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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 25 June 2018

New space network will help further UN Sustainable Development Goals

The United Nations is working on working closely with countries to help them tap into space technology and capabilities

The United Nations is working on creating a space network that countries can tap into for technology and capabilities.

The UN Office for Outer Space Affairs announced last week at the UN-UAE High Level Forum on space that it would also develop a space solution catalogue to help countries further the targets of their Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

SDGs are a series of 17 goals made by 194 countries of the UN General Assembly in September 2015 to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. Each goal has specific targets to be achieved over the next 15 years.

“We’re testing now [how] to work at a country level, consult with government authorities and try to assess what are their needs in space technologies and capabilities in terms of space development for the SDGs,” said Luc Saint Pierre, from the UN office.

“Once we assess, we think we can develop a long-term five to 10 year-plan where we want to go with these technologies and what the necessary steps are. Once the understanding is done, we’ll mobilise new resources.”

A space solution catalogue will also be developed, which the UN is working with the European Space Agency on, to package solutions for the SDGs.

“We want to open that catalogue to others,” Mr Saint Pierre said. “It can be anything - we have experiments in solutions for disaster management, the policy level, legal level, environmental monitoring, the impact of climate change, and we’re looking at other issues where space solutions are useful.”

The monitoring system will work towards achieving the SDGs, serving as a portal which countries can look at to find out what is available and accessible to them.

The UN will also set up a network of universities, institutes and NGOs that can help provide capacity-building at local and regional levels.

“It would be guided by the SDGs or different climate change agreements that are put in place,” Mr Saint Pierre said.

“We’d like this network to report on their activities and outcomes. We will also submit an annual report on their achievements and we’d like this global compact for space to be some kind of entry point to work through these different tools.”

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Experts said the network would mean greater co-operation between countries ahead of Space 2030 to achieve their SDGs.

“Over the past few days, we have together developed policies that serve the future of the global space industry and we have proposed solutions to current and future challenges to the peaceful uses of outer space,” said Salem Al Marri, assistant director general for scientific and technical affairs at the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC).

“We at the centre have adopted a strategy that has paved the way for Emirati space projects which will achieve long-term sustainability and growth in the space sector here in the UAE. Our strategy stems from the UAE’s guidance and policy, which looks forward to achieving a centennial plan to create a bright and prosperous future for our future generations.”

The UAE is focusing on space and using it to drive innovation. Over the past two years, the government has been working on shifting towards a knowledge-based economy.

“We want, as a country which produces and depends a large extent on oil, to celebrate the export of the last oil barrel from the UAE,” said Amer Al Sayegh, senior director of space engineering at the centre, who is also among the pioneers of the development of DubaiSat's manufacturing.

“If we want to celebrate that event, we have to prepare from today. There is a lot of focus on space and the fourth industrial revolution this year - it’s happening all over the world and in the UAE, we put space as an enabler for this revolution.”

Mr Al Sayegh, who is now director of the remote sensing Earth observation satellite KhalifaSat which is due to launch next year, said space was driving the whole nation towards a bright future. “The impact of space didn’t only reach politicians, the youth and the industry here, but many other sectors,” he said. “We normally think space focuses only on science but I found it surprising to see the impact of space even on sectors like literature.”