22 October 2013
General Assembly
GA/SPD/537

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

Sixty-eighth General Assembly

Fourth Committee

12th Meeting (PM)


Speaker in Fourth Committee Calls for ‘Democratic Management of Outer Space’,


As Efforts Intensify to Galvanize Advances in Space Science and Technology


‘Rules of the Road’ Needed to Fill Legal Gaps


By creating synergy between Member States, the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space would take the lead role in stimulating the advancement of space science and technology for the benefit of all humankind, the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) heard today, as it began its annual deliberations on the peaceful uses of outer space.


Updating Member States on the Outer Space Committee’s multi-pronged programme of work was its Chair, Yasushi Horikawa, who said that space science applications, such as satellite communications, Earth observation and meteorological systems and satellite navigation services were indispensible tools for viable sustainable development.


One of the fields in which the Outer Space Committee had made significant progress was in matters related to the legal regime on outer space, he said, thanks to a multi-year work programme within the Legal Subcommittee, whose key goal was to build capacity in space law.  As a result of that work, the Committee had endorsed the text of a draft resolution on recommendations on national legislation relevant to the peaceful exploration and use of outer space.


Increasingly, data applications impacted the well-being of people and their social and economic rights, the representative of Venezuela said.  That made “democratic management of outer space” crucial.  It was necessary, therefore, to update and strengthen the current legal instruments in accordance with scientific and technological progress, he said, warning that the threat of an arms race loomed over the long-term sustainable development of space.


Calling attention to the “fragility of the space environment”, the European Union delegate said that existing mechanisms had proven inadequate, requiring that voluntary “rules of the road” be developed, based on best practices between space actors.  Consultations were under way on an international code of conduct for outer space activities, and the European Union was committed to an “open, transparent and inclusive” process in which all Member States could participate.


Member States needed to face up to the reality that the existing legal regime was not exhaustive, agreed the Russian Federation’s representative.  The need of the hour was for genuine and effective agreements that carried political weight and were, above all, focused on the safety and security of the outer space environment.  The legal issues surrounding space activities were complex and delicate, and he called for “tried and tested solutions” and political will. 


Member States should tackle the clear gaps in regulation as a collective, or risk varying interpretations of the principle of self-defence and heightened conflict in outer space, he added.  Russia had put forward a bold initiative to jointly consider the possibility of a “United Nations charter-stipulated right to self-defence in outer space”.  He urged the proposal’s thorough consideration in the Outer Space Committee.


Many delegates also noted that the current year marked the fiftieth anniversary of the first space flight by a woman, Valentina Tereshkova.  The representative of Thailand quoted Ms. Tereshkova: “`A bird cannot fly with one wing only’”.  Nor could human space flight develop further without women’s active participation, he said, voicing hope that the pioneering spirit and vision of the world’s first female astronaut would inspire others to expand the boundaries of possibility in space technology.  He noted, in particularly, the great potential contribution of space technology and applications, as well as space-driven data and information to sustainable development.


Also speaking today were the representatives of Israel, Libya, Malaysia, Mexico, and Pakistan.


The Fourth Committee will meet again at 3 p.m. on Wednesday, 23 October, to continue its consideration of the peaceful uses of outer space.


Background


As the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) met this afternoon to consider items on the peaceful use of outer space, it had before it the report of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (document A/68/20).


Briefing


YASUSHI HORIKAWA (Japan), Chair of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, said that space sciences and technology and their applications, such as satellite communications, Earth observation and meteorological systems and satellite navigation services, were indispensible tools for viable sustainable development and could contribute more effectively to promote progress in that regard.  Advances in research and development in space science and technology were fundamental prerequisites for any space application that benefitted human advancement on Earth, for protecting and preserving the Earth and in any exploration efforts.  The Committee and its subsidiary bodies stood at the forefront in bringing States together for the peaceful use of that technology.


He said that the Outer Space Committee this year had made important moves towards a concerted consideration of the role of space science at the Rio+20 Conference and in the context of the post-2015 agenda by instituting a cross-cutting consideration under dedicated new agenda items.  To that end, the Committee had three major pillars in which it could take further steps in global governance for space research and utilization: it could strengthen its role as well as that of its subcommittees as a global platform for international cooperation; it could promote greater dialogue between the Committee and regional and interregional cooperation and coordination mechanisms in space activities; and it could take a lead role in stimulating the further advancement of space science and technology’s application for the benefit of all humankind.


In promoting those steps, he said, it would be essential to create synergies between the various efforts of all States, as well as avoid duplication and study the prospects for new collaborative approaches for the joint utilization of outer space.  Further studies could be made on the ways in which human space flights, such as those to the International Space Station, could become a useful tool to advance development on Earth.  Likewise, the operation of small and nano-satellites, which were planned and carried out by an increasing number of governmental and non-governmental entities, could be further discussed, including in connection with matters related to the legal regime on outer space.


This year, he said, the Committee had endorsed the recommendations for an international response to the near-Earth object impact threat, which set out the foundation for enhanced coordination and cooperation among space agencies.  It had also endorsed the text of the draft resolution on recommendations on national legislation relevant to the peaceful exploration and use of outer space.  The text contained recommendations for voluntary consideration by States in their regulatory frameworks on space activities, such as authorizing and licensing, supervision of national space activities and registration of space objects.  That was the result of a multi-year work programme under the dedicated Working Group of the Legal Subcommittee, whose key goal was to build space law capacity


Finally, the Regional Centres for Space Science and Technology Education, affiliated with the United Nations, had firmly established infrastructures for advanced training in the field of space science and technology, he said.  Their long-standing education programmes were highly successful.  Likewise, the network under the United Nations Platform for Space-based Information for Disaster Management and Emergency Response (UN-SPIDER) had helped to assist in the regional coordination of disaster risk reduction.


Statements


NORACHIT SINHASENI ( Thailand), speaking on behalf of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN), said this year marked the fiftieth anniversary of the first flight by a woman, Valentina Tereshkova, who had said: “a bird cannot fly with one wing only.  Human space flight cannot develop any further without the active participation of women”.  Thailand celebrated that important milestone and encouraged the equal participation of men and women in the field of space technology.  He hoped that Ms. Tereshkova’s pioneering spirit and vision would inspire others to continue expanding the boundaries of possibility in space technology and its applications for the benefits of all.


He said that space technology and applications, as well as space-driven data and information, had great potential for contributing to sustainable development.  The new agenda was welcome, and the Association looked forward to participating actively.  There was a wide gap in space technology between developed and developing countries, and he encouraged information sharing, capacity building, technology transfer and concrete areas for cooperation and collaboration, so that developing countries could develop space technologies in a sustainable manner. 

Many lives would be saved from the devastation of natural disasters by the applications of space-based data, in particular, through early warning systems and search and rescue operations.  ASEAN appreciated the work of the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs and UN-SPIDER.  He reiterated concern for the issue of space debris, as those objects posed serous risk for communications satellites and the nations, peoples and industries that relied on their use, and urged the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee to continue discussing mitigation measures.


ALFREDO FERNANDO TORO-CARNEVALI (Venezuela), speaking on behalf of the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR), stressed the need to update and strengthen the five international treaties on the peaceful uses of outer space, in accordance with scientific and technological progress.  To boost international cooperation, space technology must be made available to all.  The well-being of people and a guarantee of their social and economic rights increasingly depended on such data and its applications.  Many public services and economic flows required effective and reliable remote sensing and communications systems, which, in turn, depended on the appropriate and democratic management of outer space.


He said that the greatest challenge to long-term sustainable development of space was the threat of an arms race, which was why MERCOSUR was firmly committed to strengthening multilateralism on the topic.  The United Nations and its bodies were responsible for safeguarding a peaceful outer space, and in that regard, the Conference on Disarmament must renew its activities as soon as possible in order to negotiate, among other items on its agenda, a treaty banning an outer space arms race.  MERCOSUR believed that global, regional and inter-regional cooperation was vital to assist States to develop their space capabilities and to achieve long-term sustainability of outer-space activities.  Especially welcome had been the October 2012 agreement between the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs and Argentina’s national space activities commission to establish in that country a new UN-SPIDER centre for the Latin American region.


ADEBAYO BABAJIDE, Head of Global Disarmament, Space and Conventional Arms, European External Action Service, speaking on behalf of the European Union, noted the development of the Galileo programme, which was a European initiative for a state-of-the-art global satellite navigation system.  Its role was to provide a highly accurate global positioning service under civilian control.  Further, Copernicus, the European Union Earth observation programme, covered all the activities for ensuring a continuous, accurate, and reliable data and information supply to the European Union and its member States on global environmental issues and security-related services.  Copernicus underpinned important policies of the Union, and could also be instrumental in achieving important United Nations goals.


“Space environment was fragile,” he said, adding that existing mechanisms had proven inadequate to halt the growth in space debris.  It was crucial to develop voluntary “rules of the road” on outer space activities, endorsing best practices between space actors.  The European Union was committed to creating an international code of conduct for outer space activities that was open, transparent and inclusive of all interested Member States.  The first open-ended consultations towards that goal had been held in Kiev in May, and a second round of consultations would take place in Bangkok in November.


RICARDO ALDAY GONZÁLEZ ( Mexico) reiterated his conviction that the exploration of outer space should remain open to all States and that its utilization carried out for peaceful purposes.  That priority must remain separate from any other consideration.  The Outer Space Committee had advocated compliance on that matter without modification.  The Committee, at the same time, was concerned about the proliferation of space debris, some created by celestial bodies and others by man-made instruments, which had been placed in outer space for six decades.  Mexico welcomed the cooperation of other States in mitigating the problem in line with the Committee’s various instruments and programmes.


This year, he said, Mexico had chaired the Secretariat of the Space Conference of the Americas and, in that framework, had organized meetings on the use of space for the human and environmental safety of the Americas, and on confidence in space activities for the security and sustainability for the Americas.  Mexico also had devised a national development plan with several objectives, the first of which was the development of global satellite navigation.  The second was an early warning system for the prevention of natural disasters, and the third was the use of satellites for broadband services to reduce the digital divide in his country.  For all those reasons, Mexico promoted international cooperation for the peaceful uses of outer space, as well as the improvement of the legal regime to regulate all aspects associated with them.


BENJAMIN M. SHARONI ( Israel) said the Israeli Space Agency had followed a mission of cooperation by promoting innovative scientific projects based on international collaboration.  That, in turn, would create opportunities to learn new methodologies. Israel had signed cooperation agreements with sister agencies from various countries, he said, noting that the Eighth Annual International Ilan Ramon Space Conference had been held in his country in January.  Over the past two decades, 11 countries, including Israel, had developed space-launch capabilities and more than 60 nations owned and operated approximately 1,100 active satellites.


He said that Israel had recently donated a model of its “OPSAT 2000” series satellite to the Outer Space Committee, which could be viewed at the United Nations Office in Vienna.  The programme was a high-resolution observation satellite s eries made by Israel Aerospace Industries.  Capable of identifying small objects from an altitude of several hundred kilometres, the satellite was used for civilian purposes in agriculture, infrastructure analysis, transportation and natural disaster management.  One of the primary objectives of Israel’s National Civil Space Program was to position the country among the leading space-faring nations.  It invested nearly 50 per cent of the programme’s budget in international partnerships.


MOHAMED EL SHAMEK ( Libya) stated that international cooperation in the uses of outer space was necessary for a wide range of benefits, from the prevention of natural disasters to combating climate change.  The United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs had an important role to play in allowing States to benefit from space activities, regardless of their level of development.  His country also stressed the vital importance of Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space in laying down international criteria that would legally regulate activities in outer space.  The ongoing development of space law and of a code of conduct for space activities would help to ensure that space activities were in line with General Assembly resolutions.  Support must be increased for developing counties, especially within the framework of regional centres that taught space science, he said noting a workshop on space law to be held in Argentina next month and another in Ghana during the fifth African summit.  Libya was concerned about the use of nuclear power in outer space, especially with regard to the geostationary orbits, and he urged the development of binding international criteria on nuclear weapons in order to preserve life, peace and security on the planet and in outer space.


MOHD ASHRI MUDA ( Malaysia), associating himself with ASEAN, said that his country’s space programme had progressed significantly with the development of its latest satellite project, the third Malaysian Earth observation satellite, or RazakSAT-2.  Planned for launch in 2016, it was expected to have better-quality image acquisition than Malaysia’s previous earth observation satellites.  In terms of space infrastructure development, the country had concluded its satellite testing facility complex.  Malaysia was also contributing to the local and regional space communities by holding several related events, including the Asia Geospatial Forum.  And, it was actively involved in international initiatives and scientific collaborations to further enhance its capability and capacity in space exploration.  Those included an international space weather initiative, and collaborations with the European Union and Japan.


He reiterated Malaysia’s full commitment to enhance international cooperation on the peaceful uses of outer space.  Space technology had brought about a number of “spin-off” benefits that had tangibly improved daily lives and helped to address a range of social and economic challenges, including poverty eradication, environmental protection and disaster management.


NABEEL MUNIR ( Pakistan) welcomed the comprehensive review of the work of the Outer Space Committee, described in its report.  That Committee was the focal point for enhancing cooperation between Member States on the peaceful uses of outer space, and, as such, had an important role in maximising the benefits of space capabilities in the service of humanity.  Highlighting Pakistan’s strategy for the effective application of space-based technologies, he said his country was developing a space education and awareness programme.  Pakistan’s national space agency had, among other initiatives, initiated a cryospheric monitoring system, which studied the health of glaciers in his country.


He said that pollution of space by debris left by expendable launch vehicles and inactive satellites posed an enduring threat to the sustainability of outer space activities.  Future space exploration and its peaceful use depended on space debris mitigation measures, including legally binding rules.  Noting that his country was a State party to all United Nations treaties on outer-space activities, he said Pakistan supported development of regulatory instruments in that area under United Nations auspices, of the view that the benefits of outer space activities should be shared with all humankind.


IGOR PANIN ( Russian Federation), also noting the fiftieth anniversary of the first space flight by a woman, said his country was especially proud of cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova.  It was also pleased that a final consensus had been reached within the legal subcommittee and the Outer Space Committee as a whole on the recommendations regarding the exploration and use of outer space.  The legal issues surrounding space activities were complex and delicate, and required tried and tested solutions, as well as political will.  It was important that the governing principles of outer space carried political weight, so as to ensure that they genuinely enhanced the security and long-term sustainability of space activities.  While the review of best national practices in outer space activities was significant, work should focus on reaching effective agreements, focused on, above all, the safety and security of the outer space environment.  Galvanizing global efforts on that topic should be a priority of the Outer Space Committee.


He said his country also had put forward a bold initiative to collectively consider the possibility of a “United Nations Charter-stipulated right to self-


defence in outer space”.  All States must face up to reality, and the reality was that the existing legal regime was not exhaustive.  There were clear gaps in the regulation that needed to be tackled collectively.  Otherwise, he warned, different interpretations of the principle of self-defence could heighten conflict in outer space.  He urged the Outer Space Committee to discuss the merits of the Russian proposal in depth. 


* *** *


For information media • not an official record