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Environment & Development Information Institute & Clearinghouse
A proposal for discussion, review and action - June 1990


The preparation for the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development is bringing into focus the need for a clearinghouse for information on environment and development.

The emerging attention to sustainable development -- or the relationship between environment and development -- the global nature of the issue, and the extensive range of public and private, local, regional, national and international problems, needs and initiatives in this arena point to the value of such a clearinghouse as a vehicle for effective access to, and exchange of, information.

Meanwhile, the continuing development of information technology, points to the rapidly increasing ability to develop, maintain, disseminate, and create cost-effective and timely access to the extensive amounts of information on environment and development. Advances in information technology, in both software and hardware, are increasingly favoring microcomputer technology and decentralized access to information -- either through on-line access via modem, or through distribution of disk-based databases, in addition to the publication and dissemination of directories in print format.

The use of electronic conferencing, via computer networks such as EcoNet and GreenNet, represents a potent means for planning and decision making in the environment and development arena, and has particular significance in the context of the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in the light of the commitment of the conference Secretariat to disseminate information, documents, and schedules via electronic conferences. An Environment & Development Information Institute could play a valuable role serving as a clearinghouse and coordinating body for information to be disseminated electronically, including maintenance of an effective index of pertinent information available on electronic conferences.

In addition, continuing information technology developments hold forth the prospect of making major contributions in other areas of environment and development decision making. The development of computer based geographic information systems through which the environmental and developmental resources, hazards and liabilities of an area can be mapped and examined in a comprehensive manner may be a prime example of the possibility of fertile interaction between information, environment and development.

The development of a comprehensive international clearinghouse on environment and development, and the global, collective nature of the need for it, combined with some unique characteristics of the economics of information systems, and the comparative nature and effectiveness of public and private enterprises raise important considerations concerning the optimal management, ownership/control and funding processes for an environment and development information institute and clearinghouse.

Environment & Development Information Institute & Clearinghouse

Proposed Objectives

1. To establish a comprehensive clearinghouse for information on global and local environment and development issues;

    a. To develop and maintain a comprehensive set of databases on people, organizations, projects, technologies, processes, etc. related to environment and development;

    b. To develop and maintain a reference library & information center on environment and development;

    c. To develop and establish cooperative relationships with organizations and individuals who publish directories or maintain databases related to environment and development issues;

    d. To initiate the development and implementation of a model computer mapped geographic information system of the environmental resources, liabilities and hazards of an urban industrial area.

2. To maximize the opportunities for access to information maintained and developed by an Environment & Development Information Institute

    a. To establish a policy and structure that provides for reasonable access to the information by individuals, organizations, and governments, without discrimination on the basis of nationality, race, religion, sex, age, income, education or physical or mental handicap;

    b. To publish a set of environment and development directories, to be updated on a regular basis;

    c. To develop the means for global on-line computer access to the environment and development databases;

    d. To provide access via telephone inquiry to the information in the databases and the information center;

    e. To take active steps to make available the information through public and university library systems.

3. To promote the effective, cooperative use of information technology for environment and development, including:

    a. The development of effective means for the use of computer conferencing and communication as a forum for communicating information on environment and development;

    b. The design and implementation of systems for integrating computer communications with print and other forms of communication with those who do not have effective access to computer communications.

    c. The development of training resources, at all skill levels, in the effective and appropriate use of information, and information technologies, as it relates to environment and development

    d. The development of local, regional & national networks for effective two way dissemination of information on environment and development.

4. To promote environmentally sound sustainable human and economic development, at a local, regional, national and global levels.

    a. To develop, and support the implementation of, a model for environmentally sound development in an urban industrialized area, with a focus on optimal utilization of all forms of solid, airborne and waterborne discharges from residential, commercial and industrial sources;

    b. To develop an information exchange with data on environmentally sound technologies, processes and services, their availability, and the needs for these technologies, processes and services.

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