Keeping the World’s Environment under Review

An Intellectual History of the Global Environment Outlook
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Publication date: 
July, 534 pages, 36 figures
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How do we take stock of the state and direction of the world’s environment, and what can we learn from the experience? Among the myriad detailed narratives about the condition of the planet, the Global Environment Outlook (GEO) reports—issued by the United Nations Environment Programme—stand out as the most ambitious. For nearly three decades the GEO project has not only delivered iconic global assessment reports, but through its multitude of contributors has inspired hundreds of similar processes worldwide from the regional to the local level.

This book provides an inside account of the evolution of the GEO project from its earliest days. Building on meticulous research, including interviews with former heads of the United Nations Environment Programme, diplomats, leading contributing scientists, and senior leaders of collaborating organizations, the story is told from the perspective of five GEO veterans who all played a pivotal role in shaping the periodic assessments. GEO’s history provides striking insights and will save valuable time to those who commission, design and conduct, as well as critique and improve, assessments of environmental development in the next decade.

List of Tables and Figures



About the Authors

Introduction to the book

Chapter 1: Keeping the World’s Environment Under Review

1.1 Introduction

1.2 Global environmental assessment: initial insights

1.3 UNEP meets its mandate to keep the world environmental situation under review – and explores alternative models

1.4 UNEP gets the green light for its new global environmental assessment

1.5 Conclusion

Chapter 2: The Conceptual Framework of the Global Environment Outlook Reporting System

2.1 Introduction: Conceptual framework—a foundation for global environmental assessments

2.2 The role of science

2.3 From GEO’s mandate to its assessment framework

2.4 The evolution of GEO’s conceptual framework

2.5 Beyond DPSIR

Chapter 3: Collaboration and Participation in the Global Environment Outlook Process

3.1 Introduction

3.2 Partner institutions

3.3 Shifting of roles and responsibilities from partner institutes to individuals

3.4 A closer look at author groups

3.5 Other GEO Participants: A Medley of Roles

3.6 Conclusion

Chapter 4: Evolution of the Global Environment Outlook Reports 1-6, Including Their Use of the Integrated Environment Assessment Approach

4.1 Introduction

4.2 GEO delivery formats and length

4.3 Evolution of the Driving forces and Pressures components

4.4 Evolution of the State and Trends component

4.5 Evolution of the Impacts component, including human well-being

4.6 Evolution of the Policy Responses component in the global GEOs

4.7 Chapter summary

Chapter 5: Beyond DPSIR – Outlook and Other Major Aspects

5.1 Introduction

5.2 Evolution of the Outlook component in global GEOs

5.3 Other main elements found in GEOs 1-6

5.4 Regional aspects, content and treatment in global GEOs

5.5 Other global GEO products

Chapter 6. Global Environmental Outlooks from Subglobal to Local: GEO’s Multilevel, Multiscale Geographic Success

6.1 Introduction

6.2 Regional and subregional GEO reports and their origins

6.3 National GEO-style reports

6.4 Local-level GEO reporting

6.5 The special case of the Latin America and Caribbean region

6.6 Conclusions

Chapter 7: Global Environment Outlook Support Systems

7.1 Introduction

7.2 Process coordination

7.3 Expert and advisory groups

7.4 Capacity building

7.5 Data support

7.6 Report preparation process

7.7 Evaluation process

7.8 Additional GEO products

7.9 Funding support

Chapter 8: Outreach to Stakeholders and Users

8.1 Introduction

8.2 Outreach to Governments

8.3 Outreach within UNEP

8.4 Outreach to the rest of the UN

8.5 Outreach to the general public and other audiences

8.6 Strengthening the outreach strategy

8.7 Conclusion

Chapter 9. Global Perceptions and Influence of GEO

9.1 Introduction

9.2 GEO’s global role

9.3 A worldwide context informing national-level policymaking and vice versa

9.4 Capacity development: the importance of process, ownership and learning by doing

9.5 GEO, youth and the education community

9.6 GEO and the research community

9.7 GEO and the mass media

9.8 GEO’s influence on UNEP itself

9.9 Conclusion

Chapter 10: Regional Perceptions and Influence of GEO

10.1 Introduction

10.2 GEO in Africa: enabling the regional environmental agenda

10.3 GEO in Asia and the Pacific: one size does not fit all

10.4 GEO in Europe: getting noticed in a crowded place

10.5 GEO in Latin America and the Caribbean: riding the GEO wave

10.6 GEO in North America: acting in a region of fading interest

10.7 West Asia and North Africa: GEO as a professionalizing force

10.8 Conclusion

Chapter 11: Beyond GEO-6

11.1 Introduction and setting the scene

11.2 Four scenarios of what could happen to GEO in 2020-2030

11.3 Messages for the future of GEO

11.4 Conclusion

Concluding Remarks

Concluding Remarks


Annex I: The Evolution of UNEP Mandates for the Global Environment Outlook

Annex II: GEO Collaborating Centres and other Contributing Institutions listed in GEO reports

Annex III: Structure of GEOs-1 to 6 Reports

Annex IV: GEO-related Reports

Annex V: Acronyms and Abbreviations

Annex VI: List of Interviews