Letter from UNGIWG Co-chairs

Dear UNGIWG Members and Partners,

On March 1st 2013, the 13th Plenary of the United Nations Geographic Information Working Group (UNGIWG) elected the United Nations Department of Safety and Security (UNDSS) and the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA), headquartered in New York and Vienna respectively, to Co-Chair the working group for the period April 2013 to March 2015. At the same day, the Plenary thanked the United Nations Office of Information and Communication Technology (OICT) and the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-test-ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) for leading the group between 2011 and 2013.

We, Andre Dehondt (UNDSS) and Luc St-Pierre (UNOOSA), are pleased to address you, after a short period of transition, to thank the membership for the trust given to us. We represent entities very much involved with UNGIWG and with the design and the development of the United Nations Spatial Data Infrastructure (UNSDI) to which we will also provide secretariat support in the coming biennium. We can also present ourselves as users and promoters of good geospatial information in our respective areas of responsibilities, and strong advocate of the sharing principles which form the basis of UNGIWG.

Voluntary groups such as UNGIWG have cycles in their level of activity and we believe that building on the existing relationships will help us bring back the energy of an earlier UNGIWG. Well over 10 years ago many of us realised that collaboration was essential to act on issues of interoperability, open data and open source applications, standards, data sharing and exchange, building a level playing field between GIS-users within the UN System (to create the minimal conditions to provide good GIS services and products). This common view led to the UNSDI, and this has taken a lot of energy for many UNGIWG Members, maybe leaving out some other themes from the spotlight.

UNSDI is not a project anymore but has a life and its own governance. We thus hope that this co-chairmanship will allow to re-discover some of that energy to revive task forces or groups of interest. We will count on the energy the resilience that you have all demonstrated to achieve this goal. Our “informal and light” secretariat will benefit from support of Hwa Saup Lee at UNDSS and continue to receive the technical support from CTBTO for the hosting of www.ungiwg.org. We will soon be communicating ideas on how to revive those groups and also discuss the planning of the 14th Plenary.

Finally, we would like to bring to your attention to the Istanbul Declaration, posted on our website, and encourage you to disseminate it through your own network. This is an important document to improve the visibility of both UNGIWG and UNSDI that also opens up to other organisations or initiatives. The Declaration already had impact on the coordination and possible collaboration between UNGIWG/UNSDI and the United Nations Initiative on Global Geospatial Information (GGIM). This coordination will become, we believe, key in the actions of the UN in improving the use of good geospatial information within the UN and by Member States. Thanking you in advance for your interest and support, we look forward the next two years with you.

Andre Dehondt       Luc St-Pierre