Abu Dhabi, UAE. Audiences at the UNISPACE +50 Conference in Vienna heard this week how the UAE Space Agency is contributing to the realization of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals on June 22, from mitigating against climate change using satellites to facilitating research water and food scarcity.
Led by H.E. Dr Ahmad Belhoul 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 fifty years since the first Conference on the Exploration and Peaceful Uses of Outer Space. Delegates include H.E. Dr Mohammed Al Ahbabi, Director General of the UAE Space Agency, who delivered the speech on space and the Sustainable Development Goals, and other senior members at the Agency.
Part of the United Nations 2030 Agenda, the Sustainable Development Goals identify 17 objectives for improving human quality of life and ensuring environmental protection, including no poverty, zero hunger, quality education and climate action.
“The benefits of space exploration and utilisation are perhaps more wide-reaching than any other sector or industry, and our collective efforts in space are already responsible for introducing life-changing and indeed life-saving technologies,” said H.E. Dr Al Ahbabi 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,” he added.
H.E. Dr Al Ahbabi went on to address space sector solutions to some of the environmental goals: “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 policy-makers, 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. The Forums resulted in the Dubai Declaration, a set of 20 principles signed by international space organizations in November 2016.
During a separate panel for heads of space agencies around the world, H.E. Dr Al Ahbabi noted the need for international cooperation and collaboration in space affairs: “We are firm believers in the notion that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and for this reason we have staunchly supported the UNISPACE +50 preparation process. The UAE was privileged to have hosted the High Level Forums in 2016 and 2017 that laid the foundations for the High-Level Segment this week and resulted in the adoption of the Dubai Declaration in late 2016.”
The role of space in education was also addressed, with Eng. Hamda Al Shehhi, a member of the Space Missions Department at the UAE Space Agency, taking part in a youth session during the event along with former NASA astronaut Scott Kelly, where they discussed the empowerment of youth in the changing space environment.