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UN outer space body lands in Geneva

The United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) is setting-up an office in Geneva with the aim of boosting collaboration with organisations in the region, including the Group on Earth Observations (GEO).


Based in Vienna, UNOOSA works to promote international cooperation in the peaceful use and exploration of space, as well as the use of space science and technology for sustainable economic and social development.


In Geneva, the body will work from GEO offices with partners to set up new projects, mobilise resources for them to be carried out, and share results openly.


In this context, a roundtable discussion on space science and technology for sustainable development was organised within the framework of the Geneva Environment Network at the International Environment House on 26 January.


The panel discussion was chaired by José Romero, Chief Scientist dealing with International Environmental issues at the Swiss Federal Office for the Environment; and Natália Archinard, Deputy Head of Education, Science and Space at the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs. Both mentioned Switzerland’s support for Geneva-based UN and other entities to use space-based tools and technology.


Earth observations and derived information have already played key roles in supporting sustainable development, noted GEO director Barbara Ryan during the discussion. The data can help track progress towards targets and guide decisions towards achieving the SDGs, she explained.


Indeed, sustainable development on Earth is not possible without sustainable space, argued UNOOSA director Simonetta di Pippo.


A Memorandum of Understanding signed between GEO and UNOOSA will also support the latter’s work carried out under the Programme on Space Applications and its Platform for Space-Based Information for Disaster Management and Emergency Response, known as UN-SPIDER.


The new office aims to interact with other Geneva-based bodies including the Operational Satellite Applications Programme, the World Health Organisation, World Meteorological Organisation and others.


GEO is a partnership between governments and other organisations to build an Earth observation system for topics such as food security, biodiversity and disaster resilience. Many UN entities seek support on use of space-based data, as was revealed through informal consultations carried out by UNOOSA in 2014.


The new UNOOSA office in Geneva is being established with the financial support of the Swiss government.


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