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At the Third United Nations Conference on the Exploration and Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, known as UNISPACE III, the participating States stressed the social and economic benefits of global navigation satellite systems (GNSS). Benefits of GNSS applications are growing in such areas as aviation, maritime and land transportation, mapping and surveying, agriculture, power and telecommunications networks, and disaster warning and emergency response, to name a few. Particularly for developing countries, GNSS applications offer cost-effective solutions to pursue economic growth without compromising the present and future needs to preserve the environment, thus promoting sustainable development.
In 2001, the Office for Outer Space Affairs, within the framework of the United Nations Programme on Space Applications, began to organize a series of regional workshops focusing on capacity building in the use of GNSS in various areas of applications that support sustainable development. In 2001-2002, with the sponsorship and technical support by the Government of the United States of America, the Office organized the following meetings on GNSS. The European Space Agency (ESA) co-sponsored the last three of them.
i) First UN/USA Workshop on the Use of Global Navigation Satellite Systems, for the benefit of countries in Asia and the Pacific (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 20-24 August 2001);
ii) Second UN/USA Regional Workshop on the Use and Applications of Global Navigation Satellite Systems, for the benefit of countries in Eastern Europe (Vienna, Austria, 26-30 November 2001);
iii) Third UN/USA Regional Workshop on the Use and Applications of Global Navigation Satellite Systems, for the benefit of countries in Latin America and the Caribbean (Santiago, Chile, 1-5 April 2002);
iv) Fourth UN/USA Workshop on the Use of Global Satellite Navigation Systems, for the benefit of countries in Africa (Lusaka, Zambia, 15-19 July 2002);
v) International Expert Meeting on the Use and Applications of Global Navigation Satellite Systems (Vienna, Austria, 11-15 November 2002).
On the basis of results of these workshops and additional suggestions made by the participants from developing countries through a survey, the International Meeting of Experts on GNSS (Vienna, November 2002) considered further actions to expand the use and applications of GNSS and their benefits to the society. The results of the Meeting included proposals for pilot projects with GNSS applications in surveying and mapping, civil aviation, environment and pollution control, as well as management of natural resources and agriculture. The Meeting also recommended follow-up actions in cross-cutting areas such as establishing institutional framework for use and applications of GNSS, awareness increase, as well as training and education. Some of these follow-up actions are currently being implemented by the participating institutions.
The results of the series of regional workshops and the International Meeting of Experts also contributed to the work of the Action Team on GNSS, which is one of the 12 action teams established by the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS) to implement priority recommendations of the Third United Nations Conference on the Exploration and Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UNISPACE III). Under the leadership of the United States and Italy, the Action Team currently consists of more than 30 countries and a dozen international organizations.
The work of the Action Team included a comprehensive review of the existing and planned GNSS and augmentations, their use and applications, as well as activities carried out by various entities to promote GNSS. The Action Team also examined the requirements of developing countries, gaps in meeting those requirements as well as existing training opportunities in the fields of GNSS. Based on the examination of those issues, the Action Team is currently in the process of identifying institutional models of international cooperation and coordination that could be applied to GNSS and developing recommendations, taking into account some of the recommendations of the International Meeting of Experts in November 2002. The final report of the Action Team with recommendations for further actions by Member States, intergovernmental and non-governmental entities will be submitted to the General Assembly through the COPUOS in time for the review by the Assembly in 2004 of the progress made in the implementation of the recommendations of UNISPACE III, known as UNISPACE III+5 review.
The Action Team on GNSS is one of the leading action teams that have made fast progress toward the implementation of the recommendations of UNISPACE III. The work of this Action Team could serve as a model for how the United Nations could undertake follow-up actions of global conferences to yield tangible results within a fixed time frame.