Anne Jørgensen | 2017-09-04

UN Subcommittee on Geodesy established

Last August the 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.

Following this decision the GGRF Working Group drafted the Terms of Reference (TOR) for the subcommittee and developed a transition plan from Working Group to Subcommittee on Geodesy. This August, during the UN-GGIM seventh session, the Terms of Reference and transition plan were endorsed by the UN-GGIM Committee of Experts. The transition phase will end at the inaugural meeting of the subcommittee where co-chairs will be elected in line with the TOR’s . Until then the subcommittee will continue to be co-chaired by Australia (represented by Geoscience Australia) and Norway (represented by the Norwegian Mapping Authority).

Long term priority

"The creation of this subcommittee in the United Nations System, the first for UN-GGIM, sends a very clear message to Member States, and other global geodetic entities, that enhancement of geodetic reference frames should be a long term strategic priority for governments,” says Gary Johnston, co-chair of the UN-GGIM Subcommittee on Geodesy.

IAG supports UN

The IAG has been a member of the GGRF Working Group from the start and will be an associate member of the new Subcommittee on Geodesy. 

“The International Association of Geodesy supports the transition to the new Subcommittee on Geodesy. We also applaud the continued progress in developing an implementation plan for the GGRF road map. The International Association of Geodesy, through its geodetic services as well as the Global Geodetic Observing System, will continue its long-standing support of developing a global geodetic reference frame for the benefit of science and society,” says Dr. Michael Pearlman, who represented the IAG in New York. 

Alligned with NASA goals

"The activities of the UN-GGIM, specifically its Subcommittee on Geodesy and the implementation of the recommendations described in the road map on the Global Geodetic Reference Frame, are well aligned with NASA geodesy goals," says Dr. Benjamin Phillips, program scientist for NASA's Space Geodesy Program in Washington and also present at the UN-GGIM seventh session in New York. 

"The Subcommittee on Geodesy will help to facilitate the international collaboration that is critical to realizing the objectives of the global geodesy community, and further the associated scientific and societal benefits," says Phillips.

Inaugural meeting in November

The inaugural meeting of the subcommittee is planned in the margins of the 2017 UN-GGIM High Level Forum in Mexico City in November.

Along with the planning of the inaugural meeting the subcommittee is working on the development of the implementation plan for the GGRF roadmap.

"The work is progressing and the intention is to present the plan to the UN-GGIM Committee of Experts at its eight session in August next year”, says Laila Løvhøiden, co-chair of the UN-GGIM Subcommittee on Geodesy. 

“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," says Løvhøiden.

Appropriate governance arrangements

The framework for an appropriate governance mechanism is beginning to take shape. The focus group assigned to develop the position paper agrees that in order to effectively implement the road map for the global geodetic reference frame, some kind of intergovernmental arrangement must be established. “Recognizing the critical importance of such a governance structure, it´s imperative that we engage in broad consultations before we conclude,” says Laila Løvhøiden, team lead of the UN-GGIM GGRF governance focus group.

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