Press Releases

                                                                                                                     23 June 2004

    United Nations to Strengthen Ties with Space and Major Disasters Charter Agencies During Colloquium at UNESCO, Paris

    (Reissued as received; delayed in transmission.)

    GENEVA, 18 June (UN Information Service) -- The United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (OOSA), represented by its Director, Sergio Camacho, today announced at a colloquium at the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in Paris that the United Nations intends to remain a “cooperating body” supporting the International Charter on Space and Major Disasters. The OOSA intends to enhance promotion of the Charter and to act as a gateway for UN agencies responding to natural disasters and emergencies. The colloquium was jointly organized by the French Space Agency (CNES) and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), with European Space Agency (ESA) participation, in the framework of the Canada-France 2004 celebrations.

    The ESA, CNES and the CSA became the founding parties to the Charter during the UNISPACE III conference held in July 1999. After five years in operation, the Charter has been activated more than 50 times in all parts of the world, supporting the management of disasters caused by floods, oil spills, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and fires.

    To date, the founding parties have been joined as parties to the Charter by the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and the Argentinean Space Agency (CONAE). The Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) has applied to become a party.

    The Charter is based on voluntary contributions by all parties of Earth observation satellite data. Its main purpose is to supply States or communities whose populations are exposed to risk or have been affected by a natural or technological disaster with data providing a basis for anticipating and managing potential or actual crises. It relies on limited space capabilities offered by the parties but “this is a focused, concrete demonstration of what a more ambitious programme of global environment and security monitoring can deliver to disaster mitigation and crisis management authorities”, said José Achache, ESA Director of Earth Observation Programmes.

    Sergio Camacho, Director of OOSA, expressed in the name of the UN Secretary-General his gratitude to the Charter members for the admission of the United Nations as cooperating partner since July 2003.

    Nigel Fisher, Executive Director of UNOPS, conveyed the extremely encouraging feedback received from the many humanitarian organizations, such as IFRC, UNOCHA, UNHCR, WFP and WHO, that have had access to the Charter maps prepared by the UNOSAT team and partners at the occasion of the nine most recent deadly disasters since November 2003, including the Al Hoceima earthquake in Morocco this February, and the massive floods in Haiti and Dominican Republic last month.

    Marcel Boisard, Assistant Secretary-General and UNITAR Executive Director concluded with a call to the Charter Members to extend the scope of the charter to cover complex emergencies, such as the crisis in Darfur, Sudan, where the lack of access to reliable geographic information (that can be obtained from satellites) increases the cost of delivering assistance to victims.

    Messrs. Camacho, Fisher and Boisard offered the full cooperation of UNOSAT to explore with the humanitarian users ways of improving and developing in a sustainable manner the Charter as a permanent mechanism of international solidarity and the leading interface between the Space and the UN worlds.

    For further information, please contact: Stephen Briggs, Head of Science and Applications Department, ESA/ESRIN Directorate of Earth Observation Programmes, tel.: + 39.06.941.800; Josef Aschbacher, Programme Coordinator, ESA Directorate of Earth Observation Programmes, tel.: + 33(0); Jérôme Béquignon, Programme Coordinator, Secretary of the International Charter on Space and Major Disasters, ESA Directorate of Earth Observation Programmes, tel.: +33(0); Jean-Charles Bigot, International Relations, ESA Directorate of External Relations, tel.: +33 1 5369 7738.

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