UNU-SPIDER: Space Technologies in the UN – Global Views for Global Challenges

Disasters triggered by natural hazards such as floods, droughts, storms or fires affect millions of people every year and result in billions of dollars in economic losses. The United Nations therefore works to improve its Member States’ capacities to reduce risks, to foster resilience and to respond effectively to such disasters by using space technologies.

Space technologies play an important role in this context and contribute to sustainable development as the UN declaration paving the way to the post-2015 development framework “The future we want” explicitly points out. These technologies can cover large areas at once regardless of borders or weather conditions and allow for precise positioning or telecommunications in emergency situations. Therefore, United Nations agencies, departments and programmes all over the world labour to make these resources available to all countries.

In its role as a gateway to space-based information, UN-SPIDER compiled a newsletter to highlight some examples of how and why space technologies are used by the United Nations in the context of disasters. For example, FAO uses satellite-derived information to estimate how badly a drought will affect agricultural production. UNESCO-IOC coordinates the establishment and operation of tsunami early warning systems to warn those at risk and to assess exposed communities using satellite communications and satellite imagery.

It is especially challenging for developing countries to access and effectively use space technologies due to a lack of funding, a lack of awareness or a lack of staff with the necessary skills. Capacity building and institutional strengthening are therefore at the core of numerous United Nations efforts, such as in the cases of ECA and ESCAP.

These case studies are examples of the extremely valuable work carried out throughout the entire UN system, not only by the agencies mentioned in this publication, but also by UNOSAT/UNITAR, UNEP, WMO, WFP, WHO, UNU, and others. In order to streamline the use of geospatial information in the UN and to foster inter-agency coordination and collaboration, UN experts furthermore join forces in the United Nations Geographical Information Working Group (UNGIWG).

Quelle: UNU-SPIDER Newsletter from 18.02.2014