22-23 January 201, Nairobi, Kenya - Over 70 participants coming from the member states of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), international organizations, UN agencies, the private sector, academia and the media met in Nairobi to discuss how to strengthen the action of IGAD and its member states to build resilience and response to disasters in the region. The event was organised by IGAD together with UNITAR/UNOSAT and Wilton Park, with support from the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The conference comes at an exciting juncture between two key phases of the UNOSAT-IGAD regional capacity development programme, which started in 2012 and is meeting with increasing support in the region. The aim of the Nairobi gathering was to continue to inform and equip a wide range of stakeholders and to work on collaborative plans for regional Disaster Risk Reduction using more technology and sharing more information.

The event opened on 22 January with senior policy makers in attendance, including Dr. Wilbur Ottichilo, Member of Parliament from the Emuhaya Constituency and Mr. David Jakaiti from Kenya’s Ministry for Environment, Water and Natural Resources, Kenya. Mr. Jakaiti spoke on behalf of his Cabinet Secretary and said: ‘The Government of Kenya recognizes the key role of geospatial technologies and is making efforts to enhance national capacities through the initiation of several technology-intensive programmes in national universities’. He thanked UNITAR, UNOSAT and the Government of Norway for their support and encouraged them to continue to build on this exciting initiative.

Other high-level speakers at the opening included Dr. Ottichilo, who discussed the benefits of geospatial technology for environmental monitoring and disaster mitigation, the Executive Secretary of IGAD, Ambassador Mahboub Maalim, Ms. Hilde Solbakken, Minister Counsellor and Charge d’Affairs at the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Nairobi, Dr. Hussein Farah, Director General, Regional Centre for Mapping of Resources for Development (RCMRD), Einar Bjorgo, UNOSAT Manager, and Ms. Robin Hart, Director of Programmes, Wilton Park.

During the course of two days success stories from across Africa as well as Thailand and Vietnam were presented with a view to scaling up results by repeating successes in additional countries. The key messages emerging from the event are the increase in the value of geospatial technology for DRR, the essential role of media in communicating the impact of disasters, and the integral part that DRR has in sustainable development.

The second phase of the IGAD-UNOSAT capacity development programme will begin in 2014 and continue until 2016 with a main focus on developing DRR capacity in all IGAD member states.

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Above: The UNOSAT speakers at the conference; below: IGAD Executive Director Ambassador Maalim (right) with Einar Bjorgo.