Final Meeting (AM & PM) and Round-Up
30 July 1999


Conference Urges Creation of Voluntary Fund to Implement Its Recommendations,
Further Work on Legal Aspects of Space Debris, Support for Regional Education Centres

A blueprint for the peaceful uses of outer space in the twenty-first century was adopted today as the Third United Nations Conference on the Exploration and Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UNISPACE III) concluded this afternoon in Vienna.

The adoption of the Vienna Declaration on Space and Human Development and its related Action Plan was the culmination of the two-week session -- the first United Nations space conference since the end of the Cold War -- in which international experts and decision makers came together to exchange information and ideas on how to advance the human condition in the next millennium.  Focused on the theme of “Space Benefits for Humanity in the Twenty-first Century”, representatives of governments, intergovernmental bodies, civil society and, for the first time, the private sector, created a practical framework for cooperation and action to protect planet Earth and prepare for the “space millennium”.

Earth, “a tiny sanctuary of life in the midst of the magnitude of the heavens” as United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan called it, is threatened by rising sea levels, deforestation and desertification.  The human population is increasing at unprecedented rates while patterns of production and consumption were not sustainable.  These realities, the Conference determined, renders global cooperation a primary imperative for the new millennium.

With applications in health, education, and natural disaster management, space technology is an essential tool for sustainable development. The Vienna Declaration and Action Plan delineate a programme involving the protection of the Earth’s environment and the management of its resources; using space applications for human security; development and welfare; protecting the outer space environment; increasing developing countries access to space science and its related benefits; raising public awareness; strengthening the United Nations space activities; and promoting international cooperation.

Key recommendations of the Vienna Declaration and Action Plan include:

    -- The creation of a voluntary United Nations fund, “the UNISPACE III Implementation Fund”, to translate the Conference’s recommendations into action, particularly project-oriented ones in developing countries, and to increase awareness of space activities and their impact on development;

    -- Proclamation of the week of 4 to 10 October as “World Space Week”, in order to raise public awareness and recognize the contribution that space activities can make to improve the human condition;

    -- Encouraging mechanisms to improve States’ access to the utilization of the International Space Station, including loans from the World Bank;

    -- Further exploration of the legal aspects of space debris, the use of nuclear power sources in space, intellectual property rights for space related technologies, and ownership and access to the resources of celestial bodies;

    -- Supporting regional centres for space science and technology education set up under United Nations auspices;

    -- Creating a consultative mechanism within the framework of the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space to facilitate the participation of young people, especially young women and persons from developing countries, in cooperative space-related activities, and

    -- A five-year review by the General Assembly of implementation of the UNISPACE III recommendations.

During a four-day general exchange of views, major discrepancies in States’ concerns became evident.  On the increasing commercialization of space, many delegations called for broadening the existing legal regime and others cautioned that privatizing space activities could increase disparities between the world’s rich and poor.  A number of speakers called for reducing the gap between technologically advanced and developing countries by means ranging from lowering the cost of space technology to providing training for professionals, while preventing national “brain drains”.

The almost infinite life span of objects circling the Earth and congesting its orbits -- “space debris” -- and the need to protect the outer space environment were highlighted by many speakers.  Others stressed the impact of human activity on the Earth’s environment, as well as the planet’s overall environmental evolution, and the way that space science and technology can be used to monitor and control change, manage resources and mitigate the effects of natural disasters.

In closing remarks made after the adoption of the orally amended Conference report, Conference President U. R. Rao (India) said UNISPACE III would be remembered as an important event held at the threshold of the new millennium, as humankind made the transition from an era of confrontation to one of cooperation.  The new geo-political context, rapid advances in space technology, globalization and trends in commercial exploitation of space activities -- all had made it imperative for the international community to take a fresh look at the entire range of space activities at the intergovernmental and technical levels.   The Vienna Declaration was a road map for pursuing space exploration and utilizing the immense capability of space activities for the benefit of all in the twenty-first century.

The Conference’s Executive Secretary, N. Jasentuliyana, said the Vienna Declaration could help to eventually eliminate gross inequalities within and between nations.  If implemented effectively, its recommendations would positively impact the lives of millions.  In a world where three families had more wealth than the 48 least developed countries combined, would this Conference have relevance to those in the developing world? When improvements were made in their quality of life and they benefitted from space science and technology, it would be said that UNISPACE III was a success.

Closing remarks were also made by the representatives of the Russian Federation, Japan, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Pakistan, Germany, Republic of Korea, Ecuador (on behalf of the Group of Latin American and Caribbean States), India (on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China), Finland (on behalf of the European Union and the European Space Agency), Australia (on behalf of the Group of Western European and other States), Libya (on behalf of the Group of African States) and Iran (on behalf of the Group of Asian States).

The Conference was organized into a Plenary, two Main Committees and a Technical Forum.  The latter consisted of events which included workshops, seminars and a Space Generation Forum, through which young people from across the globe were able to express their hopes and concerns about the uses of outer space.

The United Nations has been involved in space activities since the beginning of the space age.  Prior to UNISPACE III, Member States, in two previous Conferences held in 1968 and 1982 were successful in creating and strengthening the United Nations Programme on Space Applications, which assists nations in using space technology for economic, social and cultural development.  The United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, formally created in 1959, has helped shaped the world’s policies regarding the development and uses of space technology.  Its work has led to the formulation and adoption
of five multilateral treaties and five declarations and sets of legal principles.

Vienna Declaration on Space and Human Development

The Vienna Declaration is in three sections.  Part I recommends actions in six areas as the nucleus of a strategy to address global challenges related to space science, the Earth’s environment, and the well-being of its inhabitants.

For protecting Earth and managing its resources, the Declaration calls for a worldwide environmental monitoring strategy to be developed for long-term global observations, building on existing capabilities.  Action is needed to ensure that all space activities, in particular those which might harm the local and global environment, are carried out in a manner that limits such effects to the extent possible.  For managing Earth’s natural resources, action is urged to increase and facilitate the use of remote sensing data, enhance coordination of remote sensing systems and broaden access to imagery, in part by making it more affordable.  Weather forecasting and climate prediction should be enhanced through greater international cooperation in meteorological satellite applications.

The Declaration calls for using space applications for human security, development and welfare.  Space-based activities for tele-medicine and controlling infectious diseases should be expanded and coordinated.  An integrated, global system must be implemented to manage natural disaster mitigation, relief and prevention efforts through space activities.  It urges that satellite-related infrastructures and educational programmes be enhanced and coordinated to improve literacy and rural education.  Governments are urged to establish communication services for the benefit of rural communities.  The Declaration calls for improving the efficiency and security of transport and search-and-rescue activities by promoting universal access to, and compatibility of, space-based navigation and positioning systems.

To protect the space environment and advance scientific knowledge, the Declaration  calls for actions to ensure that all users of space consider the possible consequences of their activities before further irreversible actions affect utilization of near-Earth space or outer space.  Further research is needed on safety measures and procedures associated with the use of nuclear power sources in outer space, and measures should be developed and implemented to mitigate the effects of space debris.  Cooperative activities are called for, including consideration of a common strategy related to near-Earth objects.

In the area of enhancing education and training opportunities and ensuring public awareness of the importance of space activities, the Declaration calls for action to enhance capacity-building by developing human and budgetary resources, infrastructure and policy regulations.  It recommends the raising of awareness among decision makers and the general public of the importance of peaceful space activities for improving economic and social welfare; and to improve information on and use of spin-offs from space activities.

States declare that a consultative mechanism should be created within the framework of the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space to facilitate the participation of young people throughout the world, especially young women and persons from developing countries, in cooperative space-related activities.  The Declaration recommends consideration of awards to recognize outstanding contributions in space activity, especially by young people.  All countries are encouraged to provide their children and youth, especially females, with opportunities to learn more about and participate in space science and technology.

With regard to strengthening and repositioning space activities in the United Nations system, States call for promoting the efforts of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space to develop space law.  Also, Member States are invited to ratify or accede to, and organizations to declare acceptance of the outer space treaties.  The Committee’s agenda and working methods -- and those of its two subcommittees -- are encouraged to better reflect issues of global concerns, taking into particular account the needs of developing countries and those with economies in transition.

The Declaration urges States to improve the capacity-building process in developing countries and those with economies in transition by emphasizing the development and transfer of knowledge and skills, ensuring sustainable funding mechanisms for the regional centers for space science and technology education affiliated with the United Nations, supporting the United Nations Programme on Space Applications with adequate resources, and participating in the implementation of the Programme’s new strategy resulting from UNISPACE III.  United Nations system bodies, and the private sector worldwide, are encouraged to use space-related systems where appropriate, to support the Organization’s efforts to promote the peaceful uses of space.

To promote international cooperation, the Declaration recommends follow-up action to the Conference’s decision to establish a special voluntary United Nations fund for implementing the recommendations of UNISPACE III, in particular the activities of the regional centers for space science and technology education.  All Member States are invited to support the fund financially or with in-kind contributions.  Also, follow-up action is recommended regarding the adoption of measures to identify new sources of funding, including in the private sector, to support the implementation of UNISPACE III recommendations in developing countries.

The Declaration also recommends follow up actions regarding the Conference’s decision to take note of recommendations of the regional preparatory conferences for Africa and the Middle East, for Asia and the Pacific, for eastern Europe and for Latin America and the Caribbean that are relevant to global and regional efforts, as set forth in an annex to the Declaration.

By the Declaration’s Part II, UNISPACE III invites the Assembly to declare an annual “World Space Week” from 4 to 10 October, in order to raise awareness of and celebrate the contribution that space science and technology can make towards bettering the human condition.  On 4 October 1957, SPUTNIK I, the first human-made satellite was launched into outer space while 10 October 1967 was the date the Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Uses of Outer Space, including the Moon and other Celestial Bodies, entered into force.

Part III of the Declaration recommends that the General Assembly review and evaluate after five years, and thereafter, as appropriate, implementation of the recommendations of UNISPACE III, doing so within existing resources.  States recognize that the promotion of bilateral, regional and international cooperation in the field of outer space must be guided by the General Assembly’s Declaration on International Cooperation in the Exploration and Uses of Outer Space for the Benefit and Interests of All States, taking into Particular Account the Needs of Developing Countries.

Conference Report

The UNISPACE III report is an action plan for international cooperation to harness the power of outer space activities for the benefit all humankind in the twenty-first century.  It calls for specific actions, and describes issues and concerns related to eight thematic areas: the Earth’s environment, communications, position/location capabilities, knowledge and capacity, education and opportunities for youth, the global approach, spin-off benefits and international cooperation.

For protecting the Earth’s environment, the Conference recommends actions to improve the provision of information, training and resources for developing countries to enable them to use remote sensing data; improve understanding on the part of decision makers of the importance and usefulness of such data in the development process; and improve coordination to eliminate duplication and identify gaps and increase the availability and affordability of remote sensing systems and information.

To promote developing countries’ use of Earth observation data, the action plan calls for an institutional training programme to be created by the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs, in cooperation with relevant United Nations system bodies, space agencies and companies.  Selected national and regional projects for natural resource management, environmental monitoring and sustainable development would be provided with satellite images and related software, and their personnel trained to use them through courses, one per developing region per year, which could replace one of the yearly training activities of the United Nations Programme on Space Applications.  Also, the international space community is asked to initiate a programme to promote the use of satellite communications and Earth observation data for disaster management by civil protection authorities, particularly those in developing countries.

To improve global capacity for monitoring the environment, national and international action is called for in areas such as translating scientific results into user-friendly formats and training scientists from developing countries to use satellite data.  An appropriate mechanism should be evolved for coordination between the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space and other international bodies in the space field on issues such as global warming, human health and sustainable development, and with the Committee on Earth Observation Satellites, regarding the coordination of satellite missions.

The efforts of the Integrated Global Observing Strategy Partnership to articulate the requirements for data from Earth observing systems and stimulate the coordinated development and integration of remote sensing and in situ data collection systems should be encouraged.  With questions of access, dissemination and archiving Earth observation data growing in importance, the advantages and disadvantages of different pricing models should be explored and assessed against the opportunities to use data for specific applications, including disaster management and global observations.

The Conference calls for facilitating and utilizing communications and satellite-related data for activities such as distance learning, tele-medicine, electronic commerce and entertainment.  Uses for satellite information range from monitoring biodiversity to rescue missions for sinking ships to faxing.  The global market for satellite communications from 1996-2006 is estimated to be over $600 billion, and market demand is expected to increase dramatically over the next decade.  One negative offshoot of this revolution in technology is the widening gap between those with access to the technology and those without.

The action plan recommends the promotion of legislative and regulatory frameworks to facilitate investment in the telecommunications sector.  Developing countries require assistance in assessing how space technology could help meet their needs and experiences should be shared regarding the use of satellite broadcasting and communications for education and development.  The feasibility of international and regional cooperative systems for satellite-based broadcasting and communications for development should be studied.

On improving and using position/location capabilities, the action plan focuses on global satellite navigation systems, which are space-based radio positioning systems providing 24-hour three-dimensional information to equipped users anywhere on the planet, as well as to airborne and space users.  Regional and global coordination are essential in order to achieve a seamless multi-modal, satellite-based radio navigation and positioning services for all users.  Coordination is also needed to ensure compatibility between existing and planned systems while maintaining open access to the satellite signals.

The radio frequency bands in which such systems operate should be kept free of interference from other radio emissions that could degrade equipment performance, states the action plan.  Countries interested in using the Global Satellite Navigation System should indicate their support for keeping the respective bands free of spectrum interference or reallocation by commercial interests.  A resolution of support should be communicated to international bodies concerned with international transportation safety and spectrum management -- the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), International Maritime Organization (IMO) and International Telecommunications Union (ITU).  To ensure global civil safety, countries operating the system should commit themselves not to intentionally switch off navigational signals in use or reducing their quality.  In defining the terms of access to global satellite navigation signals, due consideration should be given to the provision of a continuous basic service to global civil users on a free-of-charge basis.

To further knowledge and build capacity, capacity building must focus on human resources, but also the establishment of policies, institutional frameworks and physical infrastructures, ensuring funding support and gaining experience.  To build capacity in developing countries, UNISPACE III calls for strengthening and supporting the regional centres for space science and technology education set up under United Nations auspices.  The Office for Outer Space Affairs and those centres should lead a broad international effort to build up the quality of the centres’ educational programmes and their long-term viability.

The United Nations should take the lead in initiatives to distribute educational material with the latest information on space exploration, urges the action plan.  In view of the pressing need to learn more about debris orbiting the earth, the Office for Outer Space Affairs could organize international meetings of researchers on near-Earth objects.

Regarding the need to enhance education and training opportunities for young people, the action plan calls for planning space activities to be accompanied by long-term strategies for human resource development, with emphasis on the cross-cultural experience and interdisciplinary training of future decision makers and managers.  The United Nations and others could provide educational and training opportunities for young people.

The UNISPACE III action plan, on information needs and the global approach, recommends establishing an all-encompassing information infrastructure -- with databases, networks, standards and user interface components. All countries should strive to develop integrated information systems linked through powerful networks and able to serve as the “backbone” for national developmental and global research activities.  Also, consideration should be given to the possibility of developing a set of measures to protect intellectual property rights, without limiting opportunities to make data and information available for all beneficial purposes, recognizing that the issue comes under the jurisdiction of the World Intellectual Property Organization.

With regard to spin-offs and commercial benefits from space activities, States call for greater international collaboration on development issues and global environmental problems. A pragmatic and affordable approach to technology exchange should be established,  consistent with the General Assembly’s Declaration on International Cooperation.  To attract investment needed for technology transfer projects, political will must be shown in developing infrastructure and introducing technology.  Incentives are needed to encourage foreign and local investors, to stimulate the adaptation of technologies acquired from abroad to meet local needs.

The United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs is urged to expand the technology outreach programme on space for university educators, particularly those from developing countries, to enhance their ability to incorporate space technology into their institutions’ curricula.  The Office is asked to include among the priority activities of the United Nations Programme on Space Applications an activity to assist developing countries in obtaining funding for project proposals arising from training courses and workshops.  The Office is also asked to use its existing resources to assist interested Member States to seek necessary funding proposals.

The Vienna action plan’s section on promoting international cooperation recommends that the United Nations establish a special voluntary fund to assist in the implementation of the recommendations of UNISPACE III, particularly those which are project-oriented in developing countries, with a view to increasing the level of awareness of space technology development and its impact on social and economic development.  That fund, the UNISPACE III Implementation Fund, would replace the existing space applications fund, which resulted from UNISPACE 82, and the remaining monies would be transferred accordingly.

International cooperation should also be directed at addressing the legal aspect of issues such as space debris, the use of nuclear power sources in space and intellectual property rights.  Protecting intellectual property rights should be considered together with international legal principles, such as those on the non-appropriation of outer space, and while all States should protect intellectual property rights regarding space technology, they should also encourage the free flow of basic science information.  As exploitation of outer space resources and those of celestial bodies becomes more likely, international law must also examine issues such as ownership and access.  The role of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space for elaborating principles and rules on outer space must be strengthened.

The private sector must be recognized as a potential partner in future activities and its participation in relevant projects encouraged, states the action plan.  The Conference calls for encouraging mechanisms for improving accessibility from the technical and financial points of view, for example loans from the World Bank, to simplify utilization of the International Space Station, especially for developing countries.  International partnerships should be encouraged and information about utilization of the Station disseminated.

Member States are urged to explore together explore new mechanisms to protect regions of Earth and space from radio emissions (radio quiet zones).  They should continue their cooperation, and with industry and through the International Telecommunications Union to implement regulations to preserve quiet frequency bands for radio astronomy and remote sensing and, as a matter of urgency, develop and implement solutions to reduce unwanted radio emissions and other undesirable side-effects from telecommunications satellites.

Regional Recommendations

Annexed to the Conference report are recommendations emanating from a series of  regional preparatory conferences for UNISPACE III.  These were held in Malaysia, May 1998 (Asia and the Pacific); Chile, October 1998 (Latin America and the Caribbean); Morocco, October 1998 (Africa and western Asia); and Romania, January 1999 (eastern Europe).  They were designed to assist Member States in formulating recommendations and action plans related to issues including promoting understanding of the role of space technology in social and economic development; problems associated with implementing space applications programmes; and improving regional and international cooperation.

Space Generation Forum

As part of UNISPACE III, a “Space Generation Forum” was held, organized with the alumni of the International Space University and bringing together some 160 young professionals from fields including science, law, ethics, and art from 60 nations to formulate and adopt recommendations and a Declaration of the Space Generation, of which the Conference took note.

The Space Generation Declaration calls for an international space authority to facilitate cooperation on global challenges such as space debris, detecting landmines from space, and developing legal frameworks.  It also urges the creation of an international space chamber of commerce and an international centre for space medicine.  The Declaration further recommends that a youth advisory council become part of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, and that the Space Generation be held every five years.


U. R. Rao (India) was the President of the Conference; Raimundo Gonzalez (Chile), Vice President, and Mohamed Ait Belaid (Morocco), Rapporteur-General.

The officers of Committee I were Dietrich Rex (Germany), Chairman; Alexander V. Yakovenko (Russian Federation), Vice Chairman; and R. A. Boroffice (Nigeria), Vice Chairman and Rapporteur.  Committee II consisted of Shunji Murai (Japan), Chairman; Vladimir Kopal (Czech Republic), Vice Chairman; and Carlos Jose Prazeres Campelo (Brazil), Vice Chairman and Rapporteur.  In addition, Peter Jankowitsch (Austria) served as Chairman of the Technical Forum.

The Conference’s Drafting Group consisted of Dawlat Hassen (Egypt), Mongezi Tshongweni (South Africa), Sridhara Murthy (India), Mazlan Othman (Malaysia), Dumitru Dorin Prunariu (Romania), Arif Mehdiyev (Azerbaijan), Alejandra Bonilla (Colombia), Raul Pelaez (Argentina), Gabriella Venturini (Italy) and Lynne F. H. Cline (United States).  The Conference’s Rapporteur served as Chairman of the Drafting Group.

The Conference’s nine-member Credentials Committee was composed of Australia, China, Indonesia, Libya, Russian Federation, United States, Uruguay, Venezuela and Zimbabwe.