UNITAR and OHCHR Set the Stage for More Satellite Analysis and Applications to Protect Human Rights

20 August 2015, Geneva, Switzerland – The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and UNITAR signed a milestone MoU that will allow greater use of UNOSAT imagery analysis and technical assistance in support to the Office’s human rights work. Through the agreement OHCHR will benefit from the latest geographic information technologies and the entire suite of geo-spatial solutions provided by UNITAR’s Operational Satellite Applications Programme (UNOSAT), including rush satellite imagery analysis, field data collection, mapping, data management and training.

“This technology is very important for the work we do.  Indeed, UNOSAT analysis can prove very useful in complementing the various forms of human rights investigations we are called upon to conduct."

said OHCHR’s Deputy High Commissioner Flavia Pansieri who signed the agreement together with UNITAR Executive Director Sally Fegan-Wyles.

UNOSAT and OHCHR set the stage for more satellite analysis and applications to protect human rights

Under the agreement UNOSAT will provide its technical expertise and services to support ongoing emergencies, as well as preparedness, early warning and early action. The MoU paves the way for further mainstreaming satellite imagery analysis into the work of OHCHR, as well as Commissions of Inquiry and Fact-Finding Missions, and comes after years of active collaboration between UNOSAT and OHCHR. UNITAR Research Director Francesco Pisano says: “this MoU comes at a perfect time when the advancement of imagery analysis and other geo-spatial technologies combined with an experienced team of analysts at UNOSAT can support new ways to focus satellite technologies on human rights, also as a cross-cutting theme in the new Post-2015 development agenda”. A point of view shared at OHCHR, where Andrew Palmer, head of the Early Warning and Information Support Unit, said that the agreement is “a way to expand the use of satellite imagery and GIS maps across OHCHR and to provide staff with the knowledge and skills to take full advantage of its potential”.

UNOSAT is known for its continuing effort to bring to the UN family innovative analysis and new solutions. UNOSAT manager Einar Bjorgo expects that this will be case also for the area of human rights.  In addition, the new development agenda, due to be adopted by UN member states in September 2015, provides an ideal backdrop for technology research. Bjorgo says: “Given the SDGs focus on human rights, the work we do at UNOSAT is well suited to monitor indicators over time and to provide the UN with timely analysis on specific events. Our analyses focus on local situations, the resulting data and information can then be aggregated. The game-changing factor is the revolution in access to imagery over any place on Earth allowed by the scientific and commercial fleet of satellites available today. The scale of today’s data access is unprecedented and can support new imperatives such as the commitment to leave no one behind. Often our imagery analysis is a source of objective information during conflicts and other crises, a contribution to protecting the most vulnerable and documenting violations and abuses against those in greater need as assistance”.

Related links

UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights: www.ohchr.org

UNITAR-UNOSAT: www.unitar.org/unosat

More satellite to assist human rights work: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/MoresatelliteimagestoassistHRwork.aspx

Photo: OHCHR’s Deputy High Commissioner Flavia Pansieri (left) signing the agreement together with UNITAR Executive Director Sally Fegan-Wyles (right).

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