ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL COMMISSION FOR ASIA AND THE PACIFIC
EMERGING ISSUES AND DEVELOPMENTS AT THE REGIONAL LEVEL: ENVIRONMENT AND NATURAL RESOURCES DEVELOPMENT
(Item 6 (b) of the provisional agenda)
PREPARATIONS FOR THE MINISTERIAL CONFERENCE ON SPACE APPLICATIONS FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT IN ASIA AND THE PACIFIC
Note by the secretariat
1. The Committee on Environment and Natural Resources Development, at its first session held in October 1998, reviewed the secretariat's work on promoting the development of remote-sensing and spatial information systems for evaluating, monitoring, forecasting and managing natural resources, natural disasters and the environment. The Committee stressed the important role played by remote-sensing and spatial information systems in natural resources, and environment and disaster management, particularly in the light of the emerging technology trends which indicated the convergence of space technologies into the information superhighway. It noted that those technological advances would provide multiple opportunities for decision makers to integrate those enhanced services into development planning in an appropriate manner.
2. It also emphasized the need to build on the initiatives established under the Regional Space Applications Programme for Sustainable Development (RESAP) to further strengthen the national capacity of participating countries. Regarding the preparations for the second Ministerial Conference on Space Applications for Sustainable Development in Asia and the Pacific, the Committee recognized the potential importance of the Conference in further consolidating the gains achieved through the RESAP network, and requested the secretariat to keep members and associate members fully informed of the developments. The secretariat is taking the necessary action to ensure that the required staffing complement is in place to support the preparatory activities for and to conduct the Ministerial Conference.
3. The present paper is intended to provide members and associate members with the latest developments concerning the preparatory activities for the Ministerial Conference.
A. Consultations with the host country
4. In December 1998, a team of officials from the Government of India visited ESCAP to discuss arrangements for the second Ministerial Conference. It also discussed matters that required the particular attention of the secretariat and the host country in the preparations for the Conference.
5. During the discussions, it was agreed that the conduct of a scientific symposium during the Ministerial Conference would be desirable as it would bring in representatives from government, academia and industry. The host country would be responsible for organizing the symposium. The secretariat is consulting with the European Space Agency and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations to solicit their partial support for the symposium. The European Space Agency has already agreed to fund two participants from Europe and four participants from the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries to attend the symposium.
B. Preparation of background documents
6. Four background documents have been completed: "Issues concerning the operationalization of space technology applications"; "Implementation status of RESAP"; "Strategy and action plan"; and "Space Vision 21".
7. The documents are now being posted on the Web site for wide circulation and information and to elicit comments from interested parties. During the period March to June 1999, the documents will be submitted for review by the four regional working groups of RESAP before being presented to the Intergovernmental Consultative Committee on the Regional Space Applications Programme for Sustainable Development and a high-level expert group for further review and approval. Subsequently, the documents will be integrated into a set of cohesive and interrelated documents for consideration and ready reference by participants in the Ministerial Conference.
8. In addition to the four documents, the first draft of a compendium on space technology applications, which highlights the status, activities and technology trends in space technology development and applications among members and associate members of ESCAP, has been completed. The compendium will be published as reference material for the Ministerial Conference.
C. Support for the participation of least developed countries
9. It is anticipated that around 25 representatives at the ministerial level and 175 at the non-ministerial level will participate in the Conference. The host country would consider supporting the participation in the Conference of one minister and one senior official from selected least developed countries. In this connection, the secretariat has already provided the host country with information on least developed countries, landlocked developing countries and economies in transition as regards their current activities and readiness to apply space technology for sustainable development.
10. Preliminary information on the Ministerial Conference will be sent to the focal points by the end of February 1999 after the signing of the host country agreement during that month. Formal invitations will be sent by ESCAP to the seats of Governments around May/June 1999. The host country will be provided with the names and addresses of the focal points to which the notice and the formal invitation have been despatched.
D. Publicity and promotion for the Conference
11. A publicity and promotion package, including the posting of relevant conference information and documents on the Web site, will be developed with the assistance of the United Nations Information Services (UNIS). Meanwhile, information concerning the Conference has been made available in several regional and international forums, such as the Asian Conference on Remote Sensing (Philippines) and the Euro-Asian Space Week (Singapore), held in November 1998, the twelfth Plenary Meeting of the Committee on Earth Observation Satellites (India) in November 1998 and the 49th International Astronautical Federation Congress (Australia) in September-October 1998.
Annex. Tentative schedule of major events