The UNEP Global Environment Outlook (GEO) project was initiated in response to the environmental reporting requirements of Agenda 21 and to a UNEP Governing Council decision of May 1995 which requested the production of a new comprehensive global state of the environment report.
The coordinated global network of collaborating centres (CCs) is at the core of the GEO process. These centres have played an increasingly active role in preparing GEO reports. Regional centres are now responsible for almost all the regional inputs, combining top-down integrated assessment with bottom-up environmental reporting. Other institutions provide specialized expertise on cross-cutting or thematic issues.
Working groups provide advice and support to the GEO process, particularly on integrated assessment methodologies and process planning.
Other United Nations agencies contribute to the GEO process, mainly by providing substantive data and information on the many environmental and related issues that fall under their individual mandates. They also participate in the review process.
The GEO reports are produced using a participatory and consultative approach. Input is solicited from a wide range of sources throughout the world, including the collaborating centre network, United Nations organizations and independent experts. Working together with the GEO Coordinating Team in Nairobi and the regions, the CCs research, write and review major parts of the report. During the preparation of the report, UNEP organizes consultations inviting policy makers and other stakeholders to review and comment on draft materials. Drafts also undergo extensive peer review. This iterative process is designed to ensure that the contents are scientifically accurate and policy relevant to users in different parts of the world and with different environmental information needs.
Four GEO reports have been published to date: GEO-1 in 1997; GEO-2000 in 1999; GEO-3 in 2002; and GEO-4 in 2007.
At the 22nd session of the UNEP Governing Council/Global Ministerial Environment Forum (GC/GEMF) in 2003 governments requested UNEP to prepare an annual Global Environment Outlook statement to highlight significant environmental events and achievements during the year. Keeping abreast of environmental issues as they unfold, the GEO annual statement (GEO Year Book) is to be released in the beginning of every year in between the comprehensive GEO reports. The GEO Year Book 2003, the first in the annual series, was launched at the 8th Special Session of the GC/GMEF on the 29th March, 2004.
Other outputs of the GEO project include regional, sub-regional and national integrated environmental assessments, technical and other background reports, a website, products for young people (GEO for Youth) and a core database – the GEO Data Portal.