It takes the right information to build back better


With the right information about land, and the right tools to use it, countries can work together with Earth observation organizations toward building back better after the COVID-19 pandemic. But collaboration between data experts and data users is needed to make sure the information is right. Today, over 100 decision makers will have their say in a Data Quality Standards Workshop being hosted virtually by the GEO LDN Initiative.  

The idea is straightforward – if we can optimize what we do where, we can bring land back into balance. In turn, this can help us bring nature, climate and the people’s needs, such as food and energy, into balance. And in the process, we can stabilize the primary driver for emerging infectious diseases like COVID-19, which is land use change. 

But getting this done requires unprecedented cooperation among the many providers and many users of that information. Today, those end users will have their say on improving the quality of data used to monitor land. 

The good news is the necessary framework for success is in place. In 2015, world leaders agreed to 17 Global Goals, officially known as the Sustainable Development Goals, that have the power to create a better world. Under Goal 15 (Life on Land) is SDG Target 15.3 on land degradation neutrality, where countries are striving to avoid, reduce and reverse land degradation. To date, 123 countries are actively engaged and in 2019, over 140 countries reported on this target in a harmonized way for the first time. 

Enhancing the monitoring data so that countries can take effective action has been taken on by the Group on Earth Observations (GEO), an intergovernmental and inter-organizational body that brings countries and the major data providers together to solve Earth information challenges. 

With the GEO LDN Initiative, they have taken on one of the most difficult challenges countries face: harmonizing the myriad of data options and analytical tools into a work stream that is open to all (efficiency and flexibility), capable of meeting the needs of countries in a consistent way (comparability), and capable of empowering countries in the application of complex data sets (national ownership). Thanks to a timely pledge from the government of Germany, data providers have collaboratively contributed to a set of minimum data quality standards, and these are now being previewed by the policy makers in countries – the ultimate end users of the data. 

The countries and organizations collaborating on the GEO LDN Initiative have reached a critical juncture in producing a major upgrade. Turning this aspiration into action means doing the right things in the right places at the right scale; a holistic approach on how we use and manage land in order for the world to build back better. United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, in his International Mother Earth Day message, summarized it best: “We need to turn the recovery into a real opportunity to do things right for the future.” 

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