Copyright 2006 - UNESCO

Space for Heritage

The Open Initiative 

ESA/UNESCO Agreement signature on space technology to support the World Heritage Convention.
© ESA-M. Pedoussaut 2003

The ‘Open Initiative on the Use of Space Technologies to Support the World Heritage Convention’

On 18 June 2003 at the Paris Air Show in Le Bourget (France), UNESCO and the European Space Agency (ESA) signed an agreement to encourage Earth observation satellites to be used to monitor cultural and natural World Heritage sites. The signing of the Agreement officially launched the ‘Open Initiative on the Use of Space Technologies to Support the World Heritage Convention’.

The ‘Open Initiative’ aims to develop a framework of co-operation, open to space agencies, research institutions, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and the private sector in order to assist developing countries, through, space technologies to improve their natural and cultural conservation activities.

From the Kilimanjaro in Tanzania to the Great Wall in China, there are 890 different sites on UNESCO’s World Heritage list (April 2009). These include 689 cultural, 176 natural and 25 mixed properties in 148 States Parties. UNESCO considers 31 of them currently under threat. The idea of the Open Initiative is that data from space will be used to monitor these sites, alerting authorities to land use changes that could place the sites in danger.

The ‘Open Initiative’ has nowadays (May 2010) 53 partners that includes space agencies, universities, research institutes and from the private sector.