A new benchmark for global geodesy

UN-GGIM, NEW YORK: Strong support for the proposal of creating a global geodetic centre of excellence under the auspices of the United Nations. Photo: Anne Jørgensen
On August 9 2019, Member States of the United Nations Committee of Experts on Global Geospatial Information Management commended the Subcommittee on Geodesy on the revised proposal to establish a global geodetic centre of excellence under the auspices of the United Nations.

The Subcommitee on Geodesy has reached a new milestone on the road towards a sustainable global geodetic reference frame (GGRF).

A strong mandate for global geodetic excellence
At the Ninth Session of the United Nations Committee of Experts on Global Geospatial Information Management (UN-GGIM), the GGRF accounted for the most interventions which signaled a strong interest in advancing the subcommittee’s work program. Of the Member States intervening on GGRF, 67% strongly supported the establishment of a Global Geodetic Centre of Excellence (GGCE). This gives the subcommittee a strong mandate on the way forward. In addition, three Member States—the Russian Federation, Germany, and India—announced their interest in hosting or supporting the activities of the future GGCE.
«This is a significant contribution to the enhancement and sustainability of the GGRF», say the UN-GGIM Subcommittee on Geodesy co-chairs Alexey Trifonov (the Russian Federation) and Gary Johnston (Australia).

Read more about what the centre will do and the consultations ahead in the UN-GGIM Subcommittee on Geodesy’s latest newsletter:



Sustaining the Global Geodetic Reference Frame

The social, economic and environmental benefits of implementing the GGRF are significant; so is its role in underpinning sustainable development and building a better world. Photo: Bjørn-Owe Holmberg
The UN-GGIM Subcommittee on Geodesy is now presenting the second iteration of the position paper defining appropriate governance arrangements. The subcommittee recommends to establish a Global Geodetic Centre of Excellence to strenghten the capacity to implement the UN General Assembly resolution «A global geodetic reference frame for sustainable development».

The Global Geodetic Reference Frame (GGRF) is in acute danger of degradation, due to aging infrastructure, insufficient coordination and financing, and diminishing human capacity.

The GGRF is the foundation for virtually every aspect in collecting and managing of spatial information and global monitoring of the Earth. It is imperative to ensure its sustainability and enhancement.

Consequently, the Subcommittee on Geodesy’s working group on governance proposes to establish a Global Geodetic Centre of Excellence (GGCE) under the auspices of UN-GGIM with the mission to actively contribute to the UN General Assembly resolution “A Global Geodetic Reference Frame for Sustainable Development” (A/RES/69/266).
It is the informed opinion of the working group that achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will be more likely with the establishment of a GGCE to oversee and facilitate the best GGRF possible.

Read more about the second iteration of the GGRF Governance Position Paper in the latest newsletter of the UN-GGIM Subcommittee on Geodesy which gives an introduction to the GGCE – and read the complete paper at UN-GGIM website, 9th session documents:



Need for a coordinating entity

Dakar: For all the people of Senegal, a solid geodetic reference system supports positioning, mapping and property rights. Photo: Adobe Stock
«Capacity development is one of the main pillars, and main challenges when it comes to the national geodetic network. There is a great need to develop and strenghten capacity for us to be able to sustain our geospatial activities,» says Oumar H. Ka, director of DTGC/National Mapping at the National Agency for Spatial Planning (ANAT) of Senegal and chairman of UN-GGIM Africa.

Some years ago, as part of the National Geomatics Plan of Senegal, Natural Resources Canada supported the national data infrastructure program and set up a new reference station for satellite based positioning in Senegal. The station was inaugurated in 2012 to support international efforts involving a global network of stations to calculate satellite information and define reference frames. It also enhances the Senegal geodetic reference system.

«We are now trying to implement network stations for the entire country and one of the main issues we are raising is capacity development,” says Oumar H. Ka.

Read more about this program in Senegal, and why there is a need for a global coordinating body that can coordinate capacity development at the international and regional level:



International workshop for the implementation of the Global Geodetic Reference Frame

Buenos Aires. Photo: Miniero Julieta
An international workshop will be held in Argentina to support the implementation of the United Nations’ resolution on the Global Geodetic Reference Frame (UN-GGRF) for Sustainable Development in Latin America.

The main goal of the Workshop is the development of capacities oriented to the implementation of the GGRF in Latin America, following the scientific definition released by IAG and the political frame outlined by the Subcommittee on Geodesy (SCoG) of the United Nations Committee of Experts on Global Geospatial Information Management (UN-GGIM).
The main idea is to provide the Latin American organizations and colleagues responsible for national geodetic reference frames with scientific and political tools to persuade policy makers and stakeholders about the importance of investing economic and human resources in the development of the national geodetic and geophysical infrastructure.



#GGRF - Core to building a better world

Photo: Bjørn-Owe Holmberg
Welcome to the session Global to National Geodetic Frameworks: Core to Building a Better World, at the United Nations World Geospatial Information Congress #UNWGIC in Deqing, China.

The session will highlight why geodesy is an important building block for sustainable development, the administration and management of land and water interests, the digital economy and the future of smart societies; and explore the capacity development and education challenges of geodesy.

Various geodetic and positioning technology is presented as well as information on the Global Geodetic Reference Frame (#GGRF).
The session concludes with a participatory discussion that will contribute to the work of the UN-GGIM Subcommittee on Geodesy, the UN-GGIM Asia Pacific region and the FIG.

The vision for the UN-GGIM Subcommittee on Geodesy is to provide “an accurate, accessible and sustainable global geodetic reference frame to support science and society”.

Learn more at E306, Exhibition Center #UNWGIC, 21 November 2018.



From a UN mandate to commitment for global geodesy

NY-ÅLESUND: Dr. Zuheir Altamimi, France, is responsible for the international terrestrial reference frame. He encourages nations to follow Norway’s and Australia’s examples. Photo: Bjørn-Owe Holmberg
Without commitment by Member States, the Global Geodetic Reference Frame (GGRF) will be in danger of degradation over time and consequently gradually lose its required accuracy and fundamental role in societal and scientific applications. As demonstrated by the GGRF Governance Position Paper a UN GGRF convention could be the long-term solution to this problem.

“The UN General Assembly resolution on the GGRF for sustainable development calls for commitments by Member States to improving national geodetic infrastructure as an essential means to enhance the global geodetic reference frame. Without commitment by Member States, the GGRF will be in danger of degradation over time and consequently will gradually lose its required accuracy and fundamental role in societal and scientific applications.
The current developments and investments to enhance the geodetic infrastructure in Australia, and more recently the inauguration of the new geodetic Earth observatory in Ny-Ålesund by Norway are concrete examples to follow by other nations”, says Zuheir Altamimi, France.

Read more about the GGRF Governance Position Paper in the latest newsletter from the UN-GGIM Subcommittee on Geodesy:




Strengthening the role of geodesy

Mexico City: The inaugural meeting for the United Nations Subcommittee on Geodesy was convened on November 26th and 27th, and was hosted by INEGI in the margins of the 2017 UN-GGIM High Level Forum. Photo: INEGI
The new United Nations Subcommittee on Geodesy was inaugurated in Mexico City this week.

"This is certainly a good day for geodesy", says Gary Johnston, one of the two co-chairs of the subcommittee.

"The new subcommittee is now established and this is an important step for improving global geodesy. We must work for the benefit of all member states," says Alexey Trifonov, who is the newly elected co-chair from the Russian Federation.

The inaugural meeting for the Subcommittee on Geodesy was convened on November 26th and 27th, and was hosted by INEGI in Mexico City in the margins of the 2017 UN-GGIM High Level Forum. 19 Member States and organisations participated in the meeting.

Australia's Gary Johnston is continuing as co-chair for the next year, while Norway's Laila Løvhøiden is stepping down.

"It is important that the co-chairing of the subcommittee is shared between the Member States as this will increase the involvement and spread the work load, Løvhøiden says. Norway has co-chaired the geodesy working group under UN-GGIM since 2013, and I am convinced that it will be very good for our work that the Russian Federation now has acceded this position".

Governance is key
The new co-chair is looking forward to start his new assignment for global geodesy.

"An appropriate governance mechanism is a keystone for future work .
And now we must make efforts to make this new governance mechanism as sustainable and long-term as the existing geodetic organizations are," says Alexey Trifonov.

The creation of the subcommittee started last year, when United Nations Committee of Experts on Global Geospatial Information Management (UN-GGIM) decided to elevate the Global Geodetic Reference Frame (GGRF) Working Group to a permanent Subcommittee on Geodesy. On the 4th August this year the UN-GGIM seventh session in New York endorsed the terms of reference and formally established the first permanent UN-GGIM Subcommittee on Geodesy.

The subcommittee will now focus on continuing the successful efforts of the GGRF Working Group.

"It is about ensuring that all countries in this world have access to precise positioning because we know it benefits their societies and the people that live within them. The geodetic reference frame makes this possible." says Gary Johnston.

The work on developing an implementation plan for the GGRF Roadmap and a position paper for a governance structure is progressing and will be reported to the UN-GGIM Committee of Experts at its eighth session in August 2018.

"We are about strengthening the role of geodesy in society and providing a greater governmental mandate that will hopefully result in sustainable operations of geodetic infrastructure and capacity development programs as well", says Johnston.



To support science and society

SOUTH AFRICA, Hartebeesthoek observatory (HartRAO): Shooting of the new documentary film on geodesy, "Quest for the Exact Position", has taken place in South Africa, the UK, Argentina, Svalbard/Norway, the USA and Japan. Foto: Thomas Abbott
The Global Geodetic Reference Frame Working Group is now in transition to become the UN-GGIM subcommittee on geodesy.

Following UN-GGIM sixth session, the GGRF Working Group made a plan for the transition to become the subcommittee on geodesy and drafted the Terms of Reference (TOR) for the subcommittee. The draft TOR will be tabled for endorsement at UN-GGIM seventh session.

The arrangement of the inaugural formal workshop of the subcommittee is tentatively planned in the margins of the 2017 UN-GGIM High Level Forum in Mexico City.

Implementation plan
The work with the Roadmap implementation plan and the position paper to define the appropriate governance arrangements for the GGRF is progressing.

The ambition is that the implementation plan will be the first step on the road towards an accurate, accessible and sustainable Global Geodetic Reference Frame to support science and society, which also is the vision of the implementation plan.
New documentary
As encouraged by the UN-GGIM Committee of Experts, the interim subcommittee has during the last year continued its efforts in making the GGRF more visible and understandable to stakeholders and society.

The dedicated communication and outreach work has resulted in increased engagement and awareness of the importance of the global geodetic reference frame. As an example, a Norwegian film company has produced the international documentary film on geodesy “Quest for the Exact Position”.

A world preview of the film will be shared with the participants of the GGRF Side Event during UN-GGIM seventh session in New York.




Milestone for global geodesy

The UN has decided to establish a permanent sub-committee on geodesy to provide stability and longer-term planning for the GGRF. Photo: Anne Jørgensen
The UN calls for enhanced cooperation on global geodesy. At the UN-GGIM sixth session in New York in August, the Committee of Experts endorsed the GGRF Roadmap and decided to establish a permanent sub-committee on geodesy.

"This is a significant milestone for global geodesy. It sends a very clear message to member states, and other global geodetic entities, that the focus on enhancement of geodetic reference frames should be a long term strategic priority for governments," says Gary Johnston, co-chair of the UN-GGIM Working Group on the Global Geodetic Reference Frame (GGRF).
At the UN-GGIM sixth session in New York, the member states did also endorse the roadmap for the global geodetic reference frame as a principle based briefing document for national governments. The roadmap aims to enhance the GGRF and make it more sustainable.



Highlights of the GGRF Roadmap

The roadmap aims to enhance the development and sustainability of the Global Geodetic Reference Frame (GGRF). Photo: Bjørn-Owe Holmberg
UN-GGIM Global Geodetic Reference Frame (GGRF) Working Group has developed the Roadmap for the Global Geodetic Reference Frame for Sustainable Development. It addresses each of the key areas of action described in the operational paragraphs of the UN General Assembly resolution:

Data sharing
Development of geodetic standards and open geodetic data sharing are required to enhance and develop the GGRF.

Education and capacity building
Appropriate geodetic skills and educational programs are essential for the development, sustainability and utilization of the GGRF.
Geodetic infrastructure
A more homogeneous distribution of geodetic infrastructure is needed to develop and utilize an accurate GGRF.

Communication and outreach
It is imperative to develop communication and outreach programmes that enable the GGRF to be more visible and understandable to society.

Governance
The development and sustainability of the GGRF is reliant on an improved governance structure.



Significant benefits to the study of our changing planet

PHOTO: ANDRICK LAL
“Accurate geospatial infor- mation provides a critical foundation for sustainable economic development.”
Faatasi Malologa
Director of Tuvalu Lands & Survey Department

PHOTO: BJØRN-OWE HOLMBERG
“Geodesy most of the time being not visible to citizens, plays an imporant and crucial role in the country infrastructure.”
Dr. Luiz Paulo Fortes
Phd, Instituto Brasileiro de Geografia e Estatística

PHOTO: GEOSPATIAL INFORMATION AUTHORITY, JAPAN
“The Global Geodetic Reference Frame provides the firm ground for all restoration works.”
Basara Miyahara
Director, Geospatial Information Authority of Japan

PHOTO: KENNETH BAHR
“We need more information about the planet in order to measure and deal with climate change.”
Jan Tore Sanner
Norway’s Minister of Local Government and Modernisation



Fundamental to sustainable development

Geospatial measurements support sustainable development policymaking. Photo: Bjørn-Owe Holmberg
In February 2015 the UN General Assembly adopted the resolution “A Global Geodetic Reference Frame for Sustainable Development” – the first resolution recognizing the importance of a globally-coordinated approach to geodesy.

Geodesy plays an increasing role in people’s lives, from finding directions using a smart phone to alleviating poverty.

Because the Earth is in constant motion, an acccurate point of reference is needed for making measurements. Geodesy provides a very accurate and stable coordinate reference frame for the whole planet: A Global Geodetic Reference Frame.
"The extent and value to nations and the considerably increased economic benefit of implementing the Global Geodetic Reference Frame will be highlighted, alongside its role in underpinning the Sustainable Development Agenda". Dr. Vanessa Lawrence CB

The GGRF session at the World Bank's Land and Poverty Conference 2016:



Global Geodetic Reference Frame for Sustainable Development

Ambassador Peter Thomson from Fiji introducing the resolution to the UN General Assembly. Photo: Kyoung-Soo Eom
The UN Committee of Experts on Global Geospatial Information Management (UN-GGIM) decided in July 2013 to formulate and facilitate a resolution for a global geodetic reference frame #ggrf. UN-GGIM recognised the growing demand for more precise positioning services, the economic importance of a global geodetic reference frame and the need to improve the global cooperation within geodesy.
UN General Assembly urges the sharing of geospatial data to benefit People and Planet
Thursday 26th of February the United Nations General Assembly adopted its first resolution recognizing the importance of a globally–coordinated approach to geodesy – the discipline focused on accurately measuring the shape, rotation and gravitational field of planet Earth.



A roadmap for the enhancement for geodesy

"Looking forward to seeing this #GGRF roadmap", says Peni Suveinakama, Fiji UN mission. New York, August 2015, from left: Peni Suveinakama, Zuheir Altamimi and Gary Johnston.
The United Nations Global Geospatial Information Management (UN-GGIM) Working Group on the Global Geodetic Reference Frame (GGRF) is now drafting a roadmap for the enhancement of the Global Geodetic Reference Frame. Importantly the roadmap will also address factors affecting the Sustainability of the GGRF.

"The Global Geodetic Reference Frame (GGRF) Roadmap will be built with passion and involvement," says Working Group co-chair Gary Johnston from Australia.

The roadmap will address five broad issues: Governance, Infrastructure, Policy - standards and conventions, Education - training and capacity building, Communication and outreach.




GGRF - fundamental for monitoring changes to the Earth

The Global Geodetic Reference Frame is fundamental for monitoring changes to the Earth including the continents, ice caps, oceans and the atmosphere. It is also fundamental for mapping, navigation and universal timing.

The ability to position both information and objects accurately will be an increasingly important driver of productivity into the next decade.
Photo: Geoscience Australia

The Global Geodetic Reference Frame is a key enabler for monitoring disasters - and recovering from them.
Photo: Geospatial Information Authority, Japan.

Identifying areas under threat of flooding, earthquakes and droughts ­­– and taking measures to counteract these.
Photo: Bjørn-Owe Holmberg

Monitoring sea level changes, plate movements, land uplift and ice sheet and glacier changes – so that global society can follow changes to the Earth system and plan accordingly on a local, regional and global level.
Photo: Anne Jørgensen
Providing accurate positioning through sattelite positioning technology
Photo: Morten Brun
Having a global geodetic reference frame is key for precise observations.
Photo: Andrick Lal

Latest tweets #GGRF


External links

UN Resolution
Report to UN-GGIM Fifth Session 2015
Factsheet UNGGRF roadmap
Factsheet
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