24 October 2007
General Assembly
GA/SPD/379

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

Sixty-second General Assembly

Fourth Committee

10th Meeting (PM)


SPACE SOLUTIONS FOR CLIMATE CHANGE, EQUAL ACCESS TO SPACE-BASED TECHNOLOGIES,


WARNINGS ABOUT OUTER SPACE ARMS RACE DOMINATE DEBATE IN FOURTH COMMITTEE


The Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) kicked off its general debate today on international cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space with a panel discussion on space solutions for climate change, calling for equal access to space-based technologies by all Member States, and taking the opportunity to warn againsta possible arms race in outer space.


Iran’s delegate noted the usefulness of space technology in the assessment, mitigation and preparedness phases of disaster management.  Many developing countries were subjected to catastrophic natural disasters, and while eliminating those disasters was beyond human control, losses and damages from them could be prevented or mitigated through the use of early warning systems.  There, the role of space science and technology, especially remote sensing and Earth observation, had proven to be of significant help.


The Committee had earlier heard from an official of the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs -- one of four experts taking part in the panel discussion -- who had emphasized ways that the United Nations Platform for Space-based Information for Disaster Management and Emergency Response (SPIDER) had helped deliver information from satellites to the humanitarian community.  Through its association with the International Charter “Space and Major Disasters”, it had helped provide images to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.


Stressing the need to keep space technologies accessible to all, Pakistan’s representative said that the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, established by the General Assembly in 1959, played an important role in ensuring that the benefits of space technologies accrued to all countries, particularly in the developing world.


However, along with many other speakers, he also expressed concern about the “weaponization” of outer space, particularly the “insistence by States with major space capabilities on incorporating the use of outer space in their military doctrines”.  While the question of preventing an outer space arms race should remain the domain of the Conference on Disarmament, channels of communication should be established between that body and the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space.


Introducing the report of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, Chairman Gerard Brachet said that much work remained to be done to ensure the peaceful uses of outer space, not only for countries with space programmes, but for those without them who nonetheless could benefit from space activities.


Several speakers noted that laws were needed to regulate the use of outer space, especially as space technology improved and States increasingly rushed to “conquer” the final frontier.


In particular, the representative of the United States raised the issue of space debris, saying the destruction of a satellite by China on 11 January had created thousands of pieces of material that would remain in orbit for more than 100 years.  She expressed concern about the increased risk to human space flight and space infrastructure as a result of that action, and said the international community should conclude work on the space debris mitigation guidelines developed by the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space.


The representatives of Syria, Uruguay (on behalf Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR)) and Cuba also spoke.


The representative of China spoke in exercise of the right of reply.


Also speaking during the interactive panel discussion were representatives from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the Committee on Earth Observation Satellites and the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs.  The Chairman of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space also spoke.  Representatives of Chile, Brazil and the Sudan directed questions to the panel.


The Fourth Committee will meet again at 3 p.m. on Thursday, 25 October, to continue its general debate on international cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space.


Background


The Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) had before it the report of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (document A/62/20), which summarizes the outcome of its fiftieth session, held in Vienna from 6 to 15 June 2007.  During that time, the Committee discussed ways and means of maintaining outer space for peaceful purposes; spin-off benefits of space technology; space and society; space and water; and international cooperation in promoting the use of space-derived geospatial data for sustainable development.  It also took up the reports of the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee on its forty-fourth session in February, and of the Legal Subcommittee on its forty-sixth session in April.


In its report, the Committee noted the instrumental role it had played in constructing the legal regime governing outer space activities for peaceful purposes, which was an entirely new branch of international law.  The view was expressed that the Legal Subcommittee should play a role in adopting further measures to prevent the introduction of weapons into, and an arms race in, outer space.  The view was also expressed, however, that the Committee had been created exclusively to promote international cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space and that disarmament issues were more appropriately dealt with in other forums, such as the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) and the Conference on Disarmament.


The report also says that the General Assembly had agreed that the Committee would continue to consider ways of promoting cooperation on space issues, based on experiences from the Space Conference of the Americas and the African Leadership Conference on Space Science and Technology for Sustainable Development.  The Committee agreed that the Office of Outer Space Affairs should continue to update the list of space-related initiatives that corresponded to recommendations contained in the Plan of Implementation of the World Summit on Sustainable Development, which is available on the Office website (www.uncosa.unvienna.org/wssd/index.html).


Meanwhile, the report says that recommendations of the Third United Nations Conference on the Exploration and Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UNISPACE III) were being implemented effectively through the use of multi-year workplans and the establishment of action teams.  For instance, the Committee noted that the United Nations Platform for Space-based Information for Disaster Management and Emergency Response (SPIDER) and the International Committee on Global Navigation Satellite Systems (ICG) had been established as a result of the recommendations of UNISPACE III.


Also, according to the report, the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee reported results of its forty-fourth session, during which it considered the activities of the United Nations Programme on Space Applications.  The Committee noted with satisfaction that the Programme was helping developing countries and countries with economies in transition to participate in, and benefit from, space activities contained in the recommendations of UNISPACE III.  Other areas that the Subcommittee had addressed included:  matters relating to the remote sensing of the Earth by satellite; space debris; use of nuclear power sources in outer space; issues relating to near-Earth objects; space-system-based disaster management support; examination of the geostationary orbit; and support to proclaim 2007 the International Geophysical and Heliophysical Year.


Turning to the Legal Subcommittee, the report says that the subcommittee reviewed the status and application of the five United Nations Treaties on outer space during its forty-sixth session.  It also considered information on the activities of international intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations relating to space law.  It took up matters regarding the definition and delimitation of outer space and the character of the geostationary orbit, including ways and means to ensure its equitable use without prejudice to the role of the International Telecommunication Union.  In addition, it considered the possible revision of the Principles Relevant to the Use of Nuclear Power Sources in Outer Space, and it examined the preliminary draft protocol on matters specific to space assets to the Convention on International Interests in Mobile Equipment.  It further considered the practice of States and international organizations in registering space objects.


In other matters discussed in the report, the Committee agreed that spin-offs of space technology should be promoted because they advanced economies through the production of new innovative technologies, and contributed to the quality of human life.  Spin-offs represented a powerful engine for technological innovation and growth, in both industrial and service sectors, and could be beneficial to social and humanitarian ends.


In its consideration of the item on space and society, the Committee agreed to develop specific action plans for incorporating outer space into education; expanding space tools for education; and ensuring that space-based services contribute to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goal on access to education.  It would also prepare a document on the role of space in education.


The report says the Committee also took up the issue of space and water, agreeing that the current challenge in using space applications for water management was ensuring that new scientific findings were made available and converted into practical information to be used by policymakers.  It also noted that space applications could significantly contribute to cost-effective water resources management and the prediction and mitigation of water-related emergencies.


Opening Statement by Committee Chairman


Committee Chairman ABDALMAHMOOD ABDALHALEEM MOHAMAD (Sudan) said that the Committee would begin its discussion on international cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space with a panel discussion on space tools and solutions for climate change, hearing from Gerard Brachet, Chairman of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space; David Rind, Goddard Space Flight Center of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration of the United States; and Timothy S. Stryker, Land Remote Sensing Programme of the United States Geological Survey.


He said that space had become essential for meeting numerous development challenges and was contributing significantly to achieving the Millennium Development Goals.  The United Nations family, particularly the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the World Food Programme, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction were increasingly using satellite images and global navigation satellite systems during humanitarian emergencies and for disaster relief.


With global warming and climate change as major challenges to present and future generations, space technology had become crucial for collecting critical land, ocean and atmospheric data, he said.  Satellite communications were increasingly being used to transmit education programmes and medical expertise to remote communities.  By predicting agricultural outputs well in advance in regions where people still went hungry, space technologies were contributing to yet another important development goal -- food security.


He noted that, through joint efforts by the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, Member States, observer organizations and its secretariat, space science and technology and their applications had come to play an important role in meeting the world’s challenges.  Implementation of the recommendations of UNISPACE III, held in 1999, had resulted in concrete achievements, including the establishment of the United Nations SPIDER programme and the establishment of the International Committee on Global Navigation Satellite Systems.


It had been 50 years since the start of the space age, he said.  Space activities had evolved intensively over the past half century.  The panel discussion would focus on how space systems contributed to monitoring climate change, understanding its mechanisms and possibly to mitigating its consequences.


Panel Discussion


Mr. BRACHET, Chairman of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, said space tools had played an increasingly important role in understanding the planet over the last 50 years.  The understanding those tools provided and their ability to disseminate information had turned them into some of the best tools by which to observe climate change; they were considered very important in the Global Earth Observation System (GEOSS).  Although the role of space tools had increased over the past few years, space tools could not answer all the questions that would arise, but it was clear that they would play an increasing role in understanding climate change.  New techniques and satellite cluster configurations would allow those changes to be measured more effectively.


Mr. RIND of the Goddard Space Flight Center spoke on behalf of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), as one of the lead authors of the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report.  He began by describing the primary results of IPCC panel meetings and went on to discuss the degree to which space tools contributed to those results.


First, he said that studies of primary trace gases, or greenhouse gases, as influenced by man over the past 20,000 years, had shown unprecedented rates of change in the level of carbon dioxide, as well as in methane and nitrous oxide levels.  Although those results had been obtained largely through surface-based observations, some of the changes had been observed through remote sensing.  Carbon dioxide played a major role in causing the Earth’s heating, but satellite observations of a different type of gas -- aerosols -- could help improve people’s understanding of the role played by those gases in helping cool the atmosphere. 


He said satellite observations tended to support surface observations of reduced snowfall and melting ice caps caused by global warming.  However, where surface observations had shown an increase in sea level of about 18 cm over 100 years, satellite observations showed a greater increase -- 32 cm over 100 years.  However, it was still unclear whether those numbers reflected a true increase in sea level rise. 


The Climate Change Panel had predicted that the Earth could warm by as much as 6° C by 2030, depending on different economic and population trends.  A “middle of the road” scenario showed drying in the subtropics and lower latitudes, and higher precipitation in the tropics and higher latitudes, but that scenario -- like all others -- were best guesses, made with the use of climate models.  Space-based observations provided tools to check current models to see how well they reflected the current realities.  By tweaking the models, it was possible to end up with a simulation that was better related to current observations.


“Our understanding of the ultimate impact of climate change is just starting to develop,” he said, adding that to validate the various models required further development of satellite systems.


Mr. STRYKER of the Land Remote Sensing Program of the United States Geological Survey, speaking on behalf of the Committee on Earth Observation Satellites, said that space agencies around the world understood the seriousness and urgency of climate change.  Through the Committee and other mechanisms, space agencies were working to provide the necessary data to better understand and address it.  The Committee had been very focused on climate change and on the work of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.  Space could provide a unique and comprehensive vantage point to monitor global Earth system processes, and satellite measurements could provide long-term data continuity and assist in evaluating models used in climate-change monitoring.


[The Committee on Earth Observation Satellites was formed in 1984 from the Economic Summit of Industrialized Nations.  It consisted of space agencies from countries, and coordinated its work with international organizations, systems and coordination groups like the World Meteorological Organization.  It had recently reorganized its work plan to address, among other things, climate change issues.]


He noted that the Climate Change Convention had called on the Council of Parties to provide the best possible scientific data, and the Committee had responded with documents and data, which analyzed the adequacy of past, present and future satellite measurements to support the global climate observing system.  He underlined the unique opportunity for an integrated, multi-space agency approach to climate-related observations, which suggested what could be achieved through better coordination.  Detailed climate records for the future would not be possible without a sustained satellite component.


The Committee was doing work to support that which was being done by the Group of Earth Observations, he said.  It was integrating observing systems nationally and internationally to benefit from the increased number and distribution of observations from a given event.  It had also identified measures to minimize data groups to move towards the comprehensive, coordinated and sustained GEOSS.  Linkages between the Climate Change Convention and the Group on Earth Observations’ nine societal benefit areas included severe weather, threats to water supply and agriculture, disease, energy supply and disasters, among others.


He said that the Committee was also contributing observational requirements to the Group, and striving to meet the needs of the Group’s work plan.  It had developed four categories of observation areas:  atmospheric compositions; ocean surface topography; precipitation; and land-surface imaging.  Although work in those areas often concentrated on details of mission and measurement, rather than the information needed by policy decision-makers, the Committee observation areas were focusing on providing information that Governments could use. 


In the area of atmospheric composition monitoring, the Committee was working to translate those measurements to follow up such things as the Montreal Protocol, he said.  On ocean topography, it was monitoring sea level rise, as well as providing ocean temperature and chemistry trends.  In the area of precipitation, it was tracking the seasonal progression of rainfall and attempting to better understand development, movement and impact of severe storms, as well as improving the understanding of water cycles.  It was also looking at land surface imaging to monitor changes to farmlands, coastlines, deserts and forests, and to track short-term threats to climate change, such as wildfires, floods and volcanic activity.


He said that climate change would affect the world’s poor most severely.  Earth observation satellite measurements could play an important role in understanding and addressing climate change.  While the Committee recognized that satellite and “in situ” data were required to predict changes in the Earth system, Earth-observation satellites were the only means to obtain necessary global coverage and would be the single most important contribution to global observations for climate change.


DAVID STEVENS, United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs, said much had happened in the last 60 years with regard to space applications.  Indeed, the first image from space had been captured on this very day 61 years ago.  As the Programme Coordinator of SPIDER, he discussed the ways in which SPIDER sought to ensure that all countries could take advantage of space technologies and the solutions they offered. 


For example, the report of the Secretary-General on disaster reduction (document A/62/320) had indicated that the impact of climate change on communities around the world would continue to grow, he said.  It was generally agreed that the world was not on track in building the resilience of nations and communities to disasters, as agreed in the Hyogo framework for action.  Space applications could help mitigate the effects of climate-related disasters.  For instance, satellite communications systems were being used to help warn people of impending disasters, and to connect disaster zones with the outside world.  They were also used to help map disaster-stricken areas, which was useful for disasters that displaced large numbers of people.


He said that SPIDER had been created as a gateway to space information for the humanitarian community, in order to bridge the field of disaster management with space communities, and to facilitate capacity-building and institutional strengthening.  First proposed at UNISPACE III in 1999, the system had taken seven years to build.  It had staff located in Vienna, Beijing and Bonn, and had an office in Geneva, through which it liaised with practitioners.  Some 22 Member States were providing significant resources to the project, while many others had indicated their commitment.  The first cash contribution had come from Indonesia.  Most States had voiced interest in providing resources for regional use, and a meeting would be held early next year to solidify the idea of regional networks and establishing a system of focal points.


In conducting its work, SPIDER took advantage of a number of existing space-based initiatives, he said.  For example, there was the International Charter “Space and Major Disasters”, which was “triggered” by the United States Geological Survey in order to receive imagery of the California fires.  The imagery system was truly international:  in the case of Hurricane Katrina, the first images made available through the Charter had come from a participating Nigerian satellite.  If the United Nations or the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs needed images for their activities, the Office for Outer Space Affairs could trigger the Charter on their behalf.  The Charter had also been triggered on behalf of Peru during the earthquake of 15 August, and while Uganda had requested similar help during the floods this summer, the Office had not had the necessary infrastructure to provide support. 


He said that the Fourth Committee might even consider the work plan governing the use of data for disaster management, as suggested in the report of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space on SPIDER’s programme for the 2007-2009 period, and the work plan for the biennium 2008-2009 (document A/AC.105 /894).


Questions and Answers


The representative of Chile recalled that, in March, the Legal Subcommittee had proposed a new topic for discussion:  space tools related to climate change.  However, there had been no consensus on the matter, but it had been decided that the Committee would hold a seminar on the topic instead.  Chile was committed to finding a solution to the threat posed by climate change and would organize a conference in April 2008 on space technology and climate change, in the context of the Millennium Development Goals.


The representative of Brazil asked Mr. Stryker for a clarification on why he had said that the Global Earth Observation System of Systems would integrate observing systems, and then later said it would coordinate satellites as a system of systems.  He also asked Mr. Stevens how SPIDER was proceeding on creating national focal points.


The representative of the Sudan asked Mr. Stevens about the coordination between SPIDER and national agencies, specifically about SPIDER’s role in building up national programmes so they could fully benefit from that every important programme.


In response to the question from Brazil, Mr. Stevens said that the national focal points would be nominated by each Member State, and representatives had been sent to the two regional workshops.  In answer to the Sudan’s question, he said that SPIDER would not create additional mechanisms, but would work closely to make sure existing mechanisms were made available.  At the national level it was planning to assist the United Nations Member States in capacity-building.  For the Sudan, it had planned a workshop with the remote-sensing organization.  That would be the SPIDER’s first effort in Africa, he noted. 


Responding to Brazil’s delegate, Mr. Stryker acknowledged that his organization was working in association with the Group on Earth Observations (GEOSS) to serve other systems, and sought compatibility among systems.  Those systems, in turn, were developing among themselves an integrated approach to address data gaps and other needs of the user community.


To the representative of Chile, he said that, in November, the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research of South Africa would assume chairmanship of the Committee on Earth Observation Satellites (CEOS), and was expected to develop new relationships with constituents across the developing world.


Also in response to Brazil’s delegate, Mr. Stevens said that focal points would be nominated by Member States themselves.  Hopefully, Governments would select those people already working on disaster reduction issues.


Regarding Sudan’s question, he said that SPIDER would not create new mechanisms, but would ensure that existing ones worked together in a better way and were made accessible to all.  It would hold a four-day workshop in the Sudan, beginning on 9 December, in conjunction with the national remote sensing authority.  It would be SPIDER’s first regional workshop for Africa.


The Committee Chairman thanked the panelists for their presentations, and invited Mr. Brachet to introduce the report of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space.


Introduction of the Report


Mr. BRACHET congratulated China on its launch of a lunar probe this morning and noted that the event followed Japan’s recent launch of a similar probe.  He then introduced the report of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space.  In light of the convergence this year of the fiftieth anniversary of the launch of Sputnik and the fortieth anniversary of the Treaty of Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration of and use of Outer space, among other space-related anniversaries, the Committee and its subsidiary bodies had demonstrated an extraordinary high level of activities and achievements.


He said that highlights from the Committee’s session had included a work programme for SPIDER and the Legal Subcommittee’s conclusion of a draft resolution on registering space objects.  The Committee had also agreed to admit Bolivia and Switzerland.  It had striven to implement UNISPACE III’s recommendations and had begun work to set up SPIDER.  Several promising new agenda items had been agreed on space activities, which were part of its omnibus draft resolution.


It was necessary to strengthen international coordination in addressing the devastating effects of natural disasters, he said.  Faced with the force of nature, the international community must make every effort to prevent those disasters and increase the rapidity of the response.  Using space technologies would contribute to that work.  He noted resolution 61/110 (2006), which had set up SPIDER, as well as the work being done by United Nations bodies to effect its implementation. 


Continuing, he said that all space data was being made available to States, and the Committee was working to making SPIDER fully operational.  The report of the Committee gave a general picture of the range of topics under consideration during the fiftieth year of cooperation in space research.  Through space technology, efforts could be made to meet the challenges of mankind.  Still, much remained to be done to ensure the peaceful uses of outer space, not only for countries with space programmes, but for those without them, who nonetheless could benefit from space activities.


Statements on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space


HOSSEIN MALEKI ( Iran) said that space technology could be highly useful in risk assessment, mitigation and preparedness phases of disaster management.  Many countries in the developing world, including Iran, were subjected to catastrophic and severe natural disasters, and while eliminating them was beyond human control, loss and damage could be prevented or mitigated through the use of early warning systems.  The role of space science and technology, especially remote sensing and earth observation, had proved to be significant and helpful in that regard.


He expressed support for the UNISPACE III and the work of its action teams, and Iran had participated in those and in other working groups.  The Iranian Space Agency had contributed to capacity-building and promoting space science and technology applications.  It had also supported the full implementation of SPIDER.  Hopefully, by implementing that programme, developing countries -– particularly those that suffered from frequent natural disasters —- would benefit.  Iran also supported a closer link between the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space and the Commission on Sustainable Development.


All nations could play a role in ensuring that outer space was maintained for peaceful purposes, he said.  Space law for exploration and use of outer space was important in that regard.  Close cooperation with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in its work on legal and ethical linkages and issues on space achievement was welcome.  He noted the workshop on space law Iran had held in May 2004.  The Iranian Space Agency had also played a significant role in enhancing regional cooperation, particularly in the Asia-Pacific region, by using space science and technology for economic and social development, with a special emphasis on disaster management.


It was clear that the placement of weapons in outer space would inevitably lead to mistrust and tension among States, and undermine the climate of trust and cooperation, he said.  Outer space was a valuable asset of mankind and should by no means be used to pose a threat.  Through a firm commitment from all nations, the Space Application programme could achieve its primary objective of putting space technology to work for sustainable economic and social development in a range of fields.  All nations should be able to use outer space irrespective of their size, economies or scientific developments, and he urged all States to actively participate in all efforts aimed at preventing arms races in outer space.


KHALID MAHMOOD ( Pakistan) said it was important to follow up on the implementation of the recommendation of UNISPACE III, as considered in the Working Group of the Whole, which had been chaired by Pakistan.  He welcomed the progress made by the SPIDER programme, adding that the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space had an important role in ensuring that the benefits of space technologies accrued to all countries, particularly the developing world.  It was important to increase engagement with developing countries, through sharing of experience and new technologies, and non-discriminatory, affordable and timely access to state-of-the-art data and information.  Pakistan also supported the call for rational and equitable access for all States to the geostationary orbit.


He expressed concern over the dangers of weaponization of, and an arms race, in outer space, particularly the insistence by States with major space capabilities on incorporating the use of outer space in their military doctrines.  The Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space had a role in bringing about greater transparency in space activities undertaken by various States.  While the question of prevention of an arms race in outer space should continue to be considered at the Conference on Disarmament, the work of that Committee was not completely irrelevant to the question.  Channels of communication should be established between those two bodies.  Negotiations should also begin on a comprehensive convention on space law, to regulate issues relating to space debris and the increasing commercialization of outer space, to name a few.


Pakistan had made considerable progress in applying space sciences in areas ranging from education to telemedicine, natural resource management, the survey of flood plains, vehicle tracking and many other fields, he said.  As a member of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, Pakistan was deeply committed to its objectives, and followed the evolution of space activities closely.


MANAR TALEB ( Syria) said that while the Committee for the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space had stressed the importance of UNISPACE III and its recommendations, it must take into consideration the varying capacities of different countries to follow up those recommendations.  He welcomed the Chilean initiative to convene a workshop on space applications to mitigate the effects of climate change, in conjunction with the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs.  Scientific activities in outer space should be conducted in a transparent manner, and for that reason, it was important to involve developing countries when creating frameworks governing the peaceful use of outer space.


He voiced concern about dwindling financial resources devoted to United Nations programmes on space applications, and appealed to donors to continue supporting such programmes since they were helpful in achieving sustainable development.  It was important to make remote sensing data accessible to all, without discrimination.  The international community should help build the capacity of developing countries to use remote sensing technologies. 


The Syrian agency for remote sensing played a crucial role in developing the country’s economy, providing data for agricultural purposes, water studies, oil exploration, and monitoring disasters that might cause huge economic losses, he noted.  His country had organized a regional workshop, in cooperation with the European space agency, on disaster management.


He said that, since several countries had been adversely affected by natural disasters, the international community must intensify its efforts to create a sustainable space-based system to help deal with disasters, such as SPIDER.  Also, because the weaponization of outer space could have negative impacts on its peaceful uses, Syria was keen to participate in deliberations on the peaceful uses of outer space.


FEDERICO PERAZZA (Uruguay), speaking on behalf of the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR), said that the conquest of outer space was, and continued to be, driven by a need to safeguard the Earth -- particularly in light of challenges like climate change.  Since the launch of Sputnik, no country could forgo space technology for applications in vital areas such as climate change, disaster management, mitigation and response, environmental monitoring, agriculture, public health, tele-education and medicine, water resources management and territorial control, among others. 


He welcomed the establishment of the Venezuelan Space Center and the Colombian Space Mission.  The debate on the use of space-derived geospatial data for sustainable development had also been welcome.  The Southern Common Market countries would contribute to strengthening regional cooperation in the framework of the Space Conference of the Americas.  He noted that data collected by the China Brazil Earth Resources Satellites was accessible and free to the Southern Common Market and other South American countries, which testified to South-South cooperation on the peaceful uses of outer space.  The Southern Common Market countries had also been working with United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs in epidemiological risk warning.


The Southern Common Market countries were in favour of strengthening international cooperation in promoting the peaceful uses of outer space and preventing its weaponization.  It also advocated a closer relationship between the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space and the scientific institutions affiliated with the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis.  The use of space-related technologies to combat desertification was indispensable.  Desertification was primarily affecting countries in the developing world and, therefore, the use of existing technology for obtaining and making available precise space data would be an important contribution to combating it.


REBECA HERNANDEZ TOLEDANO ( Cuba) noted the concerns raised over the dangers of an outer space arms race.  She also noted that developing countries could not easily benefit from space research and development because space technology was expensive.  As more States began engaging in space activities, therefore, it was urgent that they engage in bilateral and multilateral cooperation, particularly through the exchange of know-how.  For instance, countries should cooperate on the issue of climate change, within the framework of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space.


She said that the geostationary orbit was a limited natural resource, over which no State or group of States could exercise sovereignty.  Cuba supported the establishment of legal rules that promoted the rational use of the geostationary orbit by all countries.  It was important that data provided by Earth observation satellites supported the sustainable development of poorer countries.  For that reason, the world community must facilitate non-discriminatory access to remote-sensing data.  Cuba welcomed the creation of SPIDER, and hoped that its implementation would benefit developing countries in managing natural disasters.


Current legal frameworks governing outer space were insufficient to guarantee the prevention of an outer space arms race, she said.  At the moment, the Conference on Disarmament was the only multilateral forum for negotiating disarmament, and, as such, it should play a leading role in starting negotiations on a multilateral agreement on the prevention of an arms race in outer space.  Cuba rejected plans aimed at arms deployment in outer space, and believed that new monitoring and verification mechanisms were needed to govern space law.


KELLY KNIGHT ( United States) said the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space –- in contrast to the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) -– offered a forum focused on promoting the cooperative achievements of, and sharing the benefits of space exploration.  The Committee’s fiftieth session had been a “milestone”, as it had acted as a catalyst to promote international cooperation in space activities and to foster a broad information exchange among space-faring and non-space faring nations on the latest advances in space exploration.


She noted that, at its most recent session, the legal subcommittee had completed its work on the practices of States and international organizations registering space objects.  The United States also anticipated next year’s agenda item “General exchange of information on National Legislation relevant to the Peaceful Exploration and Use of Outer space”, which would provide insights as to how States used their governmental and non-governmental space activities.  The scientific and technical subcommittee had also had noteworthy successes, among them, reaching consensus on a set of guidelines to mitigate space debris.


Yet, that positive development had been tarnished by the international destruction of a satellite by China on 11 January, which had created thousands of pieces of large space debris, the majority of which would remain in orbit for more than 100 years, she said.  There was also an increased risk to human space flight and space infrastructure as a result of that action, and she noted with concern the contradiction between China’s efforts within the Committee and within the Inter-Agency Space Debris Coordination Committee related to the mitigation of space debris and its actions on 11 January.  The avoidance of creating long-lived space debris was one of the guidelines.  The creation of thousands of pieces of debris through an act that could have been avoided made it even more important that the international community conclude its work on the space debris mitigation guidelines this year.  While those guidelines would not prevent the intentional creation of space debris, they would provide clear mitigation measures that could be implemented by space-faring nations and would make it clear that intentionally creating space debris was not in the best interests of the world community.


She also highlighted the progress made by the Working Group on Nuclear Power Sources in Outer Space of the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee and welcomed the decision to add to the subcommittee’s agenda an item on global navigation satellite systems.  The United States continued to support the multi-year work plan of the International Heliophysical Year, which focused worldwide attention on the importance of international cooperation in research activities in solar-terrestrial physics.  The effects of solar activities and space weather phenomena on daily life, the environment and space systems were becoming more apparent, and collaboration was necessary to reach a greater understanding of them.


Right of Reply


In response to a comment made by the representative of the United States, the delegate from China said space debris was indeed a serious problem, and was recognized as such by her country.  China had made great efforts with respect to the problem of space debris.  Rather than criticizing each other, countries should consider whether they themselves had done all they could regarding space debris.


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For information media • not an official record