INTERNATIONAL SPACE LAW NEEDS UPDATING TO MEET PRESENT-DAY REALITIES, FOURTH COMMITTEE TOLD

23 October 2001
GA/SPD/219

INTERNATIONAL SPACE LAW NEEDS UPDATING TO MEET PRESENT-DAY REALITIES, FOURTH COMMITTEE TOLD

23/10/2001
Press ReleaseGA/SPD/219

Fifty-sixth General Assembly

Fourth Committee

11th Meeting (PM)

INTERNATIONAL SPACE LAW NEEDS UPDATING TO MEET

PRESENT-DAY REALITIES, FOURTH COMMITTEE TOLD

Russian Federation Also Concerned at Weapons in Space; United States,

Stressing Benefits of Peaceful Applications, Says Arms Issue Can Be Dealt With

An urgent need had arisen to adjust international space law to present-day realities, the representative of the Russian Federation told the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) this afternoon, as it continued its general debate on international cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space.

He said he supported the development of a comprehensive convention on space law for that purpose.  Such topics as the delimitation and definition of outer space, space debris, regulation of scientific research, intellectual property rights, and other issues could best be addressed through a package approach, which would make it possible to examine each aspect of space technology within a single document.

In addition, he said, the Russian Federation took a firm stand against the deployment of weapons of any kind in space, and against the threat of force in or from space.  Unfortunately, the activity within the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space was not vigorous enough in that area, he said, urging more effective work on that problem.

The representative of the United States said other United Nations organs were competent to consider the disarmament aspects of outer space.  The Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space was a forum exclusively focused on promoting the cooperative achievement –- and sharing -– of benefits from space exploration.  He described the achievements of the space shuttle and International Space Station programmes.  The station, he noted, was now a fully functional facility with research capability, and observations from the shuttle had contributed to understanding of the Earth’s environment, biology and materials.

Rejecting assertions made yesterday by the representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, he said the United States was involved in unprecedented international space cooperation; there was no arms race in outer space.

Malaysia’s representative said that, while there was no doubt that space technology had great potential for enriching the lives of people around the world, it was imperative that the international community make every effort to prevent the militarization of outer space.  Towards that end, the existing legal system urgently needed to be strengthened.

Many speakers supported the expansion of the Outer Space Committee and pointed to advances it had made on a number of fronts.  Referring to space debris, Japan's representative expressed the hope that the adoption by the Outer Space Committee’s Scientific and Technical Subcommittee of a working plan on that issue would lead to a consideration of standards for reducing debris in outer space.  He said the problem demanded ever greater attention from the international community.

The representative of Indonesia said the optimism generated by advanced space technologies had eluded the masses, whose aspirations for a better life remained unfulfilled.  The impact of space technology on developing countries had been minimal, due to its high cost and the lack of expertise.  Thus, it was important to extend non-discriminatory access to state-of-the-art remote sensing data in an affordable and timely manner to all countries.

Also speaking today were the representatives of Slovakia, India, Egypt, Cuba, Ukraine, Peru, Syria and Burkina Faso.

The representatives of the United States and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea made statements in exercise of the right of reply.

Nigeria's representative made a statement of clarification.

The Fourth Committee will meet again at a time to be announced in the Journal.

Background

The Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) met this afternoon to continue its general debate on international cooperation in the peaceful uses of

outer space.  [For further information, see Press Release GA/SPD/218 of 22 October 2001.]

Statements

ANDREJ DROBA (Slovakia), associating himself with the European Union statement yesterday, said his country's 30-year tradition in the field of outer space research, space science and space exploration had been crowned by a short-term space flight of the first Slovak astronaut in February 1999.  That mission was a joint Russian/French/Slovak project, demonstrating Slovakia's intense international ties and cooperation in space exploration.

He said his country welcomed the recommendations adopted by the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space on the expansion of that body.  It was a matter of pride that Slovakia's active involvement in international cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space research had been recognized by the committee's support for Slovakia's full membership.  He thanked Saudi Arabia, a successful fellow-applicant for membership and congratulated the other new members:  Cuba, Peru, Malaysia and the Republic of Korea.

Several schools in Slovakia had participated in the international educational programmes UN-STARS, he said.  Representatives of the Slovak research community had joined the international scientific programme GLOBE, which focused on studies of the environment.  A number of other research projects in the field of the peaceful uses of outer space had been, or were currently being, carried out in telecommunications, space physics, geophysics, astronomy, life sciences, meteorology and remote sensing.

KENNETH HODGKINS (United States), recalling the significant achievements of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, said that, whereas other United Nations organs were competent to consider the disarmament aspects of outer space, the committee was a forum exclusively focused on promoting the cooperative achievement –- and sharing –- of benefits from space exploration.  He spoke of the achievements of the space shuttle and international space station programmes.  The space station, he noted, was now a fully functional facility with research capability, and observations from the shuttle had contributed to understanding of the Earth’s environment and of biology and materials.

Turning to positive developments within the outer space committee, he said the Legal Subcommittee had contributed to a new branch of international law, through consensus, which had allowed the flourishing of space exploration by a range of actors for the benefit of the quality of life around the world.  He praised, in particular, results of the adoption of the Principles on Space Benefits and its establishment of free cooperation in space efforts.  He looked forward to next year’s review of State practice in applying the concept of the launching State as contained in various conventions.  The Legal Subcommittee had also, he noted, made valuable progress in the area of the registration of security interest in high value mobile equipment.

In the purview of the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee, he said he wished, especially, to note the work of the Office for Outer Space Affairs in the compilation of information about the use of space technology within the United Nations system.  On efforts for the implementation of the results of UNISPACE III and the use of geographic information systems, he said the United States was supporting workshops around the world.  In the matter of expansion of the committee, he welcomed the new members.

Replying to a statement by the representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, he said he categorically rejected assertions concerning space activities of the United States.  He said his country was involved in unprecedented international space cooperation; there was no arms race in outer space.  The United States space programme had been, and would continue to be, guided by the fundamental principles of the United Nations Charter, international law and outer space treaties.

KATSUHIKO TAKAHASHI (Japan) said space technologies in the field of earth observation had the potential to contribute greatly to solving global problems relating to resources, food and the environment.  The use of space technology in communications, broadcasting and meteorological observation had already become indispensable in everyday life.  Japan continued to actively promote the development and utilization of outer space.

The successful launch in August of the H-II A rocket had given great impetus to the development of space activities in Japan, he said.  It would help to provide the technological foundation necessary for the launching of satellites and would advance the use of such technologies in industrial development through the communication of information, as well as meteorological and earth observation.

He said the participation last year of a Japanese astronaut in a United States space shuttle flight to help assemble the International Space Station was an example of Japan's international cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space.  The astronaut's briefings throughout Japan sparked great interest in space activities among the youth.  Outer space exploration tapped humankind's intellectual resources, aroused the curiosity of the youth and enhanced public understanding of science and technology.

The problem of space debris demanded ever greater attention from the international community, he emphasized.  Japan welcomed the adoption by the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee of a working plan on that issue.  That, it was hoped, would lead to a consideration of standards for reducing debris in outer space.  Japan's space agencies had long been studying the technical aspects of the problem and would be happy to contribute to efforts in that area.

VIJAY TIWATHIA (India) expressed satisfaction with the work of the two subcommittees of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space and noted that the United Nations Programme on Space Applications had contributed significantly, in spite of budgetary constraints.  Deliberations on the subject of the implementation of an integrated space-based global disaster management system, and on the issue of space debris, had been productive in achieving further progress.

Turning to the work of the Indian space programme, he said the first development flight of the Geo-synchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV-DI) had been successfully launched on 18 April 2001, placing an experimental satellite GSAT-I in geo-synchronous orbit.  The flight was an important step in achieving the capability to launch geo-stationary satellites, which were vital for telecommunications, broadcasting and meteorological services for India.

He said the Indian remote-sensing satellite system was an important constellation on the global scene today.  It supported development applications in fields like agricultural crop forecasts, ground and surface water harvesting, forest survey, wasteland mapping, identifying potential fishing zones, urban planning and environmental monitoring, among other fields.

International cooperation was an important component of the Indian space programme, he stressed.  The Indian Space Research Organization and the French National Space Agency had signed a Memorandum of Understanding for conducting Phase B for a joint satellite mission to study the atmospheric water cycle and the effect of tropical convective systems on the global climate.  Meteorological data from Indian and United States satellites were being exchanged and used for research in earth and atmospheric sciences.

RAMLI NIK (Malaysia), commending the work of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, said there was no doubt that space technology had a great potential for enriching the lives of people around the world.  On the other hand, it was imperative for the international community to make every effort to prevent the militarization of outer space.  To prevent an arms race there, the existing legal system, including agreements to prohibit the testing, deployment and use of any weapons or components aimed at space-based warfare, urgently needed to be strengthened.  The Committee and its Legal Subcommittee had an essential role in that effort.

In Malaysia, he said, development of space science was divided into five separate areas, namely remote sensing, satellite technology, telecommunications, meteorology and education.   The country was developing human resource capacity in the field, with the strengthening of related curriculum at grade school and university levels and with international training courses on remote sensing and satellite technology.

On the issue of enlargement of the outer space committee, he said new members would further strengthen the committee, and he favoured terminating the practice of sharing seats on a rotating basis.  He reaffirmed Malaysia’s commitment to the development and advancement of space science and technology, and to vigorously pursuing its own indigenous capability while at the same time cooperating with international efforts.

WALID HAGGAG (Egypt) said, the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, as the only committee under the General Assembly that considered that subject, had recorded significant achievements in preserving outer space for purely peaceful purposes, as well as the right of all peoples to benefit from it without discrimination.

Egypt had effectively participated in the last sessions of the Legal and Scientific Subcommittees as well as that of the main committees, he said.  Egypt commended the Committee's follow-up of the recommendations of UNISPACE III and its setting of a clear framework for harnessing space applications to protect the environment and natural resources, as well as to provide education on space science.

He reconfirmed the need to expand the scope and applications of remote sensing in the interest of the developing and least developed countries.  Egypt called on all Member States to contribute to the General Assembly Trust Fund established to help implement the recommendations of UNISPACE III with respect to those countries.  It was necessary to reinforce their capacities in agriculture, industry, medicine and remote sensing.

ALEXANDER GAPPOEV (Russian Federation) said it was unacceptable, according to a crucial provision of the Vienna Declaration, for space to become another arena of armed confrontation.  The Russian Federation took a firm stand against the deployment of weapons of any kind in space, and against the threat of force in or from space.  For that reason, he favored maintaining current anti-ballistic missile treaties.  The conference in Moscow on a "weapons-free space" was attended by more than 100 States, showing the serious concern of the international community about an arms race developing in space.  Unfortunately the activity within the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space was not vigorous enough in that area, and he urged more effective work in that regard.

He said the historic flight of Yuri Gagarin had led the world to consider the development of space law.  The United Nations committee on space and its Legal Subcommittee had always taken the lead in that area.  Lately, an urgent need had arisen to adjust international space law to today’s realities.  The Russian Federation supported the development of a comprehensive convention on space law for that purpose.  Such topics as the delimitation and definition of outer space, space debris, regulation of scientific research, intellectual property rights, and other issues could best be addressed through a package approach, which would make it possible to examine each aspect of space technology within a single document.  The development of such a document would require significant effort, but would result in commensurate benefits.

MOHAMMAD S. HIDAYAT (Indonesia) said that while the spectacular achievements of space science almost defied description, the majority of peoples worldwide continued to face illiteracy, poverty and disease, poor infrastructure, as well as lack of resources and access to basic communications, and a lower standard of living.  The reality was that the optimism generated by the advanced technologies had eluded the masses, whose aspirations for a better life remained unfulfilled.

Against that background, he said, the recommendations of UNISPACE III were timely and relevant, providing a road map for the widespread application of space science and technology.  Undeniably, the strengthening of regional and international cooperation was important in making the benefits of space technology available to all States, including the sharing of payloads, disseminating spin-off benefits, ensuring compatibility of space systems and providing access to launch capabilities at a reasonable cost.

Noting that the survival of humanity depended on sustainable development, he underlined the significance of remote sensing technology to developing countries.  The greatest challenge facing humankind was to provide such basic necessities as food, health and education to all peoples.  Implementing an integrated plan for sustainable development had become an imperative.

He said the impact of space technology on developing countries had been minimal, due to high cost and lack of expertise; thus the importance of enhancing cooperation by extending non-discriminatory access to state-of-the-art remote sensing data in an affordable and timely manner to all countries.  Indonesia also reiterated the need to establish a sui generis regime for the geo-stationary orbit, which was under threat of saturation.  Such a legal regime would ensure equitable access to that limited resource, particularly in meeting the needs of developing countries.

ORLANDO REQUEIJO (Cuba) spoke of the valuable contributions of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer space, saying it was important that space be used for purely peaceful purposes, and that all countries should be encouraged to participate in space endeavours.  One way of accomplishing that goal was through transfer of technology to developing countries; such technology helped to prevent natural disasters, which would help the planet and its population survive.

Nuclear activity and an arms race in space were matters of concern to all countries, as was the blocking of international instruments to regulate such activities.  He said the current legal instruments were not enough to prevent an arms race in outer space, since those lacked verification methods.

The committee, he said, should be strengthened in order to defend the interests of developing countries.  For that reason, he supported expansion of its membership.  Attention should also be paid to the problem of space debris and collisions in space, especially those involving nuclear devices.  He reiterated Cuba’s interest in strengthening regional cooperation in space technology.  Broad cooperation would lead to a better use of outer space technology in the pursuit of development and the improvement of everyday life.

PETRO DATSENKO (Ukraine) said international cooperation was a substantial factor in the development of space science and should be regarded as a real way to resolve the problems facing mankind.  The importance of international cooperation was reflected in international space law being developed by the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space.

Because of increased outer space activities, some technically complicated issues required consideration, he said.  They included, in particular, space debris, the use of nuclear energy sources in outer space and the protection of intellectual property rights.  Numerous serious legal problems connected with those issues needed creative solutions in the framework of international cooperation.  Those solutions must comply with the General Assembly principles, declarations and resolutions, and take into account the needs of developing countries.

Member States should consider the development of mechanisms for the settlement of disputes arising in connection with space commercialization, he said.  Such mechanisms should take into account the existing arbitration rules in the international practice for dispute settlement.  Another serious problem was the fact that many States had not become participants in outer space treaties concluded in the framework of the United Nations.  In view of that, Member States were urged to become parties to the treaties and to ensure that national legislation complied with them.

MARIA ARCE (Peru) said her country was fully committed to the peaceful uses of outer space.  It was interested in proposals that could prevent the extension of the arms race to outer space and the expansion of applications that could help humanity.  One application that was important for her country was the mapping and mitigation of natural disasters.  Also important was developing communications and observation capacities from space.

She proposed introducing an agenda item called “space and society”.  The multiplication of space applications needed to be anchored in societal needs, as emphasized by UNISPACE III.  In addition, she said, the matter of the peaceful uses of outer space was not just a matter of disarmament, but a matter of existing treaties on space and of the dangers of such an arms race vis-à-vis sustainable development.  Peru called on the committee to keep enlarging its membership and ending the rotation system.  She thanked all the members who had supported Peru’s objectives in the area, and hoped that yesterday’s proposal would be accepted by consensus.

LOUAY FALLOUH (Syria) said his country was satisfied with the generally positive trend at the international level aimed at peaceful uses of outer space and at drawing the greatest benefit from it, especially for the benefit of the developing countries.  Syria was also happy to see a reduction in military costs in favour of the search for solutions to environmental, economic, health and other problems.

Nevertheless, he said, Syria was troubled by attempts to militarize outer space.  Syria recognized the importance of civilized peaceful contributions to the exploration and exploitation of outer space and had participated through the involvement of a Syrian cosmonaut.  The consolidation of peaceful exploration of outer space must be guided by well-defined principles that were continually updated to guard against militarization.  It might be a good idea for the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Spaces and the Conference on Disarmament to coordinate their work.  The major powers and those with advanced capability must cooperate in this effort.

He stressed the importance of ensuring that there were no collisions in outer space involving the different elements constituting space debris, especially those with nuclear power sources.  Syria had read the report of the forty-fourth session of the outer space committee and reiterated its support for the outcome of UNISPACE III.  It was particularly happy with the adoption of the Vienna Declaration, as well as that of resolutions and recommendations intended to help developing countries draw the greatest possible advantage from space science and technology.

JEAN KLENA OUATTARA (Burkina Faso) praised the work of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space as well as its report of the past year.  He supported expanding its membership and the granting of observer status to various organizations.  There were many topics in the purview of the committee that were of great interest to developing countries, such as fostering awareness of the benefits of space technology, disaster management, satellite communications, health systems and management of natural resources.

He praised organizational efforts of the fourth space conference, and Nigeria's coordination of efforts to promote sustainable development through breakthroughs in space research.  Burkina Faso was hindered in its own such research for economic reasons, and it needed to cooperate with other entities for that purpose.  He therefore supported programmes for training and other kinds of capacity building.

Mankind, he said, could be proud of the remarkable progress made in space technologies over the past few years.  But the benefits had not been widespread and the dangers of militarization of space and such problems as space debris threatened to further marginalize developing countries.  He urged solidarity among the international community, so that progress in space would instead be used to reverse underdevelopment.

      Right of Reply

Speaking in right of reply, RI KYONG IL (Democratic People's Republic of Korea), responding to comments by the United States delegate, said his delegation's statement yesterday was the truth; it was a notorious fact that the United States was proceeding to deploy a missile system that would definitely introduce an arms race in outer space.  Such activities were clearly not of a peaceful nature.

He said that in discussing the details of peaceful uses of outer space, the Fourth Committee should also pay close attention to the problem of preventing the militarization of outer space.  The Legal Subcommittee of the outer space committee existed not to impede the activities of States in exploring outer space, but to provide stability and security.  The attempts of any country to militarize outer space should therefore be resisted.

Mr. BORROFICE (Nigeria), in a statement of clarification, said his country, on behalf of the African States, had expressed interest in coordinating one of the 11 action teams established to implement the recommendation of UNISPACE III on sustainable development.  Stressing the importance of indigenous capacity, he urged the developed countries to assist developing countries to build up the means to exploit the benefits of outer space.  He expressed concern at the budgetary constraints affecting the Office of the United Nations Space Applications Programmes.

Mr. HODGKINS (United States) said the remarks of the representative of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea were “self-serving polemics” designed to project a distorted view of the world.  The wide range of United States space activities had provided many benefits to the world and were conducted in accordance with United Nations Charter, international law and outer space treaties.  To argue otherwise was a distortion of the truth.

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For information media. Not an official record.