United Arab Emirates Becomes Member Of Group On Earth Observation

16 January 2016

The UAE has become the latest member of the Group on Earth Observations (GEO), a voluntary partnership of governments and organizations that was established in 2005 to promote the open access to Earth Observation (EO) data for the benefit of all humankind.

GEO Member governments include over 100 nations, and almost as many participating organizations comprised of international bodies with a mandate in EO.

HE Dr Khalifa Al Rumaithi, Chairman of the UAE Space Agency, said: “joining the Group on Earth Observations is in line with our efforts to support the space sector in the United Arabic Emirates, strengthening the UAE’s global presence, establishing international relations according to the country’s strategic goals, and contributing to the overall development of the sector is all areas”.

The GEO community is creating a Global EO System of Systems (GEOSS) that will link EO resources world-wide across multiple societal benefit areas. These include areas such as biodiversity and ecosystem sustainability, disaster resilience, energy and mineral resources management, food security and sustainable agriculture, infrastructure & transportation management and many others.

Director General of the (UAE SA) Dr. Mohammed Al Ahbabi commented: “The GEO recognizes that full and open access to Earth observation data, information and knowledge is critical for humanity as it tackles social, economic and environmental challenges at global, regional, national and local levels. We are thrilled to become members of the GEO and work with international organizations to help develop the concept of open access to EO data.”

The UAE SA has been mandated to define the national policy and regulations for the UAE Space sector which would promote the use of Space for the monitoring and protection of the environment and for disaster management, and includes matters on how Data generated from Space assets can be distributed and shared, which is a major topic of discussion within GEO. By becoming an active member of GEO the UAE hopes to play a constructive and effective role in shaping international policy relating to the open access of EO data that maximises the benefits to those who most need access to such data but may not be in a position to afford it,  for example an impoverished disaster stricken regions.

Space assets, such as Remote Sensing satellites, capable of performing EO, Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) and Satellite communications are indispensable tools for environmental monitoring and management and help pave the way for a sustainable safe and ecologically balanced environment. The UAE SA strongly believes in the value of a sustainable healthy environment, and will endeavour as part of its mandate to promote all the above mentioned Space activities not only for the benefit of the UAE as a nation but for the benefit of all human kind and for all future generations by safeguarding the health of our precious plant, Earth.

”I am delighted that the UAE has joined GEO” said Razan Khalifa Al Mubarak, Secretary General, Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi (EAD).  Both EAD and the Abu Dhabi Global Environmental Data Initiative (AGEDI) have been collaborating with GEO through the Eye on Earth movement for a number of years; a relationship which was strengthened during the second Eye on Earth Summit held in Abu Dhabi in October 2015. 

“Since the early nineties EAD has been utilising Earth Observation imagery and satellite telemetry to aid our international wildlife conservation efforts; and this trend continues to date. For example, during 2015 EAD produced – at an unprecedented level of detail - an Emirate-wide habitats map using satellite imagery.  EAD was also an early advocate and pioneer in the on-line sharing of environmental and geospatial data, so we support the vision and mission of GEO and initiatives such as the GEOSS” Al Mubarak added.

The UAE joins GEO at an exciting and important time, as 2016 marks the commencement of GEO’s second decade of operations and the start of a new era for the nations of the world as we all address the Sustainable Development Goals and the target of limiting the increase in temperature due to global warming to less than 1.5°C.  Data and information about the status and trends of our planet have never been more important.  Many of the pressures faced by the UAE are trans-national.  Through its eight “Societal Benefit Areas” GEO’s programme of work is well aligned with many of the UAEs’ priority topic areas.  Joining GEO will provide an invaluable opportunity to contribute to and coordinate with international data collection, sharing and analysis efforts.

The GEO believes that open access to EO data and the information and knowledge derived from those observations are fundamental for identifying and implementing solutions, monitoring progress and measuring impacts.

Barbara J. Ryan, Director, GEO Secretariat commented: “We are delighted to welcome the United Arab Emirates as a Member of GEO. We are very much looking forward to the UAE Space Agency’s participation and the leadership that it will bring to the Middle East.”

The GEO’s vision is to realize a future wherein decisions and actions for the benefit of humankind are informed by coordinated, comprehensive and sustained Earth observations and information.