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Improving data collection and management for informed decision making in the Pacific through the Inform project

4 September 2023, Apia – The milestones and achievements of the recently completed Global Environment Facility (GEF) funded Inform project, as well as its role in the transition towards well-informed, data-based decision making, were highlighted during a panel discussion side event held in Apia this afternoon. 

The Inform project, which was implemented by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and executed by the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) was implemented in 14 Pacific Island countries – two of which were invited to share their experiences, successes, and challenges during the side event. The side event panel included delegates from Samoa and the Republic of the Marshall Islands
(RMI), alongside partners UNEP and GEF, with moderation by SPREP.

The Director of SPREP’s Environmental Monitoring and Governance (EMG), Jope Davetanivalu, stated that prior to the inception of the project, the availability of data had consistently been identified by Pacific Island countries and territories as a major challenge when it came to policy development and decision making. 

“The EMG programme was fortunate to have entered into a partnership with GEF and UNEP for the five-year Inform project which looked to address this challenge and sustain environmental data management in the Pacific,” Mr Davetanivalu said. 

The project played a pivotal role in enhancing Samoa’s capacity that led to the development of its National Environment Indicators Reporting System, which is a system used to monitor and track the progress of their selected environmental indicators in their National Environment Sector Plan.  

Ms. Moira Faletutulu, Assistant Chief Executive Officer for Samoa’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, shared this achievement and more on how the Inform project contributed to Samoa’s efforts in improving data management for environmental decision making.

“The system is very useful to help us consistently monitor the key indicators that are in our sector plan. While the system is in place now, we need to maintain it and continuously build the capacity of our personnel to continue to use the system.”

Samoa was also able to develop its fourth State of Environment (SOE) report, a ten-year review report, with assistance from the Inform project together with the UN Joint Programme on Ecosystem Services (UNJP SESS). The last SOE report for Samoa was published in 2013.

“The data portal supported by the Inform project was very useful in collecting the information for this SOE review, which really gave us a clearer picture of how our environment has been faring over the last ten years and providing us with a back-stopping mechanism to see where we’re doing well and where we need to focus more of our attention,” Ms Faletutulu added. 

The Inform project also provided the data necessary for the development of the National Environment Sector Plan 2022-2027, which links to the national planning framework, the Pathway for the Development of Samoa. 

Some of the challenges faced by the Republic of the Marshall Islands under the Inform project were elaborated by Mr Warrick Harris, Deputy Director for the Department of Environment, who echoed the sentiments relayed by Director Davetanivalu that timely access to and acquisition of data was the major challenge they faced as part of their work.

“Prior to the Inform project, data was housed in various departments and in various computers and external hard drives. There was no centralised storage for environmental data, which thus presented a challenge when trying to get timely access to that data. 

“The Inform project was able to provide us with environmental data portals, which greatly helped centralise the information and data needed for policy development and decision-making.” 

This information housed in the centralised data portal enabled RMI to develop their SOE report, as well as produce their national reports to the Convention on Biological Diversity. 

RMI have also developed a policy requiring all consultants undertaking work for the RMI Government to upload all data and information to the national data portal to ensure that they are still accessible after the conclusion of the consultancies. 

Ms. Elisapeta Kerslake from UNEP noted the ongoing collaboration between the Inform project towards collating climate-related data under the UNEP CIS-Pac5 project. She acknowledged that data repositories established and developed under the Inform project are currently being utilized to store and catalogue climate data from Cook Islands, Niue, RMI, Palau and Tuvalu under the UNEP CIS-Pac5 project. 

Ms Sarah Wyatt of GEF congratulated the Inform and EMG team at SPREP on the success of the project, especially across multiple Pacific Island countries. She also identified possible funding opportunities within the current funding cycle in the GEF that are available to support data collections and the portals so that they can serve the Pacific Island countries well into the future. 

Mr. Davetanivalu noted that SPREP has received funding commitments from seven Pacific Island Countries to further support and maintain the developed outputs and infrastructure under the Inform project. Going forward, he implored further support from additional Pacific country members noting the prevalent challenges in collating and managing data in the Pacific.

For more information on the Inform Project, please contact Mr Tavita Su’a at [email protected]