Mapping Cyclone Pam’s destruction with drones.

The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) has published a new report about the use and opportunities of ICT and disruptive technologies for disaster risk reduction and management. The publication was announced during the third ITU Global Forum on Emergency Telecommunications, which took place from 6 to 8 March 2019 in Balaclava, Mauritius.

The study finds that technological advancement and innovation are creating new opportunities for enhancing disaster resilience and risk reduction. Developments in disruptive technologies, such as artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things (IoT) and Big Data, and innovations in robotics and drone technology, among other areas, are transforming disaster risk reduction and management. Disruptive technologies can spread critical information more quickly, improve understanding of the causes of disasters, enhance early warning systems, assess damage in new ways and add to the knowledge base of the social behaviours... read more

Publishing Date: 25/03/2019
United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres with youth attendees of the high-level event on Youth2030, New York, 24 September 2018. Image: UN Photo/Mark Garten.

To support the first priority of the 'Youth 2030' strategy, namely "Engagement, Participation and Advocacy to Amplify youth voices for the promotion of a peaceful, just and sustainable world", the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs decided to launch the Space for Youth Competition together with the Space Generation Advisory Council (SGAC).

What are the objectives of this competition?

  • To engage youth in the global discussion by gathering examples of space supporting Sustainable Development Goals

  • To amplify the voices of youth in space to the members of the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space

  • To bring the perspectives of youth on how space is supporting Sustainable Development Goals

Do you have an idea on how to use space to... read more

Publishing Date: 04/03/2019
Drone view of Seychelles coastline

The  Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR), a grant-funding mechanism managed by the World Bank, has released a new report that analyzes how machine learning (ML) can be applied in disaster risk management (DRM) projects. The publication provides a concise, demystifying reference that readers - from project managers to data scientists - can easily use. It includes key definitions, case studies and practical considerations for the use of machine learning in disaster risk management.

Machine Learning at a glance

A machine learning (ML) algorithm is a type of computer program that learns to perform specific tasks based on various data inputs or rules provided by its designer. In the context of DRM, machine learning applies predominantly to methods used in the classification or categorization of remotely sensed satellite, aerial, drone and even street-level imagery by capitalizing on a large body of work on image recognition and classification.... read more

Publishing Date: 26/02/2019
Image: Group on Earth Observations.

The Group on Earth Observations (GEO) and Amazon Web Services (AWS) have teamed up to offer GEO member agencies and research organizations from developing countries access to cloud services. Selected organizations will receive AWS credits to host, process and analyze big data about the Earth to support sustainable development efforts.

The deadline for applications is 31 March 2019. Applications are welcome for non-commercial projects that address the GEO Work Programme and, in particular, support the implementation of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, the Paris Agreement and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Background information about the programme as well as criteria for applications can be found here:

Earth observations, through data obtained from satellites and ground-based measurements, provide... read more

Publishing Date: 14/01/2019
Screenshot of the Collect Earth Online tool.

A new tool developed by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations (UN) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) aims to allow users to “systematically inspect” any location on Earth – from glaciers to rainforests - with satellite data. Collect Earth Online (CEO), announced on 12 December 2018, is also expected to be utilized in disaster management.

The web-based platform is free of charge, open to all and it does not require any download or installation. CEO will provide users with access to high-resolution satellite imagery from multiple sources as well as historical imagery and mosaics from NASA’s Landsat network and the European Union’s Sentinel system.

CEO will also allow users to undertake a variety of tasks including the tracking of landscapes and... read more

Publishing Date: 17/12/2018

The United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs and the Prince Sultan Bin Abdulaziz International Prize for Water (PSIPW) launched the space4water portal during the eighth edition of the PSIPW award ceremony hosted at the United Nations Headquarters in New York. The new portal will serve as a platform to gather information and strengthen partnerships related to space-based information for water accessibility.

Water scarcity has become a major concern in several countries around the world. The importance of having a common framework to enhance available and sustainable water and to work towards increasing its accessibility is a priority that is addressed within the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The importance of space technology in helping to manage the issue has led UNOOSA and PSIPW to launch the project, which was being shaped since 2008.

... read more

Publishing Date: 04/12/2018
PSLV C43 vehicle launch India fist HysIS Image: ISRO

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) launched the first Indian Hyperspectral Imaging Satellite (HySIS) from Sriharikota on 29 November. The satellite is expected to be used for Earth observation in applications related to agriculture, forestry, geology, assessment of coastal zones, and environmental studies. It was one out of 30 commercial satellites from eight different countries launched that day by the Indian PSLV C43 vehicle.

ISRO chairman K Sivas, in a statement released by the Times of India, said, “HysIS has a state of the art technology which will be used for distinct identification of objects, material or processes on the Earth [...] The satellite will start sending images 5 days after the launch”.

The HySIS technology consists of a combination of digital imaging and spectroscopy. The image obtained has higher contrast as it recognizes light intensity as a function of wavelength. In comparison with other technologies used for Earth observation (... read more

Publishing Date: 03/12/2018
World Disasters Report 2018 launch at the United Nations Office in Vienna. Image: UNIS.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA), the Ban Ki-moon Centre for Global Citizens and the Austrian Red Cross presented the 2018 World Disasters Report at the United Nations in Vienna on 12 November. The report addresses the need to fill the gaps in humanitarian assistance coverage to avoid the exclusion of the most vulnerable people. Former United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon participated in the launch.

The 2018 World Disasters Report "Leaving No One Behind: The international humanitarian sector must do more to respond to the needs of the world's most vulnerable people" identifies five flaws in the humanitarian sector. People who are out of sight, out of reach, out of the loop, out of money and/or out of scope are generally left behind by international... read more

Publishing Date: 23/11/2018
Image: USGIF, 2018

The United States Geospatial Intelligence Foundation (USGIF) has recently released a new report on “Building Resilient Communities Through Geospatial Intelligence”. The report highlights the importance of raising awareness about the value of space-based information for early warning systems and risk and disaster management. Moreover, it suggests the need for a better definition of GEOINT within the framework of resilience.

The United Nations Platform for Spaced-Based Information for Disaster Management and Emergency Response (UN-SPIDER) contributed a chapter to the study on the role of Geospatial Intelligence (GEOINT) in all phases of risk and disaster management and its value to developing resilient communities.

GEOINT is defined as “the exploitation and analysis of imagery and geospatial information to describe, assess, and visually depict physical features and geographically referenced activities on the Earth.”

Through the perspective of ten experts in the... read more

Publishing Date: 31/10/2018
Abdulla Nasser Lootah, Director General, FCSA, UAE, presents a silver falcon to Maya Tissafi, Ambassador of Switzerland to the UAE, as the host of the next World Data Forum. Image: IISD/ENB | Kiara Worth

A declaration adopted by a wide range of stakeholders at the second United Nations World Data, calls for an increase in financing for better data and statistics for sustainable development. The Dubai Declaration aims to establish a funding mechanism under the mandate of the United Nations Statistics Commission to raise resources to address the data needs for the full implementation of the 2030 Agenda and support national statistical systems. The UN World Data Forum 2018 was hosted by the Federal Competitiveness and Statistics Authority of the United Arab Emirates and took place from 22 to 24 October 2018.

During the three-day forum, 2,000 data experts from more than 100 countries discussed the challenges and opportunities that data needs to address to contribute to a sustainable future. Among the highlights of the Forum were the launch of a guide to towards integration of data from multiple sources for better monitoring and policy-making, discussions on building trust in... read more

Publishing Date: 31/10/2018
Image: UNISDR and CRED.

The United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) and the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED) have released a new report that highlights the global trends in disaster losses in the period between 1998 and 2017.

“Economic Losses, Poverty & Disasters1998-2017” shows the significant increase of economic losses caused by climate-related disasters since 1970. Between 1978 and 1997, the percentage of economic climate-related damage was 68 per cent in relation to the total losses caused by disasters. By the period between 1998 and 2017, the percentage went up to 77 per cent - an increase of 151 per cent between the two periods.

From 1998 to 2017, 4.4 billion people were injured, became homeless, were displaced or in need of emergency... read more

Publishing Date: 23/10/2018
Distribution of Disaster Relief in Les Cayes, Haiti, October 2016. Image: UN Photo/Logan Abassi.

Disasters cause tremendous loss of lives and assets around the world. Over the last twenty years, more than 1.35 million people have died, while over 4 billion have been displaced, left homeless, injured or in need of emergency assistance as a result of disasters according to a new report by the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction and the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED). Economic losses rose by 151 per cent compared to those suffered in the period between 1978 and 1997.

To address the challenge posed by disasters, the international community adopted the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030 at the Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in March 2015 in Sendai, Japan. The Sendai Framework, which followed the Hyogo Framework for Action (HFA) 2005-2015, calls for a “substantial reduction of disaster risk and losses in lives, livelihoods and... read more

Publishing Date: 13/10/2018
Global TanDEM-X Digital Elevation Model. Image: DLR.

The German Aerospace Center (DLR) has released a 90-metre resolution global elevation model from its TanDEM-X mission for scientific data use. The data is free to download via the new Earth Observation Center (EOC) download service.

Digital Elevation Models (DEM) support disaster management efforts by allowing to map and modell natural hazards and risks that are influenced by topography such as floods or landslides. Elevation information is used, for instance, to assess where water will inundate the landscape. After an earthquake, damage to buildings might not be assessed correctly using optical satellite imagery as they might seem intact from above - information from a DEM can help determine whether buildings have collapsed or not.

For more background information, please see the "Data Application of the Month... read more

Publishing Date: 09/10/2018
Children outside a UNICEF-supported water point in a drought-affected region in Ethiopia. Image: UNICEF Ethiopia/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The United Nations, the World Bank, the International Committee of the Red Cross and prominent technology companies have jointly launched the new Famine Action Mechanism (FAM). The Mechanism uses a range of data including satellite imagery to predict famines, ultimately aiming to prevent them.

Launched on 23 September, the FAM is a still-evolving algorithm that will use analytics to identify areas that are most likely to experience extreme food shortages.

Google, Microsoft and Amazon Web Services and other technology firms are developing a suite of analytical models called “Artemis” to power the FAM. Artemis can process large amounts of data from several different sources, ranging from satellite imagery to mobile phones to social media... read more

Publishing Date: 01/10/2018
Image: Screenshot from EO college SAR Turorial

A new online SAR tutorial offered by EO College, a joint education initiative for Radar... read more

Publishing Date: 21/09/2018
Screenshot of "The state of food security and nutrition in the world" by Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)

“The state of food security and nutrition in the world”, a 2018 global report by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations(FAO), International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), World Food Programme (WFP) and World Health Organization (WHO),  highlights the negative impacts of climate variability and extremes on food security and nutrition.

The publication also shows how tools and interventions such as climate risk monitoring and Early Warning Systems (EWS) contribute to improving the resilience and achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

According to the report, three factors are behind the recent trends affecting food security and nutrition in multiple ways and challenging people’s access to food are conflict situations, climate shocks  and economic slowdowns. These frequent and intense climate extremes are threatening to erode and reverse gains made in... read more

Publishing Date: 20/09/2018
The United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA), through its UN-SPIDER programme, has become a data provider in the Group on Earth Observations System of Systems (GEOSS) Portal. Under the arrangement, selected resources from the UN-SPIDER Knowledge Portal, such as data sources, are made available through the GEOSS platform. UNOOSA participated in the 3rd GEO Data Providers Workshop in Frascati, Italy, from 2 to 4 May to present the results of this integration, exchange with other data providers and explore bringing data relevant for disaster management efforts from the GEOSS Portal into the UN-SPIDER Knowledge Portal.
The GEOSS Portal aims to serve as a single access point for users interested in Earth observation data, satellite imagery and analytical software. It facilitates... read more
Publishing Date: 08/05/2018
UN-GGIM Strategic Framework on Geospatial Information and Services for Disasters

The Working Group on Geospatial Information and Services for Disasters (WG-GISD) of the United Nations Committee of Experts on Global Geospatial Information Management (UN-GGIM) has published a "Strategic Framework on Geospatial Information and Services for Disaster" to guide all stakeholders and partners in the management of geospatial information and services in all phases of disaster risk management.

The role of geospatial information has been widely recognized as an important aspect of all phases of disaster risk management (DRM). While calling on Member States to find solutions to improve availability and accessibility of geospatial information and services, the strategy document highlights the need for strengthening coordination and communication among stakeholders to ensure they are not collecting concurrent or inconsistent data.

The framework emphasizes sustainability, accessibility, complementarity and interoperability of geospatial information and aims to... read more

Publishing Date: 23/08/2017
60th session of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space

The 60th session of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space will take place in Vienna from 7-16 June 2017. COPUOS was set up by the General Assembly in 1959 to govern the exploration and use of space for the benefit of all humanity: for peace, security and development. The Committee has since been tasked with reviewing international cooperation in peaceful uses of outer space, studying space-related activities that could be undertaken by the United Nations, encouraging space research programmes, and studying legal problems arising from the exploration of outer space.

International cooperation in space exploration and the use of space technology applications to meet global development goals are discussed in the Committee every year. Owing to rapid advances in space technology, the space agenda is constantly... read more

Publishing Date: 06/06/2017
UN-SPIDER's Engagement in Promoting Science and Technology in the Implementation of the Sendai Framework

The United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA), through its UN-SPIDER programme, co-chairs the working session on Science and Technology for Disaster Risk Reduction at the 2017 Global Platform on Disaster Risk Reduction, which started on 22 May 2017 in Cancun, Mexico. The session focuses on the contribution of science and technology to achieving the 2020 Sendai target on national and sub-national DRR strategies and takes place on Thursday 25 May 2017, 11:15-12:45, at Arena E.

UNOOSA has a long-standing engagement in promoting science and technology for disaster risk reduction. At the ground-breaking Third United Nations World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in Sendai in March 2015, UNOOSA took a lead in organizing a working session on “Earth Observation and High Technology to Reduce Risks”. The... read more

Publishing Date: 24/05/2017
Drought Early Warning Side Event in MHEWS Cancun 2017

UNOOSA teamed up with FAO to host a side event, on behalf of eight additional partners, during the afternoon session of the first day of the Multi-Hazard Early Warning Conference in Cancun, Mexico. The keynote presentations addressed the topic of “Strengthening drought early warning systems” (UNOOSA) and FAO’s Agricultural Stress Index System (ASIS), followed by a panel discussion.

The devastation of droughts can be far-reaching. Regions in Africa, Asia and the American Hemisphere are facing more frequent and severe droughts, which are worsened when El Niño (ENSO) events manifest themselves. In extreme cases, such droughts lead to famine and food insecurity, forcing governments to decree national states of calamity. In recent years, FAO and other agencies have begun to make use of vegetation indexes derived from satellite imagery, such as the Normalised Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) and the Enhance Vegetation Index (EVI). A project, established in 2015, has already... read more

Publishing Date: 23/05/2017
Multi-Hazard Early Warning Conference Opened in Cancun

The highly anticipated 2017 Multi-Hazard Early Warning Conference kicked off today in Cancun, Mexico. The Conference will take place over the course of the next two days and is being hosted by the Government of Mexico. It will be held in conjunction with the 2017 Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction of the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR), which will be running right through until the end of the week.

The MHEWC will be looking to focus on how countries can improve the availability of and access to multi-hazard early warnings as well as risk information and assessments. This directly aligns with the Sendai Framework’s Seventh Global Target - “Substantially increase the availability of and access to multi-hazard early warning systems and disaster risk information and assessments to the people by 2030.” The event will mark the first opportunity for the international community to review global progress in the implementation of this goal, which... read more

Publishing Date: 22/05/2017
Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction 2017

The issue of early warning systems in case of extreme weather events is currently being discussed at the 69th Session of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) Executive Council in Geneva, which will run till 17 May.

The principal topic of this session is strengthening weather and climate services to protect lives, property and economies from extreme weather. WMO Secretary General, Petteri Taalas, highlighted enhanced partnership and cooperation between UN agencies to meet the needs of development and humanitarian agencies in times of increased extreme weather events, exacerbated by climate change. Over the last 40 years, extreme weather events, such as severe storms, floods, heatwaves and drought, have doubled. Early warning systems as well as effective national weather services link predictable weather and climate events to provide warning that are crucial for saving lives and property in case of a natural disaster. Recent improvements in early warning systems, such... read more

Publishing Date: 16/05/2017
Image courtesy of ESA
After one week in orbit, ESA’s new Sentinel 2-B satellite delivered its first images of Earth. The first acquisition began over the Baltic sea and made a strip-like observation through eastern Europe down to northern Libya. The images were sent to the Matera ground station in Italy, where they have been processed afterwards. You can see some of the images here:   The high-resolution of 10 m per pixel images will serve the mission’s land monitoring applications for agriculture, coastal waters and land cover mapping. Along with the Sentinel 2-A, the two satellites now provide a better coverage, which is important for monitoring areas that are often covered by clouds.  As Mr. Josef Aschbacher, Director of ESA’s Earth Observation Programmes, commented, “... read more
Publishing Date: 18/03/2017
The Natural Hazards journal of the International Society for the Prevention and Mitigation of Natural Hazards has published a special issue entitled “Geospatial data for multi-scale mapping and characterization of elements at risk.” The aim of this issue is to inform the geospatial community on the latest developments, capabilities and limitations regarding mappings of elements at risk. It deals primarily with mapping and characterization of the exposed elements while trying to widen the utility for risk-related analysis and applications by showing concepts, methods and data that are hazard-independent. Such concept intends to address a broad scope of researchers and stakeholders. The issue discusses the establishment of exposure information on assets potentially affected by a hazardous event (e.g. people, properties and infrastructure). There have been previous works that already generated detailed exposure information, but most of them suffer from small-area coverage, high data... read more
Publishing Date: 10/03/2017


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