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Using information from Earth Observation technology to reduce environmental and human insecurity

Many countries are currently facing development challenges due to interrelated issues causing fragility. In 2017, there were 82 non-state conflicts and 49 state-conflicts registered, making it one of the most violent years since the Cold War. However, violence is not the only factor that might characterise fragility. A country can be considered fragile depending on the state of social, economic, political, environmental or security related factors in a society. Fragility is described by OECD (2016) as: “[...] the combination of exposure to risk and insufficient coping capacity of the state, system and/or communities to manage, absorb or mitigate those risks”.

The Fragility, Conflict and Security project is a part of the Earth Observation for Sustainable Development (EO4SD) initiative launched by the European Space Agency (ESA). The project was created to demonstrate how data from Earth Observation (EO) technology can be transformed into useful analytical products that can be used to reduce environmental and human insecurity in fragile states. EO based technology and products provide new information about local populations and environmental indicators as well as address geospatial information needs through detailed mapping data. 

These information products are separated into four thematic service areas: 

  • Natural resources management
  • Justice, law and early detection of onset crisis
  • Reconstruction and development of infrastructure
  • Management of environmental security

GRID-Arendal is one of the partners in a consortium made up of eight actors led by the French satellite company CLS. We support the project by turning complex technical information into easily understandable communication products using traditional and innovative communication tools and channels. The project will also benefit from our experience with capacity-building activities in West Africa in the next phase of the project. 

Tackling the interrelated issues faced by fragile states means establishing a collaborative relationship between stakeholders at many different levels of decision-making. Hence, the first phase of the project focuses on creating partnerships with International Financing Institutions (IFIs). The World Bank (WB) and The African Development Bank (AfDB) have been approached to select some of their already existing projects with at-risk states that may benefit from EO technology. 

For now, four specific areas have been considered due to their possible fragility and their relationships with the World Bank:

  • Colombia in South America

  • Lake Chad in Central Africa
  • Iraq in the Middle East
  • Pakistan in South Asia

In addition, the consortium can provide general support for IFIs operations in Fragile States. The final phase of the project will be completed when EO information has become a permanent tool in the working processes of international development projects. 


States of Fragility 2016: Understanding Violence, OECD Publishing, Paris.

Status: In progress

Type: Security

Programme: Environmental Crime

Tags: Fragile States IFIs environmental security Fragility


GRID-Arendal's activities are nearly always a cooperative undertaking made possible through collaboration with our various partners, and donors.

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