UAE Space Agency aiding UN development goals, conference hears

Abu Dhabi: The UNISPACE +50 Conference in Vienna heard this week how the UAE Space Agency is contributing to the realisation of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The agency is using satellites to facilitate research on water and food scarcity, and mitigating climate change.

Led by Dr Ahmad Abdullah Humaid Bel Houl Al Falasi, Minister of State for Higher Education and Advanced Skills and chairman of the UAE Space Agency, a high-level UAE delegation is taking part in the event, which marks 50 years since the first Conference on the Exploration and Peaceful Uses of Outer Space.

Delegates include Mohammad Al Ahbabi, director-general of the UAE Space Agency, who delivered a speech on space and SDGs, and other senior members at the agency.

Part of the UN 2030 Agenda, the SDGs identify 17 objectives for improving human quality of life and ensuring environmental protection.

Dr Al Ahbabi said during his speech: “We firmly believe that research and development around deep space exploration will directly lead to long-term solutions for many of the most pressing issues. Last year, the UAE revealed its most ambitious long-term plan to date — Mars 2117. This is our national objective to establish a human settlement on Mars over the next century, and it will require the research and development of advanced solutions to agriculture, clean water collection and energy supplies in an otherwise inhospitable environment.”

Dr Al Ahbabi went on to address space sector solutions to some of the environmental goals, saying: “Globally, earth observation and remote sensing applications of satellite technologies have highlighted issues related to life below water and life on land — both goals of the 2030 Agenda. For example, undergraduate students in the UAE are currently in the process of building a CubeSat that will monitor our coastal shores to identify algal blooms and determine necessary responses.”

The UNISPACE +50 sessions bring together policymakers, business leaders and academic experts from the global space sector to discuss areas for collaboration, including developing and adopting resolutions that will guide policies and joint action frameworks for years to come.

During the build-up to UNISPACE +50, two high-level forums were held in the UAE resulting in the Dubai Declaration, a set of 20 principles signed by international space organisations in November 2016.

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