30 October 2006
General Assembly
GA/SPD/357

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-first General Assembly

Fourth Committee

18th Meeting (AM)


FOURTH COMMITTEE APPROVES TEXTS ON SPACE-BASED INFORMATION FOR DISASTER RESPONSE,


OUTER SPACE COOPERATION, UNIVERSITY FOR PEACE, EFFECTS OF ATOMIC RADIATION


The Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization), this morning, took action on issues related to international cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space, University for Peace, and the effects of atomic radiation, approving four draft resolutions for adoption by the General Assembly.


By unanimously approving a draft resolution, as orally amended by the representative of France, entitled “United Nations platform for space-based information for disaster management and emergency response”, the Committee recommended that the Assembly establish a programme, within the United Nations, to provide universal access to all countries and all relevant international and regional organizations to all types of space-based information and services to support the full disaster management cycle.


According to the provisions of the draft, the programme, also known as “SPIDER”, would provide access and services mentioned above, by being a “gateway” to space information for disaster management support, serving as a bridge to connect the disaster management and space communities and being a facilitator of capacity-building and institutional strengthening, in particular for developing countries.


If adopted by the Assembly, SPIDER would have an office in Beijing, China, and in Bonn, Germany.  A liaison office in Geneva, Switzerland, could be considered.  The programme would be supported through voluntary contributions and through a rearrangement of priorities, within the framework of the United Nations reform process.  Adoption of the draft would not result in an increase of the total regular budget of the Organization.


The Committee also approved, by consensus, a draft resolution entitled “International cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space”, by which the Assembly would reaffirm the importance of international cooperation in developing the rule of law, including the relevant norms of space law and their important role in international cooperation for the exploration and use of outer space for peaceful purposes and would endorse the report of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space.


According to the text, the Assembly would urge all States, especially those with major space capabilities, to contribute actively to preventing an arms race in outer space.  It would emphasize the need to increase the benefits of space technology and to contribute to an orderly growth of space activities favourable to sustained economic growth and development in all countries, including mitigation of the consequences of disasters, particularly in developing countries.


Considering the item “University for Peace” for the first time, the Committee heard an introduction by the University’s Rector, Julia Marton-Lefèvre, who said the University had been set up by the Assembly in 1980, based on a proposal of Costa Rica.  Between 1980 and 1999 activities had mostly focused on the region of Central and Latin America.  In 1999, the University for Peace had been asked to become more internationally oriented.  As a result, the institution now worked in partnerships with universities and institutions in all parts of the world.  Some 3,000 people had benefited from its curriculum.  All Member States could be proud of the fact that the University, which had been set up to serve the founding principles of the United Nations, was now working very well.


After an interactive dialogue, in which the representatives of Iran and Nigeria participated, and hearing a statement from the representative of Costa Rica, the Committee approved, without a vote, a draft resolution by which the Assembly, recognizing the significant progress made in the revitalizing of the University for Peace, by building high-quality programmes on subjects related to peace and security and extending them to different regions of the world, through networks of partner institutions, would request the Secretary-General to consider ways to further strengthen cooperation between the United Nations and the University for Peace.


The Assembly would, by the text, invite the University for Peace to consider ways to strengthen its programmes and activities for cooperation with Member States and capacity-building for them, in the areas of conflict prevention, conflict resolution and peacebuilding.  It would also request the Secretary-General to continue using the services of the University, as part of conflict resolution and peace building efforts.


Concluding its consideration of “Effects of atomic radiation”, the Committee approved, without a vote, a draft resolution on the issue, by which the Assembly would request the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation to continue its work, including its activities to increase knowledge of the levels, effects and risks of ionizing radiation from all sources, and endorse its intentions and plans for completing its present programme of work.  The Assembly would request the United Nations Environment Programme to continue providing support for the work of the Scientific Committee and urge the Programme to review and strengthen the Committee’s present funding.


The representative of Spain spoke in explanation of vote.


In other business, the Committee addressed its draft programme of work for the sixty-second session.


The Fourth Committee will meet again tomorrow, 30 October, at 3 p.m., to begin consideration of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).


Background


The Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) met this morning to conclude consideration of the following agenda items:  international cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space; effects of atomic radiation; and University for Peace.  The Committee is also expected to approve its programme of work, for the sixty-second session, in the framework of revitalization of the work of the General Assembly.


Also before the Committee is the report of the Secretary General on the University for Peace (document A/61/285), which provides information on the development and implementation of academic and professional training programmes in diverse but mutually reinforcing fields, related to peace and security.


According to the report, the University for Peace was established pursuant to an international agreement, approved by General Assembly resolution 35/55, with a mission to promote the spirit of understanding, tolerance and peaceful coexistence, and thereby help diminish threats to world peace.  Apart from the academic teaching and training programmes, at its Costa Rica headquarters, which include eight Master’s Degree Programmes, the University has expanded its activities, in various world regions, through partnerships with academic and research institutions.


In the area of face-to-face teaching and research, the University has also developed high-quality programmes, on subjects related to peace and security.  The Master’s Degree Programme at the Costa Rica campus, for example, offers a dual-degree programme with American University in Washington, DC.  All curricula are constantly updated, with inputs from partner institutions in Africa, Asia, Latin America, Europe and elsewhere.


The Africa Programme, launched in 2002, has conducted several regional activities, including Africa-specific teaching materials, on topics such as the introduction to peace and conflict studies in West Africa.  In Asia and the Pacific, the University has mobilized a network of universities and institutions for conflict prevention and peacebuilding.  Among its activities is a joint diploma course, in Sri Lanka, in skills development for conflict resolution.  The Central Asian programme collaborates with United Nations partners to provide training and dialogue.  The Latin American and Caribbean Programme co-sponsored an International Seminar on Education for Peace, in 2005.  A secretariat in Toronto was established in July 2005, with a high-level expert forum on capacity-building to convene in October 2006.


Future development strategy will focus on consolidating progress made in programming, and simultaneously strengthening partnerships and knowledge-sharing.


Action on Outer Space Issues


The Committee first took up consideration of the draft resolution entitled United Nations Platform for Space-based Information for Disaster Management and Emergency Response (document A/C.4/61/L.2/Rev.1), by which the Assembly, recognizing that space technology could play a vital role in supporting disaster relief operations, by providing accurate and timely information and communication support, would decide to establish a programme, within the United Nations, to provide universal access to all countries and all relevant international and regional organizations to all types of space-based information and services to support the full disaster management cycle.


The Assembly would agree that the programme would be supported through voluntary contributions and through a rearrangement of priorities, within the framework of the United Nations reform process.  The additional activities would not, as far as possible, have a negative impact on the current programme activities of the Office for Outer Space Affairs.


NICOLAS CHIBAEFF ( France), speaking in his capacity as Chair of the Working Group of the Whole, introduced an oral amendment to it, by which the language:  “and should not result in an increase of the total regular budget of the United Nations” would be added to the end of operative paragraph 7.


The Committee was informed that the draft, if adopted, would not result in an increase in the 2006-2007 budget.


The draft, as orally amended, was approved without a vote.


By the same action, the Committee also approved, by consensus, a draft resolution entitled International cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space (document A/C.4/61/L.3/Rev.1), by which the Assembly would reaffirm the importance of international cooperation in developing the rule of law, including the relevant norms of space law and their important role in international cooperation for the exploration and use of outer space for peaceful purposes.


The Assembly would also endorse the Outer Space Committee’s recommendation that the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee, at its forty-fourth session, consider, among other things, the implementation of the recommendations of the Third United Nations Conference on the Exploration and Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UNISPACE III) and matters relating to remote sensing of the Earth, by satellite, including applications for developing countries and monitoring of the Earth’s environment; space debris; the use of nuclear power sources in outer space; space-system-based disaster management support; and near-Earth objects.


By further terms, the Assembly would request the Outer Space Committee to continue to consider, at its fiftieth session, its agenda item entitled “Spin-off benefits of space technology:  review of current status.”  It would also agree to include a new item on the Committee’s agenda, at its fiftieth session entitled “International cooperation in promoting the use of space-derived geo-spatial data for sustainable development,” under a multi-year work plan.


Effects of Atomic Radiation


VIJAYA R. ALAMPADAN, (India) said the work of the United Nations Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR) had immense implications for the health of occupational radiation workers, patients undergoing radiation treatment and people living in naturally high radiation areas, including Kerala and Tamil Nadu, India.  Cancer remained the main concern among radiation-induced health effects, and risk estimates of cancer incidence, following radiation exposure, had been greatly affected by the sample size and statistical power of different studies.  Among other contentious issues was dosimetric inconsistency.


He said it was generally believed that an important source of information, on the influence of low-dose radiation on cancer incidence, would come from data on people living in naturally high radiation areas.  It was also important to consider other multifactorial diseases, such as congenital malformations, as they might be part of the non-targeted effects of radiation.


The Linear No Threshold (LNT) concept of radiation dose response had been the cornerstone of all international regulation on exposure limits for nuclear power plants, he continued.  Those requirements imposed unreasonable costs, and there were several studies on low-dose radiation effects that would question the scientific acceptability of the LNT hypothesis.  Using UNSCEAR estimates of risk coefficients and collective doses to predict the number of deaths, following accidental radiation exposure, would result in overestimation and panic, among affected nations.  Medical radiation exposures constituted a major part of man-made exposure and India hoped the Committee would succeed in presenting radio-diagnostic information, as a scientific annexure to next year’s report.


India urged the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to accord the utmost importance to UNSCEAR’s work, and strongly supported a substantially increased budget for UNSCEAR, in the 2008-2009 biennium, he said.


Action


The Committee then turned to a draft resolution on the effects of atomic radiation (document A/C.4/61/L.7), by which the General Assembly would request the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation to continue its work, including its activities to increase knowledge of the levels, effects and risks of ionizing radiation from all sources; endorse its intentions and plans for completing its present programme of work; and request it to submit its plans for its future work programme to the Assembly’s sixty-second session.


Under the draft’s terms, the Assembly would request the United Nations Environment Programme to continue providing support for the work of the Scientific Committee and urge UNEP to review and strengthen the Committee’s present funding.


Also, by that draft, the Assembly would invite Member States, the organizations of the United Nations system and non-governmental organizations to provide further relevant data about doses, effects and risks from various sources of radiation.


The draft was adopted without a vote.


Explanation of Vote After Vote


The representative of Spain, explaining his vote after the vote, said Spain supported Finland’s earlier statement on behalf of the European Union.  As a co-sponsor of the draft resolution, Spain believed it was extremely important it raise the issue of expanding UNSCEAR’s membership.  As was heard in the European Union statement, much time had passed since the previous expansion, and countries had made significant progress in assessing the effects of atomic radiation.  Spain was one of those countries, and was considering complying with paragraph 14, which had been approved by the Committee.


Revitalization of Work of General Assembly


The Committee agreed that a draft provisional guideline, approximate dates for the consideration of the item in the Fourth Committee at the 62nd session in 2007, would be annexed to the report of the Committee, on the agenda item revitalization of the work of the General Assembly.


University for Peace


JULIA MARTON-LEFEVRE, Rector of the University for Peace, introducing the report, as contained in document A/61/285, said the University for Peace had been set up in 1980, based on a recommendation of the Government of Costa Rica.  Having the campus in Costa Rica had symbolic significance, as the country had given up its army in 1948.  Between 1980 and 1999, activities had mostly focused on the region of Central and Latin America.  In 1999, the University for Peace had been asked to become more internationally oriented.


She said the University for Peace was now referred to as the “UP system”, as the organization now worked in partnerships with universities and institutions in all parts of the world.  It had offered short courses from its curriculum to some 3,000 people in the partnership institutions.


The University for Peace was technically a treaty organization established by the Assembly, but should not be called the United Nations University for Peace.  The University for Peace, however, should work closer with the parts of the Organization that dealt with educational matters, such as the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).  All Member States could be proud of the fact that the University, which had been set up to serve the founding principles of the United Nations, was now working very well, she said.


Ms. MARTON LEFEVRE, answering questions from the representative of Iran, said the University for Peace would like to work in partnerships with existing universities, all over the world.  All that was needed was an invitation.  Asked about the Peacebuilding Commission, she said she would meet with the Head of the Peacebuilding Support Office, this afternoon.  The “Dialogue among Civilizations” had been used as a case study for positive actions regarding peace and security.


In her response to the Nigerian representative’s question about whether the University collaborated with organizations other than universities, Ms. MARTON-LEFEVRE said that, on one hand, her organization was indeed a university and needed to respect that status.  On the other hand, the University also did, indeed, reach out to other organizations and had established a memorandum of understanding with a centre for social responsibility in Nigeria.  In a meeting, in Abuja, three years ago, she had asked that University for Peace programmes be offered at Nigerian universities, and she continued to track progress on that issue.  The University currently worked with 50 non-governmental organizations worldwide, particularly those at the ground level.  Further, it had also established an African office, in Addis Ababa, that worked with non-governmental organizations.


JORGE URBINA (Costa Rica) said that in 1978, the then President of his country had proposed the establishment of the University for Peace, based on the proposition that peace emerged from man’s freedom.  Replacing education for war by education for peace had been the most important objective.  In 1980, the Assembly, unanimously adopting resolution 35/55, had given the University for Peace its Charter.  Costa Rica interpreted the unanimity, with which the text had been adopted, as a recognition of the tradition of peace in his country.


He said the report had recognized progress achieved in the University’s five-year programme for revitalization, as well as the expansion of the programme to different regions in the world, offering courses in such subjects as: international studies for peace, international law, gender issues and peacebuilding.  The University had reached a partnership agreement with the African Union and a headquarters agreement with Government of Ethiopia.  Other initiatives had been taken in South-East Asia, Central Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Canada.


The University had become an international organization with sound administrative and financial practices in accordance with international standards, he said.  Thanking donor countries and institutions that had supported the institution, he stressed that greater financial and political support was required for the continuation of the institution.


Mr. URBINA then introduced the draft resolution on the University for Peace (document A/C.4/61/L.8), by which the Assembly, would recognize the significant progress made in the revitalizing of the University for Peace, by building high-quality programmes on subjects related to peace and security and extending them to different regions of the world, through networks of partner institutions.  The General Assembly would also request the Secretary-General to consider ways to further strengthen cooperation between the United Nations and the University for Peace.


Summary of Draft


By the text (document A/C.4/61/L.8), the Assembly would invite the University for Peace to consider ways to strengthen its programmes and activities for cooperation with, and capacity building to, Member States, in the areas of conflict prevention, conflict resolution and peacebuilding.


The Assembly would also request the Secretary-General to continue using the services of the University as part of this conflict resolution and peacebuilding efforts, in providing training to staff in building their capacities in that area and in the promotion of the Declaration and Programme of Action on a Culture of Peace, as contained in resolutions 53/243 A and B.


Further to the text, the Assembly would encourage Member States, intergovernmental bodies, non-governmental organizations and interested individuals to contribute to the programmes and core budget of the University, to enable it to continue to perform its valuable work.  The Assembly would decide to take up the item again, at its sixty-fourth session.


The draft was approved by consensus.


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