At the annual meeting of the World Heritage Committee in Bonn, Germany, UNESCO and UNITAR (the UN Institute for Training and Research) signed an agreement to protect cultural and natural heritage sites with the latest geospatial technologies. The strategic partnership will enable the organizations to work together during conflict situations and following natural disasters, sharing their respective expertise, and collaborating on prevention and capacity development.
Satellite imagery often is the only source of objective information for areas affected by conflict or natural disasters. It helps the international community understand the situation on the ground and plan emergency measures. For example, a recently published UNITAR-UNOSAT report on cultural heritage sites in Syria revealed the extent of damage to cultural heritage, confirming information obtained through unofficial sources.
Other geospatial technologies that may be harnessed include the crowdsourcing app UN-ASIGN, which was successfully applied following the recent Nepal earthquake, and the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for general recording purposes and detailed damage assessments of buildings and other infrastructure. The entire range of geospatial information-gathering tools is combined using GIS and advanced Web-mapping solutions.