'GROUP OF 77' DEVELOPING COUNTRIES PROPOSE CREATION OF SPECIAL
FUND TO IMPLEMENT UNISPACE III RECOMMENDATIONS
Proposal, in Form of Amendment to Draft 'Vienna
Declaration', Submitted as Conference Concludes its Opening Phase
The Third United Nations Conference on the Exploration and Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UNISPACE III) concluded this morning its general exchange of views, following which it heard several delegations propose amendments to the Conference's draft texts which are expected to be adopted when the two-week Vienna meeting concludes on 30 July.
Among the recommendations is a proposal by the "Group of 77"developing countries and China for the establishment of a United Nations special fund within the Office for Outer Space Affairs, to be utilized for implementing the recommendations of UNISPACE. Introducing the proposal, the representative of India declared that it would be meaningless for the Conference to elaborate detailed recommendations but not have the resources to implement them.
Other proposals included the designation of 20 July as International Space Day; the convening of a "UNISPACE + 5" follow-up conference; and the inclusion in the Vienna Declaration of language urging States to apply the results of space research in areas of economic, social and cultural development. The Conference referred the proposals to its drafting group.
During statements made in the concluding general exchange of views this morning, the Conference was also urged to address a number of specific concerns, and delegations also recommended ways to enhance the role of the United Nations in international cooperation on the exploration and peaceful uses of outer space.
The Director-General of the Azerbaijani National Aerospace Agency (ANASA), Arif Mehdiyev, called on UNISPACE III to recommend that the United Nations Programme on Space Applications be expanded to help countries in transition restore national economies using space applications. The Programme should be more oriented to the problems of newly independent States of the former Soviet Union, which were moving from a centrally planned economy to a market economy. The Programme should facilitate regional cooperation by creating regional space application centres under United Nations auspices.
Mexico's Ambassador, Olga Pellicer Silva, urged that, to respond to the legitimate expectations of the international community, UNISPACE III must result in a consolidation of the legal regime governing outer space and strengthen international cooperation in the application of space science and technology for peaceful purposes. The Conference must assist in a more substantial way in meeting the objectives of sustainable development through international cooperation.
Algeria's Ambassador, Mokhtar Reguieg, stressed the important role played by the United Nations, through the Outer Space Committee, in enabling all countries to benefit from the practical uses of space science and technology. He called on UNISPACE III to recommend ways to close the gap between rich and poor countries. The final document should also define the mechanisms by which UNISPACE III's recommendations would be implemented.
The pursuit of sustainable development was an urgent race against time, and must be won without injuring the environment, said the Executive Vice President of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research of South Africa, Neo Moikangoa. In his country, the rate of population growth was matched only by the rate at which natural resources were shrinking. The key to achieving sustainable development and economic growth lay in the creation of human capital in the science and engineering fields.
The Acting Director of Kazakhstan's Institute of Space Research, E. Zakaein, expressed concern about the legal and practical problems of space debris and the commercial aspects of space activities. Kazakhstan's Baykonur Cosmodrome was capable of launching over 100 space probes a year but its impact on the environment had been extremely negative.
Vast amounts of territory surrounding Baykonur had been damaged, with pieces falling from the sky from failed launches and soil poisoned by highly toxic fuels from proton launches. He hoped UNISPACE III would mark the start of a more humane strategy for space application.
The Head of the Vienna Liaison Office of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), M. Abtahi, described that body's interest in remote sensing techniques for the protection and management of historical and cultural monuments and world heritage sites. Communication and information technologies were being used for building peace. Within the World Commission on the Ethics of Scientific Knowledge and Technology, a working group was reporting on ethical issues related to space science, environmental protection and the protection of individual liberty and cultural identity.
During the general exchange of views, the representatives of Saudi Arabia, Portugal and Mexico also spoke. In discussion on proposed amendments to the final texts, the representatives of Morocco, United States, Chile and United Kingdom spoke, in addition to the representative of India, on behalf of the Group of 77.
At the outset of the meeting, the President announced that due to non-participation in the Conference, and according to the rules of procedure and the decisions of regional groups, replacements would be made on the Credentials Committee as follows: New Zealand, Fiji, Mali and Jamaica would be replaced by Australia, Indonesia, Libya and Uruguay, respectively. The Credentials Committee would meet early next week on a date to be announced.
The plenary will meet again on a date to be announced.
Conference Work Programme
The Third Conference on the Exploration and Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UNISPACE III), a gathering of Government, civil society and space industry representatives, met this morning to conclude its general exchange of views.
ARIF MEHDIYEV, Director-General of the Azerbaijani National Aerospace Agency (ANASA), Azerbaijan: Until the end of 1991, Azerbaijan was part of the Soviet Union and thus unable to participate independently in international cooperation; this became possible in 1992 when the country regained its independence. The Agency is actively involved in the Russian national space programmes, both civilian and military, and has carried out work in fields including remote sensing, astrophysics, and instrument design. One example of its successful research is an x-ray telescope that is still being used on the MIR space station. Unfortunately, political and economic instability in the former Soviet republics has affected Azerbaijan as well. A serious obstacle to Azerbaijan's use of space applications is the absence of a source of regular remote sensing data acquisition. Despite more than 20 years of experience in remote sensing and the presence of highly qualified personnel, the lack of regular data impedes our efforts to benefit from space applications and unfortunately, no international entity helps provide space information.
International and national organizations of developed countries should display more understanding of the problems of the countries in transition and help others in their efforts to restore national economies by using space applications. The United Nations Programme on Space Applications plays an important role in enhancing the use and promotion of space technology and applications among many countries. UNISPACE III should recommend expanding the Programme and broadening its mandate to assist the countries in transition. It should be more oriented to the problems of newly independent States of the former Soviet Union which are moving from a centrally planned economy to a market economy.
Establishing United Nations educational centres for Azerbaijan's part of the world would help educate new specialists and thus contribute to sustainable economic development. Also, the space applications programme should assist in strengthening regional cooperation by creating regional space application centres under United Nations auspices. These would
help develop an appropriate infrastructure and assist in implementing space-related technology for development. An information network to provide regular space data would increase the benefits of space applications for countries like Azerbaijan.
TURKI BIN SAUD BIN MOHAMMED AL SAUD, Director of the Space Research Institute of Saudi Arabia: One of the major challenges in the field of space science and technology is the transfer of space technology to developing countries. Many countries have ventured into space, not for military purposes, but to derive economic benefits. The 1967 Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies (the Outer Space Treaty) stipulates that space is the common heritage of all the world's people. It also stipulates that outer space cannot be partitioned. The UNISPACE III coincides with the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. In the field of space technology, the Kingdom is paying growing attention to space sciences. A Saudi cosmonaut participated in a 1985 shuttle mission, resulting in important scientific discoveries. In the field of communications, it is an active member of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), and has played an effective role in world radio conferences. Saudi Arabia maintains close cooperation with international and regional telecommunication organizations, such as INTELSAT. It is paying attention to communications and its links with economics. It established the Saudi Communication Company, which renders commercial services and is dependent on the contributions of the private sector.
Saudi Arabia has stressed the importance of remote sensing, and is providing the necessary information to scholars and researchers. It has also concluded agreements with satellite and space agencies. Applications of space technology cover areas such as the environment, agriculture and urban planning. The Kingdom has established the Space Research Institution to develop and enhance space technology and has a number of programmes, including a small satellite programmes. It is establishing a land receiving station to receive and transmit information from small satellites. Among joint programmes being undertaken, is in cooperation with NASA in the field of distance determination by laser, the objective of which is to undertake measurements of orbits with accuracy. Saudi Arabia is optimistically looking forward through this Conference to more peaceful uses of outer space. It calls for abolishing licencing restrictions, which hinder the transfer of space technology to developing countries. The United Nations should ensure that no barriers exist to the accuracy of information relating to space navigation systems. Also, it opposes monopolization of the market of communications and satellite imagery. The entry of developing countries in the field of space science and technology should be facilitated.
MOKHTAR REGUIEG, Ambassador, Algeria: Algeria attaches great importance to the development of space. In space activities, it has invested great effort in remote sensing and mapping. Data from satellites are used by Algeria for a variety of purposes, including water management and environmental protection. The national meteorology office employs remote sensing techniques for its own purposes, but also transmits data to other sectors, such
as the aviation and fisheries industries. Due to its significant geostrategic position, Algeria is actively involved in international and regional efforts and groups regarding meteorology, cartography, navigation and other areas. It hosts the headquarters of the African centre for remote sensing. Algeria has total coverage for national needs in the area of communications. Schools and universities offer courses in space-related areas. Legislation linked to the five-year plan for 1998-2002 has raised research to the level of national priority. The ALSAT project involves the design, manufacture and scientific use of a micro satellite which seeks to help in graduate and post-graduate training and research with links to Government programmes.
Algeria considers outer space the common heritage of all humankind. It attaches the highest importance of the efforts of the United Nations, through its Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space to enable all countries, especially developing ones, to benefit from the practical uses of space science and space technology. It expects the Conference to generate strong and generous recommendations, supporting true cooperation to try to close the tremendous gap that separates rich developed countries from poor developing ones. Space technology and techniques are crucial for the socio-economic development of countries. Developed countries should support the efforts of developing countries in their quest for new technology and applications.
Among Algeria's concerns are the problems of equatorial countries, particularly regarding space debris falling to earth. Also, it is concerned about debris containing radioactive material as a result of their dangerous implications for human and environmental health. Algeria supports the establishment of a fund to benefit developing countries, and strengthen their national capacities. The Vienna declaration will have to address the concerns of the developing world and define the mechanisms and steps by which the recommendations of UNISPACE III will be implemented. UNISPACE III should sow the seeds for fruitful cooperation in the third millennium.
NEO MOIKANGOA, Executive Vice President, Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (South Africa): Under its new President, South Africans are rallying to the call for the new African renaissance. All other things being equal, there is a link between progress in the scientific fields and human development. Also, with regard to cost and benefit, the sciences are best pursued in cooperation rather than in isolation. Advances in science and engineering can contribute to lessening the gap between the haves and the have nots. Give or take a difference of degrees here or there, the problems South Africa faces are not unlike those experienced by its African neighbours. In South Africa, the rate of population growth is only matched by rate at which natural resources are shrinking. The pursuit of sustainable development is an urgent race against time and material resources. It is one South Africa must win; otherwise it will have to face the erosion of efforts to establish democracy. It must find the means to win the race without doing injury to the environment. The key to winning the race to achieve sustainable development and economic growth lies in efforts to create human capital in the natural sciences and engineering.
Over the years, South Africa has made significant strides in areas of space applications, including the ability to provide reliable launch and orbital support, from South African soil, for international space agencies and satellite operators. Also significant is the acquisition of capabilities to use satellite based communications services, as well as the local development of communications applications. Despite the achievements, South Africa readily admits that in several ways, they are modest according to international standards. However, it has built a viable platform of capabilities to enable it to become a more significant player in the field of space science and technology. If South Africa is to make advances in the field, it has to learn from the leaders in the field of the exploration of space for peaceful purposes. On the other hand, it could, in the spirit of partnership with its sister countries and under the right circumstances -- including adequate levels of support, make available its relative strengths and/or advantages to help leverage the diffusion of the requisite space science competencies and applications across the region and into other parts of the African continent. Basic space applications will continue to play an important role in the provision of services, especially in the rural areas. The challenge is to create applications for those areas more affordable.
E. ZAKAEIN, Acting Director, Institute of Space Research, Kazakhstan: Kazakhstan is concerned about the legal and practical problems of space debris and the commercial aspects of space activities. Kazakhstan is the site of the Baykonur Cosmodrome, which has both positive and negative aspects. Kazakhstan's space agency tries to use Baykonur's benefits for its people and mitigate its negative aspects. Baykonur has 15 launchers, as well as 34 test facilities and unique engineering equipment. The cosmodrome is capable of launching over 100 space probes a year. Since 1994, all the Russian Federation's pilot projects have been launched from it. A number of defense industries are involved and the Ministry of Science and Higher Education is also closely involved. Further, a number of international institutes also have a key interest in scientific research carried out there. At present, work is being done to convert defense centres to peaceful purposes. Kazakhstan is engaged in a project with the Russian Federation and Ukraine to develop environmentally clean rocket launchers. Thus Baykonur has given powerful impetus to the space industry.
The main negative impact of Baykonur has to do with its environmental impact. In the past 40 years, the area around it has been considerably damaged. Over 46,000 kilometers, bits and pieces have fallen and the environment suffered greatly from failed launches. Soils have been poisoned by highly toxic fuels from proton launches. These launches have now been suspended while the Government discusses with the Russian side the possibility of less damaging fuels. The development of applied space science is a priority of its space activity. A number of Kazakhstan's cosmonauts have spent time on the MIR space station. It has an enormously large area, with low population density and only about 16 million people. Remote sensing is of vital importance.
Among other endeavours, Kazakhstan monitors desertification, which is extremely important given the catastrophes in the Aral Sea area. In agriculture, disease-resistant strains are being identified. Fundamental research is going on in the material science, and the
Government is endeavouring to develop cooperation with countries in the world. Space applications should bring benefit to all humanity and UNISPACE III should mark the start of a more humane strategy for space application.
JOAO ROSA LA, Ambassador of Portugal: Portugal will be a full member of the European Space Agency on 1 January 2000. That this will take place at the start of the new millennium has particular significance for a country that started its "dialogue with the stars" six centuries ago, when it pioneered navigation without visual contact with the shore, aided solely by its nautical instruments. Portugal's participation in space activities started in the 1970s, when it first used satellite imagery. Portugal was one of the founders of EUMETSAT, playing an active role in the area of meteorological satellites, in cooperation with other European countries. In the early 1990s, it launched a telecommunications and Earth observation satellite. In the field of research and management support activities, a special emphasis is being given to issues related to environment, meteorology, natural resources, climatic change and cartographic production. The historic links of Portugal with South America and Africa, particularly with Portuguese speaking countries, creates appropriate conditions for joint projects in these fields. Portuguese participation in the expansion of both European satellite navigation services (EGNOS and GALILEO) to other regions of the world are also worth mentioning.
Outer space should not be an object of appropriation by any single country or any group of States. The activities developed should not only benefit all the countries and the whole of humankind, but also enhance international cooperation in space. Portugal acknowledges all the endeavours and achievements by the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space together with its Legal Sub-committee. Reference should also be made to the highly technical features of many of the matters dealt with and to the difficult political questions arising in the field of space activities. The increased investments and the technological innovation in space activities in recent years has brought about new questions relevant to the growing private sector. Last year marked the first privately funded Portuguese payload on a space shuttle. As a consequence, it needs to know if the realm of principles and standards created and adopted by States can be adjusted to the new framework of space activities. Private enterprises and marketing, which clearly play an increasingly important role in rendering space exploration more accessible, should have available regulatory mechanisms of international law, as the United Nations can provide. Portugal hopes that the Vienna Declaration and the future plan of action for the new millennium will become a relevant framework able to allow the creation of conditions for the continued peaceful and profitable use of outer space.
OLGA PELLICER SILVA, Ambassador of Mexico: Mexico believes that UNISPACE III must respond to the legitimate expectations of the international community, as mentioned in the Vienna Declaration and Plan of Action. It is now at a point of culmination in a progress that began in 1968 with the first UNISPACE Conference.
International concerns include the consolidation of the legal regime of outer space and international cooperation in the application of space science and technology for peaceful purposes. Without international cooperation, there would longer be a raison d'étre for UNISPACE III. The international forum for that cooperation is the United Nations. Mexico stresses that commercial activities play a complimentary role to that of intergovernmental organizations. Outer space is not another "chunk" of the global market, but is the common heritage of humankind. Space applications have increased in recent years due to tremendous scientific advances. Mexico is concerned about initiatives aimed at revising the existing space treaties and agreements, the argument of which being that their texts have to correspond to the present technological situation.
Mexico attaches special importance to strengthening the legal regime to prevent the militarization of outer space and to the setting up of an ad hoc committee on the non-militarization of space. Mexico applies space technology with solely peaceful goals. Its main applications have been with regard to air and sea navigation, telecommunications, economic and social development. Mexico has placed six satellites in orbit since 1985. For 15 years, a Mexican astronaut has participated in space missions, conducting research designed by Mexican scientists. As a world pioneer in remote health, Mexico has designed and developed a linking system for transmission of information in the medical fields. It also has a distance learning programme operated by the Government's educational television satellite network. Its main goal is to participate directly in efforts to improve the level of education. Initiatives to create educational centres in the area of space science and technology are given priority in Mexico. In light of the current situation, UNISPACE III has a clear function. The Plan of Action to be adopted should underpin and strengthen the universally accepted principles of the exploration and peaceful uses of outer space; consolidate the legal regime; and assist in a more substantial way of meeting the objectives of sustainable development through international cooperation.
M. ABTAHI, Head, Vienna Liaison Office, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO): UNESCO is mandated to contribute to peace and security by promoting cooperation among nations through education, science, culture and communication, and to assist in narrowing the gap between countries in this field. UNESCO has long-standing commitments to close cooperation with other institutions and to making judicial use of scientific and technological advances in implementing programmes.
Space technology and applications are instrumental in UNESCO's activities. It carries out training programmes on educational technology and media, including satellites for distance learning. Pilot projects using interactive television for education are implemented. UNESCO also concentrates on the study of the natural environment and its resources, environmental monitoring. Advanced technology such as remote sensing and Geographic Information Systems are applied to environmental monitoring, sustainable management of non-renewable resources and management of biosphere reserves.
With regard to culture, UNESCO is interested in remote sensing techniques for the protection, preservation and management of important historical and cultural monuments and selected world heritage sites. It promotes the free flow of ideas by word and image and focuses on the applications of communication and information technologies for democratization and peace-building. Within the World Commission on the Ethics of Scientific Knowledge and Technology, UNESCO has set up a working group to report on ethical issues of space science, protection of the environment and the protection of individual liberty and cultural identity. UNESCO has studied the draft Vienna declaration and endorses its objectives. It will spare no effort in ensuring implementation of all appropriate follow up actions to UNISPACE III that are within its field of competence.