What is UNSDI

UNSDI is an institutional and technical mechanism for establishing system coherence for the exchange and applications of geographic data and information for UN activities and related SDI development activities in Member Countries.

The UN Spatial Data Infrastructure (UNSDI) initiative aims to contribute to the mission of the United Nations to maintain peace and security, to address humanitarian emergencies and to contribute to the realization of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. By facilitating efficient global and local access, exchange and utilization of geospatial information, UNSDI will make the United Nations system more effective and support its “Delivering as One” policies.

Spatial data infrastructures provide the institutional and technical foundation of policies, interoperable standards and procedures that enable organizations and technologies to interact in a way that facilitates geospatial information discovery, evaluation and applications. Given that UN agencies vary in their ability to utilise and manage geospatial information it is foreseen that a UNSDI could reduce development and operational costs by working together to achieve economies of scale through generic standards, guidelines and implementation tools. Thus, the development of a UNSDI is considered essential for increasing system coherence in the use and exchange of geospatial data and information for UN activities.

UNSDI is an investment into the capacities of the United Nations System to manage its existing geospatial assets more effectively. Subsequently UNSDI serves as a model and vehicle for capacity strengthening in Member States that request assistance from the United Nations in managing and applying geospatial data to support their national development agenda.

The United Nations Spatial Data Infrastructure (UNSDI) program is led by the United Nations Committee of Experts on Global Geospatial Information Management (UN-GGIM). UN-GGIM is a subsidiary body of the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), and is responsible for providing global leadership in the development and management of geospatial information and related services. UN-GGIM oversees the UNSDI program and provides guidance to countries and organizations on the development of national and regional spatial data infrastructures. UN-GGIM also works to promote the use of geospatial information for sustainable development and disaster risk reduction, and advocates for the importance of geospatial information in policy and decision-making processes.



Since its inception, the UNSDI community has been looking for means of implementing the infrastructure with its accompanying building blocks. Various initiatives have been set up, of which AFSDI (Agro Food Spatial Data Infrastructure) seemed to be the most promising. The AFSDI proposal wasn’t cleared though by FAO’s Geospatial Coordination Board, for incomprehensible reasons. Another initiative, FAO’s Hand-in-Hand programme, is now been established. Info on both initiatives can be found under ‘Implementation’ in the main menu.