Local Action in Support of Global Traction

GEO Blue Planet will hold its 5th Symposium between 24 and 28 October 2022. The ocean and coastal arm of the Group on Earth Observations (GEO), GEO Blue Planet aims to ensure the sustained development, and use of ocean and coastal observations for the benefit of society. These symposiums aim to increase regional linkages, promoting collaboration between stakeholders and the observing community and gathering community feedback on the focus of GEO Blue Planet activities.

For the first time, this signature GEO Blue Planet event will take place in Africa, in Accra, Ghana. This year’s symposium, themed Local Action in Support of Global Traction, is specifically geared towards improving GEO Blue Planet’s engagement with African nations in an effort to expand the Earth Observation (EO) community of practice, strengthen local capacity and provide access to resources, tools and services.

The symposium will feature Plenary Sessions centered around the GEO Blue Planet Core Action Areas of Stakeholder Engagement, Cooperation and Co-design and Capacity Development. It will also feature Ocean and Coastal Observations Tutorials, Thematic Workshops and a highly Interactive Symposium Forum.

Co-organised by the GEO Blue Planet Secretariat (Mercator Ocean International, NOAA and the University of Maryland) and the AIR Centre, this year’s hosts and local organisers are the University of Ghana and University of Energy and Natural Resources in Ghana. 

Target Audience

The Symposium will welcome up to 200 attendees from varying levels of government, research institutions, commercial sectors, and other local stakeholders.  Attendees may include high-level representatives from international agencies, ministers of government, policy makers, representatives from regional and local organizations, earth observations experts, researchers, students, end users of ocean and coastal observations (fisheries, aquaculture, local authorities, etc.) and other stakeholders.  

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Programme Description

Training Sessions

The Training Sessions will be geared towards introducing ocean and coasts observations to a wide audience. These may feature a review of the basic principles of Ocean Observations (e.g., fundamentals of oceanography, introduction to satellite & in-situ observations, modelling), common tools and strategies for analyzing observations, and exploring the availability and capacity of data products for information-based decision making.

Objectives 
  • Introduce satellite & in-situ observing and modelling of the ocean and coasts
  • Provide a high-level overview of the processes involved in analysing ocean data
  • Inform attendees of the availability and capacity of ocean and coastal data products for information-based decision making 
Target Audience  

These sessions are open to a maximum of 40 attendees from diverse career backgrounds including academics (research scientists, students), end users (sectoral stakeholders) and local/regional decision and policy makers.  

The tutorial sessions will be held on Monday, October 24th from 9:00am- 3:30pm at the Alisa Hotel in Accra, Ghana. Sessions can vary in length from one to two hours and may feature multiple presenters. Please note that training session facilitators are required to fund their travel and accommodation at this year’s symposium. 

More information on the training available, click here.

Plenary Sessions

The Plenary Sessions will be geared towards exploring the role of ocean and coastal observations in addressing fisheries, ecosystem conservation and coastal hazards through region-specific user needs assessment, tools & opportunities, and inspiring examples of successful application for decision making. These sessions will reflect the context of GEO Blue Planet’s Core Action Areas of Stakeholder Engagement, Cooperation and Co-design and Capacity Development.

The selection of this year’s plenary topics was based on a review of the ocean and coastal related engagement priorities set forth by the relevant regional governing bodies in recent conferences and meetings (e.g. the African Union blue economy strategy, the African Union Commission Agenda 2063, and the Ocean Decade Africa Roadmap).

FISHERIES SESSION

Fisheries has been identified as an engagement priority given the importance of the fisheries sector to many countries in Africa. The fishing industry plays a significant role in supporting food and nutritional security and supports the livelihoods of people in many coastal communities across the world.

There are however many issues affecting the growth and success of the fisheries sector. The African Union and other governing bodies in the region have identified challenges related to data, assessments, ecosystem-based approaches to fisheries management, regulation, enforcement and governance as being of prime importance. Ocean and coastal observations can provide information about conditions (e.g., harmful algal blooms) that might impact fisheries and aquaculture sites, identify and track illegal fishing activity and monitor environments that support fisheries stock species.

ECOSYSTEM CONSERVATION SESSION

Properly conserved ecosystems and well managed coastal and ocean activities are the basis for sustainable Blue Economies that lift regional communities. Healthy and diverse coastal and marine ecosystems provide significant economic, cultural, and social contributions to many countries in Africa, contributing up to 35% of the GDP in some regions primarily through fisheries and tourism. The African continent has over 35,000 kilometers of diverse and unique habitats and ecosystems, inextricably linked with diverse cultures and communities, each with their own aspirations and socio-economic potential.  

However, different ocean and coastal regions across Africa are experiencing similar pressures on their diverse and valuable ecosystems. These pressures include Climate Change, pollution, over-exploitation, and increasingly the growing influence of marine litter. These pressures threaten coastal community’s potential to benefit sustainably from their unique marine environments, putting long term income stability at risk.  

This session will explore how data from satellites may help communities and regions secure the ecosystem foundations of their Blue Growth potential. It recognizes the critical role played by local and regional stakeholders, and stakeholder networks, in all aspects of managing and harnessing an ecosystem, and the information needs of these diverse stakeholder communities.

The session focuses on the use or participatory approaches and using example ecosystems such as Mangroves and Sargassum – key ecosystems that can support or even hinder both tourism and fisheries. These ecosystems are used to provide examples and inform discussions on how data from satellites and other sources, and stakeholder-led development, can be used by local and regional stakeholders to identify issues, provide management guidance, and ultimately restore and conserve the balance within these habitats which support their local communities and economic activity.

COASTAL HAZARDS SESSION

Coastal areas consist of 20% of the Earth’s surface yet containing over 50% of the human population and 75% by 2025. A hub of biodiversity and production, coastal areas are home to valuable wetlands, coral reefs, fisheries, oil, and gas reserves. As sea level rises and the frequency of natural disasters grows, coastal areas under human development are likely to experience increased hazards including erosion, inundation, and pollution, posing a threat to coastal communities, infrastructures, and coastal ecosystems. With over 35,000 kilometers of coastline, Africa is highly vulnerable to coastal hazards. In recognition of those growing risks, enhancing coastal resilience has a priority for local governments, industries, and environmental advocates.  Recent advances in observing techniques offers unprecedented coastal data sets that provide solid foundations for adaptation strategies. The access and use of these data sets are still limited and understanding stakeholders’ needs is key to deliver relevant actionable information to decision makers and coastal communities.

This session will be geared towards exploring the role of ocean and coastal observations in addressing coastal hazards issues through stakeholder’s needs assessments, tools & opportunities to tackle coastal risks challenges, and inspiring example of successful application of Earth Observation based for decision making in coastal areas resilience. 

Plenary Session Objectives 
  • Initiate and stimulate dialogue about ocean and coastal related issues globally and in Africa. 

  • Provide insight into the needs of local/regional stakeholders which are essential to address marine and coastal issues. 

  • Explore the available tools and opportunities brought by Earth Observations in addressing these issues.

  • Present inspiring examples of successful application based on Earth Observation supporting decision making.

Plenary Session Target Audience

The plenary sessions are open to an audience of up to 200 attendees from varying levels of government, research institutions, commercial sectors and other local stakeholders.  Attendees may include high-level representatives from international agencies, ministers of government, policy makers, representatives from regional and local organizations, earth observations experts, researchers, students and other local stakeholders.

Interactive Poster Forum

The Forum is designed to be a platform for interactive dialogue among various members of the ocean and coastal observations value chain. Based on a review of the engagement priorities set forth by the relevant regional governing bodies, we have identified and will be organizing our forum around the themes of: Fisheries, Ecosystem Conservation and Coastal Hazards, as well as around the cross-cutting areas of: Stakeholder Engagement, Cooperation and Co-design and Capacity Development.

We plan to feature six booths which will be populated by data providers, academics (researchers and students), industry representatives, policy makers, and stakeholders from end-user groups. Each booth will act as a round table where presenters will engage in dialogue with each other and with conference attendees. The forum would also be an opportunity for local stakeholders to engage with invited members of the private sector to spark discussion about funding projects/actionable outcomes.

Objectives 
  • Provide an interactive platform for engagement among members of the ocean and coastal observations value chain. 
  • Support engagement between local stakeholders and the private sector to encourage the development of local/regional opportunities.
  • Discuss the role of ocean and coastal observations in addressing issues pertinent to the African continent. 

Target Audience 

The Forum will occur in parallel with Symposium Plenary sessions and should appeal to the general audience of the symposium. Attendees may include high-level representatives from international agencies, representatives from regional organizations, research scientists, local stakeholders, policy makers, students etc. 

To present at the Symposium Forum, click here.

Thematic Workshops

The workshops will aim to strength linkages between local/regional sectoral end-users and EO data providers. Six thematic workshops are planned centred around the ocean and coastal engagement priorities of Fisheries, Ecosystem Conservation and Coastal Hazards.

The six workshops will focus on how Earth Observation can support the following topics :

  • Fisheries and Aquaculture site selection
  • Plastic pollution
  • Sargassum inundations
  • Coastlines changes 
  • National Adaptation Plans

Attendees will have the opportunity to openly engage with data providers to provide insight into the data needs and gaps in information among local/regional end-user communities. They will also have an opportunity to improve their understanding of the EO tools available to address region specific issues while providing feedback on the interoperability and feasibility of making EO products/tools operational in their respective communities, countries and regions. 

Objectives 
  • Discuss and propose actionable deliverables which can contribute to a more resilient and prosperous continent.

  • Improve local/regional understanding of the EO tools available and build local/regional capacity in using these tools/ products.  

  • Seek feedback from local stakeholders in determining the feasibility of making tools/products operational in specific communities, countries etc. 

Target Audience 

The workshops should appeal to a diverse audience of stakeholders interested in using Ocean and Coastal Observations to support decision-making on the African continent. These workshops may also include local/regional EO experts, local sectoral stakeholders (e.g. representatives from regional fisheries associations), leaders/ chiefs of local coastal communities, representatives from research institutions and students. 

Organising Committee

  • Audrey Hasson, Fifi Adodo, Lillian Diarra & Vincent Legros – Mercator Ocean International | EU4OceanObs | GEO Blue Planet EU Office
  • Emily Smail & Nikelene McLean – University of Maryland | NOAA | GEO Blue Planet U.S Office
  • Prof. Amos Kabo-Bah – University of Energy and Natural Resources (UENR), Ghana
  • Jose Luiz Moutinho – Atlantic International Research Centre
  • Kwame Adu Agyekum, Bennet Foli &  Dogbeda Azumah – University of Ghana | GMES & Africa

Contacts

For any questions, contact symposium@geoblueplanet.org.

Past GEO Blue Planet Symposia

GEO Blue Planet hosts symposiums every one to two years in different regions for the purpose of increasing regional linkages, promoting linkages between stakeholders and the observing community and gathering community feedback on the focus of GEO Blue Planet activities. 

The inspiration behind the design language for this year’s Symposium

The visual identity for the GEO Blue Planet Symposium for 2022 was inspired by Kente fabric, the regal cloth of Ghana. Given that Kente fabric is made up of individually woven strips that are then joined together,with each telling its own unique story; the overall visual language comprises a mosaic pattern style that incorporates elements that represent the ocean, the coast and aspects of Ghanaian culture like some of the weave patterns in Kente and Adinkra symbolism. The symbols iincluded generally bear meaning towards unity, collaboration, wholesomeness and innovation. Collectively, each square tells its own unique story. The background also has hints of the ocean/water bubbles further emphasing GEO Blue Planet’s work to use EO towards conversation of marine environments and life.

About the graphical designer

Fungi Dube (www.fungidube.com) is a Brand, Visual and Webflow Web Designer based in Harare, Zimbabwe. She is an ardent Pan-Africanist who is passionate about Elevating African Narratives through Modern Design and Cultivating Afro-positive Sentiments.

GEO Blue Planet is a network of ocean and coastal-observers, social scientists and end-user representatives from a variety of stakeholder groups, including international and regional organisations, NGOs, national institutes, universities and government agencies. Our experts have a demonstrated capacity to bridge the gap between data and services to deliver usable information that supports informed decision-making toward achieving sustainable development.  

GEO Blue Planet is the ocean and coastal arm of the Group on Earth Observations (GEO). GEO is a partnership of more than 100 Participating Organisations that envisions a future where decisions and actions for the benefit of humankind are informed by coordinated, comprehensive and sustained Earth observations. 

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Organisers of GEO Blue Planet Symposium 2022

Sponsors of the GEO Blue Planet Symposium 2022