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UNSDI is the acronym for the United Nations Spatial Data Infrastructure.

UNSDI is an initiative of the United Nations Geographic Information Working Group (UNGIWG).

UNSDI is an institutional and technical mechanism for establishing system coherence for the exchange and applications of geospatial data and information for UN activities and supporting SDI development activities in Member Countries.

The UNSDI initiative aims to contribute to the mission of the United Nations to maintain peace and security, to address humanitarian emergencies and to contribute to the realization of the UN Millennium Development Goals. By facilitating efficient global and local access, exchange and utilization of geospatial information, UNSDI will make the United Nations system more effective and support its “Delivering as One” policies.

Spatial data infrastructures provide the institutional and technical foundation of policies, interoperable standards and procedures that enable organizations and technologies to interact in a way that facilitates spatial data discovery, evaluation and applications.

Given that UN agencies vary in their ability to utilise and manage geospatial information it is foreseen that UNSDI will reduce development and operational costs by working together to achieve economies of scale through generic standards, guidelines and implementation tools. Thus, the development of UNSDI is considered essential for increasing system coherence in the use and exchange of geospatial data and information for UN activities.

In the short term, UNSDI is an investment into the capacities of the United Nations System to manage its existing geo-spatial assets more effectively. Additionally UNSDI will serve as a model and vehicle for capacity building in Member States that request assistance from the United Nations in managing and applying geospatial data to support their national development agenda.

UNSDI documents

Key documentation on the UNSDI initiative can be found at and downloaded from http://www.ungiwg.org/documents.htm.

UNSDI development at national and regional level

Underlying the UNSDI is the perceived need to link UNSDI with national public and private SDI capacities, both in developed and developing countries. Constructive action has so far been taken by The Netherlands where a UNSDI–Netherlands Coordination Office (NCO) has been established by the Government of the Netherlands (http://www.unsdi.nl). A similar process has been undertaken with the Czech Republic (http://www.unsdi.cz) and Hungary (http://www.unsdi.hu).

The first dialogue meeting between UNGIWG-UNSDI and national and regional-level SDI partners, dubbed the UNSDI Global Partners Meeting (UGPM), has been held on 1 and 2 March 2007, hosted by the European Space Agency (ESA) at its ESRIN facilities in Frascati, Italy. This meeting, is considered as a seminal milestone event in the history and development of UNSDI. A key outcome of the meeting is the 'Frascati Statement', an often quoted document that demonstrates and highlights the groundswell of support from within the UN system and the member states: '...the establishment of a UNSDI as proposed by the UNGIWG forms a fundamental framework to exchange data across many agencies and disciplines for the mutual benefit of both the UN system and its Member Countries'.

The UGPM was organized back to back with the final ESA-FAO-JRC "Heterogeneous Missions Accessibility (HMA) Workshop conducted by ESA on 27 and 28 February 2007 at ESRIN. The presentations and discussions of the UGPM can be found here.

Discussions are also ongoing within the SDI communities in Spain and the Federal Republic of Germany on UNSDI. Furthermore, it is believed that SDI authorities in the following countries and regional organizations may respond positively to an UNGIWG invitation to join the UNSDI development process if it was given: Australia, Austria, Brazil, Cape Verde, Chile, Hungary, Jamaica, India, Japan, Mexico, Morocco, Mongolia, Nigeria, Spain and South Africa. The following regional Organizations joined the process: The Regional Centre for Mapping of Resources for Development (RCMRD) in Nairobi, Kenya, International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) in Kathmandu, Nauru, Nepal, and the Regional Centre for Training in Aerospace Surveys (RECTAS) in Ile-Ife, Nigeria.

First National UNSDI portal

At present the first national UNSDI metadata portal is established in The Netherlands, based on GeoNetwork opensource software. The portal contains over 17.800 database items and has been accessed by 130 countries.

(Jan Cees Venema, UNSDI-NCO)