Geoinformation, monitoring and assessment Environment

Posted April 1999

First announcement

Integrated Global Observing Strategy (IGOS)
Partnership Forum during the Unispace III Conference

Vienna, Austria
21 July 1999

Organizers | Background | IGOS Forum at Unispace III | Forum programme | Participation | Registration

Organizers: The IGOS Partnership

In collaboration with: UN Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA)


Since the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro in June 1992, which resulted in Agenda 21, an active process of structured coordination and synergistic convergence concerning of global, regional and national efforts in environmental data collection, analysis and synthesis has increasingly gathered momentum. Independently, a number of substantial cooperative mechanisms were established in response to the Agenda 21 recommendations and requirements for better environmental information at national, regional and global levels.

The Integrated Global Observing Strategy (IGOS) intends to unite the major satellite and surface-based systems for global environmental observations of the atmosphere, oceans and land. It is a strategic planning process, involving many partners, that links research, long-term monitoring and operational programmes, as well as data producers and users, in a framework that delivers maximum benefit and effectiveness.

IGOS focuses primarily on the observing dimension of the process of providing environmental information for decision-making. The strategy covers all forms of data collection concerning the physical, chemical and biological environments of the planet, as well as data on the human environment, on human pressures on the natural environment, and on environmental impacts on human well-being. It recognizes that data collection must be user driven, leading to information products that increase scientific understanding and guide early warning, policy-setting and decision-making for sustainable development and environmental protection.

Processes and components

IGOS provides the framework that enables data suppliers to respond to requirements that have been set by users. It involves processes that determine deficiencies, identify resources to remedy such deficiencies, and improve not only the observational programmes but also the various stages through which space- and ground-based observations are turned into useful information products. Finally the products and observations are monitored and analyzed to ensure they are fulfilling their goals.

The components of IGOS have considerable strategic importance, cutting across all observing activities. Major thrusts of IGOS, as it proceeds, will include: strengthening space-based/in situ linkages to improve the balance between satellite remote sensing and ground- or ocean-based observing programmes; encouraging the transition from research to operational environmental observations within appropriate institutional structures; improving data policies and facilitating data access and exchange; stimulating better archiving of data to build the long-term time series necessary to monitor environmental change; and increasing attention to harmonization, quality assurance and calibration/ validation so that data can be used more effectively.

Meeting user needs

Lines of communication and dialogue are being established with the principal user groups and institutions to determine the needs for global environmental information for decision-making, including: international decision-making bodies such as the UN General Assembly, the Commission on Sustainable Development, and the conferences of parties to international and regional conventions; international organizations, convention secretariats, and international scientific advisory processes; national governments and their relevant ministries; decision-makers and senior advisors; the scientific community and international research programmes; the private sector; non-governmental and public service organizations; the media, journalists, and others specialized in communications; the general public, grass-roots users and major groups.

The IGOS partnership

IGOS represents the convergence of several processes and inter-governmental mechanisms that value the benefit of coordinating the observation and utilisation strategies for global and local specific actions for managing the environment. Over the past decade, efforts towards harmonising the activities for a global observation strategy has been under consideration by various space agencies and international organizations. Primary amongst these have been the Committee on Earth Observation Satellites (CEOS), which coordinates national and regional space based earth observation programmes and data dissemination services; the World Climate Research Programme (WCRP) and the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme (IGBP), which coordinate and integrate research programmes on global change; the International Group of Funding Agencies for Global Change Research (IGFA), which encourages and promotes global change research in national mechanisms; the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO-IOC) and UNESCO itself, the International Council for Science (ICSU), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), which jointly sponsor the development and implementation of the Global Climate Observing System (GCOS), the Global Ocean Observing System (GOOS) and the Global Terrestrial Observing System (GTOS) to organise global-scale operational observations of the climate, oceans and terrestrial surface.

In 1998, these governmental and inter-governmental agencies have formed an IGOS Partnership with a view to further the definition, development and implementation of an Integrated Global Observing Strategy. Towards this end, the IGOS Partnership provides a continuing mechanism to oversee the IGOS process, with meetings arranged among the partners twice a year in association with CEOS Plenary sessions and meetings of the Sponsors Group for the Global Observing Systems. The Partnership proposes to assess gaps in observations for user needs and seeks to address in a structured way the various user requirements. The IGOS Partnership also aims to promote all aspects of the strategy implementation, among national and international agencies, as well as different user groups.

IGOS encourages the use of modular approaches to strategies for specific components, elements or processes that need to be integrated. More detailed strategies exist or are being developed for a number of sub-components. The CEOS Strategic Implementation Team is taking the lead in developing the space component of an IGOS, while the G3OS and their sponsors will prepare an in situ component during 1999. These nested processes of strategic planning at different levels of integration are an important part of the IGOS process, allowing each subsidiary group, module or partnership to work out the specifics at its own level. Where the IGOS Partners see the need for additional sub-components, they can stimulate the interested bodies to begin their own strategic process within the IGOS framework. IGOS itself helps to cap and interrelate these sub-components. Thus, in an integrated manner, the IGOS Partners are planning the effective combining of space and ground observations and the effective utilization systems for monitoring and managing the climate, terrestrial surface and oceans.

The IGOS Partners are also considering thematic approaches to particular categories, crosscutting themes or domains of observations. This can assure some coherence in the IGOS approach to different issues, while achieving a focus on specific priorities, such as oceans, disaster management, or carbon storage and cycling, with the potential to progress rapidly through joint planning activities.

Most environmental observations come from national activities contributed by national governments through their agencies, ministries and research programmes, and their commitment is essential to the effective implementation of IGOS. Building support for and participation in IGOS processes at the national level is a major activity for IGOS.

Identification of gaps to be filled and activities to be strengthened is another continuing function of IGOS. The Global Observing Systems Space Panel (GOSSP) assists this process. A next step will be to use existing and, as necessary, new structures to achieve the continuing implementation of IGOS.

IGOS Forum at Unispace III

The Forum is a one-day event at the Unispace III Conference and is scheduled for Wednesday, 21 July 1999, at the Vienna International Conference Centre.

Objectives of IGOS Forum

Through the IGOS Forum, IGOS Partnership aims to promote the IGOS concept and is seeking a wider participation and commitment to a global observing strategy. Specifically the Forum will:

Forum programme

The Forum is planned as a series of keynotes and programme presentations from different space agencies, international organizations and the science community, addressing the various elements of IGOS.

A Panel discussion will feature representatives from IGOS Partner organizations and the user and donor community, who will share their ideas and concepts for furthering IGOS into the new millennium. Participants will be able to interact with the Panel and help formulate the overall strategy.

The IGOS Partners intend to make a formal Statement on IGOS to the Unispace III Conference and report on the activities and outcome of the Forum.

Tentative Forum Programme

09:00 Inauguration of the IGOS Partnership Forum by the Chairman, Prof. John R.G. Townshend, University of Maryland, USA and Vice-Chairman, Dr. He Changchui, FAO

09:10 Keynote Addresses:

Introductory Keynote Address:
IGOS as a Way of Living and Working Together
Dr. Ghassem Asrar, Associate Administrator for Earth Science, NASA

Keynote Addresses:

09:30 Climate Research the World Over
Dr. Hartmut Grassl; Director, World Climate Research Programme (WCRP)

09:50 Global Observations; Responding to User Needs
Dr. Arthur Lyon Dahl; Coordinator UN System-wide Earthwatch, UNEP

10:10 CEOS and the perspective of an IGOS
Dr. Krishnawamy Kastirurangan, Chairman, ISRO; Former CEOS Chair

10:30 IGOS and the Science Community
Dr. Jean-Francois Stuyk-Taillandier, Executive Director, ICSU

10:50 Coffee break

11:10 IGOS Perspective of the International Group of Funding Agencies (IGFA)
Dr. Kirsten Broch-Mathison; Chair, IGFA

11:30 Lessons learned in IGOS through the World Weather Watch
Dr. Robert Landis, Director, World Weather Watch Department, WMO

11:50 Introduction of the IGOS Forum Panel

12:10 L U N C H


14:00 Global Climate Observing System (GCOS)
Dr. Allan Thomas; Director, GCOS Programme Office, WMO

14.20 Global Terrestrial Observing System (GTOS)
Dr. He Changchui; Chief, Environment and Natural Resources Service, FAO

14:40 Global Ocean Observing System (GOOS)
Dr. Patricio Bernal; Executive Director, IOC-UNESCO

15:00 Global Observing System Space Panel (GOSSP)
Dr. Francis Bretherton, Chairman, GOSSP

15:20 Implementing IGOS
Mr. Robert Winokur, Chairman, CEOS Strategic Implementation Team (SIT), NOAA

15:40 Coffee break

16:00 Panel Discussion:
The IGOS Forum Panel discussion will focus on the overall framework of IGOS. In particular it will discuss the links between the political and socio-economic drivers and the underpinning observation programmes. It will show how IGOS is coordinating effective and authoritative earth observing mechanisms at national, regional and global levels in, among others, the context and framework of the Unispace III follow-up.

Provisionally identified Panel Members:
Chairman: Dr. Tillmann Mohr, Director EUMETSAT; Chairman CEOS
Vice-Chairman: Prof. John R. G. Townshend, Chairman IGOS-P Forum
Rapporteurs: Mr. Mukund Rao, ISRO; Ms. Leslie Charles, NASA HQ.
Members: Dr. Marcio N. Barbosa, Director-General, INPE, Brazil
Dr. Arthur L. Dahl, Coordinator UN System-wide Earthwatch, UNEP
Dr. Brian J.J. Embleton, Executive Director, Cooperative Research Centre for Satellite Systems (CRCSS), Australia
Dr. Patricio Bernal, Executive Director, IOC- UNESCO
Dr. Louise O. Fresco, Director, Research, Extension and Training Division, FAO
Dr. Evans Mukolwe, Director, Meteorological Department, Kenya
Mr. Christian Patermann, Head, 5th Framework Programme, European Commission
Prof. U.R. Rao, Member, Space Commission, Govt. of India; Chairman, COPUOS

17:00 Formal adoption of IGOS Partnership Statement to the Unispace III Conference
17:15 Closure by the Chair
17:30 Reception

Participation in the IGOS Forum

Participation in the IGOS Forum by national delegations, individuals and other entities is open through invitations and to any interested party.Please address inquiries and registrationform below to:

Mr. Sergio Camacho 
Unispace III Secretariat 
UN Office for Outer Space Affairs 
Vienna International Centre 
P.O. Box 500 
A 1400 Vienna 
fax: 0043-1-260605830 

Dr. He Changchui
Environment and Natural Resources Service
Viale delle Terme di Caracalla
Rome 00100
fax: 0039-06-57053369

Registration Form

(Please register before 31 May 1999)

IGOS Partnership Forum at Unispace III Conference
Vienna, Austria; 21 July 1999


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