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New Programme Director, John Latham

GTOS needs to take a leading role in developing
a coordinated global monitoring system


It is with great pleasure that I take up the position as GTOS Programme Director, and I look forward to working with the many collaborators involved in GTOS activities. I hope to follow the good work of the previous Director, Mr Jeff Tschirley, who has built the foundations of GTOS and will continue to foster the development of the programme in his new role as Chief of the Environment and Natural Resources Service (SDRN) within the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). GTOS is at an important stage, as many of GTOS activities are now moving from development into implementation. There is increasing international interest in global observations and it is important that GTOS takes a leading role to bring together existing and new monitoring initiatives to create a coordinated global monitoring system.


In July 2003, at the Earth Observation Summit, thirty-three nations and the European Commission adopted a Declaration that signifies political dedication to move towards the development of a comprehensive, coordinated and sustained Earth observation, with a commitment to significantly advance the ability to gather Earth observation data. To develop these objectives, an intergovernmental ad hoc Group on Earth Observations (GEO) has been created to develop a ten-year implementation plan. Through the Integrated Global Observing Strategy Partnership (IGOS-P), GTOS and the other partners will be involved in achieving the common objectives of both IGOS and GEO, and many IGOS collaborators will be involved in the five GEO subgroups (architecture; capacity building; data utilization; international cooperation; and user requirements and outreach). FAO will also be Co-Chair of IGOS-P from July 2004, and the GTOS Secretariat will be supporting this one-year role.


At the programme level, I will use my experience in the field of natural resources management, land cover dynamics, information management and spatial data infrastructures to support GTOS activities, including the Panels, demonstration projects and the coastal initiative, and to integrate these with my continuing projects, such as Africover (a digital geo-referenced database on land use and geographic referential for Africa) and the recently launched Global Land Cover Network to develop improved information on land cover and dynamics to support global, regional and local initiatives.


The critical step is for GTOS activities to start generating useful products that are recognized by the international community, so that a long-term momentum can be generated to attract collaborators and the substantial funding that is needed to generate the information required by end users. Demonstration projects, such as the GTOS Net Primary Productivity Project, have been an excellent way of showing the value-added input that GTOS can provide, but it is now important to develop these projects into fully operational programmes. In the next biennium, the GTOS implementation plan will be revised to take into consideration the individual programmes of the Panels and current developments in Earth Observation. It will also be timely to carry out an adequacy report on terrestrial observation, as was done for climate observations by TOPC. This will provide the information needed to refine our activities and approach the different funding bodies.

The challenge that is facing us is immense, but with growing awareness among the general public and increasing support from governments, the work of the international community is surely going to be increasingly facilitated.

I hope that you enjoy this third biennial report, and would like to offer my sincere thanks to the numerous collaborators who have contributed to the progress made during the past two years and in the preparation of this report. I am looking forward to working with you in the coming years.

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