December 2011, Geneva, Switzerland – Kristalina Georgieva, European Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response,  addressed a large conference in Brussels on the subject of “Space: a tool for Crisis Prevention and Management”. In her speech she explained that the European Commission has used over the years the analysis and maps made by UNOSAT. In her address, the Commissioner explained how the European Commission, and in particular ECHO and its operational services use space technology and satellite derived mapping. She said that “over the last years satellite image-based maps from either the GMES pre-operational Emergency Response Service (SAFER) or from UNOSAT are used in the majority of cases in our present emergency response centre”.

The Monitoring and Information Centre, also known as MIC, is regularly in contact with UNOSAT operational services during emergencies and humanitarian crises that are of relevance to the European Union. While UNOSAT is activated in all cases in which the United Nations carry out humanitarian relief and coordination in disaster areas and conflict zones, the MIC responds to calls stemming from within the EU zone or in international situations that are of relevance to the Union. For example, as Ms Georgieva said, “in four years, the Civil Protection Mechanism has been activated 93 times, of which 65 were outside the EU”. In several of these activations “outside the EU” UNOSAT was also involved. UNOSAT has been active in nearly 150 crises over the same time period, with an annual average of 35 emergency events covered with specific geospatial information and mapping.

UNOSAT serves also as coordination mechanism for geospatial information within the Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System, or GDACS, which is a real-time information hub used by the united nations and stemming from technical collaboration between the UN and the EC Joint Research Centre (JRC). The collaboration between UNOSAT and the MIC has been positive and constructive ever since geospatial information has been integrated in emergency response both at the European Commission and the United Nations.

Photo courtesy of the European Commission/ECHO