HIST and IUCN sign MOU for collaboration on Space Technologies for Natural World Heritage Conservation

Jul 09, 2022

On July 7, 2022, Prof. GUO Huadong, Director of the International Centre on Space Technologies for Natural and Cultural Heritage (HIST) under the auspices of UNESCO, and Dr. Bruno Oberle, Director General of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) through a virtual ceremony to advance collaboration on applying space technologies to monitor, conserve and protect natural World Heritage sites. This joint work will support the implementation of the World Heritage Convention which celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2022.

Natural World Heritage sites represent some of the most iconic and precious natural places on Earth. Designated under the World Heritage Convention, these are places considered to be of outstanding universal value which the international community has committed to protecting for present and future generations.

However, many of these sites are facing increasing threats and are in need of accurate and up-to-date monitoring to improve protection and management. Space technologies, and in particular satellite-based earth observation, have an important role to play in this effort, through their capacity to remotely monitor key characteristics of the environment such as land use change, which can often be done at a global scale.

Under the MOU between HIST and IUCN, a formal framework for cooperation has been agreed and will be realised through institutional programmes, research projects and capacity development activities focused on applying the latest earth observation technology and tools for World Heritage research and conservation.

Both institutions are committed to advancing five priority areas of collaboration: World Heritage nomination research and analyses, provision of high-quality satellite data for monitoring World Heritage, improving and completing a global spatial database on natural World Heritage sites, and capacity building and knowledge exchange.

“By signing both agreements, HIST and IUCN forge a comprehensive strategic partnership for the conservation of natural World Heritage sites and convey a very strong signal to the world that we are united to offer global public goods and services in support of the implementation of World Heritage Convention, Convention on Biological Diversity, and the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.” said Prof. GUO Huadong, Director of HIST.

“This collaboration will greatly improve and strengthen IUCN’s capacities in this critical area and will also reinforce China’s global leadership in World Heritage”, said Dr Bruno Oberle, IUCN Director General.

“We also see this collaboration as an opportunity to enhance IUCN’s geospatial and earth observation capacities”, said Dr. Jane Smart, Director of IUCN’s Science and Data Centre.

At the signing ceremony, Dr. LIU Jie, Secretary General of HIST, and Mr. Peter Shadie, IUCN’s Global Coordinator World Heritage, also signed a supplemental agreement under the MOU specifying concrete actions in the aforementioned areas of collaboration for the 2022-2023 period.

HIST is a UNESCO Category 2 Center to facilitate the use of space technologies to study and monitor UNESCO-designated heritage sites. Established in 2011, it is hosted by the Aerospace Information Research Institute (AIR), Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS).

IUCN is a membership Union uniquely composed of both government and civil society organizations. By harnessing the experience, resources and reach of its more than 1,400 Member organizations and the input of some 15,000 experts, IUCN is the global authority on the status of the natural world and the measures needed to safeguard it.


Prof. GUO Huadong and Dr. Bruno Oberle sign the MOU. (Credit: AIR)