United Nations/Austria Symposium on "Space Science and the United Nations", 22 - 24 September 2014, Graz, Austria

 

Opening Remarks

Simonetta Di Pippo

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Good morning to all of you!

            It is a great pleasure for me to welcome you all on behalf of the United Nations to the United Nations/Austria Symposium on "Space Science and the United Nations".

This event is being organized as part of the 2014 activities of the United Nations Programme on Space Applications, endorsed by the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS) at its fifty-sixth session in 2013 and subsequently endorsed by the United Nations General Assembly in its resolution 68/75.

            It is also the 21 st Symposium in a series of Symposiums held in Graz since 1993, which have had an important impact on guiding the work of the UN Programme on Space Applications.

            In our past Symposiums we have considered a wide range of topics, covering the role of space technology and its applications for socio-economic development, the growing importance of space industry and the private sector, the participation of youth in space activities, the substantial contributions of space activities for policy- and decision making in support of sustainable development, capacity building in small satellite development, and - in the last two years - space weather-related activities under the International Space Weather Initiative (ISWI).

            This year the focus of the Symposium will be on discussing the future role of space science in the context of the UN Programme on Space Applications.

 

Dear participants,

            I would now like to make a few remarks on how we have been addressing space science in our Programme in the past. As you probably know, Member States have given the United Nations the mandate to promote international space cooperation and to assist them with capacity building in the use of space technology and its applications. To this end the Programme on Space Applications, which is implemented by my Office, has been established in 1971.

            Since its inception, the Programme organized several hundred international conferences and training courses, bringing together space experts from developed and developing countries. It continues to provide long-term fellowship opportunities for education in various fields of space technology and its applications. The Programme also led the establishment of Regional Centres for Space Science and Technology Education, affiliated to the United Nations, which are located in Africa, Asia and the Pacific, Latin America and the Caribbean and Western Asia. We will hear more about the role of these Regional Centres in several of the presentations scheduled in our present Symposium.

            Initially the focus of the Programme was on remote sensing and satellite communications. However, it was soon realized that many countries lacked the capacity and expert knowledge to make optimal use of space applications. It was suggested that space science-related activities might be a cost-efficient starting point for capacity building in the use of space technology and its applications. To address this problem the Basic Space Science Initiative (BSSI) was launched as part of the UN Programme on Space Applications in 1991.

            BSSI was designed as a long-term effort for the development of astronomy and space science in the World by means of regional and international cooperation, particularly involving the developing countries. It contributed to promoting international cooperation, to supporting capacity building in the field of space science and to coordinating contributions from different countries in the world.

            A series of workshops were held from 1991 to 2004 and astronomical telescope facilities and planetariums, which were donated by the Government of Japan, were established and inaugurated in several developing countries. From 2005 to 2008 BSSI focused on the implementation of activities related to the International Heliophysical Year 2007 (IHY 2007). Among other achievements it resulted in the establishment of 16 worldwide instrument arrays with close to 1000 instruments, recording data on solar-terrestrial interaction.

            Finally, from 2009 to 2013 BSSI supported with its activities the International Space Weather Initiative (ISWI). Numerous scientific papers were published and BSSI helped with coordinating the contributions from different countries in the world to IHY and ISWI and enabled scientists from developing countries to participate in these activities.

            I understand that several of you have closely worked with Professor Hans Haubold, who retired from the Office for Outer Space Affairs in 2012 and who had launched and led the Basic Space Science Initiative since 1991. His work has been instrumental for the success of BSSI, on which we are building today.

 

            We are now at a decision point concerning the future role of space science activities in the context of the UN Programme on Space Applications. We are continually reviewing and adjusting our activities to ensure that they remain relevant to the mandates and priorities of the United Nations and its Members States.

            Considering the accomplishments that have been made so far and taking into account the considerable changes and developments in the field of space activities in general and in the space sciences in particular since the early 1990s, the time has come to review BSSI activities and to consider together with the international space science community the future role of space science in the overall framework of the United Nations and specifically in the Programme on Space Applications.

            For this purpose we decided to organize the present Symposium on "Space Science and the United Nations".

Our main goals in the coming two and a half days would be to:

  • Briefly review the history and assess the past accomplishments of the Basic Space Science Initiative under the United Nations Programme on Space Applications as well as past and on-going relevant activities of other organizations;
  • Discuss the future role of space science under the framework of the United Nations Programme on Space Applications and - ideally - compile a preliminary list of possible actions and activities that could be conducted under the leadership of the United Nations in cooperation with other relevant organizations.

 

            Your deliberations in the coming days will be very important for guiding our strategic planning and considerations in how to appropriately address the role of space science in the framework of the UN Programme on Space Applications.

            The observations and recommendations that will emanate from this Symposium will be transferred to Member States through the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space by means of an official report of the United Nations General Assembly.

            Before concluding my opening remarks I would like to recognize and thank all the co-sponsors who have made this Symposium possible:

  • the City of Graz,
  • the State of Styria,
  • Austrospace (the association of Austrian space industries and research institutions),
  • the European Space Agency,
  • the Committee on Space Research (COSPAR),
  • the Austrian Ministry for Transport, Innovation and Technology, and
  • the Austrian Academy of Sciences which has also kindly offered again to host this Symposium in its premises.

            I would also like to take this opportunity to thank our long-standing local organizer, JOANNEUM RESEARCH and its staff for their always-excellent support.

            Finally, I would like to thank you, the participants in this Symposium. I hope that the programme we have put together for this Symposium with the help of the international programme committee and the arrangements made by the Local Organizing Committee will provide a fertile ground for your discussions in the coming days.

            I wish you all the best for your stay here in Graz in the coming days and I am very much looking forward to the outcome of your discussions!

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