Group on Earth Observations
Address: 7 bis, Av. de la Paix, Case postale 2300, 1211 Geneva, Switzerland
Stakeholder group: NGOs and associations
Despite rapid advances in EO technology, governments and investors often do not have access to the right environmental data, at the right time, and in the right format. This is particularly the case in low- and middle-income countries. Those most affected by climate change and disasters are often the least equipped to respond.
GEO closes these gaps in environmental intelligence. We promote open, coordinated, and sustained sharing of data, information, and knowledge about the Earth in support of better research, policy-making, decisions, and action.
GEO convenes strategic partnerships to identify and develop the EO tools, services, and coordination mechanisms needed to address global needs and knowledge gaps.
Priority areas in the GEO Work Programme include the sustainable development goals (SDGs), climate action, disaster risk reduction, and resilient cities and human settlements.
To facilitate access to EO applications, we are developing the GEO Knowledge Hub, a digital library.
EOs are data and information collected about our planet, whether atmospheric, oceanic, or terrestrial. This includes space-based or remotely sensed data, as well as ground-based or in situ data. Coordinated and open EOs enable decision-makers around the world to better understand the issues they face, in order to shape more effective policies.
Open data policy has gone from being the exception to the global norm since the inception of GEO, and following work by organisations including the G20 and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
This is reinforced as a growing number of GEO members adopt and pursue broad, open, data-sharing practices. With the corresponding increase in available open EOs, end-user-oriented initiatives developed through the GEO Work Programme are creating real impact on a wide range of global challenges.
Digital policy issues
GEO recognises that the societal benefits arising from EOs can only be fully achieved through the sharing of data, information, knowledge, products, and services. Ever since its inception, GEO has been a strong advocate for broad and open data-sharing policies and practices (Open Earth Observation Data). The Data Sharing Principles (2005-2015) inspired a few members and participating organisations to evolve from restricted data policies to Open Data approaches. Data sharing was also recognised as one of the greatest successes of the first GEO decade. Embracing the international trend of Open Data, GEO principals endorsed a new set of Data Management Principles. These principles promote ‘Open Data by Default’ and address the need for discovery, accessibility, usability, preservation, and curation of data.
To enable Indigenous peoples to equitably participate in and benefit from data creation, application, and stewardship within contemporary data environments, the GEO Indigenous Alliance advocates for the implementation of CARE (collective benefit, authority to control, responsibility, ethics) with FAIR (findable, accessible, interoperable, reusable) principles. The CARE Principles for Indigenous Data Governance are people- and purpose-oriented, reflecting the crucial role of data in advancing Indigenous innovation, and self-determination. These principles complement the existing FAIR principles encouraging open and other data movements to consider both people and purpose in their advocacy and pursuits.
GEO works in the domain of sustainable development goals (SDG) and covers a broad range of issues, such as (1) biodiversity and ecosystem sustainability, (2) climate change, (3) disaster risk reduction, (4) energy and mineral resources management, (5) food security and sustainable agriculture, (6) infrastructure and transportation management, (7) public health surveillance, sustainable urban development, and (8) water resources management.
GEO is instrumental in integrating EO data into the methodology of measuring indicators and achieving the SDGs. Further, EOs relevant to climate action are not limited to weather or climate, but are much broader and include terrestrial and socio-economic variables. GEO makes EOs available in support of effective policy responses for climate change adaptation, mitigation, and other specific provisions, working with partners to enhance global observation systems for climate action. GEO contributes to disaster preparedness and better mitigation and response. It supports disaster resilience by increasing the coordination of EOs to forecast and prepare for disasters, reduce damage, and better manage and recover from disasters.
GEO assists countries in its region in addressing sustainable development challenges. The vision of the GEO Indigenous Alliance is to protect and conserve indigenous cultural heritage by using EOs science, data and technology to create a knowledge base that sustains the Earth we live on.
Digital tools and initiatives
GEO has developed a series of tools and initiatives to promote the use of EOs as evidence for decision-making.
- GEO Knowledge Hub
- Earth Observations Risk Toolkit
- Biodiversity Observation Network (GEO-BON)
- The Global Forest Observation Initiative (GFOI)
- The Global Observation System for Mercury
- Global Agricultural Monitoring Initiative
- AfriGEO: The African Group on Earth Observations
- AmeriGEO A Framework for Advancing Data Driven Decision Making
- AOGEO (Asia-Oceania Group on Earth Observations)
An important convention (not necessarily covering digital issues directly, but relevant)