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The Group on Earth Observations (GEO) is a global intergovernmental partnership of 112 UN Member States plus the European Commission, 133 Participating Organizations and 15 Associates, working to improve the availability, access, and use of Earth observations for a more sustainable planet. 

GEO promotes open, coordinated, and sustained sharing of data, information, and knowledge about the Earth in support of better research, policymaking, decisions, and action across disciplines. The GEO community focuses on three global priority engagement areas: climate action, disaster risk reduction, and long-term sustainable development, with work emerging on urban resilience.

The GEO Work Programme is the primary instrument by which GEO implements its mission. These activities are conceived, planned, and implemented by teams of researchers, technical experts, policy analysts, commercial sector representatives, and many other stakeholders to address information needs in particular domains for which Earth observations are critical. In most of these activities, the teams work to develop Earth observation-based applications, products, and services to support decisions as identified together with the intended users.  

GEO Work Programme activities are largely funded through in-kind contributions from the various collaborating partners on a best-efforts basis, supplemented by voluntary financial contributions. The GEO Foundational Tasks are implemented in part by the GEO Secretariat through resources contributed by GEO Members to the GEO Trust Fund.  

All new and existing 2020-2022 GEO Work Programme Flagships, Initiatives, Community Activities and Working Groups are open to new participants to bring their expertise in Earth observations, or their experience as users of Earth observation products and services, to help support social, economic and environmental policies, decision making and action.

The GEO Work Programme includes five categories of activities, collectively known as GEO Implementation Mechanisms:

Aerial View of Barren Land

GEO Flagships are initiatives that exemplify the kind of impact and support to global, national, and local decision making that GEO aims to encourage and replicate. GEO Flagships have developed and continue to implement reliable, continuing services in response to defined policy mandates from international organizations, conventions, agreements, or other bodies. In doing so, GEO Flagships serve as models and guides for other GEO Work Programme activities.

Rough Surface

GEO Initiatives, together with GEO Flagships, form the core of the GEO Work Programme. Within their defined domains, GEO Initiatives help to transition innovative results and prototypes from the research community into Earth observation-based products and services to support a wide range of users. GEO Initiatives also build communities of stakeholders that work together to identify needs and gaps and develop capacity with these communities to maximize the value of the products and services being developed. GEO Flagships and Initiatives are expected to interact closely with the GEO Secretariat and the GEO community and, in return, receive a greater degree of visibility, support and guidance from GEO.


GEO Community Activities range from communities of practice, to early-stage projects or pilots, to well-established services. GEO Community Activities offer an opportunity for GEO Members and Participating Organizations to collaborate and to contribute to realizing GEO’s Vision and Mission with minimal requirements or structure. GEO Community Activities serve as an entry point for new activities which may go on to become GEO Initiatives. They may also include established services that find benefit from collaboration with other Work Programme activities, but which may not require the closer interaction typical of GEO Initiatives.

Tea Fields

GEO Foundational Tasks are the means by which GEO implements certain critical activities needed to ensure coordination across the GEO Work Programme, provide selected technical services to the GEO community, and to support GEO governance bodies and routine operations. Many of the activities within the Foundational Tasks are implemented by the GEO Secretariat, although others may be undertaken by collaborative teams drawn from across the GEO community. 

Sand Dunes

Regional GEOs are a new category of activity in the GEO Work Programme although they emerged from GEO Initiatives. Regional GEOs were officially recognized at the GEO-XV Plenary as distinct components of the GEO governance structure. Regional GEOs act as the implementing arms of the GEO Caucuses, which are groups of GEO Members within five defined regions of the world. The roles of Regional GEOs include: engagement of countries and organizations within their region, including those which may not yet be GEO Members or actively involved; coordination of GEO activities within their region, including subsets of global Initiatives and Flagships; and initiation of new activities to serve regional needs.

The GEO Highlights Report 2020 aims to show how open and accessible Earth observations data, information, and knowledge are making a difference to people in many countries through the dedicated efforts of the GEO Work Programme contributors and supporters.

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