Meet James Norris: New disasters expert joins GEO Secretariat

Blog / Maddie West / May 4, 2018

A secondee from Great Britain’s National Mapping Agency has joined the Group on Earth Observations (GEO) Secretariat to coordinate disaster work across the GEO community. James Norris will work to implement GEO’s strategy in support of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction.

We spoke with James to find out more about his background and what he will be working on in his new role:

Can you tell us a bit about your background and experience?

JN: First and foremost, I am a geographer. I believe that geography and geospatial information (in-situ, spaced-based, human) is essential for the creation, delivery and monitoring of policies which benefit society and the environment. I am on secondment from Ordnance Survey, Great Britain’s National Mapping Agency, and am pleased that the UK has supported my role. I have a background in policy development, stakeholder management, and parliamentary affairs, and I hope that these skills can help shape and grow the disaster-related work of GEO over my time with the Secretariat.

Why are Earth observations important for Disaster Risk Reduction?

JN: Disasters, whether natural or human-caused, impact lives every day. The use of Earth observations is commonly understood as crucial during the response phase of a disaster event, but there are also many more uses for Earth observations throughout the full disaster risk management cycle. By using Earth observation data and relevant technologies, disaster risks can be identified and estimated in the same manner around the world.

If you take each of the components of Disaster Risk Reduction in term we can see that:

  • Prevention – EO can identify and assess risks, which importantly can prevent risks from turning into disasters.
  • Preparedness – Time series EO data with consistent quality enables understanding of natural hazard risks, and can contribute to early warning.
  • Response – During emergencies, EO data can help with loss and damage assessments, and assist with rescue operations.
  • Recovery – Time series EO data can improve recovery efforts through monitoring, especially where there is a lack of timely geospatial information.

If you look across all of the national governments and organizations involved with GEO, this community has the data, tools, and analytical capabilities to help identify and address some of the challenges facing the wider community, and as such is well placed to coordinate efforts.

What is your role in the GEO Secretariat?

JN: My role in the GEO Secretariat is to raise the profile of the use of Earth observations within international frameworks, such as the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, as well as working with UN-GGIM’s Work Group on Geospatial Information and Services for Disaster. Key to this is to raise the profile of existing disaster-related activities within the GEO Work Programme, and to provide support to these programmes.

You’ve been with GEO officially for a few months now. How are things going so far?

JN: The first few weeks at GEO Secretariat have been a very busy time for me, from getting to know how the organization functions to setting up a Programme Board Sub-group to look at the disasters portfolio. Whilst my main focus has been on the policy aspects of how we can better promote the availability, access and use of Earth observations for the benefit of society, I have been supported by my colleague Akiko Noda, a secondee from Japan, who is providing technical support to the programme of activities.

Over the next few weeks I am going to be attending the Understanding Risk Forum, and I am looking forward to working with our partners at CEOS to raise the profile of Earth observations for disaster risk management. I will also be learning a lot more about the many Flagships, Initiatives, and Community Activities across the GEO Work Programme that play a role in disaster management.

I look forward to meeting more of the GEO community both in person and virtually over the next few weeks.

Connect with James:

Email: james.norris@os.uk
Twitter: @iceiceclimber
LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/james-norris


About the author

Maddie West

Maddie West is the Communications Manager at the GEO Secretariat.




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