18 October 2012
General Assembly
GA/SPD/511

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

Sixty-seventh General Assembly

Fourth Committee

9th Meeting (AM)


Light Shed on ‘Risk of Mishaps, Misperceptions, Miscalculations’ in Outer Space


as Fourth Committee Urges Realm’s Peaceful Purposes over Its Militarization

 


China, United States Outline Positions, as Calls Heard for Global

Code of Conduct to Ensure Science in Step with Law, Not Outpacing It


While many countries today in the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) were proud to highlight their significant advances in space exploration and technology, which they said contributed to economic growth and social benefits, others pressed for comprehensive international regulation owing largely to the dual use of outer space activities, so as to preserve the realm for civilian rather than military purposes.


In a debate begun yesterday on the peaceful uses of outer space, which captured the widely held view that the realm be used strictly for peaceful, and not military, purposes, speakers, including from China, said that new international instruments should be negotiated as “soon as possible”, to “eliminate the security threat” and other uncertainties in outer space.


Eager to mitigate the “risk of mishaps, misperceptions, and miscalculations”, the United States called for confidence-building measures, said its representative, adding that such measures and any other arms control concepts and proposals should meet rigorous criteria of equitability and verifiability, and be in line with the national security interests of his country and its allies.


The speaker from the Philippines urged that outer space be used peacefully to prevent it from falling into the domain of an exclusive few.  He also worried that the present legal regime was not adequate to prevent its weaponization, and said his country’s principled position was that outer space activities should be rules-based.  An international code of conduct should be considered, so as to ensure that science was in step with law, and not outpacing it.  


The use of nuclear power sources in outer space also posed a serious risk, warned Libya’s delegate, who said his country was especially concerned by spacecrafts that continued to use nuclear power, despite international criteria aimed at restraining its use.  In that respect, the United Nations had a critical role in codifying and developing outer space law.  Also raising the flag about the unrelenting growth of space debris, he emphasized the need to define outer space and its limits.


Apart from security and legal concerns, delegates also stressed the role of the United Nations in promoting international cooperation on space technology in the fields of food security, water, resource management, disaster management and mitigation, among others.  Several speakers described their countries’ recent accomplishments and emphasized the value of sharing both the technology and the data generated from it, particularly with developing countries.


Argentina’s representative underscored the importance of universal access to space data, and reported that his country’s recent launch of a satellite designed to estimate ocean salinity and ultimately produce climate models over the long-term would benefit the global community by providing early warning of floods and the potential onset or spread of illnesses.


India had also built new satellites that advanced global scientific research on climate and weather systems, that country’s delegate reported, adding that his country was also preparing to launch the first Indian space-based observatory for multi-wavelength monitoring of the celestial bodies and cosmic sources.


Malaysia, for its part, was poised to become the hub for satellite manufacturing service providers for Southeast Asia with the approaching completion of an Assembly, Integration and Testing facility, said that country’s delegate.  The country would then be able to provide the regional and global space community a variety of services.


Also speaking were the representatives of Ukraine, Nigeria and Colombia.


The Committee will meet at 10 a.m. on Friday, 19 October, to continue its consideration on outer space issues.


Background


The Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) met today to continue its consideration of the peaceful uses of outer space.  For background, please see Press Release GA/SPD/510 of 17 October.


Statements


NAZARI ABD HADI (Malaysia), updating the Committee on the development of his country’s involvement in the peaceful uses of outer space, said that under the Tenth Malaysia Economic Plan 2011-2015, the country was planning to launch its third Earth observation satellite, which  was expected to produce better quality images than its predecessor.  Malaysia was poised to become the hub for satellite manufacturing service providers for Southeast Asia, with the completion of its Assembly, Integration and Testing facility, which was expected to be fully operational by the end of 2013.  Malaysia would then be able to provide the regional and global space community a variety of services.


On the domestic front, he said his country had held a forum in March, which was part of a series of engagements with various stakeholders to promote the geospatial sector in the country, and was in the midst of finalizing a regulatory mechanism for geospatial-related activities.  The National Space Education and Awareness Program continued to be an important activity, and 2012 had been declared by his Government as the Year of Science and Innovation.  A framework for local space development and activities was slowly taking shape.  In conclusion, he said that Malaysia would be holding a regional forum in December, to promote cooperation in space-related programs in Asia and the Pacific.  Malaysia was committed to furthering international cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space.


OLEKSANDR NAKONECHNYI( Ukraine) stated that promotion of greater transparency in space activities, information-sharing, and compliance with provisions of international space law were crucial to secure the peaceful nature of space activities.  Considering the constant growth in the conduct of space activities, a new comprehensive convention on space law was desirable for strengthening the related international legal regime.  A single comprehensive Convention could regulate all aspects of outer space activities.


Further, he added, Ukraine, a member of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space since 1990, supported that body’s activities and recognized its vital role in preventing an arms race in outer space.  Ukraine’s international space activities were carried out in accordance with the National Space Program and various international obligations.  In the scientific domain, Ukraine was obtaining and disseminating fundamental knowledge on near-Earth outer space, the solar system, deep space, biological and physical processes and the microgravity condition.  Ukraine supported the scientific, technical and legal work of the Outer Space Committee aimed at enhancing States’ capabilities.


KENNETH HODGKINS (United States) said that since the Fourth Committee had last met, the Outer Space Committee and its subcommittees – supported by the Office for Outer Space Affairs – had been “extremely successful” in promoting the cooperative achievement – and sharing – of benefits from space exploration for use by all nations.  The United States, in accordance with its national policy, continued to emphasize increased international cooperation to promote the peaceful use of outer space in a wide range of areas, including, addressing the growing problem of space debris, promoting “best practices” for sustainable use of space and pragmatic transparency, as well as confidence-building measures to mitigate the “risk of mishaps, misperceptions, and miscalculations”.  It also continued to be open to space-related confidence-building and arms control concepts and proposals, provided they met the rigorous criteria of equitability, effective verifiability and consistency with the national security interests of the United States and its allies.


He said that 2012 marked the fortieth anniversary of the longest running civilian Earth observation programme, which, since its launch, had provided the global community with essential information for land-surface monitoring, ecosystems management, disaster mitigation and climate change research.  Since 2008, more than 8 million satellite images had been provided to users in 186 countries, and all such images were available free of charge over the Internet.


The Outer Space Committee and subcommittees had several “notable achievements”.  The Scientific and Technical Subcommittee, together with its expert groups, had made substantial progress on the very timely topic of space debris, on developing a safety framework for the use of nuclear power sources in outer space, and on expanding the global network for Near Earth Object detection and characterization.  The Legal Subcommittee had a played a key role throughout its “distinguished history”, and as a result, space technology and services contributed immeasurably to economic growth and improvements in the quality of life worldwide.  The United States was particularly pleased with the Subcommittee’s adoption of a new multi-year work plan this year, which would take stock of the range of international cooperative mechanisms employed by Member States, with a view to identifying common principles and procedures.


In conclusion, he said that two important documents had been presented at the last session of the Outer Space Committee – a publication that reviewed the significant work undertaken by the United Nations in promoting Global Navigation Satellite Systems for sustainable development, and a paper by the Committee Chair, which the United States believed would stimulate thought and provide a framework for considering cross-cutting issues before the Committee.  He also welcomed the Committee’s decision to streamline its agenda.


BEN ASHUR ( Libya) stated that the role played by the Outer Space Committee and the efforts it undertook to strengthen international cooperation were highly significant.  Space science and technology were vital, as well as its applications in the fields of food security, water, resource management, disaster management and mitigation, among others.  Libya stressed the importance of international cooperation in the use of space science.  Pride of place should address the special needs of developing countries.  The United Nations had an especially critical role in strengthening international cooperation on outer space issues and in codifying and developing outer space law.


He said the Outer Space Committee should be strengthened, pursuant to General Assembly resolutions, in order to achieve one of its most important objectives:  capacity- building and technical assistance.  Greater international and regional cooperation were also crucial when it came to the risk of use of nuclear power sources in outer space and geostationary orbits.  Libya was concerned about collisions in outer space, especially involving spacecrafts that were using nuclear power sources, despite international criteria aimed at restraining their use in outer space.  Echoing concerns by developing country delegations on the unrelenting growth of space debris, he concluded that it was also necessary to define what outer space was and what its limits were.


JOHN CHIKA EJINAKA ( Nigeria) expressed condolences on the death of “the foremost astronaut, Neil Armstrong”, and reaffirmed his country’s commitment to the full implementation of the recommendations of the Third United Nations Conference on the Exploration and Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UNISPACE III).  To demonstrate its commitment to the use of space technology for socio-economic and environmental issues, Nigeria had launched highly advanced satellites that would significantly strengthen the country’s capabilities for natural-resource management and disaster reduction through the Disaster Monitoring Constellation.  Those satellites would also enhance food security by monitoring and complementing the rising demands of urban planning.


Further, he said his country recognized that environmental problems had become highly visible in the “shrinking forests, falling water tables, collapsing fisheries, diminishing species and rising temperatures”.  The threat those problems posed to the biosphere and lithosphere demanded strong international commitment to cooperation in space exploration and research.  Information-sharing and dissemination were vital for promoting cooperation between space-faring nations and the growing number of emerging space-faring countries.


ANANTH KUMAR ( India) said that the Outer Space Committee remained a “unique platform” for international cooperation in space activities.  He acknowledged the significant achievements of various Member States in their space endeavours over the last year.  India, for its part, through the building of satellites, had contributed to the work of the global scientific community engaged in research on climate and weather systems.  It had also augmented the constellation of remote sensing and communication satellites, and was preparing to launch the first Indian space-based observatory for multi-wavelength observations of the celestial bodies and cosmic sources.  The Indian space programme continued to integrate advances in space technology and applications with its national development goals.


India also placed “considerable importance” on international and regional cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space, and was engaged in various efforts including the hosting of a space capacity-building centre, cooperation with the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN), and membership in space-related committees.  He was proud to mention his country’s role in establishing the presence of water and hydroxyl molecules on the lunar surface and for obtaining additional information on the possibility of ice on the moon.  The Indian space programme was aimed at achieving self-reliance and developing capacity to build and launch communication satellites for telecommunication and meteorological applications, and it had come a long way towards achieving those objectives.  In conclusion, he said that India greatly acknowledged the potential of space technology and the need to maintain outer space for peaceful purposes.


LI LINLIN ( China) stated that the current year was filled with good news in international exploration:  another probe mission had landed on Mars; the international space station had welcomed the first commercial spacecraft; and for the first time, women had been included in the ranks of Chinese astronauts.  However, even as the international community enjoyed more and more benefits from outer space, it was also faced with uncertainties and risks from outer space.


To realize the aim of sustainable development in outer space activities, he said, it was necessary, not only to rely on advanced technology, but also to commit to the spirit of unity and solidarity.  New international instruments should be negotiated as soon as possible, with a view to eliminating the security threat in outer space.  China had been conducting space activities in a responsible manner and actively advocating the new concept of inclusive development.  Over the last year, it had monitored space debris, provided relevant early warning and taken measures to remove several disused geostationary satellites off their orbits.  Further, China’s Beidou satellite navigation system would complete its Asia-Pacific sector and begin to provide services within the year.  The Beidou was an open and inclusive system and China, which was already cooperating with countries such as Pakistan, hoped to cooperate with more in the area of navigation.


MIGUEL CAMILO RUIZ ( Colombia), aligning with MERCOSUR, stated that outer space was “a heritage that must be conserved for peaceful uses”.  The access and exploration of outer space must take place under equal conditions for all countries, regardless of their level of technological and scientific expertise.  The contributions of the Outer Space Committee had been considerable in that regard, especially in recognizing at the Rio+20 Conference the use of geostationary data to promote sustainable development.


Turning to national developments in space technology, he added that the Colombian Space Commission had been promoting space science among the youth and academic sector of Colombian society.  The mission was also leading projects such as the implementation of the Columbia satellite programme and the national satellite navigation plan, and exploring the viability for acquiring the Colombia earth observation satellite.  Further, Colombia continued to build its capacity in remote sensing, digital image processing, geographical databases, and infrastructure for space data.  Progress had also been made in signing national and international conventions including those signed with Argentina and Brazil.


GERARDO DÍAZ BARTOLOMÉ (Argentina), aligning with the statement made by MERCOSUR, said that, as a founding member of the Outer Space, his country believed that outer space, as the common heritage of mankind, should be used for peaceful purposes and for the collective benefit of present and future generations.  Given the potential benefits of applied space technology, Argentina stressed the importance of universal access to space data.  He proudly recalled the launch of the Argentine satellite SAC-D Aquarius in 2011, which was the largest and most complex satellite built within the Argentine national space plan.  Its main objective was to estimate ocean salinity globally in order to enable the making of climate models over the long term for early warning of floods and the onset or spread of illnesses.  The main partner in developing that satellite had been the National Aeronautics and Space Administration of the United States.


He said his country’s most recent undertaking in that regard had been the establishment of a support office for the United Nations Platform for Space-based Information for Disaster Management and Emergency Response (UN-SPIDER) in Latin America.  That bore faithful witness to the importance Argentina attached to regional and interregional cooperation in the peaceful use of outer space and to the achievement by States of the Millennium Development Goals.  The office would, among other aims, provide technical support for countries affected by disaster, and strengthen national capacity for risk reduction and management.


In conclusion, he stressed the need for equitable access to space technology, particularly for developing countries, who could apply it for economic, social and environmental purposes.  For that reason, it was important to have a full application of international law in all space activities.  Argentina hoped that an upcoming seminar would promote the exchange of information about legislation and national policies related to space activities, as well as help to further the principles of the United Nations in that area and assess the challenges and achievements in their implementation.


ROBERT E. A. BORJE (Philippines), aligning with the statement made on behalf of ASEAN, stated that space science was a fascinating frontier that was expanding rapidly, as technology responded to the imperatives of developments on the ground.  The international community should ensure that outer space was being used peacefully and did not fall into the domain of an exclusive few.  The Philippines believed that the Outer Space Committee provided a unique forum for discussions focused on collaborative processes and consensus-building between the increasingly large number of Sates involved in space activities.  The Committee was also poised to play an important role in the field of global security, as it considered the use of space systems for disaster management and cosmic threats.


Noting the observations made that the present legal regime was not adequate to prevent the placement of weapons in outer space, he said his country’s principled position on that matter was that activities in outer space, like the behaviour expected of States, should be rules-based.  An international code of conduct for outer space activities must be seriously considered.  It was necessary to ensure that “science was in step with law, and not outpacing law”.


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For information media • not an official record