The Group on Earth Observations is coordinating efforts to build a Global Earth Observation System of Systems, or GEOSS.
GEO was launched in response to calls for action by the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development and by the G8 (Group of Eight) leading industrialized countries. 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 2013, GEO’s Members include 90 Governments, including the European Commission. In addition, 77 intergovernmental, international, and regional organizations with a mandate in Earth observation or related issues have been recognized as Participating Organizations.
GEOSS will yield a broad range of societal benefits, notably:
Reducing loss of life and property from natural and human-induced disasters;
Understanding environmental factors affecting human health and well-being,
Improving the management of energy resources,
Understanding, assessing, predicting, mitigating, and adapting to climate variability and change,
Improving water resource management through better understanding of the water cycle,
Improving weather information, forecasting and warning,
Improving the management and protection of terrestrial, coastal and marine ecosystems,
Supporting sustainable agriculture and combating desertification, and
Understanding, monitoring and conserving biodiversity.
GEO is governed by a Plenary consisting of all Members and Participating Organizations. It meets in Plenary at least once a year at the level of senior officials and periodically at the ministerial level. The Plenary held its first meeting in May 2005 in Geneva, followed by GEO-II in December 2005 in Geneva, GEO-III in Bonn in November 2006, and GEO-IV (plus a Ministerial Summit) in Cape Town in November 2007. Members take decisions at the Plenary by consensus.
An Executive Committee oversees GEO activities when the Plenary is not in session. The Committee consists of 13 representatives elected from the five GEO regions, including three each from the Americas and Europe, four from Asia, two from Africa, and one from the Commonwealth of Independent States. The Committee is also responsible for guiding the Secretariat. The GEO Members elect four Co-Chairs who preside over both the Plenary and the Executive Committee.
The following summits led to the creation of GEO and GEOSS:
The Group of Eight Summit in June 2003 in Evian, France, affirmed the importance of Earth observation as a priority activity.
The First Earth Observation Summit convened in Washington, D.C., in July 2003 adopted a Declaration establishing the ad hoc intergovernmental Group on Earth Observations (ad hoc GEO) to draft a 10-Year Implementation Plan.