statistical information.

Q: Did the issues related to global mapping were discussed?

A: Another event held on the sidelines of the session as the 21st meeting of the International Steering Committee for Global Mapping (ISCGM). Azerbaijan attended this event as an observer. The 21st meeting of ISCGM, compared to the past meetings, has been organized to include presentations on Global Mapping efforts by many countries, regions, the private sector, etc. and aims to discuss and share experiences among many stakeholders. The meeting will focus on the strategic considerations on the production and utilization of global mapping information.

As geospatial professionals, we all share an interest in promoting the use of global mapping information. The production of global maps of various themes requires national efforts and cross-national coordination. We hope our discussion will help provide an effective platform for these initiatives.