This alternative route was set up to give you some help in 
navigating our pages... 

Who are we?
What shape is the environment in?
Up-to-date news
What do we do?
What partners do we work with?
What assessments have been made of our global environment?
Some interesting documents
Can't find what you're looking for? Try our Subject Index
Related sites
Why did we make this site?
How to find us
Who coordinates Earthwatch?

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  "The mission of the UN system-wide Earthwatch is to coordinate, harmonize and
     integrate observing, assessment and reporting activities across the UN system in order
     to provide environmental and appropriate socio-economic information for national
     and international decision-making on sustainable development and for early warning
     of emerging problems requiring international action.."

First things first: Who are we? What do we do? The above quote gives you an idea. For a simple explanation, see our brochure on Earthwatch.

You can look at a powerpoint presentation on Earthwatch, including its accomplishments and activities, or read our briefing note. We also have a page giving a  summary description of UN System-wide Earthwatch with its terms of reference. Another section of the site explains the organization of Earthwatch; this details our Legislative Mandate , UN system-wide contributions to Earthwatch , Tables of thematic coverage of Agenda 21 programme areas , and the History of Earthwatch 1972-1995 . Then there are pages on all the UN system partners in Earthwatch.

However, by this time you may have realised that we are not, in fact, the Earthwatch you were seeking. To clarify any confusion, please look at the note Looking for a different Earthwatch? - this may put you on the right path!

Earthwatch and Agenda 21: Information for Decision-making

Earthwatch is intended to serve as one of the major pillars of the
structure providing information for decision-making at the international level, as well as
providing the international environmental context for national decision-making.  This aspect
of Earthwatch was integrated into the Secretary-General's report on Agenda 21, Chapter 40:
Information for Decision-making, prepared for the third session of the Commission on
Sustainable Development in 1995.

More information:

Some documents on Earthwatch
Earthwatch Strategies: UNEP Observing and Assessment Strategy
The Major Environmental Assessments
Integrated Global Observing Strategy Partnership
The Global Observing Systems
About this Web site


What is really happening to the environment of our planet?
Here are some ways of finding out.

GEO-2000 - UNEP's Millenium Report on the Environment

Emerging environmental issues
Descriptions of some of the emerging environmental problems since the 1992 Earth Summit that may require international action, as well as some of the progress made in solving such problems

Sources of near-real-time information on the state of the planetary environment!

Fires: The Global Fire Monitoring Centre provides access to near-real-time reports on the status of forest and wildfires around the world.
Oceans: The JCOMM Products Bulletin provides interactive graphical viewing of several global oceanographic data sets, including sea surface temperature and precipitation anomalies that show El Niño and related phenomena.
Coral Reefs: A near-real-time chart of unusually warm sea surface temperatures associated with coral bleaching.
Important parts of Earthwatch

Many United Nations organizations, programmes, specialized agencies and convention
secretariats are partners in the UN system-wide Earthwatch, contributing in some way to
environmental observation, assessment and reporting activities that provide information for

UN system partners in  Earthwatch
 A page for each organization summarizing their information activities on environment and sustainable development, together with points of contact and direct Web links to each organization.

Integrated Global Observing Strategy
An Integrated Global Observing Strategy (IGOS) is being developed and implemented by a  partnership among international organizations, the space agencies, funding agencies, the scientific community, and international research programmes to plan and coordinate observations of the planetary environment from space and in situ. It includes the Global Observing Systems below:

The Global Observing Systems
Three inter-related global systems to observe the environment of the planet are being organized by United Nations organizations in cooperation with the scientific community and national governments. Together the three observing systems are often referred to as the G3OS, and they cover the major environmental components of the planet. In addition to the information at each system web site below, a number of documents are available for more information on the Global Observing Systems for climate, oceans and terrestrial areas.

Global Climate Observing System (GCOS)
GCOS is responsible for planning the collection of data on long-term climate change.  It is sponsored by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC)of UNESCO, the International Council for Science (ICSU) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), with its GCOS Joint Planning Office at WMO in Geneva.

Global Ocean Observing System (GOOS)
GOOS is implementing operational observation programmes for the oceans and coastal areas. It is sponsored by the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of UNESCO, the International Council for Science (ICSU), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), with its GOOS Project Office at IOC in Paris.

Global Terrestrial Observing System (GTOS)
GTOS is developing and networking observations of long-term change of the land and its resources. It is sponsored by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO),  the International Council for Science (ICSU), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), with its Secretariat at FAO in Rome.

Global Observing Systems Information Center (GOSIC)
The Global Observing System Information Center (GOSIC) has been designed to provide a one-window view of  the observing requirements, the operational data systems, and access procedures for users to find and obtain data and products from the G3OS (GCOS, GOOS and GTOS).


UNEP Web Site Locator (all UNEP web sites around the world)
United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Home Page
UNEP Geneva Home Page
Geneva Environment Network (International Environment House)
Sustainable Development - UN system-wide Home Page
Official UN Web Site Locatorfor access to all the United Nations system home pages
See also the sites of UN system partners in Earthwatch


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(for a complete list of Earthwatch documents see the documents page)

Earthwatch Strategic Framework for Environmental Observing, Assessment and Reporting describes a general strategy for monitoring the planetary environment

Integrated Global Observing Strategy (IGOS) A strategy for coordinating the work of the space agencies, international organizations and research programmes to observe the environment

Progress Report on the UN System-wide Earthwatch 1994-1999  summarizes what Earthwatch has done in the last 5 years

Report on International Scientific Advisory Processes on the Environment and Sustainable Development reviews how scientific advice is provided for international decision-making

Conceptual evolution of a UN information system  a working paper on how to build a UN-wide environmental information system

Possible mechanisms for early warning on environmental issues considers how to make environmental early warning operational

The United Nations System-wide Earthwatch extracts from the ACC Report (1995) on the strategy for Earthwatch as agreed by all the UN agencies

Agenda 21 Chapter 40: Information for Decision-making (1992) part of the Earth Summit action plan providing guidance for Earthwatch


    UNEP web site for resources on small island developing States, including an
   Island Directory .

    Information on indicators of environment and sustainable development

Bibliography on International Waters
    This preliminary bibliography prepared for the Global International Waters Assessment lists the assessments and resources presently available in support of a broad international waters assessment process.

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This web site for the United Nations System-wide Earthwatch summarizes the information collected by the inter-agency Earthwatch Working Party and the UN System-wide Earthwatch Coordination unit of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) as Task Manager for Earthwatch. It makes more widely available inputs provided to UNEP and the UN Division for Sustainable Development (DSD), as joint Task Managers for Agenda 21 Chapter 40: Information for Decision-making, in their preparation of the Secretary-General's reports on Information for Decision-making to the UN Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD).

This site is intended to inform people about Earthwatch, and to provide a working tool for all the organizations cooperating in Earthwatch, assisting in improving cooperation across the UN system and beyond, and helping to identify opportunities for collaboration and joint programming. Most of the documents on the site are also available in printed form. The intended result is for all cooperating partners in Earthwatch to work towards more coherent and integrated assessments of the planetary environment and a more effective flow of information on that environment to decision-makers.

The site contains several core sections:


news of relevance to Earthwatch;
a section describing some of the emerging environmental issues since the 1992 Earth Summit that may require international action, as well as some of the progress made in solving such problems;
summary descriptions and sources for the major global environmental assessments;
some significant points concerning Earthwatch and Agenda 21: Information for Decision-making from material prepared for reports on Chapter 40 to the UN Commission on Sustainable Development; and
other information resources on special topics of interest to Earthwatch partners and other users.


a powerpoint presentation on Earthwatch;
a summary description of the mission, terms of reference and coordinating mechanisms of the UN system-wide Earthwatch as agreed among the partners;
highlights of the recent legislative mandate for Earthwatch from the UN General Assembly, the UNEP Governing Council, and Agenda 21;
a listing of the interagency and agency activities, programmes and units that represent contributions to the system-wide Earthwatch;
access to the Global Observing Systems and the Integrated Global Observing Strategy that are important to the implementation of Earthwatch;
for most of the UN system-wide partners in Earthwatch, a short description of their most important data, information, assessment and reporting activities contributing to Earthwatch, and how to contact them;
tables of all the programme areas of Agenda 21, showing the thematic coverage of the major types of information activities by the UN system and each organization, and the potential for cooperation and collaboration on information for decision-making;
the history and implementation of the concept of Earthwatch from its launching at the UN Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm in 1972 until 1995; and
various documents on Earthwatch, including the reports and working papers of Earthwatch Working Parties and other relevant meetings.

The information may vary somewhat in completeness and coverage, depending on the amount of information provided by partner organizations. For further information, consult the organizations directly or through the links provided in this site. The summary listings also do not always show the complementarity of many activities by different organizations in the same programme area.

Since Earthwatch is a concept, and a dynamic process of cooperation among the parts of the UN system and outside partners, more than a programme or institutional structure, this site can only give a glimpse of its status at the present time. It will continue to evolve to provide more effective environmental information for decision-making on sustainability.

Any comments, modifications or corrections should be sent to:
Coordinator, UN System-wide Earthwatch
United Nations Environment Programme
International Environment House, 13 Chemin des Anémones
CH-1219 Châtelaine, Geneva, Switzerland
Tel: +41 22 917-8207; Fax: +41 22 797-3471
e-mail: arthur.dahl @ unep.ch

Directions to the International Environment House in Geneva (formerly the Geneva Executive Center). Earthwatch is on the second floor of  C block (C201-C204).


The term "Earthwatch" is used by several organizations apart from the United Nations.

UN System-wide Earthwatch is most often confused with the Earthwatch Institute, a non-governmental organisation founded in the same year as the UN Earthwatch (1972), which subsidizes scientific projects and encourages public participation in them.
Earthwatch Communications Inc is a weather site covering the US.
Earthwatch Radio, produced by the University of Wisconsin, makes radio programmes on environmental topics.
Earthwatch Inc provides commercial satellite imagery.
Earthwatch, a programme of Friends of the Earth, Northern Ireland.
The Earth Watching Project, run by Eurimage-ESA/ESRIN to monitor environmental emergencies. 

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UN System-Wide Earthwatch Coordination, UNEP, Geneva 
Updated 14 February 2001