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International Symposium on Digital Earth

An International Symposium on Digital Earth (ISDE) was held at Beijing from November 29 to December 2, 1999. The Chinese Academy of Sciences with co-sponsorship of 19 organisations and institutions, organised the symposium. Some 500 scientists, engineers, educators, managers and industrial entrepreneurs from 20 countries and regions world-wide attended it.

The first ISDE included the opening ceremony, closure, three plenary sessions, and 24 technical sessions. Also, there was a technical exhibition and demonstrations of 13 companies related to Digital Earth. The participants also visited five Chinese institutions related to Digital Earth. Two hundred and twenty nine papers from 27 countries were submitted to the ISDE and published under the title ‘Towards Digital Earth’ by the Science Press along with a CD ROM version. About 195 scientific and technical papers were presented by the participants at 24 sessions.

The opening ceremony held at the International Conference Centre of Beijing, Lanqing Li, Vice -Premier of the People’s Republic of China delivered the inaugural speech about Digital Earth.

A session was organised on December 2, 1999 to discuss the draft “Beijing Declaration on Digital Earth” which was prepared by an informal working group during the Symposium. The session was open to all participants.

The special session also discussed the follow-up arrangements for the continuation of the symposium initiative. The following decisions were made:

An International Steering Committee on the symposium will be established under the chairmanship of Prof. Yongxiang Lu, President of ISDE, and also President of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. The members of the Committee will be identified later on through consultation.

The Steering Committee will be assisted by a General Secretary, to be nominated by China and a Vice General Secretary, to be nominated by Canada.

Canada’s offer to host the second International Symposium on Digital Earth in Ottawa in 2001 has been accepted. The exact dates for the Symposium will be decided later. 

Canada, as the next host country, will establish a National Organising Committee and chair it.

The session also agreed that the long-term arrangements for the organisation of the International Symposium on Digital Earth will be discussed and decided at the second symposium and for the time being, China was requested to set up a web site for the symposium. At the closing ceremony, the “Beijing Declaration on Digital Earth” was declared and adopted.

Beijing Declaration on Digital Earth

We, some 500 scientists, engineers, educators, managers and industrial entrepreneurs from 20 countries and regions assembled here in the historic city of Beijing, attending the first International Symposium on Digital Earth being organised by the Chinese Academy of Sciences with co-sponsorship of 19 organisations and institutions from November 29, 1999 to December 2, 1999, recognise that humankind, while entering the new millennium, still faces great challenges such as rapid population growth, environmental degradation, and natural resource depletion which continue to threaten global sustainable development;

Noting that global development in the 20th century has been characterised by rapid advancements in science and technology which have made significant contributions to economic growth and social well-being and that the new century will be an era of information and space technologies supporting the global knowledge economy;

  • Recalling the statement by Al Gore, Vice President of the United States, on Digital Earth: Understanding Our Planet in the 21st Century -and the statement by Jiang Zemin, President of the People’s Republic of China, on Digital Earth regarding trends of social, economic, scientific and technological development;
  • Realising the decisions made at UNCED and Agenda 21, recommendations made by UNISPACE III and the Vienna Declaration on Space and Human Development, which address, among other things, the importance of the Integrated Global Observing Strategy, the Global Spatial Data Infrastructure, Geographic Information Systems, Global Navigation and Positioning Systems, Geo-spatial Information Infrastructure and Modelling of Dynamic Processes;
  • Understanding that Digital Earth, addressing the social, economic, cultural, institutional, scientific, educational, and technical challenges, allows humankind to visualise the Earth, and all places within it, to access information about it and to understand and influence the social, economic and environmental issues that affect their lives in their neighbourhoods, their nations and the planet Earth;
  • Recommend that Digital Earth be promoted by scientific, educational and technological communities, industry, governments, as well as regional and international organisations;
  • Recommend also that while implementing the Digital Earth, priority be given to solving problems of environmental protection, disaster management, natural resource conservation, and sustainable economic and social development as well as improving the quality of life of the humankind;
  • Recommend further that Digital Earth be created in a way that also contributes to the exploration of, and scientific research on, global issues and the Earth system;
  • Declare the importance of Digital Earth in achieving global sustainable development;
  • Call for adequate investments and strong support in scientific research and development, education and training, capacity building as well as information and technology infrastructures, with emphasis, inter alia, on global systematic observation and modelling, communication networks, database development, and issues associated with interoperability of geo-spatial data;
  • Further call for close cooperation and collaboration between governments, public and private sectors, non-governmental organisations, and international organisations and institutions, so as to ensure equity in distribution of benefits derived from the use of Digital Earth in developed and developing economies;
  • Agree that, as a follow-up to the first International Symposium on Digital Earth held in Beijing, the International Symposium on Digital Earth should continue to beorganised by interested countries or organisations biannually, on a rotational basis.