The principal purposes of an SOE report are: (a) to present information to the public on the conditions and trends of the environment; (b) to identify and analyse causes, linkages and constraints; and (c) to indicate emerging environmental issues and problems.
State-of-environment reports (SOEs) have been prepared for several countries, mostly by governments and NGOs, but in a few cases as a joint product of government and private sector. In some countries (e.g. Venezuela, India, Malaysia, Singapore and Australia), SOE reports are updated periodically. The Mexican NGO, FundaciÃ³n Mexicana para la EducaciÃ³n Ambiental prepared a series of nine environmental assessments, each covering a different topic (water, resources atmospheric contamination, industrial waste, wildlife and habitat etc.
UNEP supports the development of state of the environment reports in developing countries by providing consultants on a short-term basis and other assistance to prepare and publish the final report. The Organization of American States and the Japanese Economic Cooperation Fund are developing new country environmental studies programmes that have been incorporated in SOE reports.
Australia produces a five-yearly State of Environment Report as the major output of the nation's environmental reporting system. The first report Australia: State of the Environment 1996 was described as a report to government (not a government report). The report addressed the pressures on the environment, its condition and the response measures taken in the light of those conditions and trends from a continental perspective. A final part of the report discussed the key national issues. Against the major themes of the SoE process was developed a 'first generation' set of continental environmental indicators. The second SoE report, due in 2001, will happen as a legislative requirement of the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, 1999. There are seven major themes: human settlements, biodiversity, the atmosphere, the land, inland waters, coasts and oceans (formerly estuaries and the sea) and natural and cultural heritage. Complementary state of environment reporting is underway in some states of Australia. There is also a complementary Australian State of the Forest Report, the first version of which was published in 1998.