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GEO and the Sustainable Development Goals


Earth Observations in service of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development provides a universal development agenda for all countries and stakeholders to use as a blueprint of action for people, the planet and prosperity. The agenda is anchored by seventeen Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), associated Targets, and a global Indicator Framework. Collectively, these elements enable countries and the global community to measure, manage, and monitor progress on economic, social and environmental sustainability.

SDGs banner
SDGs banner

Earth observations, geospatial data, and derived information play insightful roles in monitoring targets, planning, tracking progress, and helping nations and stakeholders make informed decisions, plans, and on-going adjustments that will contribute toward achieving the SDGs. Combined with demographic and statistical data, these sources enable nations to analyze and model conditions, create maps and other visualizations, evaluate impacts across sectors and regions, monitor change over time in a consistent and standardized manner, and improve accountability.

The Earth Observations in Service of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Initiative enables contributions to the 2030 Agenda by GEO and the Earth observations community. The primary purpose of this Initiative is to organize and realize the potential of Earth observations and geospatial information to advance the 2030 Agenda and enable societal benefits through achievement of the SDGs. This Initiative supports efforts to integrate Earth observations and geospatial information into national development and monitoring frameworks for the SDGs.

GEO UNGGIM flyer cover
GEO UNGGIM flyer cover

Earth observations and geospatial information: supporting official statistics in monitoring and achieving the 2030 agenda

The Global Indicator Framework captures the interlinked, multifaceted and ambitious aspirations for the continued development of nations and societies. Effective reporting of progress toward these Indicators requires the use of multiple types of data, what we have in hand - traditional national accounts, household surveys and routine administrative data – as well as new sources of data, namely Earth observations, geospatial information, citizen science, and Big Data.

GEO UNGGIM flyer cover
GEO UNGGIM flyer cover

EO Supports Sustainable Development

GEO convenes effective partnerships for societal benefit through use of free and open Earth observation (EO) data. The GEO Initiative ‘Earth Observations in Service of the 2030 Agenda’, together with the Committee on Earth Observation Satellites (CEOS) have issued a new report to highlight case studies of how EO responds to sustainable development, whether for health, disaster risk reduction or environmental protection.

Read related article here

GEO/UN and International Organizations Roundtable: Supporting Implementation of the 2030 Agenda Through Knowledge, Data and Information

Monday, 7 March 2016, Geneva, Switzerland


The 2030 development agenda comprises a range of global commitments, the main ones being the Sustainable Development Goals and Targets; the Aichi Targets of the Convention on Biodiversity; the RAMSAR Convention on Wetlands; the Multilateral Environmental Agreements; the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction and the Paris Agreement of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

The Group of Earth Observations is mandated by world leaders at G8 and G20 to strengthen international co-operation on global observation. GEO’s Global Agricultural Monitoring initiative (GEOGLAM), its Biodiversity Observation Network (GEO BON) and planned initiatives under the 2016 – 2025 GEO Strategic Plan harness Earth observations for societal benefit.

This round table event has given an opportunity for UN agencies and programmes as well as International Organizations to examine existing and planned use of Earth observations to meet the needs of international agreements and commitments.

Agenda & outcomes:


47th Session of the United Nations Statistical Commission Statistical-Geospatial Integration Forum - Geospatial Information and Earth Observations: Supporting Official Statistics in Monitoring the SDGs

Monday 7 March 2016, United Nations, New York

Agenda & outcomes:

Some selected examples: (click the highlighted SDG)



Unleashing the power of ‘Where’ to make the world a better place: How geographic information contributes to achieving the SDGs

Wednesday April 22 2015, UN Headquarters, New York

Co-organisers: Permanent Mission of Denmark, UN-GGIM: Europe, UN-GGIM Secretariat, Group on Earth Observations (GEO)

SDGs banner


Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction (UN WCDRR)

14-18 March 2015, Sendai, Japan

UN GEO Sendai logos
UN GEO Sendai logos


The Role of Earth Observations in Developing Indicators for the Post-2015 Development Agenda: Starting a Dialogue

February 27 2015, UN Headquarters, New York

GEO Jaxa CS logos
GEO Jaxa CS logos


The event, co-organized by Switzerland (FOEN), the Group on Earth Observations (GEO), the UN-GGIM Secretariat and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) provided examples of successful integration of Earth observation data into national accounts for monitoring and evaluation, and explored how such data could be part of a comprehensive and coordinated national statistical system to monitor the state of the Earth, and to deliver timely information necessary to citizens, organizations and governments to build accountability, make good evidenced-based decisions and, ultimately, improve the lives of citizens around the world.


The Contributions of Earth Observations in Achieving the Post-2015 Development Agenda (a summary outcome of the GEO – UN Roundtable)

February 18 2015, Geneva, Switzerland




This summary is the product of a Roundtable convened by the Group on Earth Observations (GEO) Secretariat that included representatives of several UN Organizations, Specialized Agencies and Programmes who discussed how to strengthen the engagement of GEO with the United Nations, with the overall objective to reaffirm the value and improve the use of Earth observations in UN processes, with a special focus on the post-2015 development agenda.

The UN Secretary-General’s Synthesis Report on the post-2015 development agenda, The Road to Dignity by 2030, proposes a “framework to be able to monitor and review implementation (of the agenda), based on enhanced statistical capacities and tapping into the potential of new and non-traditional data sources.” The report also acknowledges the efforts of the Open Working Group on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) where the “environmental dimension is articulated across the whole sustainable development agenda…[and is] underpinned with a goal on global partnerships for the means of implementation,” and underlines that “Mechanisms to review the implementation of the goals will be needed, and the availability of and access to data would need to be improved.”

Further, UN Secretary-General’s Independent Expert Advisory Group on a Data Revolution for Sustainable Development (IEAG)  has stressed  the importance of data for decision-making and for accountability as key elements of the post-2015 development agenda and the implementation of the SDGs. A data revolution that is tailored to sustainable development will require - more than in the past - the integration of new data, including geospatial information and in situ monitoring, with socio-economic and statistical data. Opportunities offered by technological progress should be further harnessed.

As the General Assembly moves forward in the intergovernmental process to develop the post-2015 development agenda, the Secretary-General notes that the agenda should “include concrete goals, together with measurable and achievable targets…and it should include strong, inclusive public mechanisms at all levels for reporting, monitoring progress, learning lessons and ensuring mutual accountability.” In addition, he states that in implementing the new agenda, nations must “base (our) analysis on credible data and evidence, enhancing data capacity, availability, disaggregation, literacy and sharing.”  High quality and accessible data will, therefore, be central in the post-2015 sustainable development agenda.

In addition, one of the six “essential elements” the Secretary General identifies as critical for delivering on the development goals is, Planet: to protect our ecosystems for all societies and our children, which includes the need to “address climate change, halt loss of biodiversity, address desertification and unsustainable land use, protect wildlife, safeguard forests and mountains, reduce disaster risk and build resiliencies, protect our oceans, seas, rivers and atmosphere, promote sustainable agriculture, fisheries and food systems; foster sustainable management of water resources and of waste and chemicals; foster renewable and more efficient energy; advance resilient infrastructure; and achieve sustainable management of marine and terrestrial ecosystems and land use.”

Consequently, understanding the Earth system as a whole is crucial to supporting economic growth, inclusive development and environmental sustainability, rendering the Sustainable Development Agenda a transformative step from the Millennium Development Goals. Comprehensive, coordinated and sustained observations of the Earth, acquired by satellites, ground or marine-based systems and airborne platforms, are essential for monitoring the state of the planet, increasing understanding of Earth processes, and enhancing predictability of Earth system behavior.

Earth observations deliver timely information, beneficial for all citizens, organizations and governments, to build accountability, help make appropriate decisions, and ultimately improve people’s lives. Advances in technology and capacities across the globe help us monitor global changes that transcend political and geographic boundaries.

The Rio+20 Outcome Document, “The Future we Want” already recognized in 2012 “… the importance of space-technology-based data, in situ monitoring and reliable geospatial information for sustainable development policymaking, programming and project operations” and noted “the efforts in developing global environmental observing systems, including …. the Global Earth Observation System of Systems” (GEOSS) .

The Rio+20 outcome also underscored “…the need to strengthen UN system-wide coherence and coordination, while ensuring appropriate accountability to Member States”.

The above outcomes are clearly addressed by the Group on Earth Observations’ Ministerial Summits, the last in January 2014 and the next scheduled for November 2015, as well as by the international instruments being negotiated within the UN framework in 2015, namely the post-2015 framework for disaster risk reduction (March 2015), the sustainable development goals (September 2015), and a new climate Change agreement (December 2015), which offer an unique opportunity “…to enhance coherence across policies, institutions, goals, indicators, and measurement systems for implementation, while respecting their respective mandates, principles and provisions…. Ensuring credible links between these processes will contribute to building resilience and achieving the global goal to eradicate poverty .

Further partnerships and collaborations among different stakeholders will be needed to propose and develop concrete actions to support and sustain the implementation of global agreements.

In this context, coordinated Earth observations contribute to reinforcing coherence among these international instruments and provide the “credible data and evidence”,  to enable nations to make decisions in all societal areas and to monitor performance towards achieving the goals and targets of the development agenda. The universal nature of the post-2015 development agenda will require data that are usable at a global level and comparable across different countries: sharing Earth observation data sets on a free, full and open basis, as currently supported through GEOSS, can make an important contribution in this respect. Complementarities and synergies between the UN and GEO should be nurtured with the objective of increasing the quality, availability and use of Earth observation data and information for sustainable development.

Progress towards increased access to data and information, combined with coordination of observing systems by intergovernmental, public and private organizations, makes the inclusion of Earth observations in the sustainable development agenda easier and more imperative. Integrating Earth observations with traditional and new data sources will provide decision makers at all levels with a unique, seamless, comprehensive picture of planetary conditions, providing support for national development and for those reporting, monitoring, lesson-sharing and accountability mechanisms referenced above.

The Roundtable participants agree that the emerging post-2015 framework for sustainable development must take full advantage of the potential of Earth observation data and information to support the implementation and monitoring of sustainability-related objectives.

The participants also recognize that, building on the important steps already made, further commitment and increased collaboration is needed to provide quality, timely and accessible data, information and associated resources to assist the global community.


Roundtable participants:

  • Government of Switzerland
  • United Nations, Organizations, Specialized Agencies, Programmes and Conventions
    • FAO- Food and Agriculture Organization
    • OCHA - Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
    • UNEP - United Nations Environmental Programme
    • UNESCO – United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization
    • UN-Habitat - United Nations Human Settlements Programme
    • UNITAR/UNOSAT - United Nations Institute for Training and Research/United Nations Operational Satellite Applications Programme
    • UNISDR - United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction
    • UNOOSA - United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs
    • WHO – World Health Organization
    • WMO – World Meteorological Organization
    • Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions Secretariat
    • RAMSAR Convention Secretariat
  • European Commission (representing the GEO Co-Chairs)
  • Members of the GEO Implementation Plan Working Group (IPWG)
  • GEO Secretariat