2-11 JUNE 2004

2 JUNE 2004

Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates and Representatives:

I welcome the opportunity to address this opening meeting of the Committee on the Peaceful uses of Outer Space, the General Assembly's only Committee charged exclusively with issues concerning the peaceful uses of outer space.

Let me thank you, Ambassador Raimundo González, outgoing Chair of the Committee, and Dr. Adigun Ade Abiodun and members of the Committee for inviting me to participate. Let me also congratulate you, Dr Abiodun, on your election as Chairman of the Committee. I wish you every success in providing leadership for the Committee's work over the next two years.

This Committee has a unique and vital responsibility for highlighting the role that space science and technology can play, in assisting the United Nations in achieving its economic and social development goals. In this context, the Committee has critical and challenging work before it this session, as is evident from the detailed presentation made by Mr. Abiodun.

Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates and Representatives:

Socio-economic development, we know, is an essential cornerstone of the United Nations Charter, which should underpin other ideals enshrined in the Charter, including the maintenance of international peace and security. In fact, my own conviction that the United Nations must actively pursue a progressive development agenda accounts for the inclusion of development high on the list of priorities I set for my Presidency of the Fifty-eighth session of the General Assembly.

This Committee meets at a time when the General Assembly is seeking to bring its development agenda more sharply into focus, in response to the views expressed by the generality of its membership. The General Assembly recently decided, in its resolution 58/291, that a High-level Plenary would be convened at the level of Heads of State and Government early in the Assembly's 2005 Session, the sixtieth anniversary of the United Nations. The High Level Plenary would assess the progress made on the path to economic and social development agreed in the outcomes of more than a decade of United Nations summits and conferences, including the 2000 Millennium Declaration.

What is particularly significant about these summits and conferences, which commenced with the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, is that they addressed a broad range of human endeavours. Financing for development, sustainable development, human rights including the rights of women and children and population and development were just some of the myriad issues taken up in this context.

I have only recently set in motion open-ended consultations of the General Assembly that will provide organisational, procedural and other inputs for the Report of the Secretary-General on the High-level Plenary. Careful planning would, I believe, ensure that the High-level Plenary brings coherence and give political impetus to cooperation and consensus for delivering on the commitments made in this range of United Nations meetings.

Concerning United Nations summits and conferences, I wish to make special mention of the 1999 Third United Nations Conference on the Exploration and Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, referred to as "UNISPACE III". As you know, UNISPACE III, an essential element of the decade of development summits and conferences, adopted "The Space Millennium: Vienna Declaration on Space and Human Development". This Declaration, endorsed by the United Nations General Assembly, contains the strategy that underpins United Nations initiatives to address global challenges through the use of space science and technology and their applications. The Vienna Declaration details specific actions that are to be taken in support of sustainable development.

Indeed, the three conferences convened by the United Nations to date on the peaceful uses of outer space form the basis for many initiatives now contributing to the better understanding of space applications. They also underpin initiatives that contribute to strengthening the capacity of developing countries in the utilization of space science and technology at the local level, for social and economic development.

Courses of action of the kind recommended in the Vienna Declaration of UNISPACE III require flexible mechanism for follow-up. I note, with particular interest, the Committee's achievements in this area. The Action Teams to implement recommendations agreed as high priority - for which Member States provide voluntary leadership - are an important way of proceeding in this area.

No doubt the Committee's report to the Fifty-ninth session of the General Assembly will contain key details of the accomplishments of the Action Teams, as well as the initiatives of Member States and the Office for Outer Space Affairs in implementing the courses of action called for in the Vienna Declaration. I am sure that the General Assembly looks forward to receiving that report.

The development of human resources is essential to national capacity building, no matter what path countries chart for socio-economic development. I note that one of the most important achievements of the Committee has been the establishment of regional centres for space science and technology education, affiliated with the United Nations.

My own country, St Lucia, falls within the scope of the work of the centres for Latin America and the Caribbean region. These centres, together with the centres for Africa, Asia and the Pacific, help develop and strengthen the skills and knowledge of university educators, and research and application scientists in the areas of space science and technology. As such, the centres make a contribution to sustainable development for the countries and for the regions.

The growing role that space-based solutions are playing in mitigating the catastrophic effects of natural disasters is also becoming increasingly evident. Meteorological satellites are used to provide early warning of severe weather, enabling vulnerable areas to be evacuated before the onset of a storm; remote sensing satellites, together with navigation and positioning satellites, can help rescue workers track survivors; and communication satellites can connect areas affected by disasters to the outside world, to enhance rescue efforts.

The value of space-based solutions is clear, when we consider that natural disasters constitute one of the most critical challenges to sustainable development. Hurricanes, earthquakes, landslides and other natural disasters can, in a matter of minutes, wipe out and reverse years of progressive development. The loss of lives in natural disasters is tragic, and many can be rendered homeless, helpless and destitute.

Only last week, in our Caribbean region, the Dominican Republic and Haiti suffered grave devastation from heavy rains and severe floods, in which more than one thousand lives were lost. It follows, therefore, that the reduction and mitigation of natural disasters is, as it should be, among the United Nations priorities, and a particular issue for the General Assembly.

Indeed, the issue of natural disasters is among the list of priorities I have set for the Presidency of the Fifty-eighth Session of the United Nations General Assembly. I have made known my strong support for United Nations and international efforts in this area, including the World Conference on Disaster Reduction to be convened in Kobe, Japan in January 2005.

The practical contribution the Committee is making though its promotion of the use of space technology for managing natural disasters has been noted. The Scientific and Technical Sub-Committee and Action Team on Disaster Management are, in my view, undertaking work of the nature required to enhance the capacity of countries, particularly developing countries and regions to deal with natural disasters through the use of space technology. The series of workshops, seminars and symposia conducted within the framework of the United Nations Programme on Space Applications, should also make a distinct contribution towards efforts for mitigating natural disasters.

I believe that the Committee has made a good decision, in determining that its report on the UNISPACE III+5 review should consider how synergies between implementation of the recommendations of UNISPACE III and the implementation of the commitments made in the United Nations Millennium Declaration and outcome documents of the World Summits for Sustainable Development and on the Information Society might be reinforced and strengthened. Such an approach fosters cooperation and consensus in addressing development objectives, and meeting internationally agreed development goals, including the Millennium Development Goals.

This Committee has also taken, I note, a pragmatic and sound approach to the implementation the process for agreed courses of action in the area of space applications and technology. This approach might be instructive to other bodies of the General Assembly addressing the matter of integrated and coordinated implementation and follow-up of the outcomes of major United Nations conferences and summits in the economic and social fields.

Such an approach, I am confident, ensures that the Committee conducts its business in the most effective and efficient manner, including the work of this its Forty-seventh Session. In so doing, it advances an important goal of the Charter, "to employ international machinery for the promotion of the economic and social advancement of all peoples."

I commend the Committee for its continuing commitment and initiatives to ensure that the exploration and peaceful uses of outer space benefit all countries, and particularly the countries of the developing world. I wish you every success in your deliberations.

Thank you.

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