At the 57th International Astronautical Federation (IAF) Congress held in Valencia, Spain from 2-6 October 2006, UNESCO and the European Space Agency's (ESA) Open Initiative on Space Technologies to Monitor Natural and Cultural Heritage of UNESCO Sites held a plenary event for the general public with the theme 'Space Technologies for the Benefit of Society'. It covered the use of space technologies to assist in monitoring and preserving UNESCO World Heritage sites and Biosphere Reserves for the conservation of our common heritage.  

UNESCO and ESA have jointly attracted a large number of space agencies, research institutions, non-governmental organizations and the private sector. The plenary event showed how these partners are joining efforts to assist UNESCO in the preservation of natural and cultural heritage.

UNESCO, in collaboration with partners, also demonstrated the fascinating attraction space can hold for children and its potential to inspire an interest in conservation. Prior to the IAF Congress, UNESCO and partners had organized two groups of school children from Valencia, Spain and Iguazu, Argentina to visit World Heritage sites and receive a lecture on Earth observation and conservation.   

For the plenary event, the Argentinean space agency, CONAE, set up a direct satellite transmission from Iguazu National Park to Valencia to show, live at the IAF Congress, children from Iguazu at Iguazu Falls discussing the important biodiversity of the site and the use of satellites to better monitor it. Also, school children from Valencia made a presentation on their visit to Palmeral Del Elche World Heritage site in Spain and on how satellites can help to identify changes occurring to the site.  

Through the collaborative effort of UNESCO and its partners, the plenary event at the IAF Congress provided an excellent example of how space is being brought closer to people, and in particular the younger generations, for the overall benefit of society.

To view a video of UNESCO and partners' Plenary Event: