IMPORTANCE OF SPACE TECHNOLOGY FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT AMONG ISSUES HIGHLIGHTED, AS FOURTH COMMITTEE TAKES UP PEACEFUL USES OF OUTER SPACE

7 October 2002
GA/SPD/239

IMPORTANCE OF SPACE TECHNOLOGY FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT AMONG ISSUES HIGHLIGHTED, AS FOURTH COMMITTEE TAKES UP PEACEFUL USES OF OUTER SPACE

07/10/2002
Press ReleaseGA/SPD/239

Fifty-seventh General Assembly

Fourth Committee

7th Meeting (AM)

IMPORTANCE OF SPACE TECHNOLOGY FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT AMONG ISSUES

HIGHLIGHTED, AS FOURTH COMMITTEE TAKES UP PEACEFUL USES OF OUTER SPACE

The importance of space science and technology for the attainment of sustainable development and the need to strengthen the outer space legal framework were among the issues discussed this morning, as the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) began considering international cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space.

Describing outer space as mankind's common heritage, the representative of Algeria said that developing countries must be allowed equal access to outer space.  Outer space must be used rationally and peacefully and the work of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space was fundamental in that regard.

Chile's representative, speaking on behalf of the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR) and associated States, said there was urgent need for progress in the juridical and ethical dimensions of the uses of outer space.  MERCOSUR supported the work of the Outer Space Committee's Legal Subcommittee to develop international outer space law, including the preparation of agreements for the practical uses of outer space, the definition of the limits of outer space, and the nature and use of the geostationary orbit.  Stressing the need to address the issue of "space waste", he said that unless that problem was dealt with, an   ever-growing "waste barrier" would make it increasingly to difficult to reach outer space.

The representative of Denmark, speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, said the peaceful uses of outer space provided a powerful tool for furthering the well-being of humanity and the Earth's environment.  Space applications were fundamental tools for bringing sustainable development throughout the world.  The Union welcomed the work of the Outer Space Committee’s action teams in the field of space law and the completion of the review by the Committee's Legal Subcommittee on the concept of the “launching state”.  He also noted the need for universally accepted guidelines and recommendations for the control of debris from outer space activities.  The debate on the problems caused by such debris in international law must be added to the Committee's Legal Subcommittee.

The Chairman of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space introduced that body's report, saying space technology would require new avenues for international cooperation in the changing international framework.  In the past four decades space science and technology had freed human beings from the confines of Earth.  Space science and technology could now free human beings from want. 

Statements were also made by the representatives of Japan and Austria, as well as the Fourth Committee Chairman.

The Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. Tuesday, 8 October, to continue its consideration of international cooperation on the peaceful uses of outer space.

Background

When the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) began its general debate on the peaceful uses of outer space this morning, it had before it the report of Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (document     A/57/20).  The report summarizes the outcome of the Committee's latest session, as well as those of its subcommittees -- the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee and the Legal Subcommittee -- all of which took place during 2002 in Vienna.  Those sessions addressed the promotion of international cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space, taking into particular account the needs of developing countries, through the Committee's scientific, technical and legal expertise. 

The report states that the Committee, in its 2002 meetings, considered strengthening the implementation of the recommendations of the Third United Nations Conference on the Exploration and Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UNISPACE III).  The Committee's responsibilities, it agreed, relate to strengthening the international basis for the peaceful exploration and uses of outer space.  The Committee played an important role in promoting acceptance of the existing United Nations treaties on outer space and in encouraging States to develop national space legislation.

The beneficial uses of outer space, including strengthening communications infrastructures, disaster management, education, agriculture, environmental protection and natural resource management, had enormous relevance for human development, especially for developing countries, the report says.  The wider adoption of beneficial applications would strengthen the goal of maintaining outer space for peaceful purposes.

The Committee recommended that, at its forty-sixth session in 2003, it should continue its consideration of the agenda item entitled "Ways and means of maintaining outer space for peaceful purposes", on a priority basis.  It also considered the recent work of its subcommittee.

The Scientific and Technical Subcommittee reported on several topics.  Regarding the United Nations Programme on Space Applications, the strategy was described as one that would concentrate on a few themes of major importance for developing countries, establishing objectives that could be reached in the short- and medium-term.  Those themes were:  disaster management; satellite communications for tele-education and tele-medicine applications; monitoring and protection of the environment, including the prevention of infectious diseases; management of natural resources; and education and capacity-building, including research in basic space sciences. 

Other areas that the Programme would promote included developing capacity in enabling technologies, such as the use of global navigation and positioning satellite systems; spin-offs of space technology; promoting the participation of youth in space activities; application of small satellites and micro-satellites and promoting the participation of private industry in activities of the Programme.  It was noted that the activities of the Programme would support, where feasible, the action teams established by the Committee to implement the recommendations of UNISPACE III.

In other areas of concern to the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee, the Committee considered matters related to the remote sensing of earth from outer space; the use of nuclear power sources in outer space; strengthening interagency cooperation in space applications; implementation of a global, space-based natural disaster management system; space debris; geostationary orbit for the benefits of developing countries; and activities to promote education in space science and engineering.

Geostatationary orbit and its use in the field of space communications; mobilization of financial resources to develop capacity in space science and technology applications; and the use of space technology for the medical sciences and public health were named single issue/items for discussion in the draft provisional agenda for the next session of the Subcommittee.

The Legal Subcommittee reported on its forty-first session, at which it reviewed the status and application of United Nations treaties on outer space and information on activities of international organizations relating to space law.  It also reported on the definition and delimitation of outer space and the use of the geostationary orbit, including consideration of ways to ensure the equitable use of the geostationary orbit without prejudice to the role of the International Telecommunication Union.   The Subcommittee also continued its review of the concept of the "launching State".

The Committee agreed that the item "review and possible revision of the Principles Relevant to the Use of Nuclear Power Sources in Outer Space" should be retained as a single issue/item for discussion at the forty-second session of the Legal Subcommittee, in 2003.  The Committee also agreed to examine the preliminary draft protocol on matters specific to space assets to the Convention on International Interests in Mobile Equipment -- opened to signature in Cape Town on 16 November 2001.

In other matters discussed in the report, the Committee agreed that spin-offs of space technology were yielding many substantial benefits.  Spin-off technologies had resulted in the development and improvement of many products and processes, including a new diagnostic tool for cardiac patients and a microscopic supporter for brain surgery.  It noted that the use of space technology had become an efficient way to advance economic development, especially in developing countries.  To build national capacity, it was necessary to intensify efforts to disseminate information on, and promote understanding of, the benefits of space science and technology and its application at all levels of society.  Finally, it considered the membership of the Committee, the composition of its bureaus, and the schedule of its work in 2003.

The Committee also had before it the Secretary-General's report on implementation of the recommendations of the Third United Nations Conference on the Exploration and Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UNISPACE III) (document A/57/213).  The report says that, by its Vienna Declaration on Space and Human Development, the July 1999 UNISPACE III identified common goals to be pursued by the international community in carrying out space-related activities for the benefit of humanity and articulated measures to achieve those goals.  Those measures include activities to be taken by the Secretariat's Office for Outer Space Affairs, such as strengthening the United Nations Programme on Space Applications.  Others are building partnerships with industry and non-governmental entities, facilitating the participation of young people, establishing World Space Week each year from 4 to 10 October, and enhancing funding methods to support those activities.

Following UNISPACE III, the General Assembly called for the strengthening the activities of Programme on Space Applications.  Responding to that call, the Office for Outer Space Affairs reoriented the Programme, adding new activities to its work.  The Programme concentrates on a few themes of major importance for developing countries, including:  disaster management; satellite communications (including distance education); positioning and navigation systems; tele-medicine; natural resource management; and environmental monitoring. 

There has been increased synergy between the United Nations system, the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, the Office for Outer Space Affairs and the Inter-Agency Meting on Outer Space Activities, the report says.  Together, they focus the attention of the United Nations system on the benefits of space technology and its applications.  Achieving the goals of UNISPACE III would also contribute to achieving some of the United Nations Millennium Declaration goals, including poverty reduction, environmental protection, and coordination of emergency responses and humanitarian assistance using satellite images and data and satellite communications. 

The report says that in 2004, the General Assembly will review progress in the implementation of the UNISPACE III recommendations.  That appraisal will provide an opportunity to increase the political viability and momentum for the Committee's efforts.  If proven successful in 2004, the Committee's strategy in implementing the UNISPACE III recommendations could be used as a model for follow-up to other United Nations conferences.

Statements

Committee Chairman, GRAHAM MAITLAND (South Africa) said that 10 October would mark the thirty-fifth anniversary of the entry into force of the Outer Space Treaty.  That Treaty, which had been signed by 124 States and ratified by 97, laid the foundations for the establishment of international space law.  The Treaty enshrined such principles as the exploration and use of outer space for the benefit and in the interests of all countries, freedom of scientific investigation in outer space, and non-appropriation of outer space.  It had also contributed to the progressive development of international space law.  Four other United Nations space treaties had elaborated the principles enunciated in the Outer Space Treaty.  The Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space and its Legal Subcommittee had played a pivotal role in establishing the international legal framework governing outer space.

The month of October, he said, was a time of great importance for outer space matters.  On 4 October, the twenty-fifth anniversary of the dawn of the space age, marked by the successful launch of Sputnik, was celebrated.  That event had been a harbinger for numerous scientific and technical achievements made possible through international cooperation and work across political borders.  The permanent presence of human beings in outer space had become a reality, as nations pooled their expertise and resources.  Cooperation in outer space already provided many benefits.  If strengthened, the benefits of those achievements in outer space could be extended to create prosperity for many on Earth. 

In 1999, the General Assembly had declared 4 to 10 October as World Space Week, he said.  That celebration provided opportunities for children around the world to learn about space science and how space science and technology improved daily lives.  The benefits of space science and technology, however, were not fully recognized by many, particularly in the developing world.  Greater efforts must be made to increase the awareness of policy makers and the general public to the usefulness of space-based tools.  He noted the increased synergy between the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, the Inter-Agency Meeting on Outer Space Activities and the Office for Outer Space in promoting the outcome of the recent World Summit on Sustainable Development.

RAIMUNDO GONZALEZ ANINAT (Chile), Chairman of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, introduced that body's report, saying the Committee had made considerable strides in its work.  It had been instrumental in the adoption of the Outer Space Treaty.  It had also made major contributions to the legal regime governing its activities, which now consisted of five treaties and five sets of legal principles and declarations.  The Committee had also expanded opportunities for developing countries to receive training in space applications through the creation of the United Nations Programme on Space Applications.  Further, the Committee had contributed to the convening of UNISPACE III.  The Vienna Declaration contained a common approach to expanding the benefits of space technology to enhance human security and development.

The Scientific and Technical Subcommittee had made further progress in turning the recommendations of UNISPACE III into concrete action, he continued.  Eleven action teams had been established to follow up on matters of top priority.  The issues being examined by the teams included disaster management, environmental monitoring strategy, management of the Earth's resources, weather and climate monitoring, the promotion of sustainable development, and space-based navigation and positioning systems.  Over 50 countries and 35 organizations were already involved in one or more action teams

He was confident that the Committee would be able to yield tangible results in carrying out actions recommended by UNISPACE III by 2004, when the General Assembly was set to review the outcome of that Conference.  While there were many ways to implement the UNISPACE III recommendations, the Committee's flexible and dynamic mechanism could serve as a model of promoting international cooperation with all stakeholders towards achieving the objectives of United Nations conferences.  The Committee had set up a working group to prepare a report for the Assembly in 2004.  For the Assembly's review, the Committee recommended that a separate agenda item entitled "Review of the implementation of the recommendations of UNISPACE III" be included on the agenda of the Assembly's fifty-ninth session.

The Committee had also developed a statement to the World Summit on Sustainable Development on how space applications could contribute to sustainable development.  The interagency meeting on outer space activities, a focal point for coordination, had prepared a brochure on how the United Nations was using space technologies to support sustainable development.  The Committee would examine the outcome of the Johannesburg Summit to identify specific steps to promote sustainable development using space science and technology.  The Office planned to organize three symposiums starting in 2003 to examine the practical uses of space science and applications in different sustainable development themes.

Reporting on the activities of the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee, he said it had examined existing and proposed satellite and data distribution systems for disaster management and identified gaps in those systems.  It had also made further progress on the use of nuclear power sources in outer space and considered efforts to strengthen ties with industry at its annual symposium as the subject.

The Legal Subcommittee had considered the Convention on International Interest in Mobile Equipment and the preliminary draft Protocol on Matters Specific to Space Assets, he said.  Two intersessional meetings had been held.   The Subcommittee had agreed to consider two sub-items on the possibility of the United Nations serving as a supervisory authority under the preliminary draft protocol.  A working group of the Subcommittee completed its review of the concept of the “launching State” and the Subcommittee had reviewed measures to increase adherence and promotion of the 1972 Convention on International Liability for Damage Caused by Space Objects and the 1976 Convention on Registration of Objects Launched in Outer Space.

Reviewing other matters, he said the Committee had begun considering a new item, namely space and society.  The Vienna Declaration had urged action to increase public awareness on peaceful space activities.  The inclusion of the new agenda item was in direct response to those calls.  The Committee stressed the importance of space education in engineering, and began considering a report on the International Satellite Search and Rescue, known as COSPAS-SARSAT.  That was a cooperative venture involving Canada, France, the Russian Federation and the United States to use space technology to assist aviators and mariners in distress.  It had already assisted in the rescue of some 13,000 people since it began operating in 1982.

Pursuant to General Assembly resolution 56/51, informal consultations were held on the makeup of the Committee's bureau and its subsidiary bodies, he continued.  The Committee had noted that further consultations were needed to reach consensus.  Two international non-governmental entities had applied for observer status.  Having reviewed their requests, the Committee had decided to grant permanent observer status to the two organizations.

All nations needed the capacity to understand and adapt global technologies for local needs, he said.  Just receiving products and services of advanced technology without such capacity would not help developing countries survive in the “network age”.  New international initiatives and the fair use of global rules were needed to channel new technologies towards the most urgent needs of the world's poor people.  Space technology, with its emerging applications, was one of the global technologies that would require new avenues for international cooperation in the changing international framework.  In the past four decades, space science and technology freed human beings from the confines of Earth.  Space science and technology could now free human beings from want.

RAMLI NIK (Malaysia) thanked the Chairman for his report and requested that the Committee be provided with the English version of the text.

ULRICH SORENSEN (Denmark), on behalf of the European Union and associated States, said the Union believed that space science and technology would play an increasing role in achieving the goals of international agreements.  The peaceful uses of outer space provided a powerful tool for bringing about global cooperation and furthering of the well-being of humanity and the Earth’s environment.  That could be particularly powerful in bringing about sustainable development throughout the world, by building capacity and increasing awareness among decision-makers.

The Union attached great importance to, and is an active supporter of, the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs, and the Outer Space Committee.  The Union praised the work carried out by the Committee’s action teams in the field of space law, and the completion of the work of the Legal Subcommittee on the review of the concept of the “launching state”.  Then Union also supported the recommendations of the Committee working group.

He said universally accepted guidelines and recommendations to allow effective control of the debris from outer space activities must be elaborated in the near future.  The Union welcomed the work of the Inter-Agency Space Debris Coordination Committee (IADC), and wanted its proposals on debris mitigation to be submitted as soon as possible.  The Union also asked that a debate on the problems caused by spatial debris in international law to be added to the agenda of the Subcommittee.  The Union was also concerned about potential pollution of the Moon and other bodies through commercial exploitation, and regardless of the principles of international space law.  The Union called on the Outer Space Committee to attend to the question.

Europe was one of the major players in the space field and, in order to strengthen its position and capacities, the Union’s European Space Agency, along with the European Commission, had developed an overall European Space Strategy, he said.  The European Space Agency had participated in the World Summit on Sustainable Development, where it presented several of its programmes on applications supporting sustainable development, as well as the first data obtained from the ENVISAT satellite, which is dedicated to the monitoring of the environment.  It was also expected to deliver data about global warming, ozone depletion and climate change for at least five years.  Such data was necessary, in order to make the political decisions that had consequences for climate and the environment.

J. GABRIEL VALDÉS (Chile), speaking on behalf of the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR) and associated States, said progress in the juridical and ethical dimensions of the uses of outer space was urgently needed.  The treaty on the principles governing States in the use of outer space was a fundamental instrument for regulating the international community.  MERCOSUR had supported the work of the Legal Subcommittee in developing international outer space law.  That Subcommittee must also work to define the limits of outer space and to determine the nature and use of the geostationary orbit.

The issue of space waste, and the cluster of problems that surround it, must also be addressed, he said.  If the "waste barrier" grew worse, it would be difficult to reach outer space.  The use of outer space must benefit all of mankind, especially the developing countries.  The use of outer space could contribute to the establishment of communications infrastructures for early warning systems, and mitigate the effects of natural disasters.  Efforts must be increased so that the benefits of space science and technology were felt by all countries, including the dissemination of satellite-based data and teaching assistance and training in institutional capabilities.  It was also necessary to build on successful regional experiences in developing outer space technologies and to step up support for national institutions carrying out programmes on space science and technology, he said.  Also, although Governments played a fundamental role in the use of outer space, the role of civil society was growing, he added.  States and the private sector must work hand in hand in developing joint projects; in developing distance education, for example.  The fact that a growing number of countries wanted to participate in the Committee's work highlighted its importance.

NADJEH BAAZIZ (Algeria) said her country was pleased with the work of the Outer Space Committee in its follow-up on the recommendations of UNISPACE III.  International cooperation was a fundamental for carrying out the Committee's work.  Outer space must be considered part of mankind's common heritage.  As such, it must be used rationally and peacefully, with international cooperation in space science and technology.  Further, developing countries must be given equitable access to outer space and the militarization of outer space must be prevented.

Algeria attached importance to outer space, she said.  Her country had, for example, invested in aerial detection technologies for the prevention of natural disasters, environmental protection and the harvesting of natural resources.  Algeria also attached great importance to its contributions to the work of the United Nations through the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space.  In that regard, she hoped Algeria's application for membership to the Committee would be supported.

KATSUHIKO TAKAHASHI (Japan) said there had been significant developments in Japan’s space-related activities following two successful launchings, in August 2001 and last February, and the launching of an H-IIA rocket with which Japan delivered two satellites into orbit.  He said Japan was planning to launch the Advanced Earth Observing Satellite-II, (ADEOS-II), among others, this year.

Outer space activities had the potential to contribute to improving lives and protecting the environment, he said.  To that end, ADEOS-II would gather data on water vapour, precipitation and sea surface temperature for the purpose of alleviating environmental problems.  In particular, Japan wanted to promote the use of outer space in the Asia and Pacific region.  He said countries in the region had successfully pursued a joint experimental “Post Partners Project” to demonstrate the potential of satellite telecommunication applications in the areas of education, medicine and scientific research, as well as to transfer technologies for human resources development in the region.

At the recently held World Summit on Sustainable Development in South Africa, he said Japan had advocated promoting the use of satellite technologies for developing countries to address environmental issues, as enunciated in the Plan of Implementation.  Also, Japan was ready to take part in efforts to implement the recommendations of the Vienna Declaration, adopted at UNISPACE    III in 1999.  Japan, which chairs one of the action teams, was determined to actively engage in the activities of other action teams, which are designed to provide useful input to the working group established to appraise the implementation of UNISPACE III recommendations and report to the General Assembly in 2004.  Finally, he hoped that the discussion on the composition of the Outer Space Committee's bureau now underway in Vienna would respect the principles of regional rotation and consensus, and that the discussions would conclude early.

JOHANNES WIMMER (Austria) said his country would report on the results of the consultations being held on the work of the Committee, adding that the Committee had agreed that intersessional informal consultations be held on the composition of the bureau of the Committee and its subsidiary bodies.  Austria had facilitated and convened informal consultations in Vienna, including meetings with the members of the Committee, chairs of regional groups, as well as individual meetings.  Such consultations were guided by a spirit of responsibility and flexibility.

For information media. Not an official record.