The overall purpose of the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs is the promotion of international cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space for economic, social and scientific development, in particular for the benefit of developing countries. The Office has been mandated to:
- Service the intergovernmental process;
- Discharge the responsibilities of the Secretary-General under the United Nations Treaties and Principles on Outer Space;
- Implement the United Nations Programme on Space Applications;
- Coordinate space-related activities within the United Nations system; and
- Implement the United Nations Platform for Space-based Information for Disaster Management and Emergency Response (UN-SPIDER).
UN-SPIDER was established through General Assembly resolution 61/110 and aims to ensure that all countries, as well as international and regional organizations, have access to, and develop the capacity to use all types of space-based information to support the full disaster management cycle.
Disaster Reduction Goal
While the Office has no specific mandate on disaster risk reduction and resilience, it is aware of the need to promote international cooperation in the use of outer space to achieve development goals for the benefit of humankind.
The Office aims to:
- Strengthen capacities of Member States to use space science and technology and their applications in areas related to sustainable development;
- Promote greater understanding, acceptance and commitment in accessing and developing capacity to use space-based information to support the full disaster management cycle; and
- Promote greater understanding and use of Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) applications to support sustainable development goals.
Policies and Programmes in DRR
The Office is responsible for a variety of official publications on behalf of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS), and such publications make reference to the need to increase the benefits of space technology and its applications in disaster risk reduction and sustainable development. Many publications appear as Resolutions adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations (for example: A/RES/67/113, A/RES/66/71, A/RES/65/97, A/RES/64/86, etc.). Reports of COPUOS include the need to devote effort to the use of space-based applications and space-based information to support disaster-risk reduction efforts (see for example: A/67/20; A/66/20; A/65/20; A/64/20 etc.).
UN-SPIDER also generates a variety of official reports and publications that include the issue of disaster risk reduction. Its annual reports to COPUOS make reference to the activities that the Programme conducts in all regions of the world with the aim of strengthening capacities of Member States to make use of space-based information in all phases of the disaster management cycle (for example: A/AC.105/1029, A/AC.105/1027, A/AC.105/1023, A/AC.105/1010, A/AC.105/1009, A/AC.105/1007, etc.). In addition, UN-SPIDER produces on a regular basis newsletters and publications such as booklets aiming to promote the use of space-based information.
Among these, a booklet entitled Geo-Information for Disaster and Risk Management: Examples and Best Practices was elaborated by UNOOSA and the Joint Board of Geospatial Information Societies (JBGIS). This booklet contains a variety of relevant articles and a foreword by Ms. Margareta Wahlström, the Special Representative of the Secretary General for Disaster Risk Reduction.
The Programme operates the UN-SPIDER Knowledge Portal, which serves as a gateway to a variety of scientific and technical articles, proceedings, documents and information concerning the use of space-based information to support efforts in all phases of the disaster management cycle.
Highlights of impact since 2011:
Since 2011, the UN-SPIDER Programme has conducted more than 10 Technical Advisory Missions to Member States in Asia, Latin America and Africa with the support of experts from the space, the disaster risk management and the emergency response communities. These have facilitated the identification of lessons learned and the outlining of recommendations that, when implemented, will allow government agencies, academia and the private sector within these Member States to take advantage of the opportunities offered by the space community to carry out activities related to Key Priority Areas 2, 3, 4 and 5. Of particular relevance is the identification of approaches on how to make use of space-based information to:
- Contribute to improved risk assessments;
- Identify measures aimed to reduce existing risks;
- Control the potential increase of risks.
In addition, the Programme carries out training activities to increase the skills and knowledge of staff members in government agencies responsible for disaster-risk management efforts, contributing to Key Priority Area 3. Regional training courses were conducted in India, Burkina Faso and Mexico in 2011, and in India, Sri Lanka, Cameroon and Myanmar in 2012. UN-SPIDER has also supported training efforts organized by partner organizations, either through the provision of experts or through the mobilization of participants.
Since 2012, the Programme and its network of Regional Support Offices have been developing step-by-step methodologies to make use of archived satellite imagery to track how land-use changes in recent decades have modified the spatial and temporal behaviour of three hazards: floods, droughts and forest fires.
These “UN-SPIDER Recommended Practices” will allow experts working on hazard assessment to generate policy-relevant information on how development trends may have influenced these hazards in a negative way. It will assist them to design means to control such negative trends, including consideration of land-use planning. In a similar way, the use of archived imagery will allow disaster-risk managers to track increases in the exposure of vulnerable assets and communities to hazards, thereby providing policy-relevant information to decision makers on how to limit this exposure. Such efforts are directly linked to Key Priority Areas 2 and 4.
Membership in Key Networks
- International Charter Space and Major Disasters (Cooperating Body)
- United Nations Geographic Information Working Group (UNGIWG), Co-Chair 2009-2010
- Inter-Agency Meeting on Outer Space Activities (Secretariat and Coordination)
- GEO – Group on Earth Observations
- Regional and Global Platforms established by UNISDR as vehicles to thrust the Hyogo Framework for Action
- SPIDER Global Thematic Partnership on the use of Space-Based Information for Disaster Risk Management – UN-SPIDER established it in 2009. The Partnership has organized special and side events during the sessions of the Regional Platforms, as well as during the sessions of the Global Platform in 2009 and 2011
Space agencies and institutions using space-based information and solutions.
National Focal Points (NFPs) nominated by their respective governments for UN-SPIDER are being established in Members States to strengthen national disaster management planning and policies and the implementation of specific national activities that incorporate space-based technology solutions to support disaster management. Efforts are being made to synchronize the list of NFPs with the one of UN-ISDR.
In addition, UN-SPIDER builds partnerships for the implementation of its work programme with a network of 15 Regional Support Offices (RSO) which are existing national or regional entities from the Earth observation sector or with authority in disaster management.
Disaster Risk Reduction Focal Point(s)
While the Office may have used the notion of the focal point in the 1990s, since the beginning of the new millennium efforts have been conducted to establish a programme entirely dedicated to the promotion of the use of space-based information, covering all phases of the disaster management cycle.
The United Nations Platform on Space-based Information for Disaster Management and Emergency Response (UN-SPIDER) was established by the United Nations General Assembly in 2006 (A/RES/61/110). The UN-SPIDER Programme is coordinated by UNOOOSA in Vienna, Austria and has Offices in Beijing, China; and Bonn, Germany.
Mr. Luc St-Pierre, Senior Programme Officer, United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (email@example.com)
Mr. Shirish Ravan, Head, UN-SPIDER Beijing Office (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Mr. Juan Carlos Villagrán de León, Head, UN-SPIDER Bonn Office (email@example.com)
United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA), UN-SPIDER (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Vienna International Centre, Wagramerstrasse 5 1220 Vienna Austria
GP 2013 delegation
GP 2011 delegation
GP 2009 delegation
Conferences: - UNISDR Science and Technology Conference