Streamlined reporting to the biodiversity-related multilateral environmental agreements template - frequently asked questions

1. What is the benefit of using a consolidated reporting template?

The consolidated reporting template is designed to facilitate reporting by reducing duplication and by making the process simpler and less resource-intensive. It could decrease the amount of time Pacific Island countries need to spend on national reporting for multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs) yet still communicate their progress and achievements.

The template represents a practical example of how national reporting can be streamlined. Instead of preparing multiple reports in a set period, countries would develop only one national report per reporting period.

The harmonisation of MEA reporting templates and standards could facilitate information exchange and provide easier access to information for Parties, MEA Secretariats and other stakeholders, and result in a more efficient use of resources.

2. Does using a consolidated reporting template mean that the secretariats won't get all the information they need?

No. The consolidated reporting template incorporates questions that meet the majority of the information requirements of all five of the biodiversity-related MEAs:

  • Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)
  • Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES)
  • Convention on Migratory Species (CMS)
  • Convention on Wetlands of International Importance especially as Waterfowl Habitat (Ramsar)
  • World Heritage Convention (WHC)

However, in order to streamline the number of questions in the consolidated reporting template, some questions have been reworded to be more generic whilst still requesting important information on MEA implementation.

The questions in the consolidated reporting template are tailored to elicit responses that provide an overview of biodiversity in Pacific Island countries. They are designed to communicate the status, trends and threats to biodiversity as well as the measures taken to implement the biodiversity-related MEAs by Pacific Island countries.

3. Can I use the template to undertake national reporting for my country?

No, not yet. The report has not formally been endorsed by the governing bodies of the biodiversity-related MEAs, therefore it is available only as an example of a consolidated reporting model.

Although the template is not formally endorsed for use by the biodiversity-related MEA governing bodies, it provides a valuable case study of a regional approach to streamline reporting. The template could facilitate reporting by countries in other regions with similar staffing and resource constraints around the world.

4. Why is the template in a PDF format?

The template has been developed as a SmartForm using Adobe LiveCycle technology. A SmartForm is a simple, interactive PDF that is purpose designed to facilitate reporting. It is administered through Adobe Reader, a program that is free to download and compatible with most levels of computer technology. This is especially useful for countries with intermittent internet access as the template can be downloaded and then saved in the traditional PDF format on the hard drive of a computer.

SmartForms enable information to be easily managed without the need for new IT infrastructure.

5. Why is the template still available in Microsoft Word?

Some people prefer to work in Microsoft Word. It is an almost universally accepted and used software program that can support a great deal of data, can be saved regularly and is easily distributed electronically.

6. Can the template be hosted on-line?

Yes. Use of the Adobe LiveCycle SmartForm version is a transitional step towards online reporting. At present, national reports completed using the SmartForm version are developed as a stand-alone PDF document (offline). However, in the future these national reports could be completed online and hosted on a website.

The transition to online reporting, whilst some time away, could be very beneficial in facilitating national reporting for both the contracting parties and the end-users of the reports such as secretariats, donors and other stakeholders.

7. If I try to use the template, will I need to save a backup?

Yes. Data loss is common even with Microsoft Word or PDF documents.

Backing up data means to keep a copy in a separate location to the original, such as on a disc or a separate drive on your computer's hard drive. Backups are useful primarily for two purposes: to restore a document if the computer 'freezes' or 'crashes', and to restore files if they have been accidentally deleted or corrupted.

8. Is it possible to generate a report for each of the MEAs?

Potentially. Adobe LiveCycle is a highly intuitive software program and it is possible to create a function that could do this in the future. However, the current version of the consolidated reporting template does not have the capability to generate a report for each MEA. The consolidated reporting model is a demonstration model only and will require further revisions if it is endorsed as a reporting model.

MEA secretariats or intergovernmental agencies wishing to extrapolate the data can build in a 'platform' or a 'back-end system' to extract the data into whichever format they wish. This means that each Secretariat could use the data in the consolidated template to develop their own unique reports, or simply analyse it to report back to contracting parties on MEA implementation.

9. Is it possible to search the template for specific information? 

Yes. The standard search function {Ctrl+F} can be used to search for specific text or data in the consolidated reporting template (as you would a traditional PDF).

10. Would it be possible to search across a range of country templates concurrently? 

Potentially. MEA secretariats or intergovernmental agencies wishing to extrapolate the data can build in a 'platform' or a 'back-end system' to pull out the data into whichever format they wish. This could include developing a function to search across a range of templates concurrently. This means that each Secretariat could use the data in the consolidated template to develop their own unique reports or methods to analyse the data in the template.

11. Can it be used for State of Environment Reporting (SoE)?

Partly. The consolidated reporting template is designed to reflect the reporting requirements of the five biodiversity-related MEAs. National reporting is a requirement under these MEAs, and is designed to reflect the progress contracting parties have made in implementing the objectives of the MEAs.

SoE reporting is a separate process that countries undertake at regular intervals depending on requirements under their own national environmental legislation. Some data generated in the consolidated reporting template could be suitable for input into a SoE report, however, SoE reports will likely need to reflect a broader range of environmental information; including on human settlements, waste issues, water, climate change, sustainability and renewable energy.