Posted July 1999
This paper was prepared by the Environment and Natural Resources Service, FAO Research, Extension and Training Division, and presented at the Third United Nations Conference on the Exploration and Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (Unispace III), Vienna, 19-30 July 1999
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) was founded in October 1945 with a mandate to raise levels of nutrition and standards of living, to improve agricultural productivity, and to better the conditions of rural populations. Today, FAO is the largest autonomous specialized agency within the United Nations System with 174 Member Countries and the European Union as a Member Organization.
FAO consists of eight Departments, employing some 1500 professional staff at its Headquarters in Rome and its decentralized offices around the world, with Regional Offices being located in Bangkok, Samoa, Cairo, Accra, Harare, Tunis, Barbados, Santiago and Budapest as well as Country Representations in 78 countries. FAO also has Liaison Offices in Brussels, Geneva, New York and Washington D.C. The Organization's 1998/99 biennial budget was set by its governing body, the FAO Conference, at US$ 650 million and FAO-assisted projects attract more than US$ 300 million per year from donor agencies and governments for technical assistance programmes and investments in agricultural and rural development projects.
Since its inception, FAO has worked to alleviate poverty and hunger by promoting agricultural development, improved nutrition and the pursuit of food security - the access of all people at all times to the food they need for an active and healthy life. The Organization offers direct development assistance, collects, analyses and disseminates information, provides policy and planning advice to governments and acts as an international forum for debate on food and agriculture issues, including forestry and fisheries.
FAO is active in land and water development, plant and animal production, forestry, fisheries, economic and social policy, investment, nutrition and food standards and commodities and trade. It also plays a major role in dealing with food and agricultural emergencies and the impact of environmental change on agriculture, forestry and fisheries.
A specific priority of the Organization is encouraging sustainable agriculture and rural development, a long-term strategy for the conservation and management of natural resources. It aims to meet the needs of both present and future generations through programmes that do not degrade the environment and are technically appropriate, economically viable and socially acceptable.
In November 1996, FAO convened the first World Food Summit (WFS) which resulted in a comprehensive WFS Action Plan, aiming at reducing the present number of malnourished people in the world by half, by the year 2015. One of the Action Plan's key instruments is the FAO Special Programme on Food Security (SPFS), which draws its defined overall objective of improving food security in low-income food deficit countries from the UNCED Agenda 21, which was unanimously adopted by the countries of the World at the Rio Summit in June 1992.
Currently, FAO is developing a Strategic Framework 2000-2015 to guide the work of the Organization in the medium and longer term. With an overarching mission of helping build a food-secure world for present and future generations, the Organization will, in the next 15 years, give priority to assisting member countries to: eradicate food insecurity and rural poverty; ensure an enabling policy and regulatory framework for food and agriculture, fisheries and forestry; secure sustainable increase in the supply and availability of food; conserve and enhance the natural resource base; and generate knowledge on all aspects of food and agriculture, fisheries and forestry. Accordingly, five corporate strategies under which nest twelve inter-disciplinary strategic objectives have been identified. The principles underlying the approach taken in formulating and implementing the strategy are: interdisciplinary approach to address multi-sectoral issues through mobilization of contributions from all relevant disciplines within the Organization, and partnerships, both among FAO Units at Headquarters and in the decentralized offices and with governments, other organizations, institutions and civil society.
FAO attaches great importance to space applications. The Organization started space technology applications in the early 1970s, by introducing remote sensing technologies into its projects and programmes when the Organization formally created a Remote Sensing Unit. In 1980, following a recommendation from the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS), endorsed by the UN General Assembly, the FAO Remote Sensing Centre was formally established with a responsibility for remote sensing applied to renewable natural resources within the United Nations System.
As part of a major restructuring of FAO in response to sustainability issues stressed by the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), the FAO Remote Sensing Centre was merged with several other related programmes to become the Environment and Natural Resources Service (SDRN) within the Sustainable Development Department (http://www.fao.org/sd). SDRN contains remote sensing, geographic information systems (GIS), agrometeorology, environment and energy programmes. It supports a wide variety of both normative and field activities related to environmental information development, environment analysis, natural disasters monitoring and natural resources management. It also serves as a focal point for the Organization on activities related to environmental agreements such as post-UNCED environmental Conventions on biological diversity, desertification and climate change. SDRN coordinates space related activities on behalf of the Organization.
FAO has been actively involved in developing various programmes to strengthen its services in the use of remote sensing, GIS and agrometeorological technologies, through effective transfer of the technology and integrating its use into agricultural development programmes of Member States. The ultimate goal is to assist member states in developing necessary capacity to ensure the timeliness and cost-effectiveness of earth observing technologies for inventorying, managing natural resources, monitoring of environment and impact assessment at various levels for food security and sustainable agriculture.
ARTEMIS: In the field of environmental monitoring, FAO has operated since 1988 the Africa Real Time Environmental Monitoring Information System (ARTEMIS), which was developed in close cooperation with the National Aerospace Laboratory (NLR) of The Netherlands, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) and the University of Reading, UK, with financial support from the Government of the Netherlands. ARTEMIS is now fully operational and supported by the FAO Regular Programme. ARTEMIS supports the operational monitoring of seasonal growing conditions and vegetation development over Africa, based on hourly Meteosat and daily NOAA-AVHRR data, for use in early warning for food security and desert locust control. This includes routine distribution of ARTEMIS images, containing information about rainfall and vegetation activity, by electronic means to users at FAO Headquarters and at regional and national levels. FAO continues to support the establishment and/or improvement, of local reception and/or processing systems using low-resolution environmental satellites, including the development of improved interpretation techniques and user-friendly analysis software. The ARTEMIS system was significantly upgraded in 1996 to better satisfy the expanding needs of its users, as well as those of the scientific community. The rainy season performance assessment capability of the system, based on the use of GMS data, was expanded to cover eastern Asia in 1996. During 1998, its NOAA AVHRR based vegetation index coverage has been expanded to include South and Central America, through cooperation with NASA GSFC.
In order to expand the capabilities of the ARTEMIS system in support of food security, crop forecasting, locust control, animal health, water resources management and forestry applications, FAO, in cooperation with the European Commission through its Space Applications Institute of the Joint Research Centre (JRC), is currently implementing a routine flow of global 1 kilometre resolution VEGETATION data from the SPOT-4 satellite. FAO is presently negotiating with NASA a formal agreement for the development of the use of earth observation data from the MODIS instrument on the TERRA satellites. Similar discussions are ongoing with EUMETSAT and ESA concerning the future Meteosat Second Generation (MSG) and ENVISAT satellite missions respectively.
In June 1998, FAO completed Phase II of its Regional Remote Sensing Project (RRSP) for the Member States of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) with funding from the Government of the Netherlands since 1994. This has resulted in an advanced SADC capacity for handling and analysis of ARTEMIS data, direct reception and processing of Meteosat data and communication of various information products by electronic means to the SADC regional and national early warning systems as well as other users. A three-year follow-on project for consolidation and strengthening of the SADC technical and institutional capacities for satellite based environmental monitoring to support food security early warning and agricultural and rangeland production forecasting is in the final approval process by the European Union. This project is designed to develop and implement food security related environmental monitoring activities at regional, national and sub-national levels. It will be implemented by FAO in cooperation with the SADC Food and Natural Resources (FANR) Sector Unit and concerned SADC government agencies, also involving NGO's as well as the private sector.
FAO has also completed a similar regional project for the countries in the eastern Africa region under the jurisdiction of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) in cooperation with the Regional Center for Services in Surveying, Mapping and Remote Sensing (RCSSMRS) in Nairobi and with funding support from the Governments of Japan and France. This has resulted in a fully operational capacity in the RCSSMRS for Meteosat and NOAA AVHRR GAC/LAC data processing and information product generation, including the preparation of food security early warning bulletins for the countries of the IGAD region. A similar project for West and Central Africa has also been formulated.
FAO, through its Global Information and Early Warning Service (ESCG), in cooperation with SDRN and with financial support from the European Union, developed an integrated computer workstation capable of integrating remote sensing, agrometeorological, socio-economic and statistical data on a common geographic basis, in the context of its Global Information and Early Warning System on Food and Agriculture (GIEWS). The enabling facility has been transferred for use at the regional level in the SADC region.
Through the use of remote sensing and GIS technology, FAO is contributing to the development of schemes to control transboundary livestock diseases under the FAO EMPRES Programme. Earlier studies relating normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) data sets from ARTEMIS to tsetse distribution and land utilization types in Nigeria and Togo led to the establishment of an operational information system to define policies for African animal trypanosomiasis control, under a regional project in Togo and Burkina Faso, supported by the Government of Belgium. Remote sensing is used to define technical concepts for tsetse control in countries where high-resolution satellite imagery is available to discern land utilization types. A project is currently being prepared to design maps and GIS to assist 11 western African countries affected by onchocerchiasis. GIS also plays a central role in the establishment of a Global Livestock Geography, comprising the production of ten kilometre resolution maps showing the distribution, over time, of the different livestock species world-wide.
FAO, through its Plant Protection Service (AGPP) in cooperation with SDRN, and with support from the Government of Belgium, has developed and implemented the Reconnaissance and Management System of the Environment of Schistocerca (RAMSES) system in the framework of its EMPRES Programme. The objective of RAMSES is to improve the use of Meteosat and NOAA-AVHRR data for the early detection of locust breeding areas in Africa in association with locally collected, georeferenced field data and the historical desert locust database, covering the period from the late 1920's to the present, which resides at FAO in a dedicated GIS called SWARMS.
AFRICOVER: FAO-SDRN has operated the AFRICOVER project since 1995. The project aims to establish a digital land-cover database for selected sub-regions in Africa. It produces land-cover maps on the scale 1:250,000 (1:1,000,000 and 1:100,000 in certain cases), using the same geographic references and projection system in Africa, as well as a common harmonized legend, with updated information on drainage, toponymy, roads and land-cover features, etc. The project has been implemented through close cooperation between regional and national remote sensing centres and mapping agencies in Africa under the supervision of FAO. Two workshops in 1996, held at Dakar and Addis Ababa in cooperation with ECA, defined a harmonized land-cover classification system and geometrical parameters. The East African component of AFRICOVER started in 1995 with a contribution of US$ 5.47M from the Government of Italy and became fully operational at the RCSSMRS in Nairobi, Kenya in January 1997. In addition, preparatory and methodological work has resulted in a number of publications on mapping guidelines and standards, including a publication on the land cover classification system which contains four modules on classification, legend, field data and translation. This publication is accompanied by a CD ROM. FAO also cooperates with UNEP and UNESCO by participating in working groups on the harmonization of land-use and land-cover classification and provides technical support to the follow-up of the Conference of the Parties for the Convention on Desertification (CCD).
REIMP: Since 1996, the World Bank, together with FAO, has been implementing a regional project in Central Africa, named the Regional Environmental Information Management Project (REIMP). This project aims at improving and strengthening of planning and management of natural resources in the countries of the Congo Basin by providing the various stakeholders with appropriate environmental information. The project involves some 100 organizations from the public, private and NGO sector, which all work in a national and regional network structure. FAO is the lead agency for the normative as well as technical control activities of the project, which is supported by a multi-donor fund involving the World Bank, EU, GEF, France, Belgium and Canada.
ICAMS: In cooperation with a number of partners and with financial support from the European Union, FAO-SDRN designed an Integrated Coastal Assessment and Monitoring System (ICAMS). ICAMS will support the management of coastal area ecosystems through the monitoring of water quality and coastal resources distribution and usage parameters from multiple Earth observation data such as satellite data from SeaWIFS and future ENVISAT sensors and in situ measurements. Such a system will provide data of appropriate spatial and temporal scale to address issues concerning coastal management, such as the origins, the causes and implications of changes of coastal water quality on associated resources. End-to-end operational viability of ICAMS approach is currently being demonstrated through pilot applications at three European sites that address a range of coastal management issues: monitoring eutorphication in Po Estuary (Adriatic, Italy), a study of fisheries oceanography in the North Aegean (Greece) and risk assessment of "red tides" in Bantry Bay (Ireland). Efforts are also underway to apply the ICAMS concept to address Nile Delta coastal area management issues in Egypt.
Following the successful completion of Phases I and II of the FAO/USAID project on the monitoring, forecasting and simulation of the Nile River, FAO is currently implementing Phase III of the project during 1997-99 to assist the Government of Egypt in consolidating the results achieved in the earlier phases. Phase III of this project is focused on further consolidation of the Nile River Monitoring and Forecasting System. The related Control/Decision support system has been approved and implementation has commenced in 1998.
FRA: The 1990 Forest Resources Assessment (FRA) project of the Forestry Department of FAO, a global survey of forest resources, demonstrated that with the help of remote sensing, information on changes in forest and land use could be obtained on a pan-tropical basis in a cost-effective, timely and statistically sound manner. FAO concluded that such surveys, if continued over time, would lend factual support to global environmental researchers and policy makers by providing descriptions of the processes of change and the quantification of essential parameters on a reliable basis. In view of the information needs of the international community, in particular the need for studies on global changes, FAO has decided to continue to implement FRA on a regular basis in order to build consistent and reliable time-series observations of forest and land use. FAO is currently executing the global forest resource assessment for the year 2000 (FRA 2000) which relies on the use of remote sensing for many its components, ranging from coarse resolution global coverage for land cover mapping to high and very high resolution multi-date satellite imagery for surveying global and regional forest/ land cover changes. The FRA 2000 includes an active country capacity building activity, allowing countries to participate actively in the assessment process. The government of Finland and the FAO regular programme is supporting the remote sensing component of FRA 2000. Cost sharing arrangements for the low resolution mapping component have been made with the EROS Data Center of the United Sates of America.
Forest fires: FAO considers forest fire management and related activities an integral part of the conservation and sustainable management of forests, which is at the core of the forestry programme of the Organization. Activities related to the use of fire as a tool as well as those related to fire prediction, prevention and control have received long-standing attention in FAOs programmes. FAO has consistently provided information and technical assistance to its member countries and to the international community in the area of forest fire prevention, control and management within the framework of the regular and field programmes. The draft Strategy for Forestry in FAO, prepared within the proposed FAO Strategic Framework includes provision for a database on forest fires and technical assistance in forest fire management, and the focussing of attention on policy, legal and institutional issues related to forest fire management.
Since 1974, FAO has produced more than 108 reports on various aspects of fire protection, prevention and fire policies through the implementation of 58 projects in 36 countries. FAO will summarize global data on forest fires through the Forest Resources Assessment 2000 (FRA 2000) and will continue to forge partnerships and linkages with agencies involved in developing remote sensing techniques for detecting forest fires and wildfires, such as the EC Joint Research Centre (JRC).
FAME: With the Government of the Netherlands, FAO is developing a Forest Assessment and Monitoring Environment (FAME) concept. This programme aims at defining, developing and implementing a dedicated operational end-to-end satellite remote sensing capacity for providing real-time access to appropriate remote sensing data for supporting sustainable forest management at the sub-national level, complementary to the FRA programme. During 1998, FAO contributed to a comprehensive FAME User Requirements Study (URS), coordinated on behalf of the Government of the Netherlands by the International Institute for Aerospace Survey and Earth Sciences (ITC), through the implementation of country studies in Brazil, Costa Rica, Malaysia and Nepal and participation in FAME-URS Workshop at ITC in November 1998. The Final FAME-URS Report was issued in June 1999 and a follow-up programme, entitled Forest and Forest Lands Assessment and Monitoring Environment (FLAME), is presently being formulated between the Government of The Netherlands and FAO.
GIS: FAO is mandated to assist the member states in collection, storage and manipulation of various geophysical data and developing global digital databases for sustainable agricultural development and planning. Under the coordination of its central GIS Unit housed in SDRN, and in cooperation with the relevant technical Divisions, FAO has developed a soil map of the world and agro-ecological zones map of the developing countries; the continental shelf and fishing (statistics) areas of the oceans; coastal lowlands in the developing countries. Several pilot GIS databases have also been developed to carry out evaluation of marine resources, integrated terrain unit and waterbasins study in Africa.
A number of GIS analysis and applications projects have also been implemented. These mainly include: estimation of available arable lands for the major FAO study Agriculture Towards 2010; Africa, South and Central America inland aquaculture site suitability analysis for fish farming potential; soil suitability analysis studies for various crops in Africa; potential food self-sufficiency at high and low input levels; dominant land resources types map for Africa; nutrition Profiles map; fish distribution maps for the Mediterranean; World Food Summit support maps. Currently, remote sensing and GIS technology have also been used for Food Insecurity and Vulnerability and Poverty mapping in FAO in cooperation with several other agencies.
FAO envisages the increasing use of Global Positioning Systems (GPS) in surveys and the integration of remote sensing data into GIS-based land resource information systems. FAO is considering using remote sensing to assess and monitor the progress of soil and water conservation works carried out in the field within the framework of national programmes assisted by the World Food Programme (WFP).
In addition to global and regional projects, FAO, through SDRN, is currently executing or providing technical backstopping to some 60 field projects with a major remote sensing, GIS and information management system component in more than 50 developing countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean and Central and Eastern Europe, including Afghanistan, Azerbajian, Bangladesh, Bulgaria, Brazil, Burundi, Eritrea, Lithuania, Malta, Pakistan, Peru and Tunisia. FAO has recently also been actively involved in developing and field testing new remote sensing methodologies through pilot projects in a number of countries, including: shrimp farms inventory and monitoring in Sri Lanka and wetlands mapping and assessment in Zambia by using SAR data of European Radar Satellite, groundwater exploration in Syrian Arab Republic using satellite remote sensing combined with GIS technology. In economies in transition, FAO offers advice on the use of remote sensing and GIS in planning and implementing agricultural land reform and in assessing and monitoring environmental damage. At present, such assistance is being provided to Albania, Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia.
To assist in diffusion of information about remote sensing and GIS technology applications, FAO has developed a number of technical publications relating to land cover classification system, environmental indicators, coastal management guidelines, and agroclimatological databases. FAO also produces, in cooperation with national remote sensing institutions, Remote Sensing for Decision Making Series for worldwide distribution.
Currently, the main activities on agroclimatic databases and agrometeorology, using data both from satellite and in situ observations, include: (i) management of the climatic database for about 25,000 stations world-wide (FAOCLIM); (ii) production of digital maps (at various levels) based on the climatic database; (iii) compilation of a database of African sub-national crop statistics; (iv) real-time monitoring of food crop condition and yield forecasting, in particular for African countries; (v) fulfillment of specific requests which require the analysis of climatic data to be integrated with socio-economic variables. Together with ARTEMIS, AGROMET is providing essential value-added analysis and related information products for FAO's operational Global Information Early Warning System (GIEWS) on Food and Agriculture.
GIS tools are used for geo-statistics and spatial interpolation routines, such as transforming point value into interpolated surfaces. As the interpolated surfaces must represent the ground truth with great detail, several techniques are used in order to "help" the interpolation of the selected variable to obtain a continuous surface with the highest resolution. To achieve this, remote sensing products such as DEMs, NDVIs, CCDs are used.
Cooperation with other agencies has been a major approach in FAO's participation in climate-related activities, e.g. with the World Climate Programme after its creation in 1979. FAO has been an active member of the Inter-Agency Committee on the Climate Agenda (IACCA). The cooperation now also includes climate change matters with international bodies such as UNFCCC and IPCC. Several activities have been jointly organized to promote national capacity building in cooperation with national agrometeorological services and international agencies. For example, a Roving Seminar on Crop-yield Weather Modeling has been jointly organized with WMO in several developing countries. The latest one was organized in Tanzania in September 1998, which was attended by 17 specialists from related government agencies. Another roving seminar will be organized in India in July 1999.
FAO has been involved in helping member countries strengthen their capacity to develop distance learning programmes, using various means including satellite communications systems. Through its Extension, Education and Communication Service (SDRE), FAO provides technical advice to member countries in establishing distance education centres and developing course programmes. The activities target specific interested groups such as farmers, farm workers and managers, extension workers, teachers, other government agriculture and rural development workers, and NGO/private agriculturally related clientele. Such activities have benefited member countries such as China through a project on Agriculture and Rural TV Broadcast Education Center and Zimbabwe through the Zimbabwe Open University (ZOU) project.
Within its strategic framework, FAO has given high priority to developing partnerships with interested international organizations, UN agencies and governmental institutions for the development of information base and decision support tools to address the needs in the implementation of Agenda 21 and international environmental agreements and conventions, such as the conventions on biological diversity, desertification and climate change.
IGOS: As a major user of the Earth observation data, FAO has been participating in the work of the Committee on Earth Observation Satellites (CEOS) as an associate member. FAO is also working closely with CEOS and other partners within the United Nations system and other international organizations on the development of an Integrated Global Observing Strategy (IGOS). An International Forum on IGOS - Into the New Millennium is being jointly organized by the partners of IGOS under the coordination of FAO as a parallel event to the UNISPACE III Conference to promote the IGOS concept, encourage wider participation and commitments of participating members and to explore the ways and means for operationalization of the concept. FAO hosted the 4th G3OS Sponsors Meeting and the 3rd IGOS Partners Meeting on 7 and 8 June 1999 at its Headquarters in Rome. Among their main agenda items relating to cooperative programmes and implementation mechanisms, both meetings were also devoted to the preparation of inputs for UNISPACE III and its follow-up.
GTOS: FAO is, jointly with ICSU, UNEP, UNESCO and WMO, a founding member of the Global Terrestrial Observing System (GTOS). The central mission of GTOS is to provide policy makers, resource managers and researchers with decision support tools and access to the data needed to detect, quantify, locate, understand and warn of changes (especially reductions) in the capacity of terrestrial ecosystems to support sustainable development. GTOS focuses on five issues of global concern: changes in land quality; availability of freshwater resources; loss of biodiversity; pollution and toxicity and climate change. This programme aims to provide guidance in data analysis and to promote a) integration of bio-physical and socio-economic georeferenced data; b) interaction between monitoring networks, research programmes and policy makers; c) data exchange and application; and d) quality assurance and harmonization of measurement methods.
FAO-SDRN hosts the GTOS Secretariat at its Headquarters on behalf of the GTOS Sponsors. The GTOS secretariat, under the guidance of GTOS Steering Committee, is currently developing a Global Terrestrial Observing Network (GT-Net), the TEMS meta-database and plans for joint regional workshops with GCOS for formulation of regional activities. Closer cooperation is also envisaged with other parties in the framework priorities identified by the IGOS partners, including in particular a theme on terrestrial - initially estimation of global net primary production (NPP) and a theme on carbon cycle - initially global mapping and monitoring of carbon sources and sinks. GTOS is also actively developing sub-regional networks in Eastern Europe and South Africa.
The overall mission of FAO is to help build a food-secure world for present and future generations. To fulfil this mission, FAO stresses the importance of active development of partnerships with organizations, within and outside the UN system, which share and complement its goals and values. In the field of space applications, FAO, through its SDRN in the Sustainable Development Department, is actively promoting operational use of remote sensing and GIS, and decision support tools, in its normative programme for environmental analysis and natural resources management and conservation in the context of sustainable agriculture and rural development. FAO is also committed to continue to provide technical assistance and support to field programmes in its member countries in the fields of remote sensing, agrometeorology, GIS, environment and energy, including advisory services and the formulation, backstopping and evaluation of field projects.
Through partnership arrangements, FAO will continue to provide support to the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the World Food Programme (WFP) for their field project activities and to the World Bank concerning guidelines, harmonization and standardization for environmental analysis and resource management. In addition to cooperating with governments, FAO cooperates increasingly with non-governmental organizations (NGO's) and the private sector in the development process. FAO cooperates with UNDCP and other concerned agencies on projects to determine the location of narcotic crop cultivation sites using satellite remote sensing data.
FAO also cooperates with the Regional Commissions of the United Nations and Regional and National Remote Sensing Centres and environmental agencies in the development and efficient use of remote sensing and GIS technology for mapping, assessment and monitoring of renewable natural resources, land resources dynamics studies and natural disaster monitoring. The priorities of this assistance have been reoriented to focus on capacity building for the implementation of the recommendations of Agenda 21 of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) and the recommendations of the World Food Summit, held in Rome in November 1996, as well as the international Conventions on Desertification, Biodiversity and Climate Change, including the Kyoto Protocol.
FAO is committed to take an active part in the implementation of GTOS within the framework of the Integrated Global Observing Strategy (IGOS), through close cooperation with UNESCO, UNEP, WMO and ICSU and, through those organizations, with the Global Climate Observing System (GCOS) and the Global Ocean Observing System (GOOS). Efforts will be made on synergizing and establishing necessary linkage between IGOS and on-going programmes such as the environmental geo-information infrastructure and services, and integrated use of data and information for sustainable development. FAO will continue to participate in CEOS activities and interact with its members on behalf of users, primarily in developing countries, in the framework of IGOS.
FAO will also continue to develop active partnerships with the European Union, the Joint Research Centre (JRC) of the European Commission, NASA, NOAA, EUMETSAT and ESA as well as other space agencies on the development and operational use of new data sources with a view to improving its information services and to broaden the group of users, both at FAO Headquarters and in the field. In this connection, FAO is also developing cooperation with educational institutions with the objective of responding to training needs of developing countries in relation to space applications to natural resources management and environmental monitoring, and distance education.
FAO is currently developing a long term Strategic Framework 2000-2015. Among five corporate strategies proposed for the Organization's Strategic Framework, one clearly emphasizes "improving data availability and information exchange, monitoring, assessing and analyzing the global state of food and nutrition, agriculture, fisheries and forestry, and promoting a central place for food security and international agenda. It has been prioritized that a comprehensive, current and reliable set of data, be disseminated to all Members and accessible to the international community and the public at large".
Increasingly involved in information and communication technologies applications, FAO is progressively moving to the digital age by developing a World Agricultural Information Centre (WAICENT), and various corporate digital spatial databases including development of various environmental decision support tools. Today, through worldwide networking, FAO is aimed to expand the outreaches of its services to help member states to design and implement national policies and strategies in the area of using new and emerging space technology and applications for sustainable agricultural development. A digital FAO will, in no doubt, improve the accessibility of data and information for decision making by various stakeholders, and greatly facilitate awareness creation among various end-users, participation from and consultation with international organizations, national governments and the various stakeholders on a wide range of sustainability issues. Comprehensive information about FAO policies and strategies as well as technical programmes and activities of the Organization can be accessed through FAO's website address at: http://www.fao.org.