• "Environmental pollution is an incurable disease. It can only be prevented."

  • "When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe."

  • "What we are doing to the forests of the world is but a mirror reflection of what we are doing to ourselves and to one another.”

  • "I can find God in nature, in animals, in birds and the environment."

  • "We won't have a society if we destroy the environment."

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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.”

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Overview of the Milliennium Ecosystem Assessment

On this page:

What is the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA)?
What are the main findings of the MA?
What is new about the MA findings?
Has the MA identified major gaps in knowledge?
Where are the uncertainties too large to provide useful input to decision-makers?
What impact does the MA hope to have? How did the MA start?
When did the MA begin?
How long did the assessment take?

How was the MA governed?
How was the work of the MA done?
What institutions were involved in the MA’s distributed secretariat?
How much did the MA cost, and who funded it?
What products are available from the MA?
What were some of the innovations of the MA?
Where are the sub-global assessments? How were they selected?
Did the MA conduct new research?
What happens next? Will the MA be repeated?
How was the MA related to other international assessments, such as the Global Environment Outlook (GEO), IPCC and the Global International Waters Assessment (GIWA)?

What is the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA)?

The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA) was called for by the United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan in 2000. Initiated in 2001, the objective of the MA was to assess the consequences of ecosystem change for human well-being and the scientific basis for action needed to enhance the conservation and sustainable use of those systems and their contribution to human well-being. The MA has involved the work of more than 1,360 experts worldwide. Their findings, contained in five technical volumes and six synthesis reports, provide a state-of-the-art scientific appraisal of the condition and trends in the world’s ecosystems and the services they provide (such as clean water, food, forest products, flood control, and natural resources) and the options to restore, conserve or enhance the sustainable use of ecosystems.


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