UNESCO and UNITAR signed agreement to protect cultural heritage with geo-spatial technologies

Under the agreement, both the organizations will take necessary steps to protect cultural heritage sites from conflicts and natural disasters.

Created On: Jul 6, 2015 12:00 ISTModified On: Jul 6, 2015 17:08 IST

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the UN Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) on 1 July 2015 signed an agreement to protect cultural heritage sites with the latest geo-spatial technologies.

The agreement was signed at the annual meeting of the World Heritage Committee in Bonn, Germany.

Features of the Agreement

• It is part of the UNESCO’s Unite for Heritage framework under which UNESCO enters into agreements with sister UN Agencies to protect cultural heritage sites across the world.
• It will enable both the organizations to work together during conflict situations and following natural disasters by sharing their respective expertise and collaborating on prevention and capacity development.
• Under the agreement, complimentary capacities of both the organizations-satellite technology of UNITAR and ground based resources of UNESCO – will be put into best use for protection of heritage sites.
• Apart from the Geographic Information Systems (GIS), crowd-sourcing application UN-ASIGN, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and advanced web-mapping solutions will be deployed to continuously monitor the status of heritage sites.
• Both the organizations will jointly explore new and innovative solutions that can further contribute to improved management and protection of cultural heritage sites.
• The agreement will be operational through the UNITAR’s Operational Satellite Applications Programme (UNOSAT).

Importance of geo-spatial technologies in protecting heritage sites

Satellite imagery is often the only source of objective information for areas affected by conflict or by natural disasters.  It helps the international community to understand the situation on the ground and plan emergency measures.  
For example, a recently-published report on cultural heritage sites in Syria, by UNITAR-UNOSAT revealed the extent of damage to cultural heritage, confirming information obtained through unofficial sources.


The agreement between both the UN organizations was signed against the backdrop of damage occurred to cultural heritage sites due to conflicts and natural calamities in different parts of the world in recent times.

For example, the earthquake that struck Nepal on 25 April 2015 destroyed the 19th century Dharahara (Bhimsen) tower and Monkey Temple of Swayambhunath that happens to be UNESCO heritage sites. Similarly, damage was done to world heritage sites in Syria and Iraq by the ISIS militant group.

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