31 January 2005

United Nations Holds Informal Session on Space Technology for Disaster Management

VIENNA, 31 January (UN Information Service) -- The United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (OOSA) will host an open informal session on “Space technology for disaster management: opportunities within the United Nations system”, in Vienna on 2 February. The session will take place immediately after the 25th annual session of the United Nations Inter-Agency Meeting on Outer Space Activities, to be held from 31 January to 2 February.

The purpose of this informal open session is to exchange views and information between Member States and observers of the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS) and UN entities, on disaster management activities of the UN system involving space technology. The session will include presentations by UN agencies on initiatives and activities in disaster management through the application of space technology.

Member States will have the opportunity to familiarize themselves with initiatives like the International Charter “Space and Major Disasters” and the Natural Disaster Mitigation and Prevention Programme of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). Participants will be informed of the results of the World Conference on Disaster Reduction, held in Kobe, Japan, from 18 to 22 January. OOSA will make a presentation on a global strategy for improved risk reduction and disaster management using space technology.

The recent tsunami disaster in the Indian Ocean demonstrated the central role that space technologies can play to support emergency response. Satellite communication and global positioning systems are part of the Deep-ocean Assessment and Reporting of Tsunamis (DART) buoy, which is a system that can detect tsunamis and is already in place in the Pacific Ocean. Such a system is being planned for the Indian Ocean as well. Satellite imagery can support ongoing relief efforts by providing a bird’s eye view of the extent of the damage, contributing to identifying possible disaster pockets. In the aftermath of the tsunami disaster, many space agencies around the world programmed their satellites to take imagery of the impacted areas on a priority basis. Those images were subsequently made available to all those that could use them to study the impact of the disaster and produce maps to facilitate the relief efforts.

Representatives from the following countries and UN entities are expected to participate in the session: Australia, Austria, Bulgaria, Colombia, Cuba, Czech Republic, Germany, India, Iran, Israel, Italy, Mexico, Peru, Philippines, Romania, Slovakia, South Africa, Spain, Turkey, Ukraine, United States, Venezuela, United Nations Department for Peacekeeping Operations, OOSA, United Nations Office for Project Services, Secretariat for the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction, United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, United Nations Environment Programme, World Food Programme, United Nations Institute for Training and Research, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, World Health Organization, World Meteorological Organization and the International Atomic Energy Agency.

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The United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (OOSA) implements the decisions of the General Assembly and of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space and its two Subcommittees, the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee and the Legal Subcommittee. The Office is responsible for promoting international cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space, and assisting developing countries in using space science and technology. Located in Vienna, Austria, OOSA maintains a website at http://www.unoosa.org.

For further information:

Shuhrat Sulaymanov, Associate Programme Officer
United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs
Tel: (+43-1) 260 60 4952
E-mail: shuhrat.sulaymanov@unvienna.org