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HandWiki. Group on Earth Observations. Encyclopedia. Available online: (accessed on 20 April 2024).
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HandWiki. "Group on Earth Observations." Encyclopedia. Web. 27 October, 2022.
Group on Earth Observations

The Group on Earth Observations (or GEO) coordinates international efforts to build a Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS). It links existing and planned Earth observation systems and supports the development of new ones in cases of perceived gaps in the supply of environment-related information. It aims to construct a global public infrastructure for Earth observations consisting in a flexible and distributed network of systems and content providers.

international efforts geoss distributed network

1. Concept

Common Earth observation instruments include ocean buoys, meteorological stations and balloons, seismic and Global Positioning System (GPS) stations, remote-sensing satellites, computerized forecasting models and early warning systems. These instruments are used to measure and monitor specific aspects of Earth’s physical, chemical and biological systems.

To be useful, the raw data collected must be processed, archived, interpreted, and made available via easy-to-use channels in the form of information comprehensible not only by remote sensing experts. Earth observations are vital for policymaking and assessment in many fields.

GEO focuses on facilitating access to Earth observation data for nine priority areas: natural and human-induced disasters, environmental sources of health hazards, energy management, climate change and its impacts, freshwater resources, weather forecasting, ecosystem management, sustainable agriculture, and biodiversity conservation.

2. History and Structure

GEO was established in February 2005 by the Third Earth Observation Summit in Brussels at the end of a process that started in 2003 with the First Earth Observation Summit in Washington, DC.[1] It was launched in response to calls for action by the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development [2] and the Group of Eight (G8) leading industrialized countries.[3] These high-level meetings recognized that international collaboration is essential for exploiting the growing potential of Earth observations to support decision making in an increasingly complex and environmentally stressed world.

GEO is a voluntary partnership of governments and international organizations. It provides a framework within which these partners can develop new projects and coordinate their strategies and investments. As of January 2016, GEO’s membership includes 102 governments including the European Commission. In addition, 92 intergovernmental, international and regional organizations with a mandate in Earth observation or related issues have been recognized as participating organizations (see lists below). Each member and participating organization is represented by a principal and a principal alternate. Members make financial contributions to GEO on a voluntary basis.

GEO is constructing GEOSS on the basis of a 10-Year Strategic Plan from 2016 to 2025. The plan defines a vision statement for GEOSS, its purpose and scope, expected benefits, eight “Societal Benefit Areas” (disaster resiliance, public health surveillance, energy and mineral resources management, sustainable urban development, water resources management, biodiversity and ecosystem sustainability, food security and sustainable agriculture and infrastructure and transport management - with climate as a cross cutting issue), technical and capacity-building priorities, and the GEO governance structure.[4]

GEO is governed by a plenary consisting of all members and participating Organizations. GEO meets in plenary at least once a year at the level of senior officials and periodically at the ministerial level. Members make decisions at the plenary by consensus.

3. GEO Members

GEO’s members as of January 2016 include 101 countries and the European Commission:[5]

Algeria / Argentina / Armenia / Australia / Austria / Bahamas, The / Bahrain / Bangladesh / Belgium / Belize / Brazil / Bulgaria / Burkina Faso / Cameroon / Canada / Central African Republic / Chile / China / Colombia / Congo, Republic of the / Costa Rica / Côte d'Ivoire / Croatia / Cyprus / Czech Republic / Denmark / Ecuador / Egypt / Estonia / Ethiopia / European Commission / Finland / France / Gabon / Georgia / Germany / Ghana / Greece / Guinea, Republic of / Guinea-Bissau / Honduras / Hungary / Iceland / India / Indonesia / Iran / Ireland / Israel / Italy / Japan / Kazakhstan / Korea, Republic of / Latvia / Luxembourg / Madagascar / Malaysia / Mali / Malta / Mauritius / Mexico / Moldova / Morocco / Nepal / Netherlands / New Zealand / Niger / Nigeria / Norway / Pakistan / Panama / Paraguay / Peru / Philippines / Poland / Portugal / Romania / Russian Federation / Senegal / Serbia / Seychelles, Republic of / Slovakia / Slovenia / South Africa / Spain / Sudan / Sweden / Switzerland / Tajikistan / Thailand / Tunisia / Turkey / Uganda / Ukraine / United Arab Emirates / United Kingdom / United States / Uruguay / Uzbekistan / Vietnam / Zimbabwe

4. GEO Participating Organizations

As of January 2016, the participating organizations are:

AARSE: African Association of Remote Sensing of the Environment
ACMAD: African Centre of Meteorological Application for Development
ADIE: Association for the Development of Environmental Information
APN: Asia-Pacific Network for Global Change Research
Belmont Forum
Biodiversity International
BSC: Commission on the Protection of the Black Sea Against Pollution
CATHALAC: Water Center for the Humid Tropics of Latin America and the Caribbean
Convention on Biological Diversity
Creative Commons
CEOS: Committee on Earth Observation Satellites
CGMS: Coordination Group for Meteorological Satellites
CIIFEN: International Research Centre on El Niño
CMO: Caribbean Meteorological Organization
CODATA: International Council for Science: Committee on Data for Science and Technology
COSPAR: Committee on Space Research
CRTEAN: Regional Centre for Remote Sensing of North Africa States

EARSC: European Association of Remote Sensing Companies
EARSeL: European Association of Remote Sensing Laboratories
ECMWF: European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts
EEA: European Environment Agency
EIS-AFRICA: Environmental Information Systems - AFRICA
EPOS, European Plate Observing System
ESA: European Space Agency
ESIP Federation: Federation of Earth Science Information Partners
ESSL: European Severe Storms Laboratory
European Union Satellite Centre
EUMETNET: Network of European Meteorological Services/Composite Observing System
EUMETSAT: European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites
EuroGeoSurveys: The Association of the Geological Surveys of the European Union
EUREC: The Association of European Renewable Energy Research Centres
EuroGeoSurveys: The Association of the Geological Surveys of the European Union
FAO: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
FDSN: Federation of Digital Broad-Band Seismograph Networks
Future Earth
GBIF: Global Biodiversity Information Facility
GCOS: Global Climate Observing System
GEM: Global Earthquake Model Foundation
GLOBE: Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment
GLOS: Great Lakes Observing System
GOOS: The Global Ocean Observing System
GRSS: Geoscience and Remote Sensing Society
GSDI: Global Spatial Data Infrastructure
GTOS: Global Terrestrial Observing System
IAG: International Association of Geodesy
ICA: International Cartographic Association
ICIMOD: International Centre for Integrated mountain Development
ICSU: International Council for Science
IEEE: Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers
International Hydrographic Organisation
IIASA: International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis
IISD: International Institute for Sustainable Development
IISL: International Institute of Space Law
INCOSE: International Council on Systems Engineering
IO3C: International Ozone Commission
IOC: Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission
ISCGM: International Steering Committee for Global Mapping
ISDE: International Society for Digital Earth
ISPRS: International Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing
ITC: Faculty of Geo-Information Science and Earth Observation
IUGG: International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics
IUGS: International Union of Geological Sciences
IWMI: International Water Management Institute
Mariolopoulous-Kanaginis Foundation for the Environmental Sciences
MTS: Marine Technology Society
OGC: Open Geospatial Consortium
POGO: Partnership for Observation of the Global Oceans
RCMRD: Regional Centre for Mapping of Resources for Development
RDA: Research Data Alliance
RECTAS: Regional Centre for Training in Aerospace Surveys
SAON: Sustaining Arctic Observing Networks
SICA: Central American Commission for the Environment and Development
SOPAC: South Pacific Applied Geoscience Commission
Secure World Foundation
The World Bank
NCAR UCAR: University Corporation for Atmospheric Research
UNCCD: Secretariat of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification
UNECA: United Nations Economic Commission for Africa
UNEP: United Nations Environment Programme
UNESCAP: United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific
UNESCO: United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation
UNFCCC: United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change
UNISDR: The United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction
UNITAR: United Nations Institute for Training and Research
UNOOSA: United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs
UNU-EHS: United Nations University, Institute for Environment and Human Security
WCRP: World Climate Research Programme
WDS: ICSU World Data System
WFPHA: World Federation of Public Health Associations
WMO: World Meteorological Organization

5. Notes and References

  1. Earth Observation Summit III documents -
  2. WSSD Plan of Implementation -
  3. Gleneagles plan of action -
  4. GEOSS Strategic Plan -
  5. Members
  • Group on Earth Observations (official website)
  • List of web sites of GEO Participating Organizations

6. External Links

  • Canadian Group on Earth Observations
  • German GEO
  • European Commission
  • Europe GMES
  • The Netherlands and GEO
  • US GEO
  • GEOSS Best Practices Wiki, entries by the GMES Network of Users


  1. Earth Observation Summit III documents -
  2. WSSD Plan of Implementation -
  3. Gleneagles plan of action -
  4. GEOSS Strategic Plan -
  5. Members
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