Press Release


JAXA and UNESCO concluded Memorandum of Unity for Monitoring World Heritage Sites

December 2, 2008 (JST)

Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA)

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) concluded a Memorandum of Unity (MOU) for cooperating in monitoring World Heritage Sites using the Advanced Land Observing Satellite "DAICHI" (ALOS) to watch and protect the common legacy of all mankind.

Since 2003, UNESCO has been monitoring the World Heritage Sites by satellite to protect them in corporation with the European Space Agency (ESA) under the "open initiative on the use of space technologies to support the World Heritage"*1.

Meanwhile, JAXA has been monitoring all over the Earth for about three years through the "DAICHI" since its launch in January 2006. Our accumulated observation data includes that of World Heritage Sites.

Under the abovementioned background, JAXA and UNESCO had been discussing the possibility of using data acquired by the "DAICHI," and decided to conclude a MOU.

Under the MOU, JAXA agrees to acquire image data on 10 World Heritage Sites*2 in Japan and other foreign countries, mainly Asian countries, about twice a year to provide the data to UNESCO. In addition, JAXA plans to make a data base of World Heritage Site images acquired to date to publish them. UNESCO will use the data to help protect World Heritage Sites with other related research institutions in the world and the hosts of the Heritage Sites.

JAXA and UNESCO will cooperatively do our best to carry out our respective roles to protect the World Heritage Sites, which have a common universal value for all mankind, and to ensure they are inherited to the next generation.

JAXA and UNESCO held a ceremony for concluding the MOU at the JAXA Tokyo office on December 2, 2008, and President Tachikawa of JAXA and Director General Matsuura of UNESCO signed the pact. Vice Minister Sakata of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports Science and Technology of Japan (MEXT), Mr. Yamamoto, the Japanese ambassador to UNESCO and other MEXT and UNESCO personnel were also present.

  • *1 Open initiative on the use of space technology to support World Heritage sites
    This is a joint cooperative activity to monitor and protect the World Heritage sites using space technology led by UNESCO and ESA that started in 2003. The organizations and institutions who participate in the initiative provide technological cooperation and other support for the common objective of monitoring and protecting World Heritage sites.
    Currently, 24 space related organizations in addition to the ESA participate in the initiative including the following: Le Centre national d'etudes Spatials (CNES,) Deutsches Zentrum fur Luft und Raumfahrs (DLR,) the Canadian Space Agency (CSA,) the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA,) the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL,) the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the Indian National Remote Sensing Agency (NRSA,) the China Research Center, and organizations from Iraq, Syria, Brazil, Lebanon, Argentine, Egypt, and Morocco.

  • *2 DAICHI observation target sites (Currently under coordination. It is planned to mainly select natural Heritage Sites based on the special features of the DAICHI sensor.
    <The following are Asian natural Heritage Sites.> Shirakami mountain region, Yakushima island, and Shiretoko in Japan, Angkor Wat (Cambodia), Sichuan Giant Panda Sanctuaries (China), Sagarmatha National Park (Nepal,) Manas Wildlife Sanctuary (India,) Ha Long Bay (Vietnam,) <The following are Heritage Sites outside Asia and requested for inclusion by UNESCO Headquarters.> Ancient Maya City of Calakmul (Mexico,) Historic Sancutary of Machu Picchu (Peru)

  • World Heritage Sites
    The registered World Heritage sites based on the "Convention concerning the Protection of World Culture and Natural Heritage" are categorized in the fields of cultural heritage, natural heritage and cultural and natural heritage (mixed.) As of July this year, the total number of cultural Heritage Sites was 679, that of the natural heritage sites was 174, and the mixed ones were at 25. (Among them, 11 cultural Heritage Sites and three natural sites are in Japan.)