Asia-Pacific adopts five year plan of action for the application of space technology for disaster risk reduction and sustainable development

Opening ceremony of the Intergovernmental Meeting on Asia-Pacific Years of Action for Applications of Space Technology and the Geographic Information System for Disaster Risk Reduction and Sustainable Development, 2012-2017, 18 December 2012, Bangkok.

Asia Pacific countries adopted a historic five year Regional Plan of Action for the application of space technology for addressing natural disasters and achieving sustainable development goals in the region.

At the adoption of the Plan of Action, Asian and Pacific countries declared that they are united in their resolve to implement the Plan of Action which provides a roadmap to broaden and deepen the contribution of these technologies to all affected countries and communities.

Under the auspices of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) the meeting was held from 18 to 20 December and co-organized by the Thai Space Agency, Geo-informatics and Space Technology Development Agency (GISTDA).

The Plan of Action called on ESCAP, as the most inclusive intergovernmental platform in Asia and the Pacific, to harmonize the myriad of existing regional initiatives, and to pool expertise and resources, in order to enhance the effectiveness of these efforts in addressing the capacity gaps, especially in high-risk and low capacity developing countries in the region.

In her welcome remarks, Dr. Noeleen Heyzer, Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Secretary of ESCAP, highlighted that space applications are more advanced and affordable than ever before, but the region has yet to experience the full potential that they can present.

She urged all delegates to give their utmost commitment to the five year Plan of Action: “Let it be our map and our guide for the coming years, so that we can strive for a more inclusive, sustainable and resilient Asian and Pacific region. Let us work together so that the most vulnerable people of the region can benefit from space and geographic information systems technologies, creating a virtuous cycle of economic and social benefits--bringing us closer to achieving a sustainable future for all and the future we want.”

The Plan of Action called for a Ministerial Conference on Space and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Applications for Disaster Risk Reduction & Management and Sustainable Development in Asia and the Pacific to be held in 2015 to evaluate the progress made in implementing the Plan of Action, provide further guidance for its successful implementation, and build stronger political support and ownership for it among all relevant stakeholders.

In his Keynote Address, H.E Mr. Woravat Aueapinyakul, Minister of Science and Technology of Thailand stated: “The Thai Government realizes the significant role of space technology and GIS. The Plan of Action is one of the important tools to achieve the ultimate goal in promoting and using space technology and GIS applications for disaster risk reduction and sustainable development in our region.”

H.E. Mr. Mohamed Ahmed, State Minister for Defense and National Security Service and Chief Coordinator of National Disaster Management Centre of Maldives outlined how the country has accelerated efforts in disaster risk reduction by advocating for a development model that integrates disaster risk reduction and climate change adaption at all levels of government planning and operations.

Additionally, the Plan of Action requested ESCAP to strengthen efforts on its long-standing Regional Space Applications Programme (RESAP) and take measures through RESAP to operationalize an early warning system for droughts. Furthermore, it called on ESCAP to act as a clearing house for sharing good practices and lessons learnt in space and GIS applications and information and communication technology in order to accelerate progress towards achieving a sustainable future for the region.

Significantly, several space faring countries offered to share satellite data, space products and services related to disaster risk management and sustainable development with developing countries in the region.

National governments were requested to improve coordination across various agencies making use of space technology and GIS applications, and ensure that these technology applications are well integrated into national disaster risk reduction and sustainable development plans.