Although there is some controversy surrounding the outcome of
last week’s summit on sustainable development there is one
subject on which all delegates were unanimous: the important
role that Earth observation satellites can play in assisting
sustainable development.

The World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) 54-page Plan
of Implementation contains more than 10 specific references to
Earth observation, clearly demonstrating that the Summit
recognised the importance of space technology for sustainable
development. This success goes back to ESA, which — in its
role as CEOS Chair — delivered a number of official statements
during the preparatory meetings and the Summit itself. Some of
the statements delivered by ESA, on behalf of CEOS, were also
followed by supporting interventions by national delegations
to CEOS, such as Japan and the USA.

ESA staff had a busy but rewarding week, as this year ESA is
chair of CEOS and co-chair of IGOS, the Integrated Global
Observing Strategy partnership. JosÈ Achache, ESA Director of
Earth Observation, addressed the plenary session of the Summit
on behalf of these organisations. ESA staff also participated
in a number of meetings and discussions on the use of
satellite data at Ubuntu Village in Johannesburg, where ESA
also had a stand.

Two important WSSD partnership initiatives concerning Earth
observation data were launched during the week: the first by
IGOS concerning the use of space and ground measurements for
sustainable development; and the second by CEOS to encourage
partnership on education and training in Earth observation.
Both of these measures aim to widen the use of Earth
observation data to protect the environment, particularly
in developing countries, and to ensure that this data is
available to all.

To follow up on the action taken at the Summit, a high-level
meeting has been arranged for 19 November at ESRIN, ESA’s
space research institute in Frascati, Italy. Here, government
ministers, UN representatives and heads of space agencies
will decide on how best to use satellite data to support
sustainable development.

When asked about the Summit JosÈ Achache replied: "In Rio,
heads of states achieved agreement on high level political
declarations but with little underlying ground work. In
contrast, Johannesburg did not lead to a strong political
consensus but initiated many concrete actions and partnerships."

"Earth observation for space achieved a level of visibility
and recognition at the Summit that has never before been
achieved in such a forum."

"ESA is already contemplating the launch of a concrete
initiative to support sustainable development and capacity
building in developing countries, by the joint use of Earth
observation and telecom satellites, particularly Envisat and

Related news

  • CEOS chairman addresses Johannesburg Summit

  • CEOS address at Johannesburg

  • ESA in Johannesburg

  • ESA at the World Summit on Sustainable Development

  • ESA’s Chairmanship of CEOS

    Related links

  • CEOS

  • IGOS

  • ESA WSSD site

  • CEOS WSSD site

  • ESRIN Homepage


    [Image 1:]
    A child points to an Earth shaped dome at a display at the
    World Summit on Sustainable Development held in Johannesburg,
    South Africa in August/September 2002. Credits: AP Photo/Dario

    [Image 2:]
    ESA Director of Earth Observation, JosÈ Achache, at the World
    Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, August/
    September 2002.