Interview with Camille Chambinaud, Project Officer at UNOSAT
Can you give us an insight into the work UNOSAT does?
UNOSAT is the Operational Satellite Applications Programme of the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR). It was established in 2001 and over the last 20 years has become a centre of excellence for satellite imagery and geospatial analysis within the United Nations (UN) system. UNOSAT’s mission and work focuses on one niche: promoting evidence-based decision making for peace, security and resilience using earth observation (EO) and geospatial information technologies (GIT).
In practice, UNOSAT provides coordinated geospatial analysis, develops capacity in the use of technology towards achieving the SDGs, and develops and promotes innovative geo-spatial solutions for the UN system, its partners and member states. Our expertise with geo-spatial information technology and data is applied to humanitarian assistance, the defence and promotion of human rights, disaster risk reduction and management, environmental preservation and other development projects.
What has been your involvement in the IPP Common Sensing project?
I was brought on the IPP Common Sensing project to capture all the work done to ensure the sustainability of the project. UNOSAT is the overall project lead, but also leads the capacity development, monitoring & evaluation, sustainability and stakeholder engagement activities. Naturally, ensuring that the project’s impact is as long-lasting as possible is essential, especially for a project aiming to build climate resilience in developing countries. Sustainability is a cross-cutting element and needed to be both approached holistically and incorporated in every phase and activity. My role was to map out all the elements already in progress or upcoming in the different activities, as well as to identify synergies and gaps between all the different components of the project. I particularly appreciated having the opportunity to discuss with all consortium partners, and see that tailoring the solutions to the user’s needs, future-proofing the products, and boost the users’ engagement to build their ownership of the project was always a top priority.
There has been a significant and welcomed rise in activities addressing climate effects in recent years. Why do you think the work Common Sensing is doing, in particular, is important?
Fiji, Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands, as small island countries in the Pacific, were some of the first countries in the world to witness climate change, and are still some of the most badly hit by its impact. They are also developing economies, where the majority of the population’s livelihood rely on natural resources. Building climate resilience is critical to keep their economies growing, and to ensure a safe and sustainable future for their communities. What the Common Sensing project brings is tailored technical solutions to analyse and monitor various sectors using a variety of data. This solution will not only help better manage the resources, support disaster risk reduction, enhance food security, but also support requests and reports of climate funds.
The added value here is the use of geospatial information technology and data, which is prone to innovation and versatile in its applications. It also is timely and allows us to work on the entire geography of the island countries, including the most remote areas. This project provides strong tools for evidence-based decision making, and seeing the stakeholders taking ownership of the Common Sensing products is not only rewarding for the consortium, but it also shows the relevance of such a project.
Using data to inform decision-making is at the heart of the IPP Common Sensing project. How do you think the training and capacity development provided by the project will impact SIDS once the project is over, and what will this contribute to their climate resilience?
All the capacity development activities, as well as the awareness-raising efforts, have been designed and delivered to ensure that institutions and networks in Fiji, Solomon Islands, and Vanuatu, have the conditions to provide continuous access to tools, data, knowledge, and training opportunities on GIT for improved decision making for building climate resilience. This meant building ownership at the individual and organisational level while ensuring and enabling the environment at large so that local actors could build on their new skills and transfer them to the next generations. It is important to note as well that the project is also building on an existing GIS community. It was key to engage the local academia, as well as with regional and national networks, and actively seek diversity in the participant’s profiles.
Throughout the entire project, the capacity and knowledge sustainability plan delivered a number of activities to ensure building and retaining institutional technical capacities and knowledge in the use of EO and GIT data generated by CS tools, as well as decision makers’ awareness of GIT and EO data. So far, across the three countries, a total of 55 technical awareness-raising workshops, 15 technical capacity building trainings (including 2 e-learning courses), and 249 technical backstopping activities were delivered. In 2021, a Training of Trainer will also take place to provide local experts with the capacities to carry on the knowledge transfer and building awareness around the importance of using EO and GIT for enhanced climate resilience.
To guarantee that knowledge acquired during the project duration lasts and evolves, all the learning materials will be made available through the CommonSensing Knowledge Hub, an online platform developed by UNOSAT as a knowledge repository. Finally, the project team is planning some institutional agreements with local universities and ministries to assist future implementation of new programs on climate resilience and the use of geospatial information, to boost the creation of a local talent pool trained on CS tools. With all these tools and knowledge in hand, Fiji, Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands will be lead examples of SIDS building local expertise in using GIT to develop their climate resilience.
What do you hope to see as a result of the IPP Common Sensing project?
We are already seeing so much enthusiasm from the training participants and a lot of engagement thanks to our in-country experts. I hope the momentum is kept after the project period ends and the local communities are strengthened thanks to the tools and knowledge this project will have brought them. In countries where the impact of climate change can be so devastating, building climate resilience is critical, and this project not only directly supports the stakeholders’ work, it also has the potential to bring in more climate funds.
SIDS are also taking on a more prominent role on the international scene as they are often taken as an example of climate change adaptation. I hope this project, by enhances their resilience, shows how evidence-based climate policies can positively impact developing economies and contribute to sustainable development.