GEO Week and Ministerial Summit 2023 – towards Earth Intelligence for all

6-10 Nov 2023, Cape Town, South Africa

The “Earth is talking, and it’s time we listen” echoed throughout the discussions at GEO Week 2023 and Ministerial Summit held from 6 to 10 November in Cape Town in South Africa. Hosted by the South African Department of Science and innovation and GEO Secretariat, this GEO flagship event convened participants from 115 member governments and 152 participating organisations (as of Sept 2023) in one of the world’s 36 biodiversity hotspots – the Cape Floristic Region.

Providing a ground-breaking global stage, GEO week 2023 served to showcase and discover innovative solutions, exemplify leadership and foster collaborative action on using Earth observation data, cutting-edge technology and science to deliver free, trusted information that makes sense to everyone and respond to the triple planetary crisis of climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution. GEO Week 2023, therefore, not only served as a forum for showcasing transformative ideas but also as a catalyst for actionable measures that contribute to a sustainable and resilient future for our planet.

The week kicked-off with flash talks and thematic workshops, followed by the 19th Plenary of GEO, which marked a new chapter for GEO with the adoption of the GEO Post-2025 Strategy: Earth Intelligence for All. As a first step in giving young people a greater role, GEO youth presented the first ever GEO Youth Declaration. The event culminated in the GEO Ministerial Summit and consequent Ministerial Declaration in which leaders of governments reaffirmed the GEO commitment to open and free data exchange and endorsed the post-2025 strategy.

During the full-packed week, GEO Blue Planet held a stand at the exhibition hall animated by representatives from the GEO Blue Planet secretariat, steering committee and working groups, including Nikelene Mclean (US Office), Lillian Diarra (EU Office), Stewart Benard and Rahana Juman (Steering Committee) and Richéda Speede (Sargassum Working Group). The exhibition booth provided an excellent platform to showcase GEO Blue Planet’s initiatives within the broader GEO community, fostering a meaningful exchange of ideas and setting the stage for potential future partnerships and collaborations. Lillian Diarra, representing the GEO Blue Planet EU Office hosted by Mercator Ocean International, delivered a presentation during the GEO Plenary Session 6 on GEO achievements highlighting the initiative’s core actions and societal impact.

GEO Secretariat stand in the exhibition hall. GEO Week 2023.

GEO Secretariat stand in the exhibition hall. GEO Week 2023.

GEO Blue Planet receives GEO team impact award

During the GEO Awards ceremony held on 8 November, GEO Blue Planet received the GEO Team Impact Award together with GEO Global Agricultural Monitoring (GEOGLAM) and Global Vegetation Pest and Disease Dynamic Remote Sensing Monitoring and Forecasting (GEO-PDRS). The prestigious GEO Awards, cover two categories, recognising both emerging individual leaders and teams who have demonstrated remarkable commitment to the GEO’s mission and vision.

The team impact award recognises GEO Blue Planet team’s significant contributions in progressing GEO’s mission, particularly, generating social impact through its activities particularly focused on using Earth observation for monitoring and addressing Sargassum, Marine Debris, Eutrophication and Oil spills. GEO Blue Planet has also demonstrated strong commitment to advancing a diverse and inclusive GEO through stakeholder engagement on a global scale and strong involvement of representatives from small island developing states and Early Career Ocean Professionals (ECOPs) as an implementing partner of the UN Ocean Decade’s ECOP programme. Today, the GEO Blue Planet community is a growing network of over 100 ocean and coastal-observers, social scientists and end-user representatives from stakeholder groups, including international and regional organisations, research and civil society organisations and government agencies from all over the world, all contributing to the rich diversity of the initiative and its global success.

Launched in 2015, today GEO Blue Planet Secretariat operates as a distributed infrastructure with offices in the EU (Mercator Ocean International with support from the EU4OceanObs project), the USA (NOAA and University of Maryland) and more recently in Asia (Korea Maritime Institute). The GEO Blue Planet steering committee comprises over 35 ocean experts from across the globe. Today the initiative has eight active thematic working groups guided by GEO Blue Planet’s core actions; that are i) engaging with stakeholders to understand needs for information ii) cooperation and co-design by working with stakeholders to co-create and develop fit-for-purpose Earth observation derived tools and services, and iii) capacity development, ensuring the long-term uptake of services and tools.

Convening at dedicated symposia, the GEO Blue Planet community gathered this year in Seoul, Korea, from 31 October to 2 November. The 6th Symposium, themed “Digital Solutions for Sustainable Oceans,” sought to enhance collaboration with Asian nations, fostering the expansion of the Earth observation community of practice. Hosted by the Korea Maritime Institute, host of the GEO Blue Planet Asian Office launched earlier in 2023, the symposium played a pivotal role in establishing cooperative relationships with international organizations to enhance awareness and engagement of GEO Blue Planet in the Asia region, reinforcing the network’s global impact and influence.

GEO Blue Planet wins Team Impact Award at GEO Week 2023 Awards Gala. Left to right: Nikelene Mclean (GEO Blue Planet US Office, NOAA & University of Maryland), Lillian Diarra (GEO Blue Planet EU Office, Mercator Ocean International/EU4OceanObs), Richéda Speede (GEO Blue Planet Sargassum Information Hub, BlueShell), Rahanna Juman (GEO Blue Planet Steering Committee,  Institute of Marine Affairs, Trinidad and Tobago)

Recipients of the GEO Team Impact Award 2023: Representatives from GEO Bue Planet, GEO Global Agricultural Monitoring (GEOGLAM) and Global Vegetation Pest and Disease Dynamic Remote Sensing Monitoring and Forecasting (GEO-PDRS)

Richéda Speede (Blue Shell Productions, Barbados) presents GEO Blue Planet’s Sargassum Information Hub at the EuroGEO stand. GEO Week 2023

GEO-19 Plenary, GEO Week 2023, Cape Town, South Africa

Trinidad and Tobago the newest member country of GEO

During the Plenary, Trinidad and Tobago became the newest member country of GEO as announced during the Plenary and in a statement by country delegate Dr. Rahanna Juman. Director of the Institute of Marine Affairs, Dr. Juman has been an active member of GEO Blue Planet’s steering committee, supporting the initiative’s engagement and partnerships with particularly small island developing states in the Caribbean.

In this next era shaped by the post-2025 strategy, GEO Blue Planet is strongly committed to support GEO’s renewed mission and strengthen collaboration with the GEO community to multiply impact.

Dr. Rahanna Juman – Director of the Institute of Marine Affairs, Trinidad and Tobago and GEO Blue Planet Steering Committee Member

Left to Right: Dr. Rahanna Juman – Director of the Institute of Marine Affairs, Trinidad and Tobago, Dr. Benjamin Kofi Nyarko (University of Cape Coast, Ghana) and GEO Blue Planet Steering Committee Member, Dr. Nikelene Mclean (GEO Blue Planet US Office)

Dr. Nikelene Mclean (GEO Blue Planet US Office) and Dr. Stewart Benard (GEO Blue Planet Steering Committee member) at booth during GEO Week 2023

GEO Plenary Session 6 on GEO Achievements, including GEO Blue Planet impacts. GEO Week 2023