High-level officials from statistics offices in nine countries in Latin America and the Caribbean met in Panama City June 27-28, 2013 to promote the importance of strengthening environmental statistics and natural capital accounting (NCA) in the region and using the data to influence policy and sustainable development.

Participants discussed the need to foster national coordination among the institutional players responsible for statistics, indicators and environmental accounts. They also agreed that regional knowledge sharing and collaboration to promote the standardization and comparability of common environmental statistics is a critical component in strengthening environmental statistics and implementing NCA.

The workshop kicked off a three-year project led by the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin American and the Caribbean (ECLAC) and the Mexican Institute of Statistics, Geography and Informatics (INEGI), and is funded by the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB).

Without environmental statistics, the policy making process is blind. How do we achieve sustainable development without the appropriate information to identify needs, set goals and monitor progress?” said Kristina Taboulchanas, a specialist in environmental statistics and accounts with ECLAC, in her opening remarks at the workshop.

Officials attended from the Bahamas, Costa Rica, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Mexico, Panama, Suriname and Venezuela. Participants also included representatives from the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and the Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM).

Juan Pablo Castaneda, a World Bank advisor on natural capital accounting for the Latin American region working with the Wealth Accounting and Valuation of Ecosystem Services (WAVES) Partnership, gave a presentation on how WAVES is being implemented and bringing more countries on board. Castaneda stressed the “need to foster south-south learning based on an integrated knowledge platform,” and that WAVES could support this work.