2021 GEO SDG Award goes to Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru

November 25, 2021

The UNDP country offices bag 2021 GEO SDG Award for their exemplary work in using earth observations to monitor progress towards SDG15. Photo: UNDP Peru

New York, Nov 26 - UNDP in Colombia, Ecuador and Peru have bagged a 2021 GEO SDG Award for their remarkable efforts to bring together government leaders and academic institutions, to better monitor progress towards Sustainable Development Goal  (SDG) 15— Life on Land, using spatial data and indicators. The award was given away in the ‘Inter-governmental’ category at a virtual awards ceremony at the GEO Week 2021 conference, alongside seven other awardees from GEO Member States, SDG Custodian Agencies, and Academia.

The current monitoring and reporting for SDG15 focuses solely on forest extent, not forest quality. The NASA funded project “Connecting Science to Policy to Strengthen Reporting on SDG15 in Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru” is designed to fill this gap in three pilot countries and create a reproducible model for other countries. The UN Biodiversity Lab then makes available the validated spatial data for policy development and reporting on SDG 15.

“We cannot manage what we cannot measure. This award recognizes an exemplary model of regional and global collaboration across UNDP country offices, government, and academia to produce data and indicators that provide a more comprehensive picture of the progress made in Sustainable Development Goal 15. The initiative helps to identify where existing efforts are succeeding and where further actions are needed to achieve the goal,” stated Haoliang Xu, UN Assistant Secretary General and Director of UNDP’s Bureau for Policy and Programme Support. 

Spatial data and indicators offer a powerful means to help nations prioritize action, monitor the results, and hold actors across sectors accountable. Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru are home to 17% of the world’s last tropical forests with high ecological quality. These high integrity forests provide a suite of services including carbon sequestration, habitat for iconic vertebrate species, and water filtration that are essential for planetary health and human well-being.

“This is a commendable example of cross-sectoral and cross-country collaboration among organizations and communities from government, academia, the United Nations, and other stakeholders to develop and validate the broad use of effective Earth observation-based methods and data for more effective monitoring and implementation of SDG 15 targets,” stated Argyro Kavvada, Ph.D.,  Executive Director, EO4SDG Initiative.

“It also strongly aligns with GEO’s principles of full and open access to Earth observation data, information, and knowledge to address some of the most pressing social, economic, and environmental challenges.”

The recognition comes at a time when the planet is facing a global biodiversity emergency, a climate emergency, and a public health emergency, all stemming from the destruction of nature. There is still a large gap between the SDGs on nature and the action needed to address our planetary crisis.

The annual GEO SDG Awards, initially launched in 2019, celebrate productivity, innovation, novelty, and exemplary efforts in the use of Earth observations to support sustainable development. The recognition provided by the award has the potential to support international efforts advocating for better targets and indicators on biodiversity both for SDG15 and for the new global framework for nature that will be agreed upon in 2022 by countries Party to the UN Biodiversity Convention.  UNDP was previously recognized with an award for its joint work with the Ministry of Environment and Energy of Costa Rica in 2020.

For more information:

Sangita Khadka, sangita.khadka@undp.org.
Vanessa Hidalgo, vanessa.hidalgo@undp.org.