The regional Inform project is holding a meeting this week to review progress towards building national and regional capacity to improve environmental decision-making through strengthening planning and reporting in the Pacific.
The Inform project is mid-way through implementation and is taking stock of results achieved and hearing back from the countries of the progress in the new tools and processes being developed by the project to address the on-going challenge of compiling high quality data on the environment and making best use of it.

The regional meeting, being held at the Sheraton Resort and Bungalows from 19-24 August, was opened by the Chief Executive Officer of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, Tofa Ulu Bismarck Crawley, who said, the Inform Project is now mid-way through implementation, which means this is an important phase of the project since it started implementation in 2017. Ulu acknowledged the current mid-term review of the Inform project, “This is where we look back at the inception meeting and review the key performance indicators, what have we accomplished, what are the challenges, and what needs to be adjusted.”

“Information is expensive, it needs resources to compile information, but more importantly is to ensure this information is being used. We acknowledge the substantive technical assistance and services including tools and capacity building developed and delivered by the Inform Project Team and SPREP. These have helped in building the foundation for better data management allowing for better use of the information,” said Ulu.

United Nations Environment Senior Programme Officer, Mr. Jochem Zoetelief, attending the regional meeting, said since inception workshop, Inform has made good progress in delivering outputs of the project. Particularly the deployment of 14 national data portals and training government officers in using the portals and State of the Environment Reporting. The partnership with SPC and the Pacific Data Hub is also worth mentioning.

“The recent UNEP Measuring Progress report highlighted that out of 93 environment-related SDG indicators, 68% lack sufficient data for reporting on progress. There is clearly a lot of work ahead of us in closing data and reporting gaps, and Inform can make an important contribution to this effort in the Pacific.
“In the second half of the project, we should increasingly focus on the use of environmental data and information for multilateral environment agreements (MEAs) and Sustainable Development Goals reporting, policies, planning and action on the ground. Mr. Zoetelief told the meeting that UNEP and partners are working with five countries Cook Islands, Niue, Palau, RMI and Tuvalu on a GCF project on Climate Information that includes activities on up-scaling Inform work. Similar initiatives could be considered for other countries.
“Lastly, please allow me to say a few words about relevant developments at the global level. The 4th UNEA held in March this year issued a Ministerial Declaration to scale-up national and international efforts to overcome common environmental challenges.
“Amongst others, it called upon UNEP to develop a Global Environmental Data Strategy by 2025. This was based on the recognition that the availability of quality, accessible, timely and disaggregated data is vital for evidence-based decision-making, including on the 2030 Agenda for SD and its SDGs.”
The Global Environmental Data Strategy is being developed through a worldwide network of partners. It will facilitate access to a variety of data (in situ geospatial, satellite images, statistics etc.) and will include a global digital platform. The work of Inform is very timely in this regard and will certainly be a key input from the Pacific into this global process.

Deputy Director General of SPREP, Mr. Roger Cornforth, acknowledged the regional participants for taking time out to attend the meeting. He said participation of country delegates this week is important particularly as the project is mid-way through implementation.
Since the first regional meeting of the Inform Project in August last year, a number of key project deliverables were achieved at the national and regional levels.
“New tools and processes have been established to address the on-going challenge of compiling high quality data on the environment and making best use of it. National data portals have been set up at the national level together with capacity building and training on the portal. Whilst countries are at different stages of implementation, however we are pleased and encouraged with the substantive progress achieved to date.
“We would like to acknowledge the commitment and continuing effort at the national level to embed the Inform developed tools and processes into institutional workflows. With the portals now established at the national and regional levels, it is important that they are regularly maintained and used effectively to support planning, reporting and decision-making. In your discussions this week, it is important to reflect on what has been achieved to date with a view of identifying any challenges and gaps that need to be addressed as part of the activities of the Inform project.
Mr. Cornforth added that the meeting this week will be a good opportunity to further strengthen the community of practice that is forming around open data for decision-making in the Pacific. “With that in mind we are pleased to welcome our colleagues from SPC to this meeting and we also acknowledge the newly formed Pacific Data partnership signed between SPC and SPREP. This is indeed an important milestone achievement, which has been facilitated through the Inform project. Through this partnership, both SPC and SPREP have increased the usable information available to Pacific Island countries and stakeholders.

Another key product which is being produced under the Inform Project is the Indicator Reporting Tool, which provides a streamlined method to use and re-use the datasets in the national portals for reporting and planning. The reporting tool will link environmental indicators to key reporting requirements including the State of Environment (SoE), Multilateral Environmental Agreements, Sustainable Development Goals, SAMOA Pathway and National Sustainable Development Plans. The Indicator Reporting Tool will be launched this week at the regional meeting.

“I am also pleased to say that internally within SPREP, we are making substantive progress in institutionalising the tools developed under the Inform project to strengthen our own internal data management capacity which in turn will enable us to further improve our services and support to our Members and sustain our efforts in going forward. Two examples of this institutionalization include a partnership between the Inform project and the BIOPAMA2 project to improve reporting on Pacific protected and conserved areas, which you will be hearing more around tomorrow. There is also the partnership with the EU funded PACWASTE Plus project which will address data gaps in the waste sector.”
“We are fortunate to have established a good working relation with all of you our Members as well as our key partners including the Implementing partner, UN Environment. This is crucial to the success of the project and its sustainability and we encourage more partners to join who will add value to our collective efforts,” said Mr. Cornforth.

The meeting is being held at Sheraton Resort and Bungalows, Apia, from 19th – 23 August, 2019.