ESPI Evening Event in Cooperation with UNOOSA - Tuesday, 3 February 2015


Introductory remarks by 

Ms. Simonetta Di Pippo

Director of the Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA)

Dear Participants,

I am very pleased to see you all here at this seminar co-organized with ESPI. The topic is selected given the importance of recognizing the need for space tools in meeting the challenges to global health. Those challenges are among the major concerns to global socio-economic sustainable development. The Scientific and Technical Subcommittee is reinforcing its long-standing attention to the role of space science and technology for global health not least through the newly established expert group on space and global health under the leadership of Canada.

For your information the Office for Outer Space Affairs is currently working with WHO and other United Nations system entities in preparing a comprehensive special report of UN-Space on the overarching theme of "Space and Global Health" to be presented to the fifty-eighth session of COPUOS in June this year. The Office is also working with WHO to organize an expert seminar later this spring directly targeting health issues. I also refer you to the previous organized workshops and expert seminars where the Office together with Member States and the scientific community brought to attention the various space technology tools in the area of tele-health, thus the wide range of tele medicine, tele-epidemiology, and research applications, including within the advanced research conducted on the International Space Station (ISS).

Allow me to refer to the statement by the Chair of the Subcommittee delivered yesterday in Plenary, where he raised the issue of global health in conjunction with our efforts to meet the objectives of the post-2015 development agenda and sustainable development goals. The General Assembly resolution 69/85 from last year deserves to be recalled, where by the Assembly raises its deep concern about the devastating effects of infectious diseases, in particular the Ebola virus disease, to the detriment of human life, society and development, and urges the international community, in particular scientific and academic institutions, to undertake studies on the role of tele-epidemiology in monitoring, preparedness and response activities.

There are more than a thousand infectious diseases, of which some are among the most important causes of death in developing countries. Half of the world's population lives in affected areas. Malaria alone infects hundreds of million persons each year, killing at least a million. Other vector- and water-borne diseases and epidemics of weather- and climate-sensitive infectious diseases, including meningitis and cholera, cause massive disruption to societies and put a heavy burden on national health systems.

Next to malaria, water-borne diseases such as cholera and diarrhoea are the major contributing factors of morbidity and mortality in the developing world. The incidence of water-borne diseases highly correlates with environmental and climatic variables. As an example, modern water-borne diseases forecasting systems utilize satellite information jointly with population distribution, epidemiological and entomological data to predict disease outbreaks and thus allow health officials to respond.

In addition, disaster management agencies in numerous areas of the world have to adapt to an increasing number of natural disasters caused by floods and droughts. The effects of global climate change will most probably aggravate this situation. Disasters triggered by certain environmental conditions, such as locust plagues, also contribute to endangering the food security of the local population. The risk of epidemics can also be dramatic within days and weeks following a disaster where accessibility to clean water or health facilities can be limited, and access to affected areas impossible. As a way of improving accessibility to space-derived information, UN-SPIDER, a programme under UNOOSA with a network of Regional Support Offices around the World, is regularly undertaking technical advisory missions, conducting capacity-building and pursuing awareness raising, including through its Knowledge Portal, in order for all countries to have equal access to and benefit from space-based tools for disaster risk reduction.

Let me bring you back to the overarching global development agenda. This is the time to make the overall governance of the peaceful uses of outer space an integral part of the international community's global commitments on sustainable development. We are now steadily moving towards the post-2015 development agenda, including a review of the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals, and the launch of new sustainable development objectives. It is, therefore, important to demonstrate to the international community the essential role of space in development, particularly within the context of the outcome of the Rio+20 Conference and the emerging post-2015 development agenda.

Ensuring global health of current and future generations is one of the major challenges to meeting the Millennium Development Goals, and will remain central in the post-2015 development agenda. Climate change, disasters, food in-security, and challenges to sustainable water management and sanitation, as well as economic crisis pose a risk to threaten investment, progress and achievements made so far in bringing sustainable health for all people, in particular the poor and vulnerable.

The post-2015 development agenda requires effective and innovative tools to support its implementation. Among those tools are the ones offered by space science and technology. The use of space technology applications in fighting the spread of diseases is becoming an important tool. Satellite remote sensing, global navigation satellite systems and geographic information systems make it easier to integrate ecological, environmental and other data to predict the spread of diseases.

National and regional policies need to be better integrated across levels and sectors to take advantage of potential synergies. There is a need for enhanced capacity-building and for regional and interregional cooperation and coordination to overcome duplication of efforts and to bring all stakeholders together - decision-makers, science community and user community.

I therefore look forward very much to the dedicated panel this evening and to discuss possible options and priorities to bring space for global health closer to the global development agenda in the post-2015 framework. Thank you.

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