United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs

News stories from UN-SPIDER (for the latest news, click here)



UN-SPIDER missions to Fiji and Samoa

UN-SPIDER Mission team with Permanent Secretary of Provincial Development and Multi-Ethnic Affairs, Fiji.

Damage caused by Samoa tsunami hit on 30 September 2009

21 December 2009 - Upon request from the Government of Fiji, UN-SPIDER conducted a technical advisory mission (TAM) parallel to the Pacific Islands GIS and remote sensing conference in Suva, Fiji, from 1-4 December. Meetings with the Permanent Secretary for Provincial Development and Multi-Ethnic Affairs, officials of the National Disaster Management Office and experts from Land Department, Mineral Resources Department (Seismology Section), Hydrology Department, SOPAC, UNDP, UN-OCHA and PDC were conducted. These meetings provided insight into the availability of capacity within the Government of Fiji to use space-based information for disaster management and understanding of the gaps that need to be strengthened. Fiji was hit by tropical cyclone "Mick" (TC Mick) on 13 December. The links developed by UN-SPIDER during this mission helped Fiji to activate opportunities to access satellite images to cover areas affected by TC Mick.

In back-to-back missions, a TAM was also held in Samoa from 7-11 December. The mission team, who was joined by an expert from SOPAC (Secretariat of Pacific Islands Applied Geoscience Commission), evaluated the availability of space-based information and international support during tsunami response. Necessary information was gathered via discussions with officials from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (National Disaster Management Office, Mapping Section, GEF and WB consultants etc.), Meteorology Department, UN Offices (UNEP, UNDP, OCHA, WHO, FAO and UNESCO) and regional organizations (Conservation International, Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) etc.). Reports emerging from this mission, containing an evaluation of international support to provide space-based information during tsunami response and recommendations about spatial data infrastructure, capacity building and opportunities to access space based information, will be made available to relevant organization in Samoa.
Contact: Mr. Shirish Ravan (shirish.ravan@unoosa.org)

UN-SPIDER missions to Kenya and Uganda

11 November 2009 - UN-SPIDER visited Kenya and Uganda from 21 to 30 October 2009 to attend the GEOSS workshop and the AfricaGIS 2009 conference, as well as to establish a network between UN-SPIDER, UN-agencies and Government offices in Kenya.
UN-SPIDER presented their activities in Africa to the Kenya Humanitarian Forum, which generating greater awareness among the over 45 UN and Government officials who gathered to discuss contingency plans. Further, this meeting strengthened the link with local UN Offices to implement further activities such as Technical Advisory Missions (TAMs) and providing support during crisis response situations. UN-SPIDER visited the Rift valley provincial Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) platform in Nakuru City, in-charge of 68 districts, which is often affected by landslides and draughts. The visit's outcome identified the need for closer ties between the UN-SPIDER and the National Focal Point, as well as the need for a TAM at the national level, including provincial DRR platforms.
UN-SPIDER/UNOOSA chaired the special session on Space Based Information for disaster management and held a key note address at the AfricaGIS 2009 Conference, and enabled one participant each from Zimbabwe and Lesotho to attend and present their case studies. A formal meeting with the DRR Platform Focal Point with the Office of the Prime Minister of Uganda was held to introduce and generate awareness about the benefits of the UN-SPIDER framework and activities conducted at the governmental level.
Contact: Mr. Shirish Ravan (shirish.ravan@unoosa.org)

Successful Third International UN-SPIDER Bonn Workshop

05 November 2009 - This year's UN-SPIDER Workshop took place from 21 to 23 October and focused on the ways in which concepts could be implemented as projects and actual applications. Climate change and desertification received particular attention during the workshop seeing that they pose special challenges to the disaster management community. Some considerable weight was also placed on the use of space applications in the health sector.
The Workshop was inaugurated with speeches by the Ambassador of Germany to the United Nations in Vienna, His Excellency Rüdiger Lüdeking, by the Ambassador of Namibia to Germany, His Excellency Neville Gertze, by Ms. Margitta Wülker-Mirbach of the German Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology, and by Mr. David Stevens Programme Coordinator of the UN-SPIDER Programme.
The role of UN-SPIDER as a bridge between the satellite technology and the disaster management communities was acknowledged by all keynote speakers. Ambassador Lüdeking highlighted the importance of the exploration and use of outer space to the benefit of all countries and populations worldwide. He further confirmed the commitment of the German government to space-based approaches, including the work of UN-SPIDER and its continuity.
Ambassador Gertze acknowledged the support of UN-SPIDER to his country, which has been repeatedly affected by floods in recent years and which has established a close cooperation with the UN-SPIDER programme. Ms. Margitta Wülker-Mirbach expressed the appreciation of the German government for the progress made by UN-SPIDER since its inception and emphasized Germany's commitment to a multilateral approach to bring together space-based information and disaster management.

UN-SPIDER accomplishes first Technical Advisory Mission to Latin America in Ecuador

Ecuador TAM 20 October 2009 - UN-SPIDER successfully conducted its Technical Advisory Mission to Ecuador between 29 Sept and 08 October of this year. The mission was conducted with the support of experts from INPE of Brazil, and CONAE of Argentina, and with two staff members from UN-SPIDER. The mission was coordinated at the national level with the National Secretariat for Risk Management, the Pro-Tempore Secretariat of the V Space Conference of the Americas, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ecuador. The Mission benefited from the regional workshop conducted by UN-SPIDER a week earlier, as during the workshop many Ecuadorian agencies made presentations displaying how they were using space-based information for a variety of purposes targeting all phases of the disaster management cycle.
The mission was conducted through a series of institutional visits and meetings with representatives from the National Secretariat for Risk Management and with staff from the Pro-Tempore Secretariat in Ecuador. It allowed UN-SPIDER experts to recognize the fact that Ecuador is fairly well advanced in the use of space-based information for a variety of purposes. In addition, the Mission was made aware of the efforts which the recently-elected government is promoting towards a more efficient management and use of information to ensure a more transparent and efficient public investment.
The mission allowed UN-SPIDER to gain knowledge on the scope of activities conducted by Ecuador regarding the use of space-based information for disaster reduction, and will serve as a basis to provide the Government of Ecuador recommendations on how to improve its use of space-based information to support all phases of the disaster cycle. In addition, the mission and its outcomes will serve as a complementary example to the four missions which were previously conducted to African countries.

UN-SPIDER Regional Workshop in Quito a great success

Ecuador WS group

20 October 2009 - UN-SPIDER conducted its regional workshop "Aplicaciones Espaciales en la Gestión para la Reducción del Riesgo y para la Respuesta en caso de Desastres" in Quito, Ecuador, between 29 September and 2 October of this year with the presence of more than 60 participants from 17 countries. The event benefitted considerably from the support provided by different agencies of the Governments of Spain and Ecuador.
The workshop was inaugurated by representatives from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Commerce and Integration; the Ambassador of Spain; the Lady Director of the National Secretariat for Risk Management; the Commander of the Air Force of Ecuador, and the representative from UN-SPIDER. The purpose of the workshop was to gather inputs to draft a plan of action for this region of the world, and to establish a regional thematic partnership on the use of space-based information to support the full disaster management cycle. The event included plenary presentations where experts displayed examples of recent advances in the use of space-based information for disaster-risk management and emergency response and group sessions where participants discussed a variety of issues concerning the use of such information within the context of four themes:
• Policies to institutionalize the use of this information at national level
• harmonization of efforts at national, regional, and international levels
• Sustainability of efforts
• Capacity Building approaches
The event was used to present general aspects concerning the UN-SPIDER programme and it was used to meet representatives from countries and from regional and international organizations; to advance talks on future Technical Advisory Missions, and to link the space community and the disaster management community.

UN-SPIDER follows-up on Pilot Project on Namibian SensorWeb

Namibian SensorWeb Pilot project in Bonn

09 September 2009 UN-SPIDER hosted a Technical Expert Meeting in Bonn, Germany, to further develop the "Namibian SensorWeb Pilot project on integrated flood management and water- and vector-borne disease modelling'. This meeting brought together about thirty persons, among them a delegation from the Department of Water Affairs, Ministry of Agriculture Water and Forestry (MAWF) in Namibia, representatives from the German Space Agency (DLR), NASA, NOAA, Ukraine Space Research Institute (SRI), City University of New York, Johns Hopkins University - Bloomberg School of Public Health as well as colleagues from other UN organisations located in Bonn such as UNU-EHS, UNISDR-PPEW and UNW-DPC.
A delegation of the expert group presented the pilot project initiative to the Namibian ambassador in Germany, Excellency Neville Gertze, visiting the UN-Campus in Bonn.
The pilot is envisaged to combining high resolution satellite imagery with in-situ data and modelling approaches in order to derive useful flood and water-borne disease forecasting tools for local decision makers in the sense of a scientifically sound, operational transboundary flood management system for the Southern African region. Submission of proposal to international donors is foreseen to implement this joint effort.

Successful UN-SPIDER Technical Advisory Mission to Togo

Group Photo Togo TAM 30 July 2009 - From 13 to 17 July 2009, UN-SPIDER conducted a technical advisory mission to Togo upon the official request of the Togolese Government to assess the existing use of space-based technology and information for disaster management and emergency response in the country. Following Burkina Faso, Ghana and Namibia this was the fourth UN-SPIDER advisory mission to Africa.
The mission was successful in connecting various organizations involved in disaster management within the country and also within the region and to generate awareness amongst these organizations to undertake collective efforts towards the incorporation of space-based information to support disaster management activities. It also pointed out the need to update national disaster management plans with emphasis on space-based technology and information and boosted efforts to establish a National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI) in Togo. The mission team succeeded in strengthening the links of Togo with a number of regional organizations which will help the country in developing capacity building plans and in benefiting from advisory support from these regional organizations in the long-term.
Together with UN-SPIDER staff members, a number of different international institutions delegated experts to this mission, among them the UN-OCHA Regional Office West Africa (Senegal), the World Health Organisation, the National Space Research and Development Agency (Nigeria), the Regional Centre for Training in Aerospace Surveys (Nigeria), and the African Regional Centre for Space Science and Technology Education in French Language (Morocco). This broad range of expertise and in-depth knowledge guaranteed a high quality of technical advise and an excellent base for ensuring partnerships and cooperation.

Destination Togo: Fourth UN-SPIDER Technical Advisory Mission to Africa

Togo mission 2 July 2009 - In March 2009, the Government of Togo officially requested a UN-SPIDER technical advisory mission to assess the existing use of space-based technology and information for disaster management and emergency response in Togo. The mission, which is scheduled for 13 to 16 July 2009, is specifically enquired to identify potential areas where space-based technology and information could play a greater role, and propose recommendations how to improve Togo's access to and use of space-based technology and information.
Following Burkina Faso, Ghana and Namibia this will be the fourth advisory mission to Africa. Next to two UN-SPIDER staff members, a number of different international institutions will delegate external experts to this mission, among them the UN-OCHA Regional Office West Africa (Senegal), the UN-International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR), the World Health Organisation (WHO) (tbc), the National Space Research and Development Agency (Nigeria), the Regional Centre for Training in Aerospace Surveys (RECTAS), the African Regional Centre for Space Science and Technology Education in French Language (CRASTE-LF) (Morocco) and the Economic Community Of West African States (ECOWAS). This broad range of expertise and in-depth knowledge will guarantee a high quality of technical advise and an excellent base for south-south cooperation and technology transfer at the same time.

Launch of the "SPIDER Global Thematic Partnership" at the Global Platform for Disaster Reduction

Global Platform for Disaster Reduction 19 June 2009 - The Second Session of the Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction took place in Geneva on 15-19 June 2009. At the session, UN-SPIDER culminated its year-long effort towards the establishment of the "SPIDER Global Thematic Partnership". This partnership will serve as a forum to facilitate networking among the global community of practitioners involved in space-based information and services to support disaster risk management. UN-SPIDER is launching this Global Thematic Partnership as an effort to facilitate the access to space-based information for disaster reduction, in line with efforts conducted by ISDR, in particular to support national and regional platforms in their activities regarding disaster risk reduction. If your institution is interested in joining this Partnership please contact Mr. Juan Carlos Villagran (E-mail: juan-carlos.villagran [at] unoosa.org).

Four UN-SPIDER Regional Support Offices officially launched in signing ceremony

RSO signing 4 June 2009 - During the 52nd Session of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS), the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs signed cooperation agreements to establish UN-SPIDER Regional Support Offices with the I.R. Iran, Nigeria, Romania, and the Asian Disaster Reduction Center. The establishment of the Regional Support Offices was agreed by the United Nations General Assembly in its Resolution 61/110, stating that UNOOSA should "work closely with regional and national centres of expertise in the use of space technology in disaster management to form a network of regional support offices for implementing the activities of the [UN-SPIDER] programme in their respective regions in a coordinated manner and to take advantage of the important experience and capabilities being offered, and to be offered, by Member States, particularly by developing countries". These four Regional Support Offices will contribute to ensuring that all countries are able to access and use space-based information to support disaster management activities. Additional offers to host a Regional Support Office have been put forward by Algeria, Pakistan, Philippines, South Africa and Ukraine.

UN-SPIDER International Workshop in Vienna

Vienna WS 4 June 2009 - The United Nations International UN-SPIDER Vienna Workshop: "Building Capacities to Reduce Disasters" which took place on 2-4 June 2009 and had the support of the Government of Austria, brought together 78 participants from 34 counties. The objectives of the workshop were to present the most recent advances in space-based technologies for disaster management and emergency response, to review and finalize the proposed Capacity-Building Strategy, and to provide continuity to activities being conducted by UN-SPIDER in Small Island Developing States (SIDS), particularly in the context of climate change and disaster risk management. The workshop was organized to coincide with the 52nd Session of the Committee on Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS), allowing delegates from Members States attending the COPUOS session to be present at various segments of the workshop. The workshop set the stage for UN-SPIDER to advance its agenda in the context of capacity building, bridging the gap, and SIDS. The establishment of an Expert Group on Capacity Building will allow UN-SPIDER to advance in the elaboration of the curricula, and subsequently in the collection and classification of contents to be included in training programmes. Finally, the results of the discussions held on bridging the gap finalised the proposal for a "SPIDER Global Thematic Partnership" which was launched during the Second Session of the GPDRR and also contributed to shaping the proposed SpaceAID framework.

Map World Forum in Hyderabad, India

UN-SPIDER at Map World Forum 27 February 2009 - The Map World Forum in Hyderabad, India attracted an estimated 1780 delegates and 560 visitors from 48 countries during its proceedings from 10-13 February 2009. The conference, opened by the Vice President of India, was organized by GIS Development, a geospatial media company based in India, under the theme: "Geospatial Technology for Sustainable Planet Earth". Map World Forum brought together geospatial professionals and users of geospatial data from various industries, such as finance, management, technology, the environment and government. UN-SPIDER, as an Institutional Partner to the Forum, was represented by Senior Expert Dr. Jörg Szarzynski, who attended as a speaker within the seminar on "Coastal Zone Mapping for Disaster Management". The discussions after the UN-SPIDER presentation focused on data availability in case of natural hazards, legal frameworks and data policy, and further activities of the UN-SPIDER programme.

UN-SPIDER Technical Mission and Training in Namibia

taking ground control points in Namibia 12 February 2009 - Namibia's northern provinces experience almost yearly floods of great extent and duration. Following a request of the Government of Namibia, UN-SPIDER fielded a mission of three experts from UN-SPIDER and the German Aerospace Center's crisis information team (DLR/ZKI) to Windhoek to provide technical advice and train local experts in remote sensing techniques for flood mapping. A two day kick-off workshop on 29 and 30 January 2009 brought together relevant disaster management stakeholders to evaluate past experiences and formulate lessons learnt. A field visit to the flood-prone region with hands-on training on GPS applications for disaster managers followed by a training for technical experts to improve end-user adapted geospatial emergency response products and services completed the mission.
UN-SPIDER's cooperation with the Department for Water Affairs in Namibia builds on experiences gathered during the devastating 2008 floods in southern Africa. The UN-SPIDER Bonn workshop in October 2008 provided an opportunity to assess end-user needs and come up with concrete support activities before the next flood season. The workshop and training were funded by the German Technical Cooperation (GTZ).

UN-SPIDER Strengthens Collaboration with Bonn-based UN Agencies and Related Organizations

director bonn 20 January 2009 - During an official visit to the UN-SPIDER Office in Bonn, Germany, in December 2008, UNOOSA Director Mazlan Othman held a day of discussions with Bonn-based UN agencies and German organizations to review past collaboration and explore future opportunities. The UN meeting included representatives from the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction - Platform for the Promotion of Early Warning (UN/ISDR-PPEW), the World Health Organization - Regional Office for Europe, European Centre for Environment and Health (WHO-ECEH), and the Consulting Unit of the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) on Biodiversity and Tourism for Tsunami Affected Countries. "The Bonn office provides excellent opportunities to work together as One UN across different programmes and agencies and fully utilize synergies to support disaster risk reduction efforts worldwide and other priority areas of the Office" observed Director Othman.
She also held discussions on the German contribution to UN-SPIDER with the German Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology. After a visit to the DLR Institute of Aerospace Medicine, future areas of collaboration with the German Aerospace Center (DLR) were discussed with the Vice Chairman of the Executive Board, the head of International Cooperation, and the deputy director of the German Remote Sensing Data Center. "There is a great potential to strengthen common activities between UNOOSA and DLR within the fields of disaster management, climate change and basic space science and technology" said Ms Othman.

1st Regional Conference on Geoinformatics: Disaster Management and Early Warning Systems, Kuwait

Dust storm Gulf (c) ESA 19 December 2008 - The Gulf region faces a specific combination of hazards including climate change, drought, sand storms, air pollution, oil spills and landslide-caused tsunami. Government authorities and research institutions in the region are increasingly aware of the need to dispose of appropriate geo-spatial and space-based technology to successfully meet this challenge. This first regional conference on Geoinformatics, held from 24 to 26 November 2008 in Kuwait, was organized by the Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research (KISR) and the Kuwait Foundation for the Advancement of Sciences (KFAS) in cooperation with the National Authority for Remote Sensing and Space Sciences (NARSS), Egypt, to assess the application of geo-technology for disaster management and early warning systems.
Participants from Egypt, Italy, Libya, Oman, Syria, the United Kingdom and the United Nations (UN-SPIDER and WHO) presented case studies, research results and national experiences. The implementation of advanced communication and information technology, e.g. to ensure interoperability of subsystems in the generation of common operational pictures in situation centres, as well as decision support systems are thought to play a key role in strengthening disaster management in the region. Possible areas of collaboration between Kuwait and UN-SPIDER were also discussed.

Technical Advisory Mission to Burkina Faso


11 December 2008 - In June 2008, the Government of Burkina Faso officially requested a UN-SPIDER Technical Advisory Mission to assess the use of space-based information for disaster management and emergency response in Burkina Faso, and to identify potential areas where space-based information could play a greater role. A five-member team of international experts conducted the Technical Advisory Mission in Burkina Faso from 17 to 21 November 2008. Among other issues, the mission team discussed how space-based technology could contribute to information management in different sectors of disaster management, such as drought and flood monitoring, control of epidemics, or locust invasion. The International Charter "Space and Major Disasters," a mechanism to support emergency response services worldwide with satellite-derived disaster information, was presented to national institutions. Also presented were successful early warning systems in the region, such as locust invasion warning systems.
The mission team included experts from the Algerian Space Agency (ASAL), the French Space Agency (CNES), UNOCHA's Regional Office for West Africa in Dakar, Senegal, and UN-SPIDER. The team visited a total of 15 institutions, including nine governmental institutions, four UN organizations (UNDP, UNOCHA, WFP, WHO), and one bilateral institution (FEWSNET). Preliminary results were presented during a debriefing session at the end of the mission. A technical report with recommendations is being prepared, which will be presented to the COPUOS Scientific and Technical Sub-committee in February 2009. Furthermore, a strategy is being developed to explore what kind of follow-up mechanisms may be implemented in Burkina Faso in terms of capacity development and institutional strengthening.

African Association of Remote Sensing for the Environment (AARSE) Conference in Accra, Ghana

AARSE opening with drummers

27 November 2008 - UN-SPIDER, one of the sponsors of the AARSE conference (African Association of Remote Sensing for the Environment) held from 27 to 31 October 2008 in Accra, Ghana, co-chaired a special session on "Disaster Management and Early Warning Systems" together with UNEDRA, the University Network for Disaster Risk Reduction in Africa. Researchers linked to UNEDRA presented the results of recent studies in Africa, some of which were cross-border research initiatives, on issues such as vulnerability assessments in mangrove areas, desertification, and flood monitoring. UN-SPIDER's regional initiatives and cooperating partners were also presented. Several papers featured innovative approaches to integrate remotely sensed data and socio-economic indicators in a framework of vulnerability.
The conference also offered the opportunity for a side-meeting with the National Disaster Management Office of Ghana, which brought together institutions from Ghana and the region to discuss how space-based technology could contribute to disaster management in the country.

Regional workshop in Morocco on the Use of Space Technology for Disaster Management/Atelier Régional sur L'Outil Spatial au Service de la Gestion des Catastrophes au Maroc


27 November 2008 - The workshop on the "Use of Space Technology for Disaster Management and Emergency Response - Technical, Organisational and Legal Aspects" took place from 10 to 12 November 2008 in Rabat, Morocco. The workshop was organized by the Regional Centre for Space Science and Technology in French Language (CRASTE-LF) jointly with UN-SPIDER, the Islamic Educational, Science and Cultural Organisation (IESCO), the Islamic Development Bank, the Centre Royal de Télédétection Spatiale (CRTS) and the Ecole Mohammedia d'Ingénieur (EMI). The workshop, which was attended by 130 participants from 23 countries, covered four main themes: Space technology available for disaster management, regional and international initiatives for disaster management, national experiences and space law.
A large number of regional and international initiatives presented at the workshop. Participants also appreciated very much the exchange of experiences with space technology and space-based information for disaster management gained in many different countries of the region. The workshop programme and presentations are available for download. The recommendations of this workshop will be posted at the website of CRASTE-LF.

French version/version française:
Un workshop intitulé "L'Outil Spatial au Service de la Gestion des Catastrophes et des Situations d'Urgence en Afrique - Aspects Techniques, Organisationnelles et Juridiques" a eu lieu les 10, 11 et 12 novembre 2008 à Rabat (Maroc). L'atelier a été Organisé par le Centre Régional Africain des Sciences et Technologies de l'Espace en Langue Française (CRASTE-LF) conjointement avec le Bureau des Affaires spatiales de l'ONU à Vienne (programme UN-SPIDER), l'Organisation Islamique pour l'Education, les Sciences et la Culture (ISESCO), la Banque Islamique de Développement (BID), le Centre Royal de Télédétection Spatiale (CRTS - Maroc) et l'Ecole Mohammedia d'Ingénieur (EMI - Maroc).
L'atelier qui a vu la participation de plus de 130 participants de 23 pays était organisé autour de quatre principaux thèmes: Panorama des techniques spatiales pour la gestion des catastrophes, initiatives régionales et internationales pour la gestion des catastrophes, expériences nationales pour la gestion des catastrophes, et aspects juridiques et droit spatial.
Un nombre important d'initiatives régionales et internationales sont intervenues au cours de l'atelier et le contenu des présentations des expériences nationales était très riche. Nous vous invitations à jeter un coup d'œil sur le programme et sur les communications. Les recommandations finales seront contenues dans un rapport qui est en train d'être rédigé et qui sera bientôt disponible sur le site du CRASTE-LF.


UN-SPIDER International Workshop in Bonn/Germany


21 October 2008 - On 13-15 October 2008, over a hundred international experts and decision-makers from over forty countries gathered at the UN Campus in Bonn to participate in the Second United Nations International UN-SPIDER Bonn Workshop: "Disaster Management and Space Technology - Bridging the Gap." At the Workshop, the delegates were enthusiastic about the first preview of the UN-SPIDER "Knowledge Portal," a web-based platform for knowledge exchange and communication. Throughout the remainder of the workshop, the delegates contributed additional improvements to the Knowledge Portal and joined "Core Groups" to continue these discussions even after the close of the workshop. The Workshop also stressed the importance of vulnerability and risk assessment, early warning stystems, and health aspects in the context of disasters.
Those in attendance included experts from international organizations such as OCHA, UNHCR, and WFP; and regional organizations such as the European Commision. Many space agencies and national civil protection agencies were present, including those from China, Europe, India, Iran, Nigeria, Ukraine, and the United States. The Workshop was organized by the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) and the German Aerospace Center (DLR), with support from the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction - Platform for the Promotion of Early Warning (ISDR/PPEW) and the United Nations University - Institute for Environment and Human Security (UNU-EHS).

UN-SPIDER Regional Workshop for the Pacific


3 October 2008 - Over 50 decision makers and senior experts from disaster management and space technology communities from 17 Pacific Island countries and neighbouring regions gathered in Suva, Fiji, from 16 to 19 September 2008, for a UN-SPIDER regional workshop. The workshop was organized in cooperation with the Pacific Islands Applied Geoscience Commission ( SOPAC) and UNESCAP.
Many disaster management offices on the Pacific islands have only extremely limited resources available in terms of man power and financial resources. The islands are far from each other, and many islands do not have populations big enough to allow the maintenance of costly infrastructure. In the case of disaster, help may be thousands of miles away and take days to arrive. Identifying vulnerable populations in advance, monitoring hazards to be able to warn early enough, be it an approaching cyclone or a slow-onset coastal erosion reinforced by global climate change, are therefore key to successful disaster management in the Pacific. Regional and international networking are thought to play a prominent role to make space-based information and technology more accessible in the Pacific region. The workshop participants were also invited to attend the launch of the Pacific Disaster Net ( www.pacificdisaster.net), a web-based portal that will help to link disaster management specialists and resources throughout the Pacific region.

Spring School on Spatial Solutions for Disaster Management in Brazil


18 September 2008 - From 8 to 12 September 2008, the "Spring School on Natural Disasters and Spatial Solutions for Disaster Management - Flooding" took place in Santa Maria/Brazil. The Spring School, organized by Campus Brazil of CRECTEALC and supported by UN-SPIDER, INPE/GEODESASTRES-SUL, GEO, PNUMA, and UFSM brought together 35 participants from 11 countries in South America. This year's course set focus on emergency response for floods, a major causes of disasters in Latin America. Young professionals from both disaster management and geosciences backgrounds exchanged their experiences and were introduced to new space-based approaches. Availability of free satellite imagery, specific techniques for image processing to detect flooded areas and the integration of field work, civil defense and the national health authority through geo-technologies were some of the topics covered. Course participants were enthusiastic when discovering how the integration of spatial information on flood events through common data protocols can lead to a better coordination and response delivery by civil defense and national health authorities.
During the Spring School, Ms Tania Maria Sausen, who coordinated the course, was awarded a silver medal from Civil Defense Brazil for outstanding research on geo-technologies for disaster management with her research group at GEODESASTRES-SUL.

Supporting national disaster management in Burkina Faso


11 September 2008 - Following a request of the Government of Burkina Faso, UN-SPIDER staff member Joerg Szarzynski met with representatives from several ministries and institutions in Ouagadougou on 29 August 2008 to discuss UN-SPIDER's support to disaster management in the country: Ministère de l'Environnement et du Cadre de vie, Programme National de Gestion de l'Information sur le Milieu (PNGIM), Ministère de l'action Sociale/Conseil national des Secours d'Urgence (CONASUR), Ministère des Affaires Etrangères, l'Institut Géographique du Burkina, Ministère des Transports, Direction de la Météorologie, and the WHO/AFRO Multi-Disease Surveillance Center. An important objective of UN-SPIDER's is the further development and integration of space-based technology within already existing national disaster management plans including through technical advisory missions.
Improved regional early warning systems, which combine ground measurements with satellite-based data collection, have led to advances in weather and climate prediction and improved our understanding of the relationships between human health and the environment. Integrating such regional systems into disaster risk reduction programmes is key to strengthening national disaster management. The vulnerability of West African countries such as Burkina Faso to climate and environmental changes is likely to increase as demands on resources continue to rise in association with rapidly growing populations. Epidemics of weather- and climate-sensitive infectious diseases, such as malaria, meningitis, and cholera, cause massive disruption to societies and overburden national health systems. A visit to the Multi-Disease Surveillance Center revealed the importance of health in the context of disaster management, especially the distribution of vector-borne diseases.

International conference on 'Global Change and Water Resources in West Africa'

11 September 2008 - More than 200 researchers, politicians and stakeholders from around the world attended the international conference 'Global Change and Water Resources in West Africa', in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, from 25 to 28 August 2008. The conference offered a platform for researchers to meet with West African politicians and stakeholders from Burkina Faso, Ghana, Benin, and Morocco in the framework of the GLOWA (Global Change in the Hydrological Cycle) program. The conference was hosted by the German Federal Ministry for Education and Research (BMBF) and organized by the Center for Development Research (ZEF) of Bonn University, Germany. UN-SPIDER was represented by Joerg Szarzynski who presented UN-SPIDER activities. He was also selected as member of the international panel that evaluated the conference.
Climate projections for the West African region indicate an increasing trend in the occurrence of weather extremes. The disaster management agencies in the region will have to cope with a higher number of natural disasters, especially droughts and floods. Vector borne diseases and locust plagues additionally deteriorate the living conditions of the local population.
After the conference, several regional excursions were offered to the participants, among them a visit to in-situ measurement locations of a bio-geophysical observation network that was established in frame of the GLOWA projects. This system is contributing to the national hydro-meteorological network that provides information for weather forecasting and related early warning messages. It combines important features of instrumental ground measurement and remote sensing techniques. The multiscale data collection is progressively incorporated into a web-based GIS database. The experimental sites are used for comprehensive ground-truth surveys, essential for the assessment of the accuracy of classified satellite imagery. Additionally, they serve to build capacity in the region by providing training opportunities for local students and research scientists.

International Disaster and Risk Conference (IDRC) 2008

Davos Congress

08 September 2008 - The activities of UN-SPIDER were presented at the International Disaster and Risk Conference (IDRC) 2008 in Davos, Switzerland, 25-29 August. During a session dedicated to the role of the Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS) in integral risk management, the ongoing cooperation between UN-SPIDER and GEOSS was outlined and discussed. Several organizations at the session, including CATHALAC (Water Center for the Humid Tropics of Latin America and the Caribbean) and JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency), showed their interest in cooperating with UN-SPIDER.
The motto of IDRC Davos 2008 was "Public-private partnership - Key for integral risk management and climate change mitigation and adaptation," reflecting the need for holistic and collaborative solutions in view of increasing numbers of disasters and enhanced vulnerability. Under the patronage of UN-ISDR, UNESCO and UNEP and in collaboration with a large number of other international institutions including FAO, OECD and the World Bank, the conference brought together more than 1,000 representatives from international bodies, national governments, disaster management and relief organisations, science and research, and private companies. Major topics were Climate Change Adaptation and Disaster Risk Reduction, Critical Infrastructure Protection and Resilience, Pandemics and Diseases, and Integral Risk Management. The last plenary session was dedicated to an in-depth analysis of the May 12 earthquake in Wenchuan/China.

Floods in Nepal and Bihar/India

Nepal Floods, ©IFRC/Nepal, NIP.

29 August 2008 - Heavy flooding in southeast Nepal and the Bihar state of India occurred after the Kosi river broke its banks. The river inundated a dry river bed and flooded scores of villages in both countries. Over 3 million people were displaced in India, and more than 70,000 flood victims needed assistance in Nepal.
In order to provide emergency services up-to-date geographic information regarding the extent of the flooded area and the further development of the river's course, UN agencies requested UNOOSA to activate the International Charter "Space and Major Disasters", a mechanism which provides for the rapid acquisition of satellite imagery over disaster areas. By utilizing radar satellites which could "see through" the monsoon cloud cover, mapping agencies obtained a true picture of the flooded area. Maps from the satellite data are being collected at the International Charter webpage. An early result from DLR/ZKI can also be found here. (Photo credit: ©IFRC/Nepal, NIP)

UN-SPIDER Workshop Leads to Successful Volcanic Crisis Observation in Montserrat

Montserrat volcano (c) DLR 2008

15 August 2008 - On 26 July 2008, seismic activity at the Soufriere Hills Volcano started to increase in Montserrat, a British Overseas Territory in the Caribbean. This volcano has been intermittently active for 13 years. On 28 July, an explosion took place on the west side of a large lava dome at the summit. The dome partially collapsed, and there was a strong possibility that the explosion had caused instability in the rest of the dome, which could cause further collapses and endanger inhabited areas of the island. Staff at the Montserrat Volcano Observatory (MVO) were not able to make any assessment of the stability of the dome due to persistent clouds obscuring the volcano. Within this backdrop, Roderick Stewart, Acting Director of MVO, requested assistance from the scientific community, including his fellow participants at the recent UN-SPIDER workshop for the Caribbean region, in order to obtain satellite imagery of the Volcano.
The assistance obtained led to several satellite imagery acquisitions and the activation of the International Charter "Space and Major Disasters." The imagery data allowed MVO to determine that the lava dome had not been destabilized by the explosion. As a result, the Government of Montserrat was able to save valuable resources by cancelling an evacuation that had been ordered as a precautionary measure. Reviewing the chain of events that led to this positive outcome, Mr. Stewart remarked, "I would particularly like to thank the forces that got me to the UN-SPIDER meeting in Barbados. None of this would have happened if I hadn't been there."

UN-SPIDER Support to Wenchuan Earthquake Relief Efforts

28 July 2008 - UNOOSA/UN-SPIDER received thanks from the China National Committee for Disaster Reduction (CNCDR) and the National Disaster Reduction Centre of China (NDRCC) for providing support to China during the recent catastrophic Wenchuan Earthquake which occurred on 12 May 2008. The National Disaster Reduction Centre of China (NDRCC) took the lead in using space-based information to support the emergency relief efforts. The UN-SPIDER Support Team, a group of experts made available by NDRCC for the upcoming UN-SPIDER Beijing Office, coordinated the work of nearly 40 analysts, mostly volunteers (see picture Mr. Liu San Chao, Ms. Li Suju, Head of the UN-SPIDER Support Team, and Mr. Wei Wu, 7 June 2008). The thank-you letter specifically recognised that the support received from UN-SPIDER helped China "coordinate with international agencies to provide to us satellite images of the earthquake areas" and that this was "very helpful in our timely acquirement of first hand information for the disaster assessment." In particular they thanked UN-SPIDER Programme Coordinator, David Stevens, "who came to Beijing and provided useful suggestions about our work". The support received "played a unique role in assisting our estimation about the magnitude of damage and greatly empowered the rescue and relief efforts to reduce the casualties and damage. While expressing our gratitude to your institution for your timely and most needed support, I wish that we continue our close cooperation in application for space technologies in disaster prevention and reduction for benefiting the people." China has been a major supporter of UN-SPIDER.

Disaster management in the Caribbean

Barbados workshop

08 July 2008 - From 08 to 11 July 2008, more than 60 participants from Caribbean attended a UN-SPIDER workshop on Space-based Solutions for Disaster Management in the Caribbean region. The workshop brought together disaster managers from civil protection agencies, satellite technology and remote sensing experts, representatives from UN agencies and other institutions working in the region to discuss how satellite-based information and technology can improve disaster management. "Satellite-based information already plays an important role in the Caribbean for early warning and damage assessment but we have not yet fully utilized its great potential for disaster preparedness and risk reduction" says David Stevens, the UN-SPIDER coordinator. The Caribbean is regularly hit by hurricanes and tropical storms but volcanic eruptions, tsunamis, floods and landslides also constitute important hazards in the region. Additional information on the workshop can be found here.

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