VIENNA, 17 January (UN Information Service) — The United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (OOSA) will highlight the important role of space-based technologies in managing natural disasters, such as the recent tsunami, at the United Nations World Conference on Disaster Reduction (WCDR). The conference is meeting in Kobe, Japan, from 18 to 22 January.

OOSA is playing a key role in facilitating capacity-building in developing countries, to enable them to use space technology during all phases of disaster management – from early warning to disaster reduction, rescue and rehabilitation.

Sergio Camacho-Lara, Director, OOSA will highlight OOSA’s involvement as a cooperating body with the International Charter “Space and Major Disasters”, through which six space agencies provide real-time space data acquisition and delivery, through authorized users, to those responding to major natural or man-made disasters. OOSA’s status with the International Charter has enabled the UN system to request data through the Charter in response to emergency situations. OOSA maintains a dedicated permanent hotline for this purpose. The satellite images and products provided by this mechanism have enabled the UN system to respond quickly to 14 major disasters, including the recent tsunami.

Earth observation satellites contribute to providing solutions in all phases of disaster management. An important aspect is risk assessment of disaster-prone areas via satellite remote sensing. Remote sensing can also provide information needed to assess the extent of damage caused by a disaster and forecast the expected further spread of the disaster to other areas, as well as vital information to search and rescue operations. Satellite technology can re-establish communications in the afflicted area when the on-ground infrastructure has broken down.

OOSA will inform the Conference of two initiatives aimed at increasing international cooperation in the integration of space-based technologies into the disaster management cycle and consolidating the individual efforts of countries.

The first initiative is the establishment of an international entity to coordinate and optimize the effectiveness of space-based services for use in disaster management. Following a recommendation by the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, the General Assembly, in 2004, called for the establishment of an ad hoc expert group to study the possibility of establishing such an entity.

The second initiative is a partnership involving interested institutions and UN agencies, which would channel space technology for risk reduction and disaster management activities at the national and regional levels. The proposed partnership is part of a global strategy for improved risk reduction and disaster management using space technologies, developed by participants at the International Workshop on the Use of Space Technology for Disaster Management, held in Munich, Germany, in October 2004 within the framework of the United Nations Programme on Space Applications. OOSA will invite national and regional institutions attending the WCDR to join this partnership.

The United Nations Programme on Space Applications is implemented by the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs and works to improve the use of space science and technology for the economic and social development of all nations, in particular developing countries. Under the Programme, the Office conducts training courses, workshops, seminars and other activities on applications and capacity building in subjects such as remote sensing, communications, satellite meteorology, search and rescue, basic space science, satellite navigation and space law.

The United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (OOSA) implements the decisions of the General Assembly and of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space and its two Subcommittees, the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee and the Legal Subcommittee. The Office is responsible for promoting international cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space, and assisting developing countries in using space science and technology. Located in Vienna, Austria, OOSA maintains a website at

For further information:

Qais Sultan, Associate Programme Officer
United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs
Tel: (+43-1) 260 60 4962

United Nations Information Service
P.O. Box 500
A-1400 Vienna

Tel: +(43-1) 26060-3325
Fax: +(43-1) 26060-5899