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Functional Areas

Functional Areas are the geographical extent of administrative, legislative, regulatory, electoral, statistical, governance, service delivery and activity management areas.

Why is this theme fundamental?

Functional areas relate to, and support, the organisation and management of people, communities, society, and their activities in geographic space. These areas arise from human decisions. Linking data to administrative and functional geographies provides the spatial component that further enables data integration and broader comparability. It’s also the key to informing stakeholders on the status of international, national and sub-national policy objectives and programme goals/deliverables.

As a result, they are the building blocks of many processes relevant to sustainable development goals. Functional areas form the link between data collection and implementation of actions. They can be used to visualise data, but also for analytical purposes and, if stable, trends over time. In the natural environment context (including marine) they are key units for implementation and monitoring.

Which sustainable development goals (SDGs) will it help to meet?

Functional areas are relevant for most, if not all, of the SDGs which relate to people, and marine administrative units are relevant for actions which apply to sea areas.

Geospatial data features in more detail

Functional Areas are essentially human-defined virtual areas, often organised in a hierarchical way. Their key attributes are: geometry, level (in the hierarchy), code, name, and function. Functions include protected sites, planning zones, statistical units, flood zones, school catchments, agricultural zones, administrative areas, etc.

Possible sources of data
It’s mainly government functions which require Functional Areas, so the data relating to them is usually available from public sources. These sources may be at different levels of government.

Existing Data Standards
Note: This is indicative. Other lists of standards exist and UN-GGIM will seek to work with thematic experts to develop a list of relevant data standards.
  • INSPIRE Data Specification on Area Management/Restriction/Regulation Zones and Reporting units;
  • INSPIRE Data Specifications for Administrative Units;
  • INSPIRE Data Specifications for Statistical Units;
  • INSPIRE Data Specifications for Protected Sites;
  • ISO 14825 Intelligent transport systems-Geographic Data Files (GDF)-GDF5.0; and,
  • ISO 19152: Land Administrative Domain Model (Spatial Unit Group).