The Office for Outer Space Affairs (OOSA) was created as a small unit to serve the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space in 1958. It became part of the Department of Political and Security Council Affairs in 1962, and was transformed into the Office for Outer Space Affairs within the Department for Political Affairs in 1992, taking the additional responsibility for servicing the Legal Subcommittee. The Office also services the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee. In 1993, it was relocated to Vienna. It provides secretariat services to the Committee and thus is responsible for the organization of UNISPACE III.  OOSA has the twin objectives of supporting the intergovernmental discussions of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS) and its subsidiary bodies and assisting developing countries in using space technology.

In these capacities it carries out a programme that contains legal, political, technological and technical assistance elements. The office consists of three sections: the Office of the Director, which is responsible for overall organization and administration, the Committee Services and Research Section (CSRS) and the Space Applications Section (SAS). The Committee Services and Research Section provides substantive secretariat services for the sessions of COPUOS and its Subcommittees. It prepares draft texts and reports for the Committee, its Legal and Scientific and Technical Subcommittees and the several working groups of these bodies.

The CSRS prepares background information on issues related to space. These include studies in such areas as space research, the practical applications of space technology, space law and organizational questions relating to international cooperation in those fields.  The United Nations Programme on Space Applications was established by the General Assembly in 1971 in response to the recommendations of the first United Nations Conference on the Exploration and Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, held in 1968. It was given the mandate to foster awareness amongst governments and policy makers of the benefits to be derived from space technology. It was also mandated to create education programmes that provide developing countries with the necessary knowledge and expertise to fully benefit from space technology.

Through the Space Applications Programme, the Office for Outer Space Affairs has organized training courses, workshops and seminars on many aspects of space technology and its applications. At the second United Nations Conference on the Exploration and Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, held in 1982, its mandate was broadened to include additional activities that enhance the understanding and subsequent use of space technology for development purposes in general and in particular to strengthen the capabilities of developing countries.  The Office for Outer Space Affairs initiates pilot projects and provides technical information and advice to Member States, international organizations and other United Nations offices. It is in the process of establishing centres for space science and technology education in all the United Nations Regions.

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The Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS) was set up by the General Assembly in 1959 ( resolution 1472 (XIV)) to review the scope of international cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space. In this capacity it has devised programmes under the auspices of the United Nations. Furthermore, it has encouraged continued research and the dissemination of information on outer space matters and studied legal problems arising from the exploration of outer space. The Committee and its two standing Subcommittees meet annually to consider questions put before them by the General Assembly, as well as reports submitted to them and issues raised by the Member States. The Committee and the Subcommittees, working on the basis of consensus, make recommendations to the General Assembly.

Recent activities of the two Subcommittees include a three-year examination by the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee on the subject of space debris, to be presented to UNISPACE III in July, 1999. The Subcommittee is also concerned with the use of space technology in the field of environmental protection. The Subcommittee will report, for example, on the use of remote sensing applications in such areas as land degradation, desertification, global warming, air quality problems, pollution control, disaster mitigation and weather forecasting.

The Legal Subcommittee is concerned with ensuring the development of a legal framework, concomitant to the rapid technological development of space.  The Subcommittee recognizes the need to strengthen existing United Nations Space Treaties, given the internationalization of space exploration, and to develop a legal framework that encompasses highly technical issues such as space debris, nuclear power sources and intellectual property rights. The Legal Subcommittee will also be reporting to UNISPACE III.

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As the result of the adoption of resolution A/49/33 by the General Assembly, the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space is composed of the following 61 Member States: Albania, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Benin, Brazil, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Canada, Chad, Chile, China, Colombia, Czech Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, India, Iraq, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Lebanon, Malaysia, Mexico, Mongolia, Morocco, Netherlands, Nicaragua, Niger, Pakistan, Peru, Phillippines, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Romania, Russian Federation, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Spain, Sudan, Sweden, Syria, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom of Great Britain, United States of America, Uruguay, Venezuela, Viet Nam, Yugoslavia. Cuba and the Republic of Korea rotate seats on the Committee every two years with Peru and Malaysia respectively.


The following non-UN organizations have permanent observer status with the Committee: the Association of Space Explorers (ASE), the Committee on Space Research (COSPAR), the European Space Agency (ESA), the International Academy of Astronautics (IAA), the International Astronautical Federation (IAF), the International Astronomical Union (IAU), the International Law Association (ILA), the International Mobile Satellite Organization (Inmarsat), the International Telecommunications Satellite Organization (INTELSAT), Intersputnik, the International Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (ISPRS), the International Space University (ISU), The Planetary Society (TPS).