Private sector holds key data to help preserve Gulf and West Asia ecosystems

By unlocking vital information about West Asian ecosystems, an upcoming workshop in Oman seeks to improve knowledge about the impacts of development and improve decision-making.

Read this release in Arabic

Download workshop documents and presentations.

A workshop in Muscat, Oman, will seek to unlock vital information about the ecosystems of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) / West Asia region, helping to improve knowledge about the impacts of development and improve decision-making.

The two-day event taking place from 15-16 September 2015 will bring together the region’s government regulators and environmental consultants, who will discuss the benefits of sharing species data collected through environmental impact assessments (EIAs) more widely.

Entitled ‘Unlocking biodiversity data from environmental impact assessment’, the workshop is jointly organized by GBIF (the Global Biodiversity Information Facility), the United Nations Environment Programme – Regional Office for West Asia (UNEP-ROWA) and the Ministry of Environment and Climate Affairs (MECA), Sultanate of Oman.

The event forms part of a GBIF-led project funded by the Abu Dhabi Global Environmental Data Initiative (AGEDI) through the Eye on Earth Initiative. The overall aim is to encourage the use of tools that enable sharing and reuse of digitized data that EIAs capture about the distribution of plants, animals and other species.

EIAs commissioned by private corporations are used during the planning of projects both on land and in the ocean, and often include surveys of species found in proposed areas of development. However, even when reports associated with EIAs are made public, the underlying data are rarely redistributed in standard, reusable formats.

“The data locked away in the files of consultants and regulators represents a potential gold mine of information that can improve understanding of the living fabric of the region”, said GBIF Deputy Director, Tim Hirsch. “We hope to show that by using existing, freely available tools, the EIA community can open up those data in a way that helps biodiversity research and supports better regional and global decision-making”.

By sharing such data through open-access platforms like, the public and private sectors can add to and improve global biodiversity data shared by scientists, institutions and citizens.

“Whether for government agencies, academic institutions, private sector organizations or even on an individual level, sharing relevant and accurate data translates into better decisions for our people and our environment,” said Jane Glavan, AGEDI Partnership Project Manager and Eye on Earth Biodiversity Special Initiative Facilitator. “Such collaborative workshops are therefore key to enabling effective decision-making that safeguards the future of our environment”.

The workshop programme will include:

  • Practical demonstrations of how to organize data collected during EIAs in formats that allow them to be shared and accessed easily online

  • Demonstration of a pilot database/tool that could share EIA data from the GCC / West Asia region

  • Presentations on current regional practices for EIAs

  • Discussion of both the benefits and challenges of sharing biodiversity data in ways that respect commercial confidentiality and intellectual property rights

The findings from the workshop will be presented at the Eye on Earth Summit, which takes place 6-8 October at the St Regis Saadiyat Island in Abu Dhabi.

Photo credit: CC BY 2010 yeowatzup


About GBIF

GBIF—the Global Biodiversity Information Facility**—**is an international open data infrastructure funded by governments that facilitates free and open online access to biodiversity information. It allows anyone, anywhere to access hundreds of millions of records about all types of life on Earth, ranging from museum specimens collected over centuries of natural history exploration, to current observations by citizen scientists and monitoring programmes. GBIF operates through a collaborative network of participating countries and organizations, coordinated by a Secretariat based in Copenhagen.


Under the guidance and patronage of His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the United Arab Emirates, the Abu Dhabi Global Environmental Data Initiative (AGEDI) was formed in 2002 to address responses to the critical need for readily accessible, accurate environmental data and information for all those who need it. With the Arab region as a priority area of focus, AGEDI facilitates access to quality environmental data that equips policy-makers with actionable, timely information to inform and guide critical decisions. AGEDI is supported by Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi (EAD) on a local level, and championed by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), regionally and internationally.

About Eye on Earth

Despite technological and scientific advancements, decision-makers often lack vital data on the state of the world’s resources. Eye on Earth is a global movement that aims to improve access to and sharing of environmental, social and economic data, to better inform decision-making for sustainable development. Its primary goal is to convene thought and action leaders, converge on key areas of mutual importance, and collaborate on initiatives to close the data gap. The mission of Eye on Earth is achieved through the work of the five governing Alliance Partners, - the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi through the Abu Dhabi Global Environmental Data Initiative (AGEDI), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the Group on Earth Observations (GEO), the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the World Resources Institute (WRI) – as well as eight targeted Special Initiatives, and the Eye on Earth Summit.

About UNEP

United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), established in 1972, is the voice for the environment within the United Nations system. UNEP acts as a catalyst, advocate, educator and facilitator to promote the wise use and sustainable development of the global environment. UNEP work encompasses: assessing global, regional and national environmental conditions and trends, developing international and national environmental instruments and strengthening institutions for the wise management of the environment.