Peaceful use of outer space at heart renewed UN efforts

Space exhibition at the United Nations in Vienna Photo: UNIS Vienna

8 April 2013 – The United Nations pressed ahead today with efforts to insure that outer space is used solely for peaceful purpose and to counter the threat posed by space debris.

The Legal Subcommittee of the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS) began a 12-day meeting in Vienna, home to UN Office of Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA), focussing on the status and application of UN treaties on outer space, definition and delimitation of outer space, legal mechanisms relating to space debris mitigation measures and capacity-building in space law.

The meeting, which follows a five-day session last week in Geneva of the UN-backed Group of Governmental Experts on Transparency and Confidence-Building Measures in Outer Space Activities, will review national legislation relevant to the peaceful exploration and use of outer space.

It will open a new agenda item under a five year work-plan on the review of international mechanisms for cooperation in the peaceful exploration and use of outer space which will aim this year at identifying a range of bilateral and multilateral legal mechanisms for space cooperation.

There are five UN treaties dealing with outer space. These govern the exploration and use of outer space, the rescue of astronauts and the return of objects launched into space, liability for damage caused by space objects, registration of objects launched into space, and the activities of States on the moon and other celestial bodies.

During the meeting working groups will report on the status and application of these treaties and on the definition and delimitation of outer space.

Last week’s meeting in Geneva focussed on the nature and substance of transparency and confidence building measures (TCBMs) that would be non-legally binding and voluntary, even though legally binding measures have been discussed.


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