Access to timely and accurate data is crucial to inform decision making for sustainable development. International commitments on sustainable development and climate change adaptation aiming to reduce impact from geopolitical and social pressures - such as the global economic crisis - affirm the need to provide proper access to modern infrastructure and tools to support decision-making processes in the agricultural and rural sectors.
A wide range of activities promoting Earth Observations (EO) as an important enabler for sustainable agriculture and for the monitoring of relevant Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have been carried out in support of this goal. Activities range from the launch of initiatives (i.e. GEOGLAM, RAPP) and EU and ESA-Funded projects, to the latest conclusions adopted by the meeting of G20 Agriculture Ministers on 22 January 2017 in Berlin.
As an immediate follow-up, the Group on Earth Observations (GEO), the Greek Ministries of Rural Development and of Digital Policy Telecommunications and Media, and i-BEC as a GEO participating organization, are working together to develop regional cooperation among Balkan countries to promote the uptake of EO services and address development challenges.
1st Regional Round Table to promote Sustainable Development in the Balkans
The first round table aiming to develop an integrated regional initiative to implement the SDGs in the Balkan Peninsula took place in Vlasti Kozani, Greece on Saturday 17 June 2017. The meeting engaged a critical mass of EO stakeholders along the complete value chain, including government officials, international research organizations [NASA, CEOS, CSIRO, ESA etc.], and the industrial sector, with participants representing the entire region.
During the meeting the need was identified to leverage EO services and encourage data integration into an agriculture-oriented sub-regional GEOSS application that can be nested into the larger EUROGEOSS framework, as a pathway for relevant national organizations and as an interface for GEOGLAM in the region. The focal points established by the GEO-CRADLE project could act as technology brokers and advisors to promote sustainable and modernized agriculture, and support the achievement of the relevant SDGs in the region.
Moving regional cooperation forward
The need to strengthen the profile and reliability of the agricultural sector, and the need to promote responsible agricultural investment, were identified by participants as key requirements to progress towards sustainable agricultural development and inclusive economic growth. For these efforts to be successful, consistent effort and engagement by the private sector and other industry stakeholders is required. Private sector associations can transfer information on market needs to agro-cluster and/or EO Small and Medium-sized Enterprises, thereby contributing to innovation, business opportunities and market exploitation.
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