On July 7, Professor Guo Huadong, Director of the International Centre on Space Technologies for Natural and Cultural Heritage (HIST) under the auspices of UNESCO, and Dr. Bruno Oberle, Director General of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) at a virtual ceremony to advance collaboration on applying space technologies to monitor, conserve and protect natural World Heritage sites. This joint work will support the implementation of the World Heritage Convention on its 50th anniversary, which occurs this year.

Professor Guo Huadong and Dr. Bruno Oberle sign the MOU. [IMAGE: AIR]

Natural World Heritage sites represent some of the most iconic and precious natural places on Earth. Designated under the World Heritage Convention, they are considered to be of outstanding universal value and have drawn the international community’s commitment to protect them for present and future generations.

However, many of the sites are facing increasing threats and are in need of accurate and up-to-date monitoring to improve protection and management. Space technologies, and in particular satellite-based earth observation, have an important role to play in this effort through their capacity to remotely monitor key characteristics of the environment such as land use change, which can often be done on a global scale.

Under the MOU between HIST and IUCN, a formal cooperation framework has been agreed and will be realized through institutional programs, research projects and capacity development activities focused on applying the latest earth observation technology and tools for World Heritage research and conservation.

At the signing ceremony, Dr. Liu Jie, Secretary General of HIST, and Mr. Peter Shadie, IUCN’s Global Coordinator for World Heritage, also signed a supplemental agreement under the MOU specifying concrete actions in the aforementioned areas of collaboration for the 2022-2023 period.

“By signing both agreements, HIST and IUCN forge a comprehensive strategic partnership for the conservation of natural World Heritage sites and convey a very strong signal to the world that we are united to offer global public goods and services in support of the implementation of the World Heritage Convention, the Convention on Biological Diversity, and the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,” said Professor Guo.

Both institutions are committed to advancing five priority areas of collaboration: World Heritage nomination research and analysis, provision of high-quality satellite data for monitoring World Heritage sites, improving and completing a global spatial database on natural World Heritage sites, and capacity building and knowledge exchange.

“This collaboration will greatly improve and strengthen IUCN’s capacities in this critical area and will also reinforce China’s global leadership in World Heritage,” said Dr. Oberle.

“We also see this collaboration as an opportunity to enhance IUCN’s geospatial and earth observation capacities,” said Dr. Jane Smart, Director of IUCN’s Science and Data Centre.

Established in 2011, HIST is a UNESCO Category 2 Center for facilitating the use of space technologies to study and monitor UNESCO-designated heritage sites. It is hosted by the Aerospace Information Research Institute (AIR) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS).

IUCN is a membership union uniquely composed of both government and civil society organizations. By harnessing the experience, resources and reach of its more than 1,400 member organizations and the input of some 15,000 experts, IUCN is the global authority on the status of the natural world and the measures needed to safeguard it.

Source: IUCN

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