3-4 April 2012, Geneva, Switzerland - More than 200 attendees representing over 100 entities from the United Nations, academic fields, nongovernmental organizations, and the private sector participated in the “GIS for the United Nations and the International Community” conference held in on 3-4 April the World Meteorological Organization headquarters in Geneva.

The conference opened with a keynote from Ambassador Betty E. King, permanent representative of the United States to the United Nations Office in Geneva. Ambassador King, who was welcomed on the podium by UNOSAT Manager Francesco Pisano, spoke on the role of technology and information as a transformative tool empowering local actors to address global challenges and development opportunities.

“On behalf of the US government and President Obama, I applaud your use of technology in your work,” stated Ambassador King. “The world's current resources are insufficient to address all the major global development and humanitarian crises that we face. Through the use of science and technology, including innovative uses of GIS applications, we can become more effective and efficient in this endeavour and stretch the power of limited resources.”

Ambassador King went on to underline the role of UNOSAT within the UN system: "we have seen heartening results from cooperation between the U.S. and international organizations such as UNOSAT, which serves as a focal point for UN satellite imagery requests to the U.S. Government. UNOSAT has worked with the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development in support of humanitarian relief. By working collaboratively, these organizations ensure that satellite requests are coordinated and more efficiently handled without duplication.”

The conference, organised by Esri and UNOSAT as a first test of a model for an annual gathering, allowed attendees to take part during two days in 10 sessions focused on advancing the use of GIS and spatial analysis for the missions undertaken by the international community at large, the United Nations, and especially the humanitarian community and the  human rights community. A post-conference workshop demonstrated how organizations can collaborate online to create and share hundreds of mission-focused maps using Esri's ArcGIS Online cloud solution. Astrium, Esri Suisse SA, GeoEye, and TomTom sponsored the conference.

“I was inspired by the eagerness of the geospatial experts, information workers, and decision makers at this conference,” said Jack Dangermond, Esri president. “Their effort in working together promotes data sharing and transparency. It also encourages greater participation at every level in an organization to find solutions to global problems.” In addressing a full conference room Francesco Pisano of UNOSAT said “I am impressed: this is the second time in less than five months that we fill this room with experts and decision makers discussing the power of geographic information in addressing the challenges facing the UN and the international community”.

At the end of the conference, Esri and UNITAR announced that consultations to organise next year event are already underway.

Photos courtesy of US Permanent Mission in Geneva/Eric Bridiers.
Ambassador Betty E King (top) addresses the plenary opening session;
Bottom from right: Ambassador King, Francesco Pisano, Jack Dangermond.
View the entire photogallery.

Read more about Ambassador King's address.