History of the Millennium Assessment


On this page: Roots | WRI and the Exploratory Steering Committee | Transition Phase and Launch | Assessment Work and Release of Findings


Millenium Ecosystem Assessment LogoThe history of the MA can be traced to demands from both scientists and policymakers. By the mid-1990s, many individuals involved in the work of international conventions such as the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the Convention to Combat Desertification (CCD) realized that the extensive needs for scientific assessments within the conventions were not being met through the mechanisms then in place. In contrast, effective assessment process like the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) did exist for such treaties as the Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer.

Scientists had also identified a need for an international ecosystem assessment. Although major advances had been made in ecological sciences, resource economics and other fields during the 1980s and 1990s, these new findings appeared to be poorly reflected in policy discussions concerning ecosystems. Recognizing these shortcomings, a panel of 40 leading scientists prepared a draft international assessment - “Protecting our Planet, Securing our Future: Linkages Among Global Environmental Issues and Human Needs”. The study, published in November 1998 by UNEP, NASA, and the World Bank, called for “a more integrative assessment process for selected scientific issues, a process that can highlight the linkages between questions relevant to climate, biodiversity, desertification, and forest issues.”

WRI and the Exploratory Steering Committee

The specific proposal for the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment arose during a brainstorming meeting held at World Resources Institute on May 17, 1998 to discuss plans for the biennial World Resources Report, published by WRI, UNEP, World Bank, and UNDP. Building on a proposal by Dr. Walter Reid (WRI Vice President through July 1998), the meeting concluded with a proposal to undertake a set of activities to create a new international assessment process. These activities included: a) conducting a “Pilot Analysis of Global Ecosystems” (PAGE), b) focusing World Resources2000-2001 on the condition of global ecosystems; and c) establishing a consultative process that could lead to the creation of a full international science assessment. The four partners (WRI, UNEP, the World Bank, and UNDP) approved that proposal and the exploratory phase began later that month. The process unfolded as follows:

June 1998

October 1998

February 1999

October 1999

Transition phase and launch

Following its October 1999 meeting, the Exploratory Steering Committee initiated a “transition phase” designed to establish the formal governance and institutional arrangements for the MA. Between October 1999 and April 2000, the Steering Committee selected the institutions to be formally represented on the Board and 15 “at large” board members (leaving 15 additional Board seats to be filled by the new Board once it was established), finalized the basic organizational and financial arrangements for the MA, and reviewed and approved the formal MA proposal that was subsequently submitted to the GEF, UN Foundation and other donors. WRI agreed to serve as the interim secretariat for as long as was needed in order to ensure the effective launch of the process.

Between October 1999 and July 2000, the Conference of Parties of the CBD and CCD formally endorsed the MA as a mechanism to meet some of their assessment needs and a similar endorsement was provided by the Standing Committee of the Convention on Wetlands (Ramsar). Other events during this time period included:

April 2000

May 2000

July 2000

September 2000

October 2000

December 2000

February 2001

June 5, 2001

Assessment Work and release of findings

Working meetings during 2001

Working meetings during 2002

Working meetings during 2003

Working meetings during 2004

Working meetings during 2005

March 30, 2005