COMMITTEE ON EARTH OBSERVATION SATELLITES
 

Statement 

by 

Prof. Jose Achache, 
CEOs Chairman
Committee on Earth Observation Satellites (CEOs) 

World Summit for Sustainable Development

Johannesburg, South Africa
30 August 2002

Mr Chairman,

I would like to further elaborate on the Statement, which was made on behalf of CEOS, the Committee of Earth Observation Satellites, at previous PrepCom meetings in relation to the contribution of advanced technologies such as Earth observation satellites to Sustainable Development. I recall that, currently, 23 space agencies and 20 other national and international organizations participate in CEOS, whose main task is to coordinate internationally all civil space-borne missions designed to observe and monitor our planet.

I wish to repeat a single sentence from the PrepCom II statement of CEOS, namely that "There is no sustainable development without adequate information about the state of the Earth and its environment. "

I should like to convey the satisfaction expressed by the CEOS member organisations in response to the specific acknowledgements of the crucial role of Earth observation for sustainable development in the Draft Plan of Implementation of the World Summit on Sustainable Development.

This reflects the major progress accomplished since Rio - thanks to the development of a new generation of Earth observation satellites with improved performance, such as: day and night observing capabilities, 'cloud-piercing' sensors, or high resolution sensors allowing us to observe finer details of the Earth's surface. At the same time, we have seen availability of less expensive, more capable computers, and of more user-friendly software for imagery processing. Progress has also been made in the integration of space-based and in-situ observing systems in order to provide new capabilities and a cost-effective overall mix of observations to meet user needs. In particular the IGOS (Integrated Global Observing Strategy) Partnership, proposed as a Type II partnership, which brings together the major organizations responsible for space and terrestrial observations of the Earth environment, is making significant contributions in this area (Annex B to this paper has details of the IGOS Partners). Such progress, together with growing use of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and the Internet, has encouraged the development of new geo-information products and services in support of decision-making for a diverse range of applications - spanning socio-economic, environmental, and security-related domains. All of the above has resulted in a wide acceptance of satellite Earth observation data and integrated information services in developed countries.

Many of these applications, developed and used in industrialised countries - some of which have become indispensable tools for modem societies - are of direct relevance to Sustainable Development. The best-known example is meteorology, a fully operational public service which relies heavily on the use of a network of satellites deployed in a well coordinated way in polar and geo-stationary orbits. High quality weather forecasts are crucial for many socioeconomic activities such as agriculture, air traffic, tourism, early warning and prevention of extreme weather events, to name just a few. But meteorology is not the only domain of intensive use of Earth observation satellite data. Today, satellite Earth observation is also commonly used in cartography, management of land use, forestry and water resources, desertification monitoring, coastal zone protection, fisheries management and industry support, and monitoring of agricultural production for improved food security.

CEOS has a significant number of members from developing countries and countries with economies in transition: Argentina, Brazil, China, India, Korea, Russia, South Africa, Thailand and Ukraine. In these countries, Earth observation plays a key role in support of the goal of Sustainable Development, in particular in the provision of information to assist decisionmaking targeted at the alleviation and eradication of poverty, environment monitoring and preservation and natural resource protection and management.

I would also like to highlight a Type-2 Partnership, coordinated by CEOS, "Earth Observation Education and Training." Together with the U.N. Environment Programme, U.N. Office of Outer Space Affairs, the Regional Centres for Space Science and Technology Education, affiliated with the U.N., and other centres, the partnership will facilitate education and training in satellite-based Earth observation techniques, data analysis, interpretation, use and application in support of the objectives of Agenda 21. The intent is to:

  • highlight capacity building in the use of satellite data for sustainable development purposes; 
  • increase awareness, particularly among developing countries, of the respective training programs; and
  • facilitate coordination among CEOS agencies to provide instructors, materials, and technology transfer when possible.
CEOS is committed to assist in raising awareness of the value of Earth observation satellite data and equipping developing countries with the knowledge necessary to benefit from key applications.

I should like to take this opportunity to mention some specific initiatives taken by CEOS Members and Associates, which take advantage of space information and support the objectives of the WSSD for developing countries as outlined in Chapters IV, VII, VIII and IX of the Draft Plan of Implementation. In particular, these examples are GISD (Geographic Information for Sustainable Development), GMES (Global Monitoring for Environment and Security), GOFC/GOLD (Global Observation for Forest Cover/Global Observations of Land Cover Dynamics), GOOS (Global Ocean Observing Systems) Africa, WHC (World Heritage Conservation), and the Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) mission.

Recommendations

The Delegates to the World Summit on Sustainable Development are invited to:

1. RE-AFFIRM the high importance of satellite Earth observations in providing valuable and, in some cases, unique information in support of Sustainable Development;
2. PROVIDE international support to fiuther develop the transfer of technology and capacity building required for decision-making in support of Sustainable Development in developing countries.
3. ENCOURAGE and PROMOTE international and regional cooperation for education on practical applications and benefits of satellite Earth observations for developing countries.
4. RECOGNIZE the Committee on Earth Observation Satellites (CEOS) as the technical focal point for the implementation of actions related to Earth observation following from WSSD and as a primary source of information for the Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) in its overall coordination responsibility. This coordination will also be done in close liaison with UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space.
5. ENCOURAGE strengthened partnerships between observation planners and international treaties of relevance to Sustainable Development - to ensure that future observation programmes reflect the information needs of users for every day management and protection of the developing world.

In order to synthesize the many wordings in the current Plan of Implementation which specifically mention Earth observation in the various chapters of the text, CEOS would like to propose the following single paragraph as a critical element of the Political Declaration:

"We reaffirm the need for timely, quality, long-term, global information as a basis for sound decision making. We therefore recognize the need for integrating satellite measurements with ground information to better understand the Earth and contribute to protecting its environment for future generations. "

This paragraph, Mr Chairman has been carefully drafted and agreed by the CEOS Members. We therefore do hope that this proposal finds your and the Delegates consent.

Thank you, Mr Chairman.