Space Tech & GIS for Asia-Pacific Development

Your Excellency, Woravat Auapinyakul,
Minister of Science and Technology of Thailand

Your Excellency, Mohamed Ahmed,
State Minister for Defense and National Security Service of Maldives

Dr. Anond Snidvongs, Executive Director of the
Geo-Informatics and Space Technology Development Agency (GISTDA)

Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Introduction

As the most inclusive intergovernmental platform for our region, ESCAP is where our member States gather to connect and collaborate, to drive inclusive and sustainable development. A very warm welcome therefore to all of you who are here for the Intergovernmental Meeting on Asia-Pacific Years of Action for Applications of Space Technology and Geographic Information System (GIS) for Disaster Risk Reduction and Sustainable Development.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Our Challenge

The task before us is great. We gather here today to forge a new path towards inclusive and sustainable development based on a shared commitment to bring the benefits of space technology applications to all, the rich and poor, the urban and rural, the young and the old, men and women.

Barely a decade or two ago, the application of space and GIS technology as tools for enhancing social benefits were unattainable to most countries in the Asian and Pacific region. These cutting-edge technologies remained in the domain of developed countries, their scientists, technology ministries, and private sector developers. Over the past several years, however, we have seen incredible progress. These tools can now provide far-reaching solutions to some pressing issues facing humanity, ranging from health, education, agriculture, and natural resource management to disaster risk reduction.

After 20 years of capacity building efforts by regional initiatives such as ESCAP’s Regional Space Applications Programme for Sustainable Development (RESAP), the Asia Pacific Space Agency Forum and Sentinel Asia, most countries in the region have built technical and institutional capacities in the use of these tools. Today, there are over 20 remote sensing satellites operated by Asia-Pacific countries, providing timely observation of land, ocean and weather. By the end of 2015, over 30 additional remote sensing satellites will be launched in Asia-Pacific to provide continuous space-based information and products for disaster risk reduction and sustainable development in our region.

Despite the significant progress achieved, the spread of these technologies has been uneven. Although the Asian and Pacific region has a growing number of space-faring countries, and despite the number of existing and planned remote sensing satellites in the region, these technologies are not yet fully benefitting the vulnerable in our societies.

The challenge we face, therefore, is to deepen and broaden the use and reach of these applications to enable more vulnerable and poorer people in the region to derive benefits from space technology and GIS. The potential benefits are many. Space applications and GIS for drought monitoring and forecasting allow farmers to more effectively plant and irrigate their crops in order to increase their incomes. Weather forecasts and early warning systems, enabled by these technologies, allow fishermen to safely plan their trips out to sea, and school children in remote villages to benefit from tele-education through telecommunication satellites. These are just a few examples of how these technologies can help the more vulnerable people of the region to build stronger and more sustainable livelihoods.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Regional cooperation

Let us find opportunities to improve the livelihoods of millions of people across our region. Let us work together to bring the benefits of these technologies to all, for a more sustainable and more resilient Asia-Pacific. The Rio+20 outcome document clearly recognizes the importance of space-technology-based data, in situ monitoring, and reliable geospatial information for sustainable development policy-making, programming and operations. It also emphasizes the importance of international cooperation in support of disaster risk reduction in developing countries through technical assistance, technology transfer and capacity building.

Despite the international support, space and GIS applications continue to be untapped primarily because of the lack of capacity in many of our developing countries in terms of human, scientific, technological, and institutional resources and expertise. ESCAP’s work through the long-standing regional platform of RESAP and the Multi-donor Trust Fund for Tsunami, Disaster and Climate Preparedness in Indian Ocean and Southeast Asian Countries, offers excellent insights into the solutions to improve human and institutional capacity through regional cooperation.

It is in the disaster risk reduction and management fields that regional cooperation in space applications and GIS has been most effective in recent years. Several global and regional initiatives exist in this sphere to assist in providing space-based products and services for emergency disaster response, simply because no single country can satisfy all the requirements necessary for disaster risk reduction, not to mention for sustainable development. Regional cooperation is a key.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Five year Plan of Action

The five year Plan of Action that this meeting will deliberate and endorse is the foundation for regional cooperation. The document will provide a roadmap to broaden and deepen the contribution of these technologies for disaster risk reduction and sustainable development in our region.

For many in Asia and the Pacific, the past few years will be remembered for major disasters with devastating impacts on economies, communities and above all the lives of people across the region. Just this month, Typhoon Bopha left in its wake scenes of utter devastation with houses and other structures in some towns and villages in the Philippines ripped apart, leaving millions of people homeless, and at least 647 dead and hundreds still missing.

By strengthening regional cooperation the Plan of Action may enhance networking, pooling resources and expertise, and harmonizing efforts and initiatives, so that countries most in need can derive effective and timely benefits, especially access to Earth Observation products and services and multi-hazard early warnings.

At the national level, the Plan of Action may help integrate space and GIS technologies into mid- and long-term development planning, and national policies. It may help to achieve the much needed coordination and harmonization of efforts across government agencies in the application of these technologies.

Finally, the Plan of Action promotes the sharing of best practices and lessons on space and GIS applications amongst countries in the region, so that they may be modified and adapted to suit local and national circumstances. Leveraging these experiences through enhanced collaboration and information-sharing will ensure a stronger and more resilient Asia-Pacific.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Conclusion

Space and GIS applications are more advanced and affordable than ever before, but we have yet to experience the full potential that they can present to the whole region. The opportunity before us is enormous and the consequence of inaction is real. I therefore urge you to consider giving your utmost commitment to the five year Plan of Action before you. 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 GIS technologies, creating a virtuous cycle of economic and social benefits -- bringing us closer to achieving a sustainable future for all. The future we want.

I wish you a very successful meeting.

I thank you.