The Portuguese Presidency of the European Council has prepared a manifesto on earth observation for Africa and Europe. The council prepared the Lisbon manifesto at the Africa-Europe Space Earth Observation High-Level Forum held on 10-11 June 2021.
Through the manifesto, the council expresses the importance of earth observation.
The manifesto identifies how EO can tackle current global issues like climate change, uncertainty, risk and ignorance about the future. Consequently, these issues require that the EO community carries out the following actions:
- Delivering new knowledge to address the challenges of green transition effectively, making use of the opportunities driven by digital shifts across all disciplinary areas;
- Fostering institutional innovation across the current EO institutional landscape and diversified stakeholders, building the necessary economic resilience, but also addressing the social context and, above all, the inequalities that permeate our societies; and
- Guaranteeing new observation methods that use new satellite systems, which are needed to guide collective futures better and better understand and act on our common living pathways and their ecological impacts. These include developing early warning and monitoring systems for water, agriculture, clean oceans and atmospheric issues.
The manifesto buttresses the fact that EO plays a relevant role in documenting and explaining natural processes. in the context of the pandemic. Thus, it suggests that EO will play pertinent roles in helping humanity ask more accurate and challenging questions and better understand our risks. The manifesto also identifies several EO projects that support the world’s sustainable development plan. For example, it mentions the Copernicus programme through the Group on Earth Observation (GEO), the GMES & Africa initiative, and the European meteorological satellite (EUMETSAT) programmes. The manifesto also notes the positive contributions these initiatives have made to the world.
Furthermore, the manifesto considers the critical role of the numerous initiatives on earth observation over in Africa and Europe. These include initiatives that space agencies, national programmes and the European Union promote to provide valuable earth observation data and services. To this end, the manifesto acknowledges the establishment of the African Space Agency, amongst others.
The manifesto also itemises the following considerations, which it encourages. They include:
- Developing innovative and advanced earth observation systems and their integration with user-driven, citizen-based information systems. These systems must be socially and economically relevant. As a subordinate consideration, the manifesto also encourages addressing the current free and open data policy in a broader context. It further includes the necessity to evolve towards a system of high-resolution data generation to support many EO spatial applications. Some of these applications (like cartography, urban and territory cadastre, etc.) require high-resolution data.
- Strengthening the links between space and non-space sectors for the use of space data within institutional research programs. The manifesto envisages that the use of space data is for research breakthroughs. These breakthroughs shall, in turn, benefit both Africa and Europe. Furthermore, they will foster space-related entrepreneurship and economic growth and strengthen a coherent African European space cooperation.
- The intention to set up and contribute to the necessary frameworks to promote and to
facilitate a joint dialogue on space science, technology and innovation cooperation to, amongst other things,
- Facilitate the uptake of data, assets, services, and information derived from space data. This could be through establishing regional data hubs in support of the Africa-EU partnership and the policies of both continents;
- Regularly exchange information on their respective programmes and activities to strengthen African and European cooperation, with the possibility of a collaborative Roadmap on EO to include new actors and programmes; and
- Identify cooperation areas/initiatives and follow their implementation, notably in secure connectivity and satellite-based augmentation services;
The manifesto also recognises that the issues as mentioned above, that is; climate change, uncertainty, risk, and ignorance about the future, require learning more, with more solidarity and intergenerational debate, understanding of and respect for others, regardless of gender, age, ethnicity, religion, disability or sexual orientation.
Faleti Joshua is an avid lover of space in all its incomprehensible nature. He holds a LL.B degree, and is a pessimist in his free time.