Group on Earth Observations Land Degradation Neutrality (GEO LDN) Initiative

The GEO Land Degradation Neutrality Initiative (GEO LDN) is a stakeholder-driven initiative that was launched in 2018 during the Group on Earth Observations Week in Kyoto, Japan. It brings together Earth observation data providers and governments to develop minimum data quality standards, analytical tools and capacity building needed to strengthen land degradation monitoring and reporting, using remote sensing and data collected on site. Through this work, governments will have the necessary data and tools to prioritize interventions and monitor outcomes to manage land better.

The GEO LDN Initiative responds to a call made by the UNCCD’s Conference of the Parties (COP13) to bring data providers and data users together and support global efforts to avoid, reduce and reverse land degradation globally.

The Vision of GEO LDN believes in the power of geodata for sustainable land management. Harnessing open data for monitoring land degradation is instrumental for reporting but also to support planning and decision making processes for sustainable land management at sub-national levels.

GEO LDN involves all relevant stakeholders (data providers and data users) and welcomes active engagement from new stakeholders in an inclusive and open process. Members are encouraged to take part in three (3) GEO LDN Working Groups:

  • WG1 Capacity Building
  • WG2 Data Quality Standards
  • WG3 Data Analytics

“Land degradation is an existential crisis. Until now, monitoring it in real time felt like an insurmountable challenge. No longer. With Earth observation datasets and the practical tools to use them readily available, decision-makers and land users will have immediate and actionable information to scale up sustainable land management and planning. It is a first step to boosting our resilience,” said Monique Barbut, Executive Secretary, United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification here.

Read the 2020-2022 GEO Work Programme Implementation Plan here.

Read more about the Mandate of the GEO LDN Initiative in the UNCCD Decision 9/COP.13.

GEO LDN Highlights and Impact

GEO LDN Principals meeting 29-30 April 2019 at the UNCCD Secretariat in Bonn. [Starting left and going clockwise: Alex Zvoleff (C.I., WG3 co-lead), Joost Teuben (GEO Secretariat, WG1 co-lead), Amos Kabobah (UENR, GEO LDN co-chair and WG1 co-lead), Douglas Cripe (GEO Secretariat and focal point for GEO LDN), William Sonntag (M.I.T., co-founder of the GEO LDN Initiative), Antje Hecheltjen (GIZ, GEO LDN co-chair and WG2 co-lead), Michael Cherlet (JRC, WG 3 contributor)]

UNCCD Executive Secretary Ibrahim Thiaw opening the GEO LDN Principals meeting 29-30 April 2019 at the UNCCD Secretariat in Bonn. [Starting left and going clockwise: Neil Sims (CSIRO, GEO LDN co-chair and WG3 co-lead), Marc Pagagnini (ESA, WG2 and WG3 contributor), Antje Hecheltjen (GIZ, GEO LDN co-chair and WG2 co-lead), Ibrahim Thiaw (UNCCD Executive Secretary), Ichsani Wheeler (WUR, WG3 contributor), Alex Zvoleff (C.I., WG3 co-lead), Joost Teuben (GEO Secretariat, WG1 co-lead)]

GEO LDN WG 2 user consultation workshop to develop minimum data quality standards. Due to the COVID19 crisis, the data provider and user consultation workshops were held as a series of interactive online workshops in May 2020.

Contact us:

GEO Secretariat:

Douglas Cripe (

UNCCD Secretariat:

Sara Minelli (

Barron J. Orr (

Sasha Alexander (

GEO-LDN Co-chairs:

Amos Kabo-bah (

Antje Hecheltjen (

Neil Sims (

If you wish to join one of the working groups, please contact the GEO-LDN co-Chairs.

Working Group 1: Capacity Building

The aim of the WG1 is to develop an innovative capacity building mechanism that provides answers to SDG 15.3 while addressing the needs of various stakeholders at regional, national and individual levels. Strengthening capacities will take place at individual, organisational and institutional level, ensuring an enabling environment to achieve the GEO-LDN goals.

The outputs of WG 2 and 3, together with other reporting requirements and/or decision-making supporting tools, will be the input for the development of the CB interventions. Rather than developing the content of the CB interventions, WG 1 will explore and promote mechanisms to support, effectively and innovatively, the strengthening of the required capacities on the three intervention levels.

Working Group Leads:  Amos Kabo-bah (UENR), Joost Teuben (ITC/GEO), Timothy Dube, Mercy Ojoyi, Patrice Sanou

WG1 Work Plan (as of February 2019)

Working Group 2: Data Quality Standards

The main task of WG2 is to develop “minimum” data quality standards and decision trees for the underlying data used for estimating changes in the sub-indicators (land cover, land productivity and soil organic carbon) and calculating SDG indicator 15.3.1 (proportion of land that is degraded over total land area).

The objective is to ensure consistency, coherence and comparability of data sets supplied by various data providers in support of country efforts to monitor SDG 15.3.1 and its sub-indicators. The intent is to achieve this through the development of “minimum” data quality standards, taking into account the needs of decision makers, data producers and data managers.

Working Group Leads: Antje Hecheltjen (GIZ), Sara Minelli (UNCCD)

WG2 Work Plan (as of March 2019)


The WG2 data provider and user workshops resulted in a technical document and decision trees on data quality standards:

These are handed over to WG3 as well as to the team updating the UNCCD Good Practice Guidance on SDG indicator 15.3.1.

This work was financed by the German Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).

Extract from the data quality standards decision trees. These trees will help global and national to sub-national data providers evaluate whether their data on land cover, land productivity or soil organic carbon adhere to the minimum data quality standards.


Coverage of Data Quality Standards Workshops (May 2020):

UNCCD: It takes the right information to build back better

GEO: It takes the right information to build back better – Highlights from the UNCCD and GEO Land Degradation Neutrality (GEO LDN) Workshop

View the recording of the online user consultation workshop (12 May 2020) of the GEO LDN Data Quality Standards working group:

The slide deck, an audio recording and a short summary of the WG2 data quality standards workshop is available here:

Working Group 3: Data Analytics

Working Group 3 will work towards establishing a federated collaborative data analytics platform (FCDAP) to assist countries to calculate SDG Indicator 15.3.1 and assess their progress towards Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN). WG3 will support the development and implementation of big data analytics tools, consistent with the relevant standards identified in GEO LDN WG2 (Data quality standards), to enable countries to easily access, analyze and interpret large Earth observation (EO) datasets in globally consistent ways while also facilitating national data sovereignty.

Working Group Leads: Neil Sims (CSIRO), Alex Zvoleff (C.I.)

WG3 work plan (as of February 2019)


Possible structure of an analytical system

Links, Articles, and Presentations:

Coverage of the launch of the GEO LDN Initiative (Nov 2018):

UNCCD (full press release): Using Earth observation data to restore barren lands

UNCCD: New initiative to put Earth observation data in the hands of decision makers to fight land degradation

GEO: Germany Pledges 100,000 Euros to GEO Land Degradation Neutrality Initiative

IISD: GEO Partnership Launches LDN Initiative to Link Global and Local Data for SDG Monitoring

Preventionweb: Using Earth observation data to restore barren lands

Geospatialworld: Germany pledges an initial 100,000 Euros to GEO Land Degradation Neutrality Initiative

Global Issues: Using Data to Restore Land

Tropical Agriculture Association: Combating Desertification & Drought: Using Data to Restore Land


Building national capacities for monitoring and reporting on land degradation with Earth Observations - Recent experiences of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD)

Remote Sensing for Monitoring Land Degradation and Sustainable Cities SDGs (GEO LDN on slide 36)

GEO Land Degradation Neutrality Initiative (GEO LDN) (GEO Data Technology Workshop 23 April 2019)

Earth Observations in Support of the Sustainable Development Goals (GEO-XV Plenary, 1 Nov 2018, GEO-LDN from minute 01:11:00)

GEO4SDGs Session (GEO-XV Plenary, 28 Oct 2018, GEO LDN presentation from minute 2:20:35, panel discussion from minute 2:50:35)

Land for Future - The need for actionable information (GEO Week 2019)

If you want to learn more about Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) and SDG 15.3:

Video “Land Degradation Neutrality. Why it matters. How it’s done.”

UNCCD Good practice guidance on SDG indicator 15.3.1 (version 1.0, September 2017)

Scientific Conceptual Framework for Land Degradation Neutrality. A report of the Science-Policy Interface (February 2017)

LDN: Land in Balance. Science-Policy Brief (October 2016)

LDN: Land in Balance. Peer-reviewed article in Environmental Science & Policy (January 2018)

Review of data, analytical systems and code for calculating SDG Indicator 15.3.1: Proportion of land that is degraded over total land area. Technical Note.

Workshop reports:

Report of the AfriGEO LDN Workshop (February 2020)

Report of the International Workshop on Mapping and Monitoring to Support Land Degradation Neutrality at Global, National and Local Level  (October 2018)

LDN Mapping Workshop presentation