The lack of a common geographic database makes it very difficult, if not impossible, to provide information in a timely fashion and to undertake comparative analysis of substantive issues.
SALB is a UN project which has been launched in the context of the activities of United Nations Geographic Information Working Group (UNGIWG) and in the continuity of different efforts that took place in the middle of the 90's where the delimitation of the administrative boundaries was needed for the creation of population distribution grids (Tobler et al., 1995).
From its original objective, which was to provide the international community with a global standardized GIS layer containing the delimitation of the administrative boundaries down to the 2nd sub national level representative of January 2000, the project has now moved into providing a working platform for the collection, management, analysis, visualization and sharing of sub national data for a more larger period as this data set contains information for the 1st sub national level since 1990 and for the 2nd sub national level since 2000.
For example, this data set provides a flexible and intuitive coding scheme that can be applied to any country, independently from its administrative structure. In this regards the SALB project goes further than the recommendation provided by the Statistics Division of the department of Economic and Social Affairs in the frame of the "Handbook on geographic information systems and digital mapping" (UN, 2000) as the coding scheme proposed is based on a structure that allows its constant update in order to take into account the changes that occurs through time regarding the naming and delimitation of the administrative units.
The SALB project is also a good illustration of the potentiality that exists within the UN and non-UN community in terms of collaboration, access to data and technical skills. Within the United Nations, SALB even represents the biggest interagency project ever realized in the field of Geographic Information.
2. STANDARDS, METHODS AND PROCESSES
In order to be effective, this data set is based on validated information received from the countries and does integrate the highest level of standardization possible not only in terms of methods and process but also in terms of content.
Specific standards and protocols have therefore been developed and used since the beginning of this project, which includes:
a metadata profile that is associated with the information to ensure a proper documentation of the digital maps
a validation process through an official entity within the country (generally the National Mapping Agency) to ensure the validity of the information and data posted on the web site
These standards, templates or protocols can directly be found on this web site by clicking on the active link.
2.2 Methods and Process
Taking advantage of the SALB network and using the developed standards and protocols, the project is going through the following process:
The NMA of each UN Member State is regularly contacted in order to obtain or update its contact information. This information is then posted on the NMA contact information page of the SALB web site with the authorization of the NMA
At the same time, the historic changes observed at the 1st administrative level since 1990 and at the 2nd level since 2000 are either obtained or updated. Once validated and coded the resulting excel file is posted on the Codes and Historic changes download page of the SALB web site
In parallel, a comparison between all the maps (digital, paper or image) that have been compiled concerning the delimitation of the administrative units and the historic changes table is done in order to identify the map or combination of maps to be used for the rest of the process
From this point two situations may occur:
we have all the necessary information and authorization for generating a digital map (GIS format). In this case we can move forward with the process and start the editing work
we do not have all the information and/or authorization. In this case, further search and contact are necessary in order to obtain the missing information or the authorization using for example the memorandum of understanding specifically designed for the context of the project
Once we have all the necessary materials, the editing process can start in order to obtain a shape file presenting the administrative structure of the country and containing the administrative units names and codes in its/their attribute table.
This map is then sent for validation to the NMA in order to ensure that it reflects the different periods observed in the country since January 2000 in terms of international and administrative boundaries
Once validated the digital map and its metadata is posted on the map download pageof the SALB web site for free non-commercial download. The metadata record is also posted on the GeoNetwork data portal giving therefore a broader access to the SALB maps
At the end of this process the users have access to the following products:
National Mapping Contact information database
Historic changes observed at the 1st level since 1990 and the one observed at the 2nd level since 2000 in excel files including the SALB codes
A digital map showing the delimitation of the 1st and 2nd level administrative units as reported in the table validated by the NMA for each period of representativity observed since January 2000
2.3. The SALB network
The creation of the SALB data set would not be possible without the active participation of several UN and non-UN institutions, projects, commissions, committee or networks. (see Figure 1).
Institutions/projects/commissions/committee/networks participating in the SALB project at each of its steps (represented by lines in bold).
Without counting the National Mapping Agencies (NMA) themselves, which are playing a central and key role at all the stage in the process, this project currently coordinated by the World Health Organization (WHO), has developed and currently manages a network of more than 50 institutions, including:
5 regional nodes which collect, edit and update the information/data and follow up on its validation. These nodes are made of the following institutions: the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (UNECLAC), the UN Map Library, the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP), the Asian Institute for Technology (AIT), the WHO Regional Office for the Eastern Mediterranean (WHO EMRO) and WHO Headquarter (WHO HQ);
Other UN agencies such as the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA), the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the UN Group of Experts on Geographical Names (UNGEGN);
Global or Regional Committees/initiatives such as the International Steering Committee for Global Mapping (ISCGM), the Permanent Committee on Spatial Data Infrastructure for the Americas (PC-IDEA), the Pan American Institute of Geography and History (PAIGH), the Permanent Committee on GIS Infrastructure for Asia & the Pacific (PCGIAP) and the Committee on Development Information, Science and Technology (CODIST).
Non governmental organizations such as the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT)
Governmental institutions such as the U.S. State Department
Other academic institutions such as Columbia or Yale University
These partners provide access to their data, skills and/or capacities in house or in the countries. In this context it is important to underline the crucial role that the SALB nodes are playing. Through this network, the SALB project also aims at reducing duplication of efforts within the UN regarding this specific layer of information.
3. STATE OF PROGRESS (May 2013)
Since June 2001, 190 NMAs have been contacted. Until now, these contacts have allowed us post the following validated information and data on the SALB web site:
Please have a look at the "help us" page to see if you could per chance have the information or data we are looking for.
4. FUTURE OF THE PROJECT
Since the 7th UNGIWG plenary meeting, which took place in Santiago de Chile in November 2006, the priority set for the project is to "reach the present".
Reaching this objective would mean that the SALB data set would have reached a full coverage in terms of:
list of administrative units as observed in January 2000
historic changes starting from 1990 at the 1st administrative level and from 2000 at the 2nd administrative level
administrative boundaries maps with one map for each period of representativity observed since 2000 and at least January 2005
As this will still take some time, the project has already passed into a yearly updating mode for the largest number of countries, meaning that the NMAs are contacted at the beginning of each year to update their contact information and the historic changes as well as extend the representativity of the corresponding maps.
5. SALB PUBLICATIONS, PRESENTATIONS AND REPORTS
The following publications, presentations and reports about the SALB project have been produced these past years:
Report of activities, November 2001 Report of activities for 2003 presented during the 3rd UNGIWG meeting (Washington DC, 17-19.06.2002) Report of activities, June 2003 Paper presented at the 3rd Digital Earth Conference (Brno, 25.09.2003)
Report of activities and results of the task group breakout that took place during the 4th UNGIWG meeting (Nairobi, 22-24.10.2003)
Report of activities for 2004 and workplan for 2005 presented and accepted during the 5th UNGIWG meeting (Geneva, 12-14.10.2004)
Poster presented during the 2004 EnviroInfo Conference (Geneva, 21.10.2004)
Paper distributed during the 2004 Statistical Commission (New York, 2-5.03.2004)
Slides presented during the 4th meeting of the Committe on Development Information (CODI IV, Addis Ababa, 23-28.05.2005)
Paper and slides presented at the 8th UN Regional Cartographic Conference for the Americas (New York, 27.06-01.07.2005)
Report of activities for 2004 and slides presented at the 6th UNGIWG meeting (Addis Ababa, 25-27.10.2005)
Paper and slides presented at the PCGIAP WG2 workshop (Brunei Darussalam, 24.11.2005). A subset of these slides has also been presented at the 8th South East Asia Survey Congress (SEASC, Brunei Darussalam, 23.11.2005)
Minutes of the SALB regional meeting for Asia (Bangkok, 28.11.2005)
Paper and slides presented at the 17th UN Regional Cartographic Conference for Asia and the Pacific (Bangkok, 18-22.09 2006 ).
Report of activities for 2006 and 2007 workplan as well as the slides presented during the 7th UNGIWG meeting (Santiago de Chile, 2-4.11.2006)
Paper and slides (in Spanish) presented at the 9th Global Spatial Data Infrastructure (GSDI) Conference (Santiago de Chile, 6-11.11.2006).
Slides presented during the Workshop on Spatial Data Infrastructure jointly organized by SCOSA and the Geoinformatics Center of the Asian Institute of Technology (Bangkok, 22-24 February 2007)
Paper and slides presented at the 9th United Nations Conference on the Standardization of Geographical Names (UNCSGN) and 24th session of the Group of Experts on Geographical Names (UNGEGN) (New York, 19-31.08.2007).
Report of activities for 2007 and 2008 workplan presented during the 8th UNGIWG meeting (Bangkok, 28-30.11.2007)
Poster presented during the Global Mapping Forum (Tokyo, 5-7.06.2008)
Poster presented during the 9th UNGIWG Plenary meeting (Vienna, 5-7.11.2008)
The depiction and use of boundaries, geographic names and related data shown on maps and included in lists, tables, documents, and databases on this web site are not warranted to be error free nor do they necessarily imply official endorsement or acceptance by the United Nations and the World Health Organization.