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World-leading satellite operators unite to support Global Humanitarian Community

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There have been a number of dreadful humanitarian emergencies across the globe in the last twelve months alone: Vanuatu, Nepal and the Philippines all felt the devastating effects of natural disasters which were brought on as a result of climate change, and those disasters also reiterated to us just how important the role of communications is in times of crisis.

The historic announcement of this new charter will see the world’s leading satellite operators unite to support regions left shattered by natural disasters - by collectively delivering improved global coverage and connectivity. The satellite sector is systematically part of the first responder team, which provides immediate communication links that support supply logistics, urgent medical care and coordination of relief efforts.

At the World Humanitarian Summit Global Consultation which was held in Geneva, it was officially announced that the world’s leading satellite operators would sign this incredible charter which will ultimately help save many, many lives during times of natural disasters.

The satellite operators that signed the charter include Eutelsat, Hispasat, Inmarsat, Intelsat, SES, Thuraya and Yahsat - which all came under the collective umbrella of the EMEA Satellite Operators Association(ESOA) Global VSAT Forum (GVF), to confirm its pledge to aid the humanitarian community by signing the Crisis Connectivity Charter along with the global humanitarian community which was represented by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and the Emergency Telecommunications Cluster (ETC).

Yahsat is an Abu Dhabi-based company that provides multipurpose satellite solutions for broadband, broadcast, government, and communications use across the Middle East, Africa, and Europe in addition to South West Asia. Yahsat is owned by the Mubadala Development Company which is the investment vehicle of the Government of Abu Dhabi and are renowned for being the first company to offer multi-purpose ka-band satellite services.

Those in attendance at the conference were told that the Crisis Connectivity Charter basically formalizes terms and protocols designed to accelerate the ability of emergency response teams to access satellite-based communications when local networks are affected, destroyed or overloaded after a disaster.

Some of the principles of the charter were also disclosed and some of these include increased coordination to prioritize access to bandwidth for humanitarian purposes during disaster operations; pre-positioned satellite equipment and transmission capacity at times of disaster in 20 high-risk countries in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and Asia, as identified by the ETC and beyond; as well as training and capacity building for the humanitarian community across all five continents.

ESOA is the world’s only CEO-driven satellite association, and leads a coordinated satellite communications sector. The Brussels-based trade association through membership brings together all European, Middle East and African satellite operators and supporting members including service providers, manufacturers and launch service providers. It’s a source of great honor and pride that ESOA were able to bind together this fantastic collaboration of businesses to support the humanitarian community by signing the Crisis Connectivity Charter.

The association represents all satellite operators from the EMEA region and other companies that engage in satellite-related activities. It offers a unified voice for the world’s largest operators and important regional operators towards all international, regional and national organizations and regulators. By providing a unified voice and platform for global collaboration, ESOA increases opportunities for governments, businesses and citizens to leverage satellite services in order to bring connectivity through high quality telecommunications services to users everywhere, on land, in the air or at sea. Through minimal infrastructure providing ubiquitous coverage, satellites allow communications across national boundaries, without discriminating on the basis of economic differences between nations.

Secretary General of ESOA, Aarti Holla, said he was honored that ESOA was chosen to lead the concerted effort to gather all satellite operators together under a collective umbrella to enhance the response to humanitarian emergencies.

Mr. Holla said, "ESOA is honored to have led this effort on behalf of member satellite operators who collectively deliver global coverage and connectivity. We have to recognize that the number of crises around the world is increasing both as a result of climate change and geo-politics. As a result, the unique ability of satellite solutions to save lives is becoming indispensable and the Crisis Connectivity Charter will enable the ETC to trigger pre-positioned satellite solutions in any one of their 20 high-risk countries or beyond."

UN Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs, Stephen O’Brien, echoed those sentiments and said the collaboration between the satellite operators represented a significant step for the humanitarian community.

Mr. O’Brien said: "The humanitarian community relies on satellite communications as they are the only technology that are immune to natural disasters and that can be immediately deployed, regardless of constraints such as geography. This is a significant step for the humanitarian community and a step change in the way we have worked with satellite operators in the past."

Chair of the ETC and Chief Information Officer of the World Food Programme (WFP), Jakob Kern, said he believed the collective gathering of the world’s leading satellite operators could ensure that by 2020, all those responding to disasters can communicate to respond, recover and redevelop - but most importantly of all he feels the charter will save lives.

"The Crisis Connectivity Charter seeks to ensure improved access to communications services in humanitarian emergencies, and with satellite services we can save lives. Through the Crisis Connectivity Charter and the ETC network, we endeavor to ensure that by 2020 all those responding to disasters, including affected people, can communicate to respond, recover and redevelop. Mobilizing their members in this way, ESOA and GVF are supporting the ETC in making this vision a reality."

David Hartshorn, Secretary General of GVF, hopes that the charter will enable governments and administrations all over the world to recognize to the vital role satellite operators play in not only its response to natural disasters, but also its standing in the world’s telecommunications infrastructure.

"Our members provide emergency communications on all continents using key satellite spectrum such as the C-band," he said. "We hope governments and administrations the world over will recognize the vital role satellite operators play in the globe’s telecommunications infrastructure and its ability to ensure an immediate, robust and resilient response to disasters."