14 October 2008
General Assembly
GA/SPD/402

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

Sixty-third General Assembly

Fourth Committee

8th Meeting (AM)


SPACE TECHNOLOGIES INDISPENSABLE TO CHALLENGES OF CLIMATE CHANGE, FOOD SECURITY,


HEALTH, FOURTH COMMITTEE HEARS DURING DEBATE ON PEACEFUL USES OF OUTER SPACE


Space Technology Like Double-Edged Sword -- It Could Serve World or Inflict

Devastating Harm, Delegates Also Told, With Many Opposing Militarization of Space


Space technology could be indispensable in addressing climate change, food security and health, the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) was told as it continued its general debate on international cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space this morning.


The devastation caused by hurricanes in the Caribbean and by Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar and the earthquake in China had demonstrated the world’s vulnerability to the forces of nature and the importance of building capacities to mitigate their effects, Ciro Arévalo Yepes, Chairman of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, said, as he introduced that body’s report.


Space applications provided non-traditional but effective mechanisms for conducting environmental assessments, managing natural resources and providing early warning and disaster management tools, as well as education and health services in remote areas, he said.  Multifaceted, they often offered, through a single instrument, the means for States to make development decisions, to implement global actions and to foster regional and interregional cooperation.


Having celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of the space age last year, the Outer Space Committee had entered a new chapter and was tailoring its overall focus towards meeting development needs, he said.  It had added agenda items on space and climate change and was considering issues related to space and water, international cooperation in improving the use of space-derived geospatial data for sustainable development, and space and society.


Warning, however, that space technology was like a double-edged sword that could both serve the world community and inflict devastating harm, Thailand’s representative, speaking on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), encouraged the international community to ensure that the benefits of space were widely shared among both space-faring and non-space-faring nations.


He pointed out that fewer lives would have been lost from the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami and Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar if an effective early warning system had been in place, and he stressed the role that satellite technology and the UN-SPIDER programme could play in the future.


UN-SPIDER had already shown its worth during this year’s earthquake in China and the recent floods in Namibia, said the representative of Brazil, on behalf of the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR).  He urged it to consolidate its productivity to increase efficiency and improve costs.


Several countries highlighted the need for a closer link between the Outer Space Committee and the Commission on Sustainable Development, and emphasized that space technologies were critical to the future of all developing nations. The representative of Syria underlined that while space technology could enhance the capacities of developing countries to meet their development goals, particularly those related to agriculture and water resources, greater and low-cost or free access to data would be needed. 


Providing real-world examples of how space technology could be employed to further development goals, the representative of India said the Indian Space Research Organization had created more than 400 village resource centres that acted as a single window delivery mechanism for space-based products and services.  More than 33,000 tele-education classrooms had been established and medical consultations were being made available in rural areas through a telemedicine network.  Already, 270 rural and local hospitals were taking advantage of expert medical consultancies to aid more than 500,000 people.


A number of delegates emphasized that the only way to ensure the peaceful use of outer space was by preventing its militarization.  Some welcomed the submission to the Conference on Disarmament in February by China and the Russian Federation of a draft treaty on the prevention of the placement of weapons in outer space, the threat or use of force against outer space objects.


China’s representative said that with space activities expected to ramp up in the years to come, the international community needed to work together for its harmonious use.  All States had an “unshirkable” responsibility to prevent the militarization of, or an arms race in, outer space.  She further stressed that space exploration and uses should be conducted within a legal framework and that efforts should be made to close the gap in the existing legal regime. 


Speaking on behalf of the European Union, France’s representative said that Europe hoped to contribute to the Outer Space Committee’s work by constructing a non-binding code of conduct for outer space activities that established basic rules and reduced the risk of collisions and space debris creation, while also strengthening understanding between nations. 


The Committee Chairman, returning briefly to the item on decolonization, proposed that action on the draft resolution on the question of Western Sahara (document A/C.4/63/L.5) be postponed until tomorrow, 15 October.


Concerning draft resolution VI on the questions of American Samoa, Anguilla, Bermuda, the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, Guam, Montserrat, Pitcairn, Saint Helena, the Turks and Caicos Islands and the United States Virgin Islands, which is contained in document A/63/23, the representative of the United Kingdom introduced an amendment to the text’s operative paragraph 2, by which the phrase, “and where there is no dispute over sovereignty” would be deleted.


Also participating in the discussion on the peaceful uses of outer space were the representatives of Brazil, Iran, Thailand (on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)), Kazakhstan, Colombia, United States, Cuba, Jamaica and Australia.


The representative of Chile took the floor on a point of order and Brazil responded.


The Fourth Committee will continue its general debate on international cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space at 10 a.m. Wednesday, 15 October.


Background


The Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) met this morning to take action on a draft resolution on the question of Western Sahara (document A/C.4/63/L.5).  By its terms, the General Assembly would give strong support to Security Council resolution 1754 (2007), dated 30 April 2007, which, among other things, called on the parties to enter into negotiations without preconditions and in good faith, taking into account the developments of the last months.


The present draft would welcome the ongoing negotiations between the parties held on 18 and 19 June and on 10 and 11 August 2007, and from 7 to 9 January and from 16 to 18 March 2008, in the presence of the neighbouring countries under United Nations auspices.  It would commend the efforts undertaken by the Secretary-General and his Personal Envoy to implement the Council’s resolution.  The Assembly would encourage the parties to continue to show political will and a spirit of cooperation.  It would call on them to cooperate with the International Committee of the Red Cross and to abide by their obligations under international humanitarian law.


The Committee was also expected to continue its consideration of international cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space. (The report before the Committee is summarized in yesterday’s Press Release GA/SPD/401.)


Action on Draft Text


Turning to the draft resolution on the question of Western Sahara (document A/C.4/63/L.5), the Chair proposed that, in consideration of gaining time, action on the text be postponed until Wednesday, 15 October.


After the Committee agreed to this postponement, the Chair then drew its attention to an amendment introduced by the United Kingdom to the draft resolution VI on the questions of American Samoa, Anguilla, Bermuda, the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, Guam, Montserrat, Pitcairn, Saint Helena, the Turks and Caicos Islands and the United States Virgin Islands, which is contained in document A/63/23.  By that amendment, the words “and where there is no dispute over sovereignty” would be deleted from operative paragraph 2, so that it now reads:  “Also reaffirms that, in the process of decolonization, there is no alternative to the principle of self-determination, which is also a fundamental human right, as recognized under the relevant human rights conventions;”.


Peaceful Uses of Outer Space


Introducing the report of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, that Committee’s Chairman, CIRO ARÉVALO YEPES, welcomed the new director of the Office for Outer Space Affairs, Mazlan Othman.  Mr. Yepes said the devastation caused by hurricanes in the Caribbean and by Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar, as well as the earthquake in China, demonstrated how vulnerable the world was against nature’s forces and how important it was to build capacities to mitigate their effects.  Loss of life and property could be avoided if better information was available through improved risk assessment, early warning and disaster-monitoring systems.  The integrated and coordinated use of space technologies and their applications could play a crucial role in supporting disaster management by providing accurate and timely information and communication support in case of disasters. 


Emphasizing that space tools were often indispensable in addressing interlinked areas such as climate change, food security and health, he said that the Outer Space Committee continuously sought to promote and increase awareness and capacity-building in the use of such tools.  Space technology and its applications, such as Earth observation systems, meteorological satellites, satellite communication and satellite navigation and position systems, provided effective tools for monitoring and conducting environmental assessments, managing natural resources, providing early warning of and managing disasters, and providing education and health services in remote areas.  Multifaceted, they often offered, through a single instrument, the means for States to make development decisions, to implement global actions, and to foster cooperation at the regional and interregional levels.


He underlined that the Outer Space Committee had actively promoted efforts aimed at bringing the benefits of space technology to all humanity.  With the implementation of its most recent United Nations conference on outer space, UNISPACE III, it had aligned many of its activities with the Millennium Development Goals and had established action teams in priority areas.  The establishment of the United Nations Platform for Space-based Information for Disaster Management and Emergency Response (UN-SPIDER) and the International Committee on Global Navigation Satellite Systems (ICG) were outstanding examples of the kind of concrete results that were needed.


Having celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of the space age last year, the Outer Space Committee had entered a new chapter by actively developing its overall agenda on meeting development needs, he said.  It had added agenda items on space and climate change and the use of space technology, and it was considering items related to space and water, international cooperation in improving the use of space-derived geospatial data for sustainable development, and space and society.  As the main mechanism for the United Nations in the coordination of space-related activities, the Inter-Agency Meeting on Outer Space Activities was seeking to restructure its reporting mechanism and strengthen its role with respect to the Outer Space Committee.  It was working to enhance coordination and cooperation among United Nations entities, and stronger Member State participation in its work was expected.


Continuing, he said that the Outer Space Committee and its subsidiary bodies, the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee and the Legal Subcommittee, had made considerable achievements with the adoption by the General Assembly of resolution 62/217, which contained Space Debris Mitigation Guidelines, and of resolution 62/101, which outlined registration practice.  The Scientific and Technical Subcommittee had begun considering new agenda items on space debris and recent developments in global navigation satellites, while the Legal Subcommittee was considering capacity-building in space law and the general exchange of information on national legislation relevant to peaceful space exploration.


The Scientific and Technical Subcommittee had also established a new partnership with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to prepare a safety framework for nuclear power source applications, while the Working Group on Near-Earth Objects was considering the range of and suitable mechanisms for the handling at the international level of the threat of an asteroid colliding with Earth.  On the legal front, working groups on the status and application of the five United Nations treaties on outer space and on the definition and delimitation of outer space were moving forward.


Noting that the Committee had been involved in creating the international legal regime governing States’ activities in their exploration and use of outer space, he pointed out that the Outer Space Treaty of 1967, which, as the “Magna Carta” of space law, had celebrated its fortieth anniversary last year.  The Office of Outer Space Affairs had further elaborated and developed curriculums for space law education at the regional centres for space technology education.  The subcommittees had also held symposiums on “Space industry in emerging space nations” and “Legal implications of space applications for global climate change”.


In closing, he noted that the Outer Space Committee’s report provided a comprehensive overview of the wide range of topics.  The United Nations family played a fundamental role in contributing to the peaceful uses of outer space and promoting international cooperation for the benefit of all countries.  The Organization faced an important challenge in using non-traditional tools like those related to space technology to deliver better results to its main constituency -- the people of the world.  Towards that goal, a road map for United Nations space policy was needed, and efforts at all levels and among all relevant stakeholders should be strengthened.


PIRAGIBE DOS SANTOS TARRAGÔ, (Brazil), speaking on behalf of the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR), said that international cooperation was the cornerstone of efforts to maintain the peaceful uses of outer space.  Space technology would become even more essential, particularly when used as an instrument for implementing world sustainable development.  It would provide a quick and appropriate response to climate change, drought, loss of biodiversity and natural and man-made disasters.  Cooperative efforts should be aimed at capacity-building, since international cooperation was crucial, as well as South-South alliances.  An “open-sourced code” must be ensured to maximize the international use of space applications.  He welcomed the draft treaty submitted by China and the Russian Federation on preventing weapons in outer space and the threat of use of force against outer space objects.


He said that ongoing implementation of UNISPACE III’s recommendations was of great importance, and should lead to concrete results.  Progress made at the roundtable on space technology and food security was also significant.  He welcomed the schedule of workshops, training symposiums and conferences to be held in 2009 and would offer support in areas tied to space technology through regional institutions providing training.  The Centre for Outer Space Science and Technology Education for Latin America and the Caribbean, called CRECTEALC (Centro de Educacíon en Ciencia y Tecnología del Espacio Ultraterrestre para América Latina y El Caribe), would offer many relevant programmes, such as a spring course on space-based solutions for natural disasters and emergency response, and campuses in southern Brazil would train regional professionals, public sector experts, and representatives from non-governmental organizations.


UN-SPIDER had become an important component and global network for disaster mitigation and ready response, and had clearly shown its worth during natural disasters, such as this year’s earthquake in China, Cyclone Nargis and the recent floods in Namibia.  It must now consolidate its productivity to increase efficiency and improve costs.  The paths ahead should be seen as an opportunity to promote sustainability and benefit humanity as a whole.


MANAR TALEB ( Syria) said the efforts of the Outer Space Committee were enhancing the peaceful use of space and space technology.  The report indicated the importance of the recommendations of enhancing developing countries’ capacities to allow them to meet development challenges, particularly those related to agriculture and water resources.  That could enhance local and regional capacities, particularly the recommendations of UNISPACE III.  Yet, action plans should be devised to build on that work and implement those recommendations.


Noting the interlinkages between the Outer Space Committee and the Commission on Sustainable Development, he welcomed Chile’s proposal to organize a workshop on the application of space technology.  It was important to involve a larger number of countries, particularly developing countries.  Underlining the stress placed on access to data by the Outer Space Committee’s report, he said greater and low-cost or free access to such data was needed for developing countries to harness the benefits of space technology.  For its part, Syriahad enhanced its cooperation in all areas, through training workshops and information exchanges.  A number of projects, including one aimed at producing and using maps for land-use issues, had been launched in the Middle East, with national organizations.  The issues had been discussed at a recent meeting of Arab experts. 


He said the natural disasters, from the Atlantic to the Pacific, as well as transnational crises, underlined the need to manage natural resources via space-based technologies.  In that regard, the work of UN-SPIDER should be enhanced.  But the militarization of outer space underlined the very principle and concept of outer space, as well as the efforts made to ensure non-proliferation.  Thus, Syria had supported the proposal made by China concerning the development of a treaty banning the weaponization of outer space.


ESHAGH AL HABIB (Iran), stressing that said outer space was the province of all mankind and that its peaceful uses should be protected, said his country attached great importance to international cooperation in gaining optimal benefit from space-based applications.  The most spectacular uses of outer space were related to the benefits to human development.  To that end, Iran supported a closer link between the Outer Space Committee and the Commission on Sustainable Development.


He further stressed that the geostationary orbit, as a limited natural resource, should be fairly and equitably accessible to all countries, regardless of their technical capabilities.  Iran strongly believed that the international community could do more and better to benefit from space technology, provided it was not diverted to and used for military purposes, for which the international community must fully support initiatives aimed at preventing the weaponization of space.  Such a development would be a major threat to humankind.


As a developing country, Iran conducted its space-related activities on the basis of the principles stipulated in the relevant General Assembly resolutions and related international instruments.  It had signed and ratified several space-related instruments and had hosted the first workshop on space law in November 2007.  The practical uses of space science were an integral part of the development agenda and were significant in managing and controlling natural resources, monitoring water pollution, predicting floods and droughts and mitigating their effects.  Space technology could also be highly useful in disaster management.  The work of UN-SPIDER had considerable merit in that regard, and Iran would continue to work closely with that programme.


Taking the floor on a point of order, the representative of Chile said he wished to make a clarification.  Noting the “tight relationship” between Chile and Brazil, he said it must be an oversight that Brazil, in the statement it had delivered on behalf of MERCOSUR, had not included Chile’s contribution.   Chile was, he emphasized, a member of MERCOSUR.  As such, it had been asked to make its contributions to the common statement.  It had done so, but in that process, it had followed the procedure of asking its Foreign Ministry for instructions.  The response had been transmitted on Saturday and had been sent to Brazil’s mission.


Continuing, he stressed that his delegation was associated with MERCOSUR and it would have been preferable if that statement had not been made on behalf of MERCOSUR if all members’ points of view were not incorporated.  Failing that, his delegation could have been told yesterday that its contribution had not been incorporated into the MERCOSUR statement.  That might be due to the lack of experience of the Brazilian Ambassador, he added. 


Responding, the representative of Brazil said that he regretted that that type of bilateral discussion had to take place in the Committee.  He did not attribute that to an oversight on the part of Chile’s ambassador, but to his loss of reasonable behaviour -- given his many years of service.  The discussion at hand could have been had over a cup of coffee, and not in the Committee.  His statement had attempted to represent all points of view of the member States of MERCOSUR, but there had not been time to reconvene all members after Chile’s contribution was received over the weekend.  Nevertheless, Chile remained a friend of Brazil and MERCOSUR member.


CHEN PEIJIE ( China) said that with space activities expected to ramp up in the years to come, the international community needed to work together for its harmonious uses.  Since peace should be the cardinal principle by which all space activities must abide, the militarization of, or an arms race in, outer space was against the “tide of the times”, and preventing it was the unshirkable responsibility of all States.


She said that a “harmonious outer space” was an outer space for peace, cooperation and development, under the rule of law.  In the past year, China had continued its active part in United Nations, and other multilateral cooperative, activities, and preparations for Beijing’s UN-SPIDER office were under way.  China was committed to promoting space cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region, and it supported the establishment of the Asia-Pacific Space Cooperation Organization.  The on-orbit handover of the China-Brazil Earth Resources Satellite in January marked another achievement in China’s bilateral cooperation efforts.


Space exploration and uses should be conducted within a legal framework, and States should make joint efforts to close the gap in the existing legal regime governing outer space and address its flaws.  Over the years, China, along with other States, had submitted working papers to the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva.  In February, it tabled a draft treaty, jointly with the Russian Federation, on the prevention of the deployment of weapons in outer space and the threat or use of force against outer space objects.  It had received positive feedback from many States, and, hopefully, substantive discussions would begin as soon as possible to conclude an international legal instrument.


In closing, she drew attention to China’s launch of the Shenzhou VII manned spacecraft and the first Chinese astronaut to carry out extravehicular activities.  That illustrated an “ancient Chinese vision of harmony between man and universe”.


CHIRACHAI PUNKRASIN (Thailand), speaking on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), encouraged the international community to ensure that the benefits of space science and technology were widely shared and made accessible to both space-faring and non-space-faring nations.  He congratulated the United Nations Office for Outer Space and the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space for another year of successfully promoting international cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space and assisting developing countries to use space technology and applications.  ASEAN welcomed the new Committee members, Bolivia and Switzerland, and hoped a broader membership would encourage development of new knowledge and expand international cooperation.


He reaffirmed the core principles of the Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, Including the Moon and Other Celestial bodies, and hoped that space technology and applications would be strictly used for peaceful purposes only.  Space science and technology was like a double-edged sword, which could both serve the world community and inflict devastating harm.


He reiterated ASEAN’s support for UN-SPIDER, as satellite technology would promote disaster monitoring and management.  The loss of lives from the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami and Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar would have been lessened, or ultimately avoided, if there had been an effective early warning and better use of technology in managing those disasters.  Initiatives such as Sentinel Asia would also be prudent.  ASEAN would support endeavours of the Working Group on the Definition and Delimitation of Outer Space under the Space Committee’s legal subcommittee, as the boundaries of outer space in its various aspects must be clear to States and non-state actors, as well as to the private sector.


Space technologies, shared through international cooperation, particularly via education and technology transfers for developing countries, were one of the most effective tools for attaining worldwide sustainable development, he said.  Thailand planned to co-host the United Nations Workshop on Space Law in Bangkok in November, and it invited all Member States to actively participate.  The gathering of representatives, experts and other stakeholders would encourage the sharing of expertise and exchange of views on space law to pave the way for the more responsible, equitable, efficient and peaceful uses of outer space.


MARIE-ANNA LEBOVITS (France), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said the Union was convinced of the importance of using outer space for peaceful purposes in the areas of technology, knowledge and understanding, rather than conflict.  It was also convinced that, in recent years, space had become essential for positioning communications satellites and for opening up territories to enable even the world’s most isolated areas to have a vital link to the rest of the planet.  To that end, broadband access must be provided to island territories and eventually to desert regions, whose development was contingent on access to new technologies.  Stressing the usefulness of space technologies for disaster forecasting and prevention, she underlined the Union’s support for UN-SPIDER.  She also commended the performance of the “COROT” satellite, which had discovered five new extra-solar planets.


Underlining the key role the Outer Space Committee played in disseminating and promoting space’s peaceful uses, she welcomed the panel discussion on space applications and food security.  She also commended the General Assembly’s approval of the resolution on space debris, noting that those guidelines should be updated in a timely manner as practices in outer space positioning changed. 


For its part, the European Union intended to make progress on the two emblematic programmes:  Galileo for radio navigation and Kopernikus, she said, adding that it also intended to enhance the use of space technologies in fighting climate change, so that the scale of the phenomena could be more accurately measured and better understood.  Those technologies should also be used to mitigate climate change’s effects.  Emphasis should also be placed on developing new services, using integrated space applications such as GPS (Global Positioning System) telecommunications and Earth observation.  The Union was also considering a framework to create dialogue with other space Powers to organize a global organization effort.


Aware of the importance of transparency, confidence and security in space matters, the European Union considered the universalization and implementation of the relevant agreements and treaties to be of utmost importance, she said.  It also hoped to further Europe’s contribution to the Outer Space Committee’s work by constructing a non-binding code of conduct for outer space activities.  That code would set the basic rules for States in outer space and reduce the risk of collisions and space debris creation, while also strengthening understanding between nations.  The code should be supplemented by measures drawn up by the working group on the “long-term viability of outer space activities”.


BYRGANYM AITIMOVA ( Kazakhstan) urged international cooperation in the application of space technologies for peaceful purposes and sustainable development, which was important for ensuring comprehensive social and economic progress.  She endorsed the conclusions and recommendations of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, particularly concerning active cooperation between Member States.


She said that Kazakhstan’s launching pad facility, Baikonur, contributed to international space activities and supported United Nations development efforts.  Her country had ratified the Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies and had adopted a national programme for space activities through 2020.  The first national geostationary communications and re-broadcasting satellite was launched two years ago, with a second satellite set to be launched next year.  There was also a long-term plan to construct a high-tech satellite for remote sensing of the Earth.  The application of space technologies, such as remote sensing and environmental monitoring, was critical to the development of the world agricultural sector and had special relevance to the global food crisis. 


Ecology and environmental protection should be another international priority, and required extensive application of space science and technology, she said.  The international community was not aware of the grave global ramifications of the drying up of the Aral Sea, and technical and financial assistance to the population of that region had long been sporadic.  The use of space science and technology was extremely important in monitoring that region.  Additionally, the former Semipalatinsk nuclear testing ground required multilateral cooperation to more effectively address that “screaming problem”.  She welcomed the outer space Committee’s report, particularly the “social benefits areas”, which promoted the availability of data on agriculture, biodiversity, climate, disasters, ecosystems, energy, health, water and weather in times of food crisis.  Information on remote sensing of regions, especially those suffering the adverse effects of climate change, should be shared on credit or for gratis.


TARIQ ANWAR ( India) said that, as a member of the International Charter on “Space and Major Disasters”, India had taken an active part in implementing the Charter by providing assistance through its remote sensing and support services to the countries affected by Cyclone Nargis and the earthquake in China.  India had also launched several satellites in 2008 and intended, in the coming years, to provide opportunities through its satellite launching to students and scientific communities developing countries.


Turning to space applications, he underlined his country’s efforts to provide quality education across the country, through the establishment of more than 33,000 tele-education classrooms.  It was also working to make medical consultations available to rural areas through a telemedicine network.  Already, 270 rural and local hospitals were taking advantage of expert medical consultancies to aid more than 500,000 people.  More than 400 village resource centres had been created by the Indian Space Research Organization, and were acting as a single window delivery mechanism for space-based products and services and providing valuable inputs to the local community.


He said that India’s first unmanned mission to the moon was expected to launch in the coming days.  Carrying scientific instruments of the United States, the European Space Agency and Bulgaria, it was an example of how scientists from different countries could share expertise for the benefit of humankind. The Indian Space Research Organization was also working with its Russian counterpart on a joint lunar mission, and it was building a satellite to carry out meteorological observations in the tropical region.  That played a significant role in creating a global databank for addressing issues related to weather and climate change.  The organization was also working to assist developing countries in applying space technology; it had conducted several research workshops for scholars at its Centre for Space Science and Technology Education for Asia and the Pacific region.


CLAUDIA BLUM ( Colombia), supporting the statement made on behalf of MERCOSUR, said she recognized the commitment of members of the Fourth Committee, as well as of the Legal and Scientific and Technical Subcommittees, for advancing in the application of the recommendations arising from the third UNISPACE conference, including the action plan adopted by the General Assembly.


She said her country had cooperated in advancing research and education centres such as those of the United Nations Program on Space Applications. In 2007, more than 800 students received training in geospatial technologies, 130 of whom came from Latin America.  The Colombian Space Commission, created in 2006, supported strategies to integrate efforts and optimize investments to put space technologies at the service of Colombian society and sustainable development.  Colombia was committed to regional cooperation, and its actions were in line with the 2006 San Francisco de Quito Declaration.  Deployment of weapons in outer space must be avoided, and communication should be promoted between the Fourth and First (Disarmament and International Security) Committees.


Geostationary orbit was a limited natural resource, which ran the risk of becoming oversaturated, she stressed.  Its use must therefore be based on rational and equitable access by all countries, and should not be restricted to commercial uses to the detriment of social functions.  Additionally, Member States and Permanent Observers should consider making contributions, through the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, to the work of the Commission on Sustainable Development, particularly in 2010 and 2011.  The Outer Space Committee’s contributions had proved fundamental in promoting better understanding of the interaction between the Earth’s system and human development.  That deepening cooperation could become the guiding light on the path towards sustainable development.


KENNETH HODGKINS ( United States) said that the Office for Outer Space Affairs deserved congratulations for its support to the Outer Space Committee.  As the only standing body exclusively concerned with the peaceful uses of outer space, the Committee’s work was particularly important.  In the past year, several significant achievements had been made, and those were a fitting tribute to the Committee’s fiftieth anniversary.  Over its half decade, the Outer Space Committee had been a catalyst in promoting cooperation and fostering the exchange of information.


He said that 2008 also marked the forty-fifth anniversary of General Assembly resolution 1962, the Declaration of Legal Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space.  Adopted at a time when global interaction in outer space was a new reality, it had recognized that that interaction presented unique legal issues.  Member States had also understood that the nature of outer space would be the development of human activities, which would be best served by a pragmatic and gradual approach to these legal issues.  The resulting legal framework had stood the test of time.  The resolution had established the fundamental principles in the use of outer space and set the foundation for the four treaties that governed outer space interaction.


Noting that 2008 was also the fortieth anniversary of the entry into force of the agreement on the rescue and return of astronauts, he said it remained as important today as it was at its inception.  It elaborated the simple but humanitarian principle that an astronaut should be regarded as an envoy of mankind.  Space remained a dangerous realm and that treaty provided a useful framework in that regard.


Turning to the subcommittees, he welcomed the Legal Subcommittee’s work on space law, particularly the introduction of a new single issue item on the General Exchange of Information on National Mechanisms Relating to Space Debris Mitigation Measures.  The Scientific and Technical Subcommittee had also made strides, reaching consensus on a draft safety framework on nuclear power in space.  The International Heliophysical Year had highlighted the effects of the sun on daily activities, and he looked forward to finding ways for the international community to continue to address the field of solar-terrestrial physics.  It was also pleased to see the Subcommittee address the use of Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) through the International Committee on Global Navigation Satellite Systems. It was also making progress in encouraging compatibility among global and regional navigational satellite systems and their integration into countries’ infrastructure, particularly developing ones.  Also encouraging had been the progress made in considering the spin-off benefits of space exploration and the role of the Outer Space Committee in promoting international cooperation in ensuring that outer space was maintained for peaceful purposes.


CAMILO GARCÍA LÓPEZ-TRIGO ( Cuba) said it was paradoxical that in the modern world some countries spent millions on an arms race in space, while others worked to ensure that space was the common property of mankind, used for nobler ends like sustainable development and the prevention of natural disasters.


He said that the current legal status was insufficient to prevent an arms race in space, and the Conference on Disarmament should play a leading role in the urgent negotiations on multilateral agreements for preventing one.  He reiterated the importance of redoubling efforts in that regard, as an outer space arms race would not only destroy the promising future of space applications, but also jeopardize their very existence.  The Outer Space Committee should play a special role in spreading and promoting the peaceful uses of outer space, and improve ethical principles and legal instruments to ensure the peaceful, just and non-discriminatory use of all space applications.


Despite limited resources, Cuba was increasing its development of space research, such as an increased use of meteorology, he said.  Meteorological forecasts, based on high resolution satellite images, and the organizational measures of preventative evacuation allowed for a significant reduction in the loss of life in the hurricanes that had recently lashed the country.  Climate change and food security must be addressed within the framework of the Outer Space Committee, and the interrelationship between the Committee and the Commission on Sustainable Development should be strengthened and developed.  Close and coordinated cooperation among countries, without discrimination, was crucial to making optimum and responsible use of the unlimited possibilities provided by space research and applications.


RAYMOND WOLFE (Jamaica), noting that yesterday’s panel discussion on space technology and food insecurity had reinforced the theme of the current General Assembly session, said the discussion had also highlighted how space applications could contribute to combating hunger and raising agricultural productivity, thereby helping to alleviate the current food crisis.  That crisis was a paramount global challenge and, as such, demanded that all means be used to prevent it from ballooning into a global epidemic.  He, therefore, urged the widespread use of space technology in that effort, particularly in developing countries.


He said that the Caribbean countries continued to reap the disastrous consequences of the Atlantic Hurricane season.  With six weeks to go in the 2008 season, his country, like Haiti and other Caribbean neighbours, had already suffered significant damage.  He welcomed efforts by UN-SPIDER to address disaster management, including through regional workshops.  As the countries of the region continued to combat the disastrous effects of climate change, they looked forward to the use of space-based technologies to enhance those endeavours.  Space applications had the potential to aid sustainable development and disaster management, including through the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction Hyogo Framework for Action 2005-2015.  Indeed, space technologies were critical to the future of all developing countries.  As the common heritage of humankind, space should be used for peaceful ends; no State should take any action that could result in its militarization.


JOANNA GASH ( Australia) said that concerns over global food security had arisen out of a complex set of drivers that influenced both food supply and demand, including population growth, dietary changes associated with economic development, climate variability and the diversion of food commodities to biofuels.  Space-based observations would play a critical role in all of those food supply issues through the use of remote sensing to characterise productivity constraints, raise resource efficiency, and improve agricultural yield.


Providing numerous examples of how space technologies were currently supporting a range of Australian research programmes, she said that Australia was seeking to maintain and grow the productivity and sustainability of its farming systems.  While Australian agriculture faced significant challenges in terms of climate variability and change, Australian agricultural research and development was making active use of remote sensing to search for more efficient resource use and sustainable land management.  Her country was also engaging in a range of international partnerships to apply remotely sensed information to the management of global resources and address the food security challenge.


She said her country was looking to improve its investment in agriculture research, in order to lift agricultural productivity.  Precision images projected from satellites made it possible to predict changes in crop yields, measure sea surface temperatures and track bush fires.  Global positioning systems allowed the further development of precision agriculture and could reduce costs, increase production and improve the sustainability of agricultural practices.  Space technologies were becoming increasingly vital for the accurate and efficient management of national resources, and it was important that they were also made accessible to developing and least-developed countries to help them reach their development potential.


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