United Nations


Institute for Integrated Management
of Material Fluxes and of Resources

About the Nexus Observatory Platform

In the wake of the review of Millennium Development Goals and the post-2015 agenda on sustainable development, overcoming fragmentation and strengthening accountability frameworks have become a major challenge. There is a noticeable gap between information-rich and information-poor environments and individuals and how this may affect decision-making. By improving access to disaggregate data, creating robust monitoring frameworks that can adequately measure progress and facilitating governance processes, which are supported by relevant information and evidence, societal challenges can be addressed in an integrated manner.

The Nexus Observatory is a project of the United Nations University Institute for Integrated Management of Material Fluxes and of Resources (UNU-FLORES), which promotes a nexus approach to the integrated management of environmental resources - water soil and waste. A fundamental element of the nexus approach consists of providing stakeholders, especially decision-makers (policy level) and practitioners (implementation level) with the necessary information and evidence-base to make decisions that guarantee that the needs of present and future generations can be met. The combination of research excellence and policy-relevance, which are guiding principles of UNU-FLORES, demands the exploration and application of innovative ideas and approaches to nexus knowledge consolidation, management and translation to make it useful to real world challenges.

Advancing a nexus approach to the sustainable management of environmental resources also requires better alignment of data collection protocols, access to complete data, comparable standards, better analysis of data, a unified monitoring framework as well as adaptive governance processes. For this reason, the Nexus Observatory aims to advance the following four functions:

  • Data and knowledge classification,
  • Knowledge consolidation,
  • Knowledge translation and
  • Information transfer.
The Nexus Observatory seeks to manage knowledge pertinent to the nexus of water, soil and waste resources. It consolidates and translates science into relevant information and evidence that supports and empowers decision-makers to develop strategies, policies as well as environmental resource management planning and implementation frameworks. To achieve this, the Nexus Observatory relies on data from three sources: UN agencies, Member States and private data sets (mobile, GPS). This will allow for the creation of tools that measure nexus impacts and promote the following applications:
  • Cross-fertilisation of good practice policy guidance through Ph.D. level research and commissioned studies
  • Piloting of innovative approaches for planning and management of environmental resources through collaboration with relevant departments and ministries
  • Capacity development through joint delivery of online courses offered as part of the Blended Learning Platform of the Nexus Observatory
  • Dissemination of insights/policy advocacy through organisation of Nexus Observatory workshops and biennial Dresden Nexus Conference
  • Contribute towards development of a unified monitoring framework through co-operation agreements with UN agencies, Member States and knowledge institutes worldwide
To achieve the above aims, the Nexus Observatory is divided into four seamlessly interlinked "Windows". These enable the building of robust interfaces between data, monitoring and governance structures.
Nexus Observatory windows

Window 1: Linked Databases

Window 1 will allow for the classification of data and knowledge from various sources using different mediums and provide access to data visualisation techniques, modelling and scenario analysis tools. It is envisioned to build links and inter-connections between already available data from various data sources (open data - e.g. open source databases, reports available on the web; licensed data - e.g. password protected databases; private data - e.g. generated through a citizen observatory). Window 1 will also generate nexus analytics on different aspects of:
  • water-energy-food nexus,
  • water-soil-waste nexus and
  • poverty-environment nexus.
Additionally, it will arrange case studies through distributed access to nexus portals of partner institutes.

Window 2: Blended Learning

Window 2 of the Nexus Observatory will host the Blended Learning Platform. The Blended Learning Platform will focus on consolidating knowledge that emerges from teaching and learning activities that relate to: (a) classroom or face-to-face teaching, (b) thematic online courses and (c) tailor made training programmes that respond to demands of decision-makers, practitioners and students with an interest in the planning and management of environmental resources. The classroom teaching component could be defined by mandatory courses offered as part of the UNU-FLORES & Technische Universität Dresden (TUD) joint doctoral programme on integrated management of environmental resources or specially designed workshops (country specific or regional) as part of a tailor made training programme. Discussions on ECTS credit transfer can be undertaken as part of this framework. Integrating blended learning into the Nexus Observatory permits the formation of synergies between its four Windows. In this way the Blended Learning Platform advances the nexus approach through transdisciplinary approaches that promote robust interfaces between education, research and policy dialogue.

Window 3: Nexus Repository

Window 3 involves the consolidation of knowledge through documentation and analysis of nexus activities, such as regional consultations, pilot projects, field-testing and a biennial Dresden Nexus Conference. This analysis will generate important insights relating to needs assessments, gap analysis and overlaps in a cost-effective manner. The ambition of the Nexus Observatory will be to empower decision-makers by providing them with a harmonised collection of new and existing data sets on resources nexus based on case studies hosted on portals of Nexus Observatory Partners (NOP's). The Nexus Repository will foster connectivity with the Blended Learning Window through analysis that links course proposals and questions to thematic challenges of UN agencies.

Window 4: Nexus Laboratory

The Nexus Laboratory will enable the transfer and translation of nexus knowledge and methodologies, classified and consolidated in Windows 1, 2 and 3, in support of dynamic and evidence-based decision-making. Through scenario analysis, data visualisation and the construction of nexus indices, the Nexus Laboratory facilitates, tracks and evaluates the implementation of innovative knowledge-based approaches for integrated management of water, soil and waste resources. The Nexus Laboratory Window will employ tools classified in Window 1 to perform analysis on data sets organised in Window 3. The Nexus Laboratory will draw upon the analysis to identify credible data proxies for design of monitoring and evaluation frameworks for nexus pilot projects. The Nexus Observatory will employ indices as a way of documenting and analysing the changing nature of trade-offs in decision-making that can potentially have implications for advancing the integrated management of environmental resources - water, soil and waste. It also monitors progress of collaborative research projects to identify opportunities where new methodologies and policy advocacy can strengthen feedback loops at multiple levels of governance within Member States.

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