Happiness and Investment in Space – Two Themes that Start the Second Day of the UN World Data Forum 2018

Tuesday 23 October 2018
Dubai - MENA Herald:

Happiness and investment in space were twin themes that started day two of the UN World Data Forum 2018. Held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, the second edition of the three-day UN World Data Forum has attracted more than 1,500 data and statistics experts from around the world.

The supplementary role that happiness can help in achieving some of the United Nations 17 sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) was addressed by Dr. Niveen El Saleh, whose talk focussed on understanding the ‘chase of happiness.’ During her session, Dr. Al Saleh underlined the need to differentiate between ‘destination happiness’ and ‘actual happiness.’

“People need to stop pursuing happiness as an end goal – this on its own can be a stressful exercise. What is more important is to be aligned with one’s core values and recognise who you are and what you stand for. The acceptance of this understanding is the path to authentic happiness,” said Dr. El Saleh.

A health and life coach, Dr. El Saleh spoke about the various methods of achieving actual happiness which involves the acknowledgement of one’s emotions, including negative ones such as anger and sadness. This, she said, would lead to an honest interaction without the garb of pretence, resulting ultimately in real happiness.

“Acceptance and gratefulness are two very powerful tools towards achieving authentic happiness,” Dr Al Saleh urged as she concluded her session.

Discussing the UAE’s ambitions beyond the boundaries of Earth, Meera Al Shamsi, Head of the Remote Sensing Applications Unit at the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre, told the audience at her session ‘The UAE Invests in Space to Serve Earth’ that the late Shaikh Zayed’s dream of developing the UAE’s space sector was becoming a reality.

“It all started in February 1976 when Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan met with the NASA team responsible for the Apollo moon landing,” she said, highlighting that the UAE is now one of the most ambitious countries in space and a major astronautics player in the Gulf and Arab world. Al Shamsi’s presentation saw her outline how the UAE National Space Programme and the UAE Astronaut Programme launched in April 2017 aims to send the first Emirati astronaut into space, to see the UAE reach Mars by 2021, and to build the first settlement on the Red Planet by 2117.

Al Shamsi also discussed her department’s vital role in developing remote sensing, explaining that it was vital as it provides a better scientific understanding of the environment. She said that remote sensing provides information about agriculture and changes in water resources, as well as possesses the ability to forecast flooding and hurricanes, thereby enabling better disaster management plans to be made.

“Remote sensing is the science of obtaining information about objects or areas from a distance, typically from an aircraft or satellite. The practice started in the 1800s when scientists first understood the importance of collecting information from above. At that time, they were using kites and carrier pigeons, whereas today we have drones and satellites,” she said.

“Investment in the space sector leads to the establishment of a knowledge-based economy and prepares a generation of experts, engineers and researchers, with remote sensing contributing significantly to providing timely and accurate data in various fields. As His Excellency Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum said: ‘The journey that we started 12 years ago is beginning to bear fruit.’”

The second UN World Data Forum has welcomed data experts, policy-makers, academics and representatives from private sector companies and civil society organisations from around the world to discuss the role of data in meeting the UN’s SDGs under its Agenda 2030. The event follows the inaugural forum, which was held in Cape Town, South Africa, in 2017.

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