United Nations System-Wide
Geneva, 15 October 1996

1. The meeting was opened at 9:15 in the UNEP offices at the Geneva Executive Center, with representatives of all the sponsoring organizations in attendance (see list of participants in Annex 1). The provisional agenda was approved. The representative of UNEP was selected to chair the meeting.

Name, terms of reference and membership of the group, working arrangements, etc.

2. It was agreed to call the group the Sponsors Group for the Global Observing Systems (GCOS, GOOS, GTOS)

3. The draft terms of reference were discussed in detail and amended. The group recognized that it would be providing advice and making recommendations to the sponsoring organizations and their governing bodies, to the Observing System steering committees and secretariats, and possibly to other groups including funding bodies and governments. The terms of reference as agreed among all the sponsors are attached as Annex 2.

4. It was agreed that membership in the Sponsors Group would include a representative from each organization sponsoring one or more of the Global Observing Systems (FAO, ICSU, IOC, UNEP, UNESCO, WMO), who could be accompanied by another expert, and the head of each of the three secretariats/support/planning offices of GCOS, GOOS and GTOS and another representative when appropriate. Other persons can be invited for specific agenda items, to be decided on a case-by-case basis.

5. With respect to working arrangements, it was agreed that the chair, meeting site and meeting secretariat arrangements will rotate among the sponsors. The group welcomed the offer of the UN System-wide Earthwatch Coordination office in UNEP to provide continuity in secretariat support.

6. It was decided that the sponsors and secretariats could agree to have separate meetings or agenda items on a particular issue or observing system with subsets of the membership as appropriate.

Sponsorship of the Global Observing Systems

7. There was considerable discussion of the role of sponsors with respect to the three Observing Systems. The Sponsors Group would be an important mechanism for communication and discussion between the Observing Systems and their sponsors, even if some organizations could not formally sponsor all the systems at present. FAO indicated that it could not consider becoming a formal sponsor of GCOS and GOOS at the present time, butwas interested in being involved in all three systems. The possibility of inviting other organizations to sponsor the systems could be considered at further meetings of the group.

8. There was concern that some sponsors were not carrying out the responsibilities implicit in their sponsorship. The appearance of a logo on Observing System publications implied a serious commitment. A minimum financial contribution should be required except in exceptional circumstances. The creation of this Sponsors Group required representatives who were up-to-date on and could speak for all three Observing Systems, regardless of where responsibility lay in their organizations. The sponsors needed to be mutually supportive and should make a concerted effort to bring this message of the importance of the Observing Systems to the governing bodies of each sponsoring organization.

Inter-system cooperation, including the work of existing panels

9. The representative of GCOS reviewed the state of present cooperation and the need for further action in this area. Several joint panels were already functioning or in the process of being established. Remaining priorities for joint action were in the coastal zone and with respect to socio-economic benefits from the Observing Systems, and further plans in these areas will be considered at the first meeting of the Sponsors Group.

State of implementation plans and potential collaboration, in particular with respect to fund-raising and building government support

10. Developing coordinated or joint approaches to fund-raising and government support will be a major task for the group in its future meetings. It was necessary to document what countries will get out of these systems. At present the Observing Systems had not developed an attractive package of visible programme benefits to attract government support. Developing evident coherence between the systems would help. The Conference of the Parties to the Framework Convention on Climate Change was now seen as the international policy-making mechanism for climate, and the services which the Observing Systems could render in this context needed to be understood and appreciated there.

11. It was decided to prepare a brochure with one summary page and about 10 supporting pages describing the three systems and their societal benefits, targeted at senior advisors. It should emphasize that existing data were inadequate and that well-focused operational data collection through the three Observing Systems was essential for effective decision-making. Coherent sets of information were much more useful for both originators and users than unrelated data sets. The Sponsors Group was not another organization, but a mechanism to assist in organizing an integrated observing process with national benefits for policy making. There were also benefits for the conventions and other users at the international level.

12. The recent meeting on in-situ observations had urged the sponsors to bring GTOS rapidly to the stage of the other systems, since its belated start was retarding the development of joint activities with other programmes dependent on it. The meeting noted that all the sponsors had paid or were about to pay their pledged contributions to GTOS, and that it was now urgent to move ahead with recruitment of an Executive Secretary and implementation of key joint activities. To provide essential professional support to this process, the meeting urged FAO to make an arrangement with the GCOS Planning Office to use Mr. Hal Kibby, who has been the liaison with GTOS in GCOS and has full knowledge of the programme, as a bridging interim GTOS Executive Secretary, even if based temporarily in Geneva, until that post is filled permanently within FAO.

13. The issue of adequate staffing in the Observing System secretariats needs to be discussed by the Sponsors Group at further meetings.

Consideration of a strategy for coordinating user requirements

14. There is already considerable progress within various panels in defining user requirements, such as the space-based observations panel which should respond to the request of CEOS for coordinated inputs from all the observing systems.

15. It was agreed that a major priority for the Sponsors Group would be responsibility for preparing an integrated global observing strategy as an umbrella for the three Observing Systems and other international observation activities. The approaches to space-based and in situ observations needed to be linked across all the Observing Systems, organization mandates, and the topical and sectoral areas. This would be an ongoing process of increasing coherence and integration, as some aspects, such as responding to user requirements under the Climate Agenda, were ready to become operational, while other components were still being defined. This should be a priority item for the first meeting of the group, receiving proposals from various expert bodies and considering recommendations for endorsement as appropriate by the governing bodies of each sponsor and for implementation at the national level. The aim should be advice that will be adopted because it is uniform, systematic and coherent.

Date and place of the first meeting of the group

16. The group accepted the invitation of UNEP to host the first meeting in Geneva on 13-14 January 1997. UNEP will therefore serve as secretariat for the first year of the Sponsors Group.

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  Annex 1
  Preparatory Meeting on a Sponsors Group for the Global Observing Systems (GCOS, GOOS, GTOS) (Geneva, 15 October 1996)
LIST OF PARTICIPANTS (without addresses)

FAO - Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
GTOS - Global Terrestrial Observing System
Mr Robert Brinkman
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

ICSU -International Council of Scientific Unions
Mrs Julia Marton-Lefèvre
Executive Director, ICSU

Ms Sophie Boyer King
Environmental Sciences Officer, ICSU

IOC - Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission
GOOS - Global Ocean Observing System
Mr A. Metalnikov

UNEP - United Nations Environment Programme
Mr Arthur Dahl
Deputy Assistant Executive Director, Division of Environmental Information and Assessment
and Coordinator, UN System-wide Earthwatch

UNESCO - United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization
Mr Gisbert Glaser
Director, Bureau for Coordination of Environmental Programmes

WMO - World Meteorological Organization
Mr Michel Jarraud
Deputy Secretary-General

Mr Robert C. Landis
World Weather Watch Department

Mr James B.L. Breslin
Special Assistant to the Deputy Secretary-General

GCOS - Global Climate Observing System Joint Planning Office
Mr T. Spence
Director, Joint Planning Office for GCOS

  Annex 2
Terms of Reference

In order to ensure a continuing close synergy and enhanced information exchange among the Global Climate Observing System (GCOS), the Global Ocean Observing System (GOOS), and the Global Terrestrial Observing System (GTOS), and to develop a common strategy toward their implementation and their application, the sponsors, FAO, ICSU, UNEP, UNESCO and its IOC, and WMO, together with representatives of the respective observing programmes (head of support/planning offices), agree to meet as a Sponsors Group for the Global Observing Systems (GCOS, GOOS and GTOS) with the following terms of reference:

1. To review the observational requirements as defined by the user communities and to advise and recommend on harmonization of medium and long-range strategies of the three observing programmes;

2. To consider the actual and potential capacities of the three Observing Systems to meet the requirements, identify gaps and overlaps, and make proposals as appropriate to improve coverage and efficiency;

3. To advise on existing and potential joint activities between the three programmes, review the means established to achieve cooperation through such joint activities, and make recommendations to enhance coordination;

4. To identify areas where existing research and operational observing programmes of the sponsors contribute to meeting the objectives of the three Observing Systems, and to assist in facilitating such contributions;

5. To assist on information exchange, public and media relations and fund-raising;

6. To examine the mechanisms established or proposed at the regional and national level to participate in or support the three observing programmes, and to encourage and support approaches that will increase national benefits and contributions globally, with particular attention to developing countries;

7. To review and make recommendations concerning the mechanisms established or proposed to coordinate the three observing programmes with relevant international bodies and programmes;

8. To review and make recommendations on data management through the programmes with the objective of the widest possible data exchange and dissemination;

9. To advise on activities to facilitate the use and application of the data from the Observing Systems with particular attention to developing countries.

Arrangements: Each of the sponsors will assume responsibility, for a period of one year, for convening, hosting, and chairing annual meetings of the group, for preparing the provisional agenda and reports of the meetings, and for follow-up. More frequent meetings can be arranged by mutual agreement as necessary.

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