Dear Colleague

You may recall that our most recent Humanitarian Futures newsletter started off with reflections on outer space and ways that outer space technologies and exploration could have very positive impacts on humanitarian action. 
We’ve had various enquiries asking for further information about the outer space-humanitarian interface. In our next newsletter therefore, we would like to explore the use of ‘digital humanitarian technologies’. For now however, here is some information about one of the most important connections of the future – outer space and humanitarian action.

Scott Kelly/NASA via UN News

On July 2nd, the World Humanitarian Forum held a webinar Advancing Humanitarian Responses through Space Technology which brought together four leading experts on various aspects of the humanitarian-space technology interface. Briefly, the webinar included Liz Cox from the UK Space Agency’s International Partnership Programme, Dr Ian Pearson, BT’s full-time futurologist from 1991 to 2007, now at Futurizon, Dr Shirish Ravan, from the UN’s Office for Outer Space Affairs, and Professor Thais Russomano from King’s College, London, who deals with human space physiology and space biomedical engineering.
Some of the main themes that were discussed included:
  • the increasing ability of satellite observation not only to identify on-going crisis threats and their consequences, but also the increasing capacities to anticipate such crises;
  • space-based systems that can enhance food production and energy and identify amongst other things water sources;
  • the growing number of middle and lower-income countries committing themselves to space programmes, of which to date, according to the UK’s Space Agency International Partnership Programme, already involves 43 countries pursuing 33 major space-oriented programmes;
  • health, medical and psychological lessons learned from outer space that have and increasingly will have direct application for advancing health, medical and psychological understanding on Earth;
  • transformative innovations that could enhance access to outer space that will in turn provide essential materials that will have a positive impact on global warming.
From this discussion the positive benefits of outer space exploration are clear. And, yet, technologies – whether those focused on outer space or those on earth-based systems – also have their downsides. And, that is what we’ll be exploring in the next HF newsletter, including what has been called, ‘data colonialism’.
For now, however, we hope that the webinar on outer space and humanitarian action will prove of interest. You can always find tools and further in depth content at
Don’t hesitate to let us know areas of interest when it comes to humanitarian futures that you might like to explore.

In the meantime, our very best regards

The Humanitarian Futures team

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