Global perspective Human stories

China aids UN space bid to save world heritage, from rare gorillas to ancient ruins

China aids UN space bid to save world heritage, from rare gorillas to ancient ruins

United Nations efforts to preserve the world’s cultural and natural heritage, from endangered mountain gorillas to the ruined cities of ancient civilizations, has received a fresh boost from Chinese space technology.

Earlier this week China joined the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in the Open Initiative on the Use of Space Technology in Support of the World Heritage Convention.

UNESCO welcomes the new partnership with China. It represents a significant boost to our ability to assist Member States in the preservation of their heritage sites through the use of space technology,” UNESCO Deputy Director-General Marcio Barbosa said at the signing ceremony at the agency’s Paris headquarters.

Signing for China was Guo Huadong, Deputy Secretary-General of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Director of its Joint Laboratory for Remote Sensing Archaeology.

China will now share its extensive expertise within the framework of the Open Initiative, which UNESCO and the European Space Agency (ESA) launched in 2001 to provide satellite images and know-how in space-supported conservation to developing countries, helping them monitor natural and cultural World Heritage sites.

The Initiative has already contributed significantly, for example, to efforts to save some 650 endangered mountain gorillas in nature reserves in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Rwanda and Uganda, providing these countries with their first accurate maps of the animals’ habitat.

Since China launched its first manned space flight in October 2003, it has demonstrated considerable expertise in the scientific exploration of space. Satellite technology is invaluable in observing Earth and monitoring changes there, including those caused by human activity.

The Chinese Academy of Sciences joins the Argentinean Space Agency (CONAE), the Canadian Space Agency, the Lebanese Remote Sensing Centre, The Royal Centre for Remote Sensing of Morocco and the United States’ National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in supporting satellite surveillance of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.