21/10/2003
Press Release
GA/SPD/269



Fifty-eighth General Assembly

Fourth Committee

12th Meeting (PM)


USING BENEFITS OF SPACE SCIENCE FOR ALL HUMANKIND, AVOIDING OUTER SPACE


ARMS RACE STRESSED IN FOURTH COMMITTEE DEBATE


The importance of using space science and technology for the benefit of all humankind and the need to avoid an arms race in outer space were among the issues stressed this afternoon, as the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) began its consideration of international cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space.


Lebanon’s representative highlighted the collective benefits of space technology and outer space exploration on agriculture, medicine, transportation, weather forecasting and natural disaster planning.  Its contributions to communications were helping make the planet a global village, he added. 


Similarly, Cuba’s representative, describing outer space as mankind’s common heritage, called for all countries to preserve the use of outer space for peaceful purposes and the advancement of sustainable development.


On that theme, several speakers noted that technology transfer from developed to developing countries was crucial if space science and technology were to benefit all of humankind.  In that regard, the representative of Algeria said greater attention must be devoted to programmes designed to help developing countries that had an interest in accessing space technology, and to measures designed to reduce the existing gap between poor and rich countries in matters of outer space. 


China’s representative highlighted the importance of the peaceful use of outer space, saying the increasing use of outer space for military purposes was not only posing a grave threat to its peaceful uses, but also having a negative impact on the process of international arms control and disarmament, and on the international security environment in general.  In the face of that threat, there was a need to negotiate a legally binding international instrument to prevent an arms race in outer space, he added.


The representative of the Russian Federation said his Government consistently supported the prohibition of placing weapons in outer space and renounced the use of force in outer space or from outer space.  Unfortunately, he added, the Outer Space Committee’s discussion on the ways and means to maintain outer space for peaceful purposes was not sufficiently active, and Committee members were not focusing the necessary attention on the issue.  In that regard, he called on Member Sates to work together to exploit that body’s unique potential for fruitful discussion on the issue. 


However, the representative of the United States noted that there was no scarcity of appropriate multilateral mechanisms where disarmament matters were discussed and that the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space was not, and should not, become one of them.  The Committee was not created to deal with disarmament.  Over four decades ago, resolution 1348 had established the Ad Hoc Outer Space Committee, the only standing body of the Assembly to consider international cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space.  It had been clear that there would be independent efforts to deal with disarmament issues, including the First Committee and the Conference on Disarmament.


Delegates joined in congratulating China on the successful launch of the “Shenzhou V” manned spacecraft on 15 October 2003.  The United States representative described the successful journey of “taikonaut” Yang through space as an important step forward in the exploration and use of outer space.


Several delegations supported the request by Libya for membership in the Outer Space Committee.  The Libyan representative requested support for his country’s request to become a full-fledged member of the Committee, noting that it would create greater geographical balance within the Committee and enhance the role of Africa.  Libya’s membership would also show that the political differences between States did not prevent them from cooperating in the peaceful uses of outer space.


Also speaking this afternoon were the representatives of the Niger, Kazakhstan, France, Mexico, Nigeria, India and Austria.


The Committee will meet again at 3 p.m., Thursday, 23 October, to continue its work.


Background


The Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) met this afternoon to begin its debate on international cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space.  [For background information, see Press Release GA/SPD/268 of

20 October 2003.]


Statements


BOUBACAR ADAMOU (Niger) said the international situation had undergone far-reaching changes since the Committee’s last session.  The Assembly’s fifty-eighth session, with its objective of strengthening multilateral cooperation and preserving the role of the United Nations was, therefore, of great importance. 


The issue of international cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space affected every country of the globe, he said.  It was in the interest of all countries, therefore, to ensure the peaceful use of outer space and to prevent the militarization of outer space and the outer space arms race.  He encouraged the Committee to strengthen its instruments of coordination with other bodies, including the Conference on Disarmament, to speed up negotiation on legal measures in the field and to encourage cooperation between developed and developing countries to ensure the peaceful uses of outer space, which was the heritage of all.


IBRAHIM ASSAF (Lebanon) emphasized the need to implement the recommendations on the peaceful use of outer space, the Vienna declaration on space and human development and the five United Nations treaties on outer space.


He said that all countries should have equal access to the use and research of outer space, and underscored the importance of ensuring that all use of outer space was for peaceful purposes.  In that regard, he called on all countries to refrain from creating non-civilian space stations and to avoid military testing and weapons proliferation in outer space.  An international treaty that would prohibit an arms race in outer space needed to be negotiated, he added.


He highlighted the collective benefits of space technology and outer space exploration on agriculture, medicine, transportation, weather forecasting and natural disaster planning.  Its contributions to communications were helping make the planet global village.  Further, he said that the definition of boundaries in outer space would allow States to ensure that there was a legal basis for controlling the limits of their sovereignty, and solve problems that would derive from extra-atmospheric bodies impacting the earth.


SERIK ZHANIBEKOV (Kazakhstan) said his country, with its space infrastructure, had been an active participant in outer space matters.  Kazakhstan was a member of the International Centre for disseminating space information and earth monitoring in the Asia and Pacific region.  It had ratified an agreement on a training centre for space science in the Asia and Pacific Ocean region, and it participated in a number of international projects for the peaceful uses of outer space.  Kazakhstan had a cosmonaut training centre and participated in the space programme of the Russian Federation.  Today, Russia was training a number of Kazakh experts for space flight. 


The issue of the environment should be a focus of international cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space, he said.  Among the most urgent issues was a lack of drinking water and soil erosion.  Kazakhstan had encountered numerous environmental problems due to the Aral Sea.  He commended those who had contributed to efforts for international cooperation in the use of outer space and the codification of space law. 


NADJEH BAAZIZ (Algeria) said her country was committed to the rational and peaceful use of outer space and the prevention of an arms race.  Her Government fully supported promoting the use of outer space in the interest of development for all, particularly for developing countries.


She called for more attention to be devoted to programmes designed to help developing countries that had an interest in accessing space technology, and to measures designed to reduce the existing gap between poor and rich countries in matters of outer space.  She highlighted the important contributions of outer space technology to the protection of the environment, land planning and weather forecasting.


FRANK GELLET (France) paid special tribute to the Outer Space Committee, which had approved an important compromise on the membership of its bureau.  That compromise had owed much to the efforts of Austria.  France was happy that an African candidate had been chosen to serve as the Committee’s next chairperson. 


He also congratulated China for carrying out its first manned space flight, saying it was a great achievement that showed the great progress the Chinese space programme had achieved.  It also proved that China was capable of meeting the challenges of the peaceful uses of outer space.


RODNEY LOPEZ (Cuba) noted that space technology was improving living conditions for all of mankind through more accurate weather forecasting and navigation systems, the prevention of damage from natural disasters and better protection of the environment.


He called for all countries to defend outer space as a common heritage of mankind, and to preserve the use of outer space for peaceful purposes and the advancement of sustainable development.  In that regard, he called for technology transfer from developed to developing countries.


Cuba, he said, firmly opposed any plans to carry out an arms race in outer space, and was concerned with the fact that the nuclear and space powers continued to block negotiations of the Conference on Disarmament aimed at establishing an international instrument that would prevent an arms race in outer space.  He noted that Cuba considered the current laws governing outer space inadequate for the prevention of an arms race, and called for new mechanisms designed to oversee and verify the adequate use of outer space.


ABDULHAMID O. YAHYA (Libya) congratulated China for the successful launch of a manned space flight.  China was the third space-faring State, demonstrating that mankind was determined to explore outer space for the benefits of mankind, despite the risks involved, such as the recent space shuttle Columbia tragedy.  He supported the strengthening of the Outer Space Committee, including through the use of financial resources to ensure that the programmes set out in the report were enacted.


He also called for a focusing of efforts on important issues, in particular those that affected developing countries, including natural disaster management, satellite communications, distance learning, environmental protection, natural resources, education and capacity-building.  He also stressed the need to enhance regional centres for training in outer space technologies.  A solution to the problem of space debris must also be found, to reduce the impact of space debris on the outer atmospheric layers.  The issue of delimitation of outer space and geostationary orbits must also be addressed, including the rational use of such orbits.  He supported the importance of developing an international convention on outer space law and the creation of legal instruments to prevent the militarization of outer space, which threatened international cooperation.


Continuing, he said it was also necessary to create a mechanism to coordinate the work of the Committee with other bodies, including the Conference on Disarmament.  Libya considered space sciences as particularly important, and had set up a space sciences centre in 1998, which supported a network of contacts at the national and regional levels.  Libya also participated in the Outer Space Committee and was interested in the work of that body.  He also requested support for Libya’s request to become a full-fledged member of the Outer Space Committee.  Such agreement would create greater geographical balance within the Committee and enhance the role of Africa.  The initiative would also show that the political differences between States did not prevent them from cooperating in the peaceful uses of outer space.


ZHANG YISHAN (China) said it was the consistent position of the Chinese Government that outer space should be explored and used solely for peaceful purposes.  However, he added, the increasing use of outer space for military purposes was not only posing a grave threat to the peaceful uses of outer space, but also having a negative impact on the process of international arms control and disarmament, and on the international security environment, in general.  In the face of that threat, there was a need to negotiate a legally binding international instrument to prevent an arms race in outer space.


China, he said, attached great importance to the implementation of the recommendations of the Third United Nations Conference on the Exploration and Peaceful uses of Outer Space (UNISPACE III) and continued to be actively involved in the work of action team 7 to promote and facilitate the implementation of an integrated, space-based global natural disaster management system.


He noted that China had successfully launched the “Shenzhou V” manned spacecraft on 15 October 2003.  With that, the Chinese space exploration activities had entered a brand new era.  He emphasized China’s continued efforts to expand its space cooperation with the rest of the world, in order to harness space technology for a better life for mankind. 


KENNETH HODGKINS (United States) said the United States had, earlier in the year, suffered a great tragedy with the loss of the space shuttle Columbia.  The seven individuals on board had dedicated their lives to scientific exploration for the benefit of all humankind.  The event was a stark reminder of the difficulties and dangers that remained in the quest to explore the world beyond earth’s atmosphere.  He congratulated China for their recent achievement in human space flight.  The successful journey of “taikonaut” Yang through space represented an important step forward in the exploration and use of outer space.


He said the year 2003 marked the fortieth anniversary of Assembly resolution 1962, the Declaration of the Legal Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space.  The Declaration had been adopted at a time when space exploration and international interaction in outer space were new realities.  The Declaration established the fundamental principles for the orderly use and exploration of outer space, and set the stage for the conclusion of four core treaties that governed activities in space today.  2003 also marked the thirty-fifth anniversary of the entry into force of the Agreement on the Rescue of Astronauts, the Return of Astronauts and the Return of Objects Launched into Outer Space.  The Treaty elaborated on the simple, but profound, humanitarian notion that astronauts should be regarded as envoys of mankind in outer space.


The principles contained in the core space law instruments established a framework that had encouraged the exploration of outer space and benefited both space faring and non-space faring nations, he continued.  It was important not to lose sight of how much had been achieved for humanity’s common benefit within that framework.  There was an unprecedented level of international cooperation in space today.  The United States had a long history of civil space cooperation with other partners.  Since its formation, the National Aeronautics and Space Association (NASA) had concluded over 3,000 agreements with over 100 nations and international organizations.  The number of nations investing in space activities had also grown and there was a significant private-sector presence in outer space.  Those facts did not support the call by a few delegations for the Committee to consider matters relating to the militarization of outer space.


There was no scarcity of appropriate multilateral mechanisms where disarmament matters were discussed, he said.  The Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space was not, and should not, become one of them.  The Outer Space Committee was not created to deal with disarmament.  Over four decades ago, resolution 1348 had established the Ad Hoc Outer Space Committee, the only standing body of the Assembly to consider international cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space.  It had been clear that there would be independent efforts to deal with disarmament issues, including the First Committee and the Conference on Disarmament.


Regarding legal developments, he believed that the Space Assets Protocol would facilitate the provision of commercial financing for space activities.  Private activities in outer space had become increasingly important in furthering space technology, and financing for commercial activities was key to their future success.  Another development was the registration of space objects and the decision to add to the agenda a multi-year item regarding the registering of space objects.


Regarding the work of the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee, he noted its successful work on the nuclear power sources in space.  The Subcommittee had a work plan for developing an international framework of recommendations for the safety of nuclear power source applications in outer space.  The Inter-Agency Debris Coordination Committee had reached a preliminary consensus among its members on proposed debris mitigation guidelines.  He welcomed the decision to consider new agenda items concerning solar terrestrial physics and implementation of an integrated space-based global natural disaster management system.  He was encouraged by the substantial progress made in the work of UNISPACE III action teams and in the preparation of the Committee’s report to the Assembly on the implementation of UNISPACE III recommendations.


AMPARO ANGUIANO RODRIGUEZ (Mexico) said the advantageous use of outer space in activities such as the strengthening of communications, education, public health, agriculture and others were of enormous importance for human development.  In that context, she reiterated Mexico’s support of the line of work of the Outer Space Committee.


She noted that a new centre for education in space science and technology had been established in Brazil and Mexico, and said it was a platform for the strengthening of the capacities of countries in Latin America and the Caribbean seeking to make use of outer space science.  She commended the working groups of the Outer Space Committee and called for more States to ratify the international treaties on the use of outer space.


STEPAN KUZMENKO (Russian Federation) congratulated China on its major achievement in space exploration.  The launch of the first Chinese astronaut was an event of historic importance that showed the major contribution China was making in regard to scientific and technical progress.


Space should not become another sphere for armed competition, he stressed.  His Government consistently supported the prohibition of placing weapons in outer space, and renounced the use of force in outer space or from outer space.  Unfortunately, the Committee’s discussion on the ways and means to support the use of outer space for peaceful purposes was not sufficiently active, and Committee members were not focusing the necessary attention on the issue.  In that regard, he called on Member Sates to work together to exploit that body’s unique potential for fruitful discussion on the issue.  The Russian Federation had advocated the development of international space law.  The United Nations Outer Space Committee played a leading role in that regard.


At the last sessions of the Subcommittees, there had been constructive discussion on the need to develop a single comprehensive convention on space law, he said.  After more than 40 years of space exploration, there had been considerable technological achievements.  The number of countries active in advanced science and technology had also increased.  International norms must be adapted to today’s needs and realities.  Mutually beneficial linkages could be found between complex issues, such as the delimitation of outer space, space debris and scientific research.  Such a convention would not only be a codification of existing norms, but could also make a significant contribution to developing international law.


The Russian Federation’s proposed “package approach” in developing the instrument could ensure agreement between Member States without infringing on their sovereign rights, he added.  Developing an international legal instrument as a comprehensive convention required considerable efforts by the international community.  The benefits of establishing a reliable and stable legal basis would make those efforts worthwhile.


ADIGUN ADE ABIODUN (Nigeria) said his country believed that the peaceful uses of outer space would provide a powerful tool to bring about global cooperation and advance the welfare of humanity.  In that regard, Nigeria continued to support the UNISPACE III Vienna Declaration, through its chairmanship of the Outer Space Committee.


Nigeria, he said, viewed an increasing role for space science and technology in achieving the goals and monitoring the implementation of international agreements, consistent with the objectives of the Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development.  In addition, in developing countries, space science could be utilized to obtain meteorological information that would enhance agriculture and minimize the effects of natural disasters.


He welcomed the active role of the Outer Space Committee and its subcommittees in the implementation of the recommendations of UNISPACE III.  His country, he added, was committed to the peaceful use of outer space as demonstrated in its active participation in the activities of the Committee.  He noted that Nigeria had established a National Space Research and Development Agency and launched its first space satellite, Nigeria Sta.I., on 27 September 2003.


KALAVENKATA RAO (India) said the Outer Space Committee had achieved considerable progress at its forty-sixth session, and was contributing significantly to the objective of maintaining a peaceful, international outer space that served the objectives of all countries.  During its session, the Outer Space Committee had adopted a plan on the composition of its Bureau and subsidiary bodies.  The five posts in the Bureau would be rotated among the five regional groups, laying the basis for equitable geographical rotation.  He also expressed satisfaction with the work of the two Subcommittees.  The Working Group established by the Committee had carefully prepared the outline and timetable of the report to be submitted to the Assembly in 2004.


In spite of budgetary constraints, the United Nations Programme on Space Applications was concentrating on priority themes, including the integrated space-based global natural disaster management system.  He was pleased to note that space-systems-based tele-medicine had been included in the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee’s agenda.  The Legal Subcommittee, which had highlighted the primacy of United Nations treaties on outer space matters, deserved full support.


Achievements in India’s space programme included the successful launch of a multi-purpose satellite, INSAT-3A, in April 2003, and, in May, the second developmental flight of India’s Geosynchronous Launch Vehicle.  The Indian Space programme was oriented towards national development and towards bringing the benefits of outer space to the people.  Special emphasis was being given to space applications such as tele-medicine, distance education and the use of remote sensing satellites for sustainable development of natural resources.  International cooperation had been an important component of India’s space programme and the central role of the United Nations was essential for further strengthening such cooperation.


WALTER LICHEM (Austria) said it would be appropriate if the International Year of Fresh Water proclaimed by the United Nations for the year 2003 called attention to the contribution of space science and technology to the development and use of water resources.  The fact that currently 5,000 times more people died each year from water-related diseases than from terrorism underlined the dramatic human-security-related dimension of water management, he added.


He said water had many different uses and was shared by different, functionally divided jurisdictions.  Space-based data could make a most important contribution to solving those interjurisdictional issues.  Further, shared data on which policies, programmes, project development and operations could be based represented a first and most significant institutional arrangement.  In that context, Austria welcomed the decision of the Outer Space Committee to include a new agenda item entitled “Space and Water” in the agenda of the Committee.


He noted that the Government of Chile had convened an international conference for early April 2004, entitled “Space and Water: Towards Sustainable Development and Human Security”, which would focus on implementing space technology for water resources management in Latin America.  Similarly, the United Nations had convened a similar event in Vienna for early May to review the contribution of space to enhance cooperation in international water resources management in the Aral Sea basin.


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