United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs

Natural Resources Management and Environmental Monitoring

The United Nations Programme on Space Applications is implementing a Natural Resources Management and Environmental Monitoring Programme (NRM&EM) to support developing countries in incorporating space-based solutions for solving environmental monitoring and natural resources management issues.

Space technologies play important roles in the areas of natural resources management and environmental monitoring. Remotely sensed data, in particular, provide an unparallel view of the Earth for studies that require synoptic or periodic observations such as inventory, surveying, and monitoring in agriculture, hydrography, geology, mineralogy, land cover, land use and environment. Remote sensing is a rapidly growing technology and is one of the important spin-offs of space applications and space science, having evolved into a discipline working side-by-side with other disciplines such as photogrammetry, cartography, geodetic reference systems, global navigation satellite systems, and geographic information systems.

The Natural Resources Management and Environmental Monitoring Programme builds upon several on-going initiatives: the goals addressed in the UN Millennium Declaration, the plan forward presented in the Plan of Implementation of the World Summit on Sustainable Development held in Johannesburg in 2002, and the work of the Scientific and Technical Sub-committee of COPUOS (Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space).

The Millennium Declaration, adopted in September 2000 by all 189-member states of the United Nations, defines a key framework for global cooperation in the 21st century. The grand vision described in the Declaration addresses issues related to peace, cooperation and development, calling for the eradication of poverty, the promotion of human dignity and equality, and the achievement of peace, democracy and environmental sustainability. The Declaration translates fundamental values and principles into well-defined objectives in the form of eight Millennium Development Goals, and is considered a concrete and ambitious agenda to significantly improve the human condition by 2015. Space-based technologies and space in a broader sense offer significant and unique solutions to many of the target goals set by the Millennium Declaration.

Additionally, the contribution of space science and technology was also well identified during the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) that took place in Johannesburg in 2002. The WSSD Plan of Implementation makes explicit reference to the utilisation of space-based facilities for the support and implementation of sustainable development actions.

The NRM&EM Programme focuses on a number of activities: workshops and meetings are organised to help define regional plan-of-actions and pilot projects. Training is provided through the UN-Affiliated Regional Centres and through the series of United Nations/Sweden International Training Courses on Remote Sensing Education for Educators. All activities are integrated with the work being carried at COPUOS (through the various Action Teams) and with other UN agencies, such as UNEP, FAO, WFP, UNESCO, etc. The workshops, in particular, provide an unique opportunity for bringing together experts, decision-makers and practitioners to share experience and knowledge with the aim of defining actions and follow-up activities that are required to improve the use of space technology for Natural Resources Management and Environmental Monitoring.

Following the recommendations of the 1st and the 2nd International Conferences on the Use of Space Technology for Water Management, the International Water Portal was developed and became operational on the Internet in 2012. It was initiated as a joint effort of the UN Programme on Space Applications and the Prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz International Prize for Water (PSIPW) aimed at creation of a comprehensive on-line forum and database for all parties that are professionally involved in water management. Its unique design combines the functionality of a professional database, an on-line digital library, and a professional networking site. The Portal is hosted by PSIPW and it can be accessed at: http://water-portal.com

Distribution and use of available global LANDSAT data sets for sustainable development in Africa is a part of the programme on NRM&EM. This data represents critical baseline information and knowledge about the global environment and its regional variations, and can directly support activities in the area of natural resources management, environmental monitoring, environmental security, disaster management and sustainable development. For further information on LANDSAT data sets please contact: oosa@unvienna.org.

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