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Much of the world's wealth of environmental and societal information and data is warehoused in systems with incompatible standards, 'protected' by bureaucratic complexity, restrained by lack of open access or awareness of its existence. This situation represents a barrier to effective management of the planet's environmental assets; particularly in emerging economies as policymakers face the challenge of making informed decisions on development whilst safeguarding the future.

In Abu Dhabi hosted the inaugural Eye on Earth Summit, a global summit focused on the critical issue of providing greater access to environmental and societal information by all those who need it. The Summit was hosted by the Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi (EAD) in partnership with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and facilitated by the Abu Dhabi Global Environmental Data Initiative (AGEDI).

Abu Dhabi was particularly well suited to host this globally significant environmental summit. In just four decades, the emirate has evolved from a small coastal desert settlement to a cosmopolitan city with a diverse economy and influence far beyond its geographic extent.

Global leaders, innovators and decision-makers from over 110 countries representing government, education, research and private sector organisations

converged to share their knowledge. Such diversity demonstrated not only the geographic breadth of the Summit attendees, but more importantly the global importance of the environmental sector and societal data movement.

With the shared knowledge and understanding of the Eye on Earth Community, a suite of outcomes were committed to on the final day of the Summit. These included the endorsement of the Eye on Earth Declaration by 16 government delegations and eight Special Initiatives: five thematic and three foundation. The Special Initiatives address the most critical issues relative to the availability of timely, accurate and accessible environmental and societal data, and commit key stakeholders to associated programs of work over the next 2–5 years. The Declaration identifies principles by which such programs can be guided to engender collaboration resulting in success.

We look forward to facilitating and sharing the progress of these commitments over this period. We cannot, however, act alone. To achieve these results, we must all act as a Community. Commitments demand responsibility. I encourage you to reflect on the issues at hand and commit to action; to commit to the principles of the Declaration, and your participation in the Special Initiatives.

I invite you to join us at Eye on Earth where we will report on our achievements.

Cathrine Armour
Programme Manager, Abu Dhabi Global Data Initiative (AGEDI) and Programme Director, Eye on Earth