UNESCO and African Union organized a joint High-Level Scientific Workshop on “The Critical Role of Applications of Satellite Remote Sensing for Africa’s Sustainable Development”. This Workshop was held from the 30th of May to the 1st of June 2007 at the UNESCO Headquarters. The Workshop was organized in the framework of the UNESCO interdisciplinary project entitled “Applications of Remote Sensing for Integrated Management of Ecosystems and Water Resources in Africa” (ARSIMEWA).
Towards an African Strategy for Applications of Satellite Remote Sensing for Africa’s Sustainable Development
This High-Level Scientific Workshop focused on Issues, Challenges, Priorities and Solutions that will support ongoing efforts in Africa to integrate space sciences and technologies in the development process in the continent and to access the huge available volume of satellite remotely sensed information and data. Satellite remotely sensed information and data are widely available and should significantly contribute to Africa’s socio-economic development in view of the dynamic changes facing the continent. The ultimate goal of the Workshop was the definition and implementation of an African Strategy to enhance the use of Satellite Remotely Sensed data for sustainable management of natural resources including water, ecosystems and biodiversity, coastal and marine environment, national and regional security and environmental preservation. The results of the Workshop reinforce the institutional capacity of the African Union to raise African voice representing interests and priorities of the continent in relevant international fora.
The Workshop brought together a limited number of distinguished Experts with thorough knowledge, understanding and experiences in Satellite Remote Sensing Applications and related Policy and Governance issues in Africa. The entire process is African-driven with the leadership of African Union and African experts both from the continent and the Diaspora. Initial partners contributing to this ongoing process include the African Association of Remote Sensing of the Environment, African specialised scientific research and academic institutions, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Norway, Canada, the Flemish Government and a number of private industries operating in Africa including the Oil and Gas industries. Synergy was also created with ongoing UNESCO and other programmes in Africa including the Global Ocean Observing System in Africa (GOOS-AFRICA); the Large Marine Ecosystems and the Ocean Data and Information Network in Africa (ODINAFRICA).
UNESCO and African Union joined hands towards meeting regional and international commitments
Recently in January 2007, UNESCO as the leading United Nations Agency supporting the implementation of the African Union/NEPAD Science and Technology Consolidated Plan of Action, significantly contributed to the Special Summit of the African Heads of States on Sciences and Technologies at the Headquarters of the African Union in Addis Ababa. The High-Level Scientific Workshop is part of the UNESCO Contribution to the follow up of this important Summit.
The Workshop was also conceived as a response to the specific Recommendation of the Thirty three Session of the General Conference of UNESCO that called on the Organisation to assist the African Union to define its own Strategy on the Applications of Satellite Remote Sensing for Africa's Sustainable Development. The ongoing African efforts should be seen as the African contribution to the Global Earth Observation System of Systems aimed at reinforcing the capacity of all nations to contribute to and benefit from the Applications of Earth Observing Systems to sustainable development.
Main Results of the Workshop
The workshop concluded that Satellite Remote Sensing is an effective tool that supports Africa’s (i) Economy, (ii) Human security, and (ii) Quality of life. Among the sub-items identified in these categories are:
Harnessing Africa’s opportunities for the development of its human resources by building knowledge that can lead to innovation;
Increasing Africa’s ability to harness its natural resources, manage its land degradation and desertification and protect its environment;
Contributing to the development of agriculture and food security;
Moving the economy up the “value Chain”;
Enhancing Africa’s opportunities to effectively participate in the global economy;
Facilitating conflict management and peace keeping;
Providing fundamental information necessary to develop and sustain Africa’s infrastructure including transportation systems and networks;
Providing information needed for human security and safety (e.g. housing development, disaster management, food security, health-care, etc.)
To accomplish the above, the joint UNESCO/African Union High-Level Scientific Workshop recommended that the African Union should:
Establish a Scientific and Technical Working Group that will collaborate with the African Union Steering Committee on Science and Technology to:
(a) Review the existing initiatives and programmes related to the above calls; and
(b) Formulate a strategy and necessary plan(s) of action that can assist Africa to contribute to the development and utilisation of space science and technology (SST) to improve its socio-economic development.
The Workshop established an Ad Hoc Scientific and Technical Working Group on Space Sciences and Technology and Geo-information for Africa’ Sustainable Development to start up the implementation of the Recommendations.
The workshop also recommended that such a strategy as described in (b) above could focus, inter-alia, on the following elements:
Raising awareness of the critical importance of Space Sciences and Technology in the development process to the decision makers;
Formulation of an African Space Sciences and Technology policy backed by practical, realistic and achievable programmes that depend on indigenous efforts and address the needs of the people;
Continuous political commitment at both national and regional levels backed by necessary resources;
Building on existing capacity and knowledge generation at all levels;
The grooming of the private sector through governmental support; and
Regional and international cooperation
The workshop concluded that the commitment of the African Union and its member States to the implementation of such a strategy as described above could result in a variety of significant benefits for Africa and its people – which it identified and analysed - as well as enable Africa to contribute to the world body of knowledge.
Finally, the Workshop commended the ongoing UNESCO efforts in support of the African Union Science and Technology Consolidated Plan of Action and requested the Organisation to continue its technical and financial support to the African Union towards implementation of the above recommendations.