News in 2019

8th Plenary Meeting of UN-GGIM-AP - Asia Pacific Capacity Development Network Report

3-5 November 2019, Canberra, Australia

UN GGIM AP Plenary Meeting

The FIG Asia Pacific Capcity Development Network (AP CDN) were invited by the President of the United Nations Global Geospatial Information Management for Asia and the Pacific (UN GGIM AP), to participate in its 8th Plenary Meeting held in Canberra – Australia on 3-5 November 2019.  This Plenary Meeting was the first meeting convened under the Presidency of Australia, and was organised by the agency Geoscience Australia and also the secretariat, United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UN ESCAP), who are presently based in Bangkok, Thailand.

The three-day Plenary Meeting of UN-GGIM-AP was an opportunity for FIG AP CDN to contribute to the latest discussions pertaining to geospatial information and UN initiatives such as the Integrated Geospatial Information Framework (IGIF), Global Geodetic Reference Frame (GGRF), Framework for Effective Land Administration (FELA), and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction.  Majority of the open and formal discussions occurred during the first day in the 3 parallel sessions organised by each of the UN-GGIM-AP working groups to evaluate their work program and work shop pertinent issues.  The 3 working groups are - Geodetic Reference Frame, Cadastre and Land Management, and Integrating Geospatial Information and Statistics.  Overall there were almost 100 delegates in attendance at the Plenary Meeting and workshops; and over 50 reports and presentations were delivered to the attendees.  Note the Plenary Meeting was held prior to the GEO (Group on Earth Observation) Week 2019, which attracted almost 1200 registrants.  GEO website -

FIG AP CDN provided presentations over the 3 day event.  Two of the presentations were related to the Geodetic Reference Frame working group and they were -

  • Perspectives on Capacity Development & Organisational Planning for a Modernised Geodetic Framework – presented at the “Positioning and Datum Modernisation Forum”; and
  • Capacity Development Challenges and Opportunities – presented during the Plenary Meeting Panel Discussion – Geodetic Reference Frames;

The final presentation was at the GEO side event “Geodesy 4 Sendai”, and was titled the Role of Surveyors for Disaster Risk Reduction and Resilience.

Note - copies of the FIG AP CDN presentations are available upon request and / or can be sourced from the UN GGIM AP 8th Plenary Meeting website.

As per previous UN GGIM AP meetings, members of each UN GGIM AP work group reviewed the main issues or points arising from sessions or discussions, and subsequently developed resolutions for consideration by the attendees of the Plenary Meeting.  UN GGIM AP Working Group 1 - Geodetic Reference Frame, with assistance from FIG AP CDN, and representatives from the United Nations Sub-Committee on Geodesy Education Training and Capcity Building (UN SCoG ETCB) formed statements involving geodetic datum and reference frame matters, such as recognising the -

  •  importance of modernising datum, and positioning infrastructure;
  • benefits of continued collaboration and capacity development; and the
  • challenges associated with geodetic data sharing, formalizing collaboration, and contributing to better disaster risk reduction management and resilience.

In light of the above, the following were recommended, to the Plenary Meeting attendees for adoption –

UN GGIM AP Members -

  • Contribute to the Global Geodetic Reference Frame through close collaboration with the Subcommittee on Geodesy and its Working Groups;
  • Support the adoption of the International Terrestrial Reference Frame by participating in regional geodetic programs such as the Asia-Pacific Regional Reference Frame (APREF) and the Asia Pacific Regional Geodetic Project (APRGP);
  • Support the observation, analysis and development of national GNSS, Satellite Laser Ranging (SLR) and Very Long Baseline Interferometry (VLBI) infrastructure and their interconnection for reference frame improvement and provide an Asia and Pacific perspective to the global geodetic community;
  • Work with organizations such as the International Federation of Surveyors (FIG) and the International Association of Geodesy (IAG) to develop common approaches to geodesy;
  • Strongly encourage Member States to share geodetic data openly and freely to support for example the connection of national height datums to global systems so that decision makers can address global issues such as sea level change through the use of global and regional products and services;
  • Encourage Member States to consider sharing real-time geodetic observations to support disaster risk reduction;
  • Encourage Member States to modernize data sharing legislations and policies to allow open and free geodetic data sharing, and implement them so as to support the realization and maintenance of sustainable national, regional and global geodetic reference frames;
  • Encourage technical capability development through training and cooperation in GNSS data processing, geoid determination, development of regional height systems, connection of sea and land based vertical reference surfaces, the use of open geodetic software and the sharing of best practice examples and use cases; and
  • Support geodetic experts from Member States to attend appropriate regional forums, such as the relevant working group meetings of the UN-GGIM-AP.

For the resolutions adopted by the other working groups (i.e. Land Management), and also the official summary of the Plenary Meeting please refer to UN GGIM AP website -

With respect to the “Geodesy 4 Sendai” meeting, it is apparent the Disaster Resilience section of the GEO (Group on Earth Observation) organisation is forming a group of various geospatial information professionals, scientists and interested stakeholders or community groups to collaboratively address the better operations of early warning systems, reducing disaster risk and building resilience to disasters. From a broader perspective it appears GEO is seeking assistance from FIG (and other related agencies such as UN-GGIM-AP) to address the four priority actions of the Sendai Framework Disaster Risk Reduction, which are –

  • Understanding disaster risk;
  • Strengthening disaster risk governance to manage disaster risk;
  • Investing in disaster risk reduction for resilience;
  • Enhancing disaster preparedness or effective response, and to “build back better” in recovery; rehabilitation and reconstruction.

During the presentation and meeting it was emphasised that the Sendai action agenda was very recognisable to FIG and its Commissions, as they had dealt which such matters through various task forces, publications and work plans.

Another interesting initiative conveyed at the Plenary Meeting was the presentation on the creation of a Global Geodetic Centre of Excellence (GGCoE) under the auspices of the UN.  The presentation on this initiative was delivered by Mr Nicholas Brown, who is now the Co- Chair of the UN SCoG as Mr Gary Johnston has retired.  Mr Brown stated that the Member States of UN Committee of Experts on GGIM had “commended” the proposal at their August 2019 meeting, and that they were now seeking views (through the UN SCoG) on how the GGCoE may operate; what their work program might comprise of; structure and composition of governance and institutional arrangements; and the role / responsibilities of the GGCoE, donor (resourcing) agencies and stakeholders. 

The UN SCoG have also recognised the importance of collaboration to establish GGCoE, with both the scientific sector (i.e International Association of Geodesy – IAG) and professional surveying or operational organisations, such as the FIG and the survey mapping agencies of UN Member States.   From an FIG AP CDN and Commission 5 perspective, although attempts to build geodetic and geospatial information capability have been somewhat successful, the current framework and mechanisms to support capacity development in geodesy or geospatial information management are not sustainable. Looking at a broader assessment and into the future, for FIG to deliver or assist with professional development at the individual, organisational and regional / global level, the development of GGCoE may be one of the strategic pathways to consider.  

Presently, the next meeting on this subject is scheduled for the UN-GGIM High Level Forum in Windsor - Unted Kingdom, April 2020, where discussions on the development and implementations on the role, work program and governance of a GGCoE will take place.  Consequently, it is suggested that the FIG President and / or Council member(s) have an opportunity to comment on the GGCoE initiative, either prior to this meeting or possibly at the meeting, then they should consider expressing the following to the UN SCoG for their consideration –

  • Formulate the objectives of the GGCoE to focus on the facilitation, discovery, delivery and dissemination of geodetic competencies, practices or techniques and capabilities for the sustainable operations of geodetic infrastructure and systems.  In other words effective, efficient and equitable mechanisms for knowledge management and development.
  • Facilitate more constructive and focused engagement with the Academic and Corporate (commercial) sector in regards to their potential contribution to and involvement in a GGCoE.  For example recognised academic institutions could assist with the development of curricula for core competencies, offer short courses or their facilities to assist with capacity development programs; and corporate partners could provide specific training on applications or supply relevant technological innovate expertise and possibly equipment.
  • Seek advice from the information technology sector on establishing GGCoE, in particular – defining the strategy, vision and scope;  securing and formalising funding and resources; staff selection and employment; advocating or marketing the importance and benefits; identifying factors that influence the location and choice of a headquarters (central bureau), and educational / training facilities; developing streamlined and clear governance / institutional arrangements between governments (and internal agencies), commercial sector, academia, and the scientific and professional surveying community; and performance / monitoring measures.
  • Clearly defining the purpose to ensure that the GGCoE does not evolve into either a research and development centre or becomes a mechanism to exclusively resource the operations of a local agency and its’ geodetic infrastructure.
  • Using established organisations and their facilities to deliver education and training on specialised or priority aspects of geodesy.  For example - using existing International GNSS Service data analysis centres once they are accomplished to deliver the required education / training; supporting countries or regional bodies to share experiences on developing and implementing geospatial information organisational or capacity development plans.
  • Utilising the information discovered and evaluation reports prepared by existing capacity development networks, programs or initiatives. For example reports on the geodetic and geospatial challenges being faced by Member States, the required core geodetic capabilities, both technical and “soft”, required for sustainable development, and who can provide assistance with capacity development.

In concluding, please note the upcoming events for both FIG AP CDN and Commission members to consider participating in and attending -

If you are interested in the upcoming events and require more information please contact Rob Sarib –  or navigate to the relevant website.

Positioning and Datum Modernisation Forum

"L to R – Ms Allison Craddock, Mr Rob Sarib, Mr Basara Miyahara



Rob Sarib, Chair FIG AP CDN
November 2019