The third UNEP Global Environment Outlook report ( GEO-3 ) provides an opportune brief for the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD), to be held later this year in Johannesburg, South Africa.
It is a feat of collaboration between UNEP and some 1 000 individuals and 40 institutions from around the world. It picks up and weaves together the strands of debate and action on the environment that lead forward from that linchpin of modern environment and development thinking, the 1972 Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment, and through the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) to where we stand today. GEO-3 sets out to provide global and regional perspectives on the past, present and future environment, linked together with telling examples from within the regions to form a comprehensive and integrated assessment.
An important aspect of the GEO process is capacity building for the collaborating centres directly involved in this initiative and for a wider range of individuals and institutions whose work forms the foundation of environmental assessment — from national through global levels. For example, UNEP has, through a comprehensive Internet-based data portal, made relevant data more accessible to collaborating centres to strengthen analysis and reporting. Capacity building has also involved formal and practical training in integrated environmental assessment, and such training will be expanded in the coming years.
In terms of the GEO-3 report itself, an overview of major developments between 1972 and 2002 highlights significant milestones and integrates environmental, economic and social factors within a unified world view. The retrospective chapter explores many of these developments in greater depth from global and regional standpoints. The report presents a global overview and also directs a spotlight onto two or three key issues that are considered paramount in each of the seven regional arenas under each of eight environmental themes in turn: land, forests, biodiversity, freshwater, coastal and marine areas, atmosphere, urban areas and disasters.