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Known as "UNEP dot net"

United Nations Environment Programme Launches Map Portal

The United Nations Environment Programme has launched a new interactive environmental Web site (www.unep.net) known as "UNEP dot net." The network portal will offer a forum for scientific and technical peer review; provide insights on environmental issues to the global community; and exchange ideas, information, and data.

Developed with industry (including Esri), academic, government, and nongovernment (NGO) partners, UNEP.net is an Internet-based environmental information network, or metasystem. UNEP.net will help many in the environmental community to bring together new integrated information frameworks and harmonize readily accessible data sets to support assessment and decision making across a range of international factors, including UNEP's own assessment activities. It will also aid in reducing national reporting responsibilities by streamlining nations' environmental reporting.

This portal provides impressive capabilities (previously limited to military intelligence agencies) allowing the user to communicate to any computer around the earth connected to the Internet, then select a country or environmental topic by pointing to a map, selecting from lists, or typing a search word. Citizens and government managers can quickly use the easy tools available through UNEP.net. With UNEP.net, any citizen can create a map of anywhere in the world and add facts and figures from the vast statistical records associated with each map. "By making scientific facts and data about the earth's environment easily accessible and reported, we hope to enhance the ability of decision makers to use accurate and up-to-date information. Better information should lead to better management of the planet's resources," says Dr. Tim Foresman, UNEP director of UNEP.net.

UNEP.net builds on the wealth of scientific information available from numerous environmental institutions. UNEP is thus fulfilling a part of its mandate by bringing together environmental information and data providers while also facilitating and encouraging the exchange of information to service the public using the most current Internet technologies.

The site also hosts independent specialized solutions and data and information of those experts publishing on the site to address specialized environmental issues and concerns. The applications can be accessed by specialized software and toolkits provided through the site or directly with any Web browser with useful functionality.

UNEP will continue negotiating contributions from various global and regional partners, maintaining respect for intellectual property while, at the same time, encouraging partners to exchange and make information and data available free of charge in support of the Aarhus Conventions principles.

A key partner in the development of UNEP.net is Esri, which has been instrumental in starting the UNEP.net initiative by contributing technical and substantive environmental expertise as well as global data sets. There is a rapidly growing list of institutions joining the UNEP-Esri partnership, and they will be clearly acknowledged on the site. The UNEP.net portal is at www.unep.net.

For further information, please contact Beth Ingraham, information officer, Division of Early Warning and Assessment, P.O. Box 30552, Nairobi, Kenya (tel.: 254-2-624299, fax: 254-2-623293, e-mail: beth.ingraham@unep.org, Web: www.unep.org).

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