High-level delegates from 30 countries and 22 international organisations agreed at the Earth Observation Summit held last Thursday in Washington to improve cooperation on Earth observation and to remove barriers to the exchange of information between countries and organisations.
ESA already carries out its Earth observation programmes in cooperation with other agencies or countries through mechanisms such as CEOS, the Committee of Earth Observation Satellites and IGOS-P, the Integrated Global Observing Strategy Partnership. Another good example of the way cooperation between space agencies can lead to increased utilisation of EO data is the International Charter on Space and Major Disasters. This provides data, at short notice, to civil protection agencies to help them deal with emergencies.
ESA is an active member of these organisations and also leads, together with the European Commission, Europe’s major contribution to integrated global observation of the Earth - the Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES) initiative. GMES also involves Eumetsat and European national space agencies in an integrated approach to support European policy.
Important though these initiatives are, what is still lacking is a truly global partnership to encompass all countries, rich and poor, which will allow the transfer and use of Earth observation information by all. Last Thursday’s meeting was an important step in the right direction because it showed that the political will is now there to bring this about.
Stephen Briggs | ESA
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