ArcNews Online

Spring 2002
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World Summit for Sustainable Development Conference

Esri to Present Educational Program

Ten years ago at the United Nations' "Earth Summit" in Rio de Janeiro, countries throughout the world committed to Agenda 21, a wide-ranging international action plan to achieve sustainable development on a global scale.

A similar conference will be staged this year from August 26 to September 4 in Johannesburg, South Africa. Called the World Summit for Sustainable Development (WSSD), progress toward achieving sustainable development during the past 10 years will be reviewed, and new strategies and goals will be established. The conference is expected to attract more than 70,000 attendees including heads of state, UN representatives, and Business and government leaders.

Sustainable development is a process in which economics, finance, trade, energy, agriculture, industry, and all other policies are implemented in a way to bring about development that is economically, socially, and environmentally sustainable. In other words, the goal of sustainable development is to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.

The 1992 conference ended on a note of hope when representatives from 179 countries signed Agenda 21 and committed to a detailed plan for the stewardship of our planet. Although many governments and private organizations were using GIS technology at that time, its potential for diverse georeferenced data integration and analysis was only informally discussed at the Earth Summit.

The succeeding 10 years have seen the maturation of computer hardware and software, allowing the development of an almost endless list of diverse GIS applications including many that can be used for environmental monitoring and management.

Environmental concerns have been a part of Esri's Business principles since its inception more than 30 years ago and as plans for the WSSD developed, it seemed only natural that Esri would support its efforts by promoting the use of GIS technology.

Esri is planning an ambitious GIS education program for the conference including the publication of a GIS primer for distribution to the hundreds of decision makers expected to attend. The book will provide an introduction to the capabilities of GIS technology for supporting sustainable development programs.

The U.S. State Department, with the support of Esri, will be presenting a status report on the sustainable development programs it has helped develop using GIS technology throughout Africa including the Limpopo/Zambezi River basin, the Upper Niger basin, the Tanzania/Kenya coastal zone, and the African Great Lakes region.

My Community, Our Earth

click to see enlargementThe results of the My Community, Our Earth (MyCOE) project will also be presented. MyCOE is a special international project that encourages participating secondary school and university students to use geography to demonstrate how their communities are changing, the effects of those changes, and what might be done in their communities to improve the quality of life and conserve natural resources.

MyCOE is organized by the United Nations Environment Programme, the National Geographic Society, the Association of American Geographers, Esri, and other organizations.

If you would like to act as a mentor in this very important project or to register as a participating school or student, please visit for program details. The deadline for project submissions is May 31, 2002.

Concludes Esri President Jack Dangermond, "With the acute challenges of an ever growing world population, diminishing natural resources, and increasing levels of pollutants, our will and ability to provide clear stewardship of planet Earth are being severely tested. I am grateful for the opportunity to present GIS technology as a method to help achieve sustainable development on a global scale at the critically important WSSD conference and am confident that with perseverance we can achieve that goal."

For more information, visit or contact Misty Allred, MyCOE Project, 1710 Sixteenth Street NW, Washington, D.C. 20009 (tel.: 202-234-1450).

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