UN-SPIDER particpates in VI Space Conference of the Americas

The Sixth Space Conference of the Americas took place from 15 to 19 November in Pachuca City, in the State of Hidalgo in Mexico. Organized by the Secretary of Foreign Affairs with the support of the Office of the Governor of the State of Hidalgo, the Conference congregated official delegations from countries in North America, the Caribbean, Central and South America, as well as representatives from the space community, the academic community, regional and international agencies, non-governmental organizations, and experts from Europe, Asia, and Africa.

Officially inaugurated by the Secretary of Communications and Transport of Mexico and other high-ranking authorities of Mexican institutions and the representative from UNOOSA, the Conference set the stage for a wide range of discussions. Delegations deliberated on how best to join efforts to take advantage of existing opportunities for the use of space technologies in the context of peaceful uses of outer space. Experts, practitioners, and students exchanged impressions, and representatives of agencies discussed joint strategies and activities. For the host country, the Conference served as a venue for Mexican authorities and agencies to discuss the establishment of the Mexican Space Agency as a way to institutionalize the use of outer space for peaceful purposes, and to take advantage of existing opportunities offered through a variety of space applications.

The Office for Outer Space Affairs, represented by Mr. Juan Carlos Villagran de Leon, Programme Officer, and Mr. Werner Balogh, was recognized for its long-standing support. Representatives from UNESCO complemented the attendance on behalf of the United Nations System.

Complementary to the political negotiations which culminated in the Pachuca Declaration, the Conference included the Youth Space Forum, the International Fair on Space and Telecommunications, and the Space Camp, which allowed a broader audience to take part in this hemispheric event. The Conference included presentations by experts from many countries of the hemisphere, as well as representatives from Asia, Africa, and Europe, international organizations such as the European Space Agency, astronauts, the Secure World Foundation, the International Astronautical Federation, the Space Generation Advisory Council, and UNESCO and OOSA on behalf of the United Nations.

In order to cover a variety of topics, deliberations were conducted through four commissions: 1. Space Policy, Space Law and Youth Vision, 2. Environment, Disasters of Natural and Anthropogenic Origin and Protection of the Cultural Heritage, 3. Education and Health, and 4. Technological Development, Industry, and Scientific Research. The outcome of the working groups under these commissions found their way into the Pachuca Declaration. The declaration stresses the importance of international cooperation as a key strategy to take advantage of the opportunities that space applications for peaceful purposes offer. It also highlights the importance of institutional strengthening and capacity building. The Conference also introduced the Technical Advisory Group on Space Matters composed of representatives of Space Agencies and of governments of countries of the hemisphere, which will support the Conference in scientific and technical aspects. In addition, it requests countries to support a variety of activities on topics related to space applications, capacity building, research, and technological development.

UN-SPIDER took advantage of the Conference for outreach activities, to continue its efforts in Latin America and the Caribbean, and to plan activities to be conducted with the support of several countries. In the case of the Colombian Space Commission, meetings with its Executive Secretary and the Technical Coordinator paved the way for the establishment of a Regional Support Office in Colombia, hosted by the Commission. The Conference provided an opportunity for staff from UN-SPIDER to meet with high ranking officers of CONAE regarding a project to be conducted in Guatemala which targets food insecurity associated with drought. Discussions were also held with representatives of Ecuador regarding follow-up activities to the Technical Advisory Mission which was carried out in October 2009. The opportunity was also used by UN-SPIDER to establish links with representatives of NASA and USGS, to start planning a variety of activities in Latin America and the Caribbean, particularly in those countries where Technical Advisory Support has been provided.

Recognizing the recent experience of the Chilean Space Agency during the earthquake and subsequent tsunami that impacted this country and a similar experience in Guatemala during tropical storm Agatha, it was agreed that UN-SPIDER and the Chilean Space Agency will undertake video-conferences to link the Chilean inter-institutional team that was established to assist in the processing of satellite imagery in support of ONEMI with similar teams already established in Mexico, and Guatemala. Similar efforts will promote the establishment of such inter-institutional, inter-sectoral teams in Ecuador, Dominican Republic and other countries of Latin America.

Conference website: http://conferenciaespacialdelasamericas.org/