UN/Germany Expert Meeting on Space Technologies for Flood and Drought Risk Reduction, Bonn, Germany, 5-6 June 2014

Opening remarks by

Simonetta Di Pippo

Director, Office for Outer Space Affairs

Dear Mrs. Margitta Wuelker Mirbach, Federal Ministry of Economics and Energy,

Dear Ambassador Martin Frick, Federal Foreign Office,

Dear Mr. Stefan Voigt, German Aerospace Center,

Dear Ray Williamson, Secure World Foundation,

Dear Guests,

            On behalf of the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs it gives me a great pleasure to welcome you to this United Nations/Germany Expert Meeting on Space Technologies for Flood and Drought Risk Reduction which we are inaugurating this morning.

            This Expert Meeting is organised by the UN-SPIDER programme and brings together experts from around the world to share lessons learned regarding the most up-to-date space technology applications in flood and drought risk reduction.

            This meeting brings together more than 50 experts from Asia, Africa, America and Europe, who are involved in disaster risk management, remote sensing, and hydrology and drought management.  As on previous occasions, this meeting serves as a bridge to link the space and the disaster risk management communities.   The meeting aims to emerge with a set of recommendations regarding how best to promote the use of space-based applications as a way to reduce the impacts and effects of floods and droughts worldwide.  It is aimed to strengthen alliances between UN-SPIDER and its partners and to open opportunities for new synergies with many of you. Of particular relevance is the aim of the meeting to contribute to the post 2015 framework for disaster reduction.  In the course of this meeting you will discuss ways in which space-based applications can contribute to disaster risk reduction, and thereafter to the post 2015 Global Development Agenda.    

            Since 2006 UN-SPIDER has successfully led efforts to ensure that many countries access and make use of space-based information in disaster risk management and emergency response. Such information has proven extremely useful in responding to tsunamis, floods, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and droughts worldwide; as well as in the reduction of the risks associated with these hazards.

            As you are aware, disasters affect all regions of the world, and hydrometeorological disasters such as floods and droughts are the most recurrent types of disasters worldwide. And let me remind you that floods and droughts affect developing as well as developed countries.  While we may be reminded of the huge floods triggered by the Haiyan typhoon in the Philippines last year; these past weeks Serbia experienced unprecedented floods, and last year it was Germany, while the United States suffered its worst drought in many decades and a series of winter storms that affected many cities in the Eastern states.  In addition, the International Panel on Climate Change has already warned us about more frequent and more intense hydrometeorological events that will surely lead to worse disasters in the coming decades if we do not strengthen our resilience.

            The United Nations has promoted a change in paradigm from disaster response to disaster risk reduction for two decades now. The efforts conducted by the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction of the United Nations are geared to encourage governments to be more proactive rather than reactive.  The International Strategy for Disaster Reduction is now preparing the next World Conference on Disaster Reduction to take place in Sendai, Japan, as a way to launch the post 2015 framework for disaster risk reduction.  

            Now let me comment more explicitly on three initiatives that UN-SPIDER is launching as a way to mainstream the use of space-based information in the Post 2015 disaster reduction framework.

            First, UNOOSA has been involved in the Interagency consultations leading to a new framework for disaster reduction.  The aim is to highlight the relevance of space-based information.    

            Second, since the beginning of this year UN-SPIDER has been coordinating with its Regional Support Offices and with other UN agencies to plan and conduct a side event at the World Conference for Disaster Reduction.

            And third, UN-SPIDER is reaching out to international partners focusing on geospatial solutions such as GEO, GEOSS and CEOS that also conduct activities to promote the use of space-based applications in disaster risk reduction. A concerted effort on behalf of these international and regional organizations will be required to contribute to the achievement of the goals that will emerge from Sendai next year.

            Through these initiatives I would like to highlight UNOOSA's strong determination to think strategically and to address a variety of issues in the upcoming Sendai conference.

            Germany is one of the three main supporters of the UN-SPIDER programme, and UNOOSA looks forward to this support so that through UN-SPIDER developing countries increase their capacity to generate and make use of space-based information in all phases of the disaster management cycle.  The work of the UN-SPIDER Bonn Office focuses on knowledge management and this is where the UN-SPIDER Knowledge Portal is maintained and improved on a daily basis.  The UN-SPIDER Bonn Office also contributes to the UN-SPIDER programme in efforts related to technical advisory support, outreach, capacity building and awareness raising.

            It gives me a great pleasure to acknowledge the support provided by the German Federal Ministry of Economics and Energy, the German Aerospace Center and Secure World Foundation; which has been essential to conduct this expert meeting.  In addition, I would like to thank the UN-SPIDER team that has conducted a variety of efforts to conduct this expert meeting.

            I would like to conclude my opening remarks stating that I look forward to your recommendations and to the outcomes of this expert meeting, and I would like to take this opportunity to wish you an excellent time here on the UN campus.

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