FOURTH COMMITTEE APPROVES TEXTS ENDORSING WORK OF OUTER SPACE COMMITTEE, URGING FULL SUPPORT FOR IMPLEMENTATION OF 1999 VIENNA SPACE CONFERENCE

23 October 2003
GA/SPD/270

FOURTH COMMITTEE APPROVES TEXTS ENDORSING WORK OF OUTER SPACE COMMITTEE, URGING FULL SUPPORT FOR IMPLEMENTATION OF 1999 VIENNA SPACE CONFERENCE

23/10/03
Press Release
GA/SPD/270


Fifty-eighth General Assembly

Fourth Committee

13th Meeting (PM)


FOURTH COMMITTEE APPROVES TEXTS ENDORSING WORK OF OUTER SPACE COMMITTEE,


URGING FULL SUPPORT FOR IMPLEMENTATION OF 1999 VIENNA SPACE CONFERENCE


The General Assembly would endorse the report of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space and urge States, that have not yet done so, to become parties to the five treaties governing the uses of outer space, by the terms of an orally revised draft resolution approved by the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) this afternoon.


According to the text, one of two approved without a vote, the Assembly would urge all States, in particular those with major space capabilities, to actively contribute to the goal of preventing an arms race in outer space, as an essential condition for the promotion of international cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space.


By other terms, the Assembly would urge the entities of the United Nations system to examine, in cooperation with the Committee, how space science and technology could contribute to implementing the United Nations Millennium Declaration, particularly in those areas relating to, among other things, food security and increasing opportunities for education.


The Assembly would also urge all governments, United Nations and intergovernmental and non-governmental entities conducting space-related activities, to take the necessary action for the effective implementation of the recommendations of UNISPACE III, in particular its resolution entitled “The Space Millennium:  Vienna Declaration on Space and Human Development”, bearing in mind the need to promote the use of space technology towards implementation of the Millennium Declaration.


The Assembly would note with satisfaction the work conducted by the Committee’s 12 action teams to implement the recommendations of UNISPACE III, and urge Member States to provide full support to the teams in conducting their work.  It would also note, with satisfaction, that the Committee made further progress in preparing its report on the implementation of the recommendations of UNISPACE III for submission to the Assembly at its fifty-ninth session.


The Assembly would also endorse the recommendations of the Scientific and Technical, and Legal Subcommittees concerning their work programmes, which address such issues as the definition and delimitation of outer space, geostationary orbit, space debris and the uses of nuclear power in outer space.


By further terms, the Assembly would endorse the Committee’s agreement on the extension of the term of office of its current bureau and future composition, and agree that the Committee and its subcommittees, at the beginning of their 2004 sessions, should conduct the election of officers agreed upon by the Committee at its forty-sixth session.


The Assembly would also welcome the continued interest of Libya to become a member of the Committee and to that end, request that constructive consultations be conducted, as soon as possible, both within the Committee and among regional groups with a view to reaching a positive and final decision on Libya’s membership at the end of the General Assembly’s fifty-ninth session.


By the terms of the second draft resolution, also orally amended, the Assembly would decide to review the progress made in the implementation of the recommendations of UNISPACE III in a plenary meeting -– or meetings -- at its fifty-ninth session under a separate agenda item.  It would also request the Committee to submit its report on the review to the plenary meeting at its fifty-ninth session, in October 2004.


As the Committee concluded its general debate on the item, speakers stressed the need to harness space science and technology for the benefit of all humanity and cautioned against the militarization of outer space.  The representative of Chile, speaking on behalf of the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR), noted that despite the significant advances in the field of space technologies, many nations and people still did not understand or benefit from them.


The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea called attention to attempts to turn outer space into a military base.  The missile defence system constituted a grave challenge to peaceful exploration and uses of outer space that would inevitably bring about military confrontation and an arms race in outer space.  Pakistan’s representative said the militarization of outer space needed to be avoided at all costs and, if possible, reversed.  Contrary to other opinions, addressing that issue fell well within the mandate of the Outer Space Committee, he added.


The representative of Syria, Japan, Malaysia, Egypt and Ecuador also spoke.


A discussion was also held on the proposal to invite the Special Rapporteur on human rights in the Occupied Palestinian territories to address the Committee.  No decision was reached and the discussion will be continued either informally, or at the next open meeting.


The Committee will meet again Monday, 27 October at 3 p.m. to begin its consideration of questions relating to information.


Background


As the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) met this afternoon, it was expected to conclude its general debate on international cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space.  [For background information, see press release GA/SPD/268 of 20 October 2003].


The Committee had before it a draft resolution submitted by Chile on international cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space (document A/C.4/58/L.7).  By the terms of the text, the Assembly would reaffirm the importance of international cooperation in developing the rule of law, including the relevant norms of space law and their important role in international cooperation for the exploration and use of outer space for peaceful purposes. 


The Assembly would also, by further terms, endorse the report of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space and urge States that have not yet become parties to the international treaties governing the uses of outer space, to consider ratifying or acceding to those treaties, as well as incorporating them in their national legislation.


According to the text, the Assembly would endorse the Committee’s recommendation that the Legal Subcommittee, at its forty-third session, consider, among other things, the status and application of the five United Nations treaties on outer space; the definition and delimitation of outer space; and the character and utilization of the geostationary orbit, including ways to ensure its equitable use without prejudice to the role of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).


By further terms, the Assembly would endorse the Committee’s agreement on the extension of the term of office of its current bureau and future composition, and note that the Committee conducted the election of officers at its forty-sixth session.  It would agree that the Committee and its subcommittees, at the beginning of their 2004 sessions, should conduct the election of officers agreed upon by the Committee at its forty-sixth session. 


The Assembly would also agree that, at its forty-seventh session in 2004, the Committee should reach agreement on all the officers of the bureau of the Committee and its subsidiary bodies for the next term and, for that purpose, include in the agenda for the forty-seventh session an item on the composition of the bureaux for the period 2006-2007.  It would urge each of the five regional groups to ensure that agreement within the group on the officer to be determined for the period 2006-2007 is reached before the Committee’s forty-seventh session.


By other terms, the Assembly would endorse the Committee’s recommendation that the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee, at its forty-seventh session, consider, among other things, the United Nations Programme on Space Applications; implementation of the recommendations of the Third United Nations Conference on the Exploration and Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UNISPACE III); matters relating to remote-sensing of Earth by satellite; space debris; use of nuclear power sources in outer space; and space-system-based telemedicine.


Further by the text, the Assembly would endorse the Committee’s recommendation that the symposium to strengthen partnership with industry should be organized during the first week of the forty-first session of the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee and should address small satellite applications in agriculture, health and human security.  It would also endorse the United Nations Programme on Space Applications for 2004, as proposed to the Committee by the Expert on Space Applications.


The Assembly would also, by further terms, urge all Governments, entities of the United Nations system and intergovernmental and non-governmental entities conducting space-related activities to take the necessary action for the effective implementation of the recommendations of UNISPACE III, in particular its resolution entitled “The Space Millennium:  Vienna Declaration on Space and Human Development”, particularly within the context of the United Nations Millennium Declaration.


By further terms, the Assembly would note with satisfaction the work conducted by 12 action teams established by the Committee at its forty-fourth and forty-sixth sessions to implement the recommendations of UNISPACE III, and urge Member States to provide full support to the teams in conducting their work.  It would also note with satisfaction that the Committee made further progress in the preparation of its report under the agenda item on the implementation of the recommendations of UNISPACE III for submission to the Assembly at its fifty-ninth session.  


Also according to the draft, the Assembly would urge all Member States to contribute to the Trust Fund for the United Nations Programme on Space Applications to support activities to implement the recommendations of UNISPACE III and recommend that more political support be provided to all matters relating to the protection of the outer space environment.  It would also consider it essential that Member States pay more attention to the problem of collisions of space objects and space debris, agreeing that international cooperation is needed to minimize the impact of space debris on future space missions.


By further terms, the Assembly would urge all States, in particular those with major space capabilities, to contribute actively to the goal of preventing an arms race in outer space, as an essential condition for the promotion of international cooperation in the exploration and use of outer space for peaceful purposes.  It would emphasize the need to increase the benefits of space technology and its applications and to contribute to an orderly growth of space activities favourable to sustained economic growth and sustainable development in all countries, in particular the developing countries.


The Assembly would also agree that the benefits of space technology and its applications should be prominently brought to the attention of United Nations conferences to address global issues relating to socio-economic and cultural development, and that the use of space technology should be promoted towards achieving the objectives of those conferences and implementing the United Nations Millennium Declaration.  The Assembly would urge entities of the United Nations system to examine how space science and technology could contribute to attaining the goals of the Millennium Declaration. 


By other terms, the Assembly would request the Committee to consider, as a matter of priority, ways and means of maintaining outer space for peaceful purposes and to report to the Assembly at its fifty-ninth session.  It would request the Committee to continue to consider, at its forty-seventh session, its agenda item entitled “Space and society” and agree that that a special theme for the period 2004-2006 should be “Space and education”.  It would also agree that a new item, entitled “Space and water” should be included in the Committee’s agenda for its next session. 


Also by the text, the Assembly would welcome Libya’s interest in membership in the Committee, note the need to consider the geographical distribution of the Committee’s membership and agree that consultations would be necessary among regional groups before a decision could be taken.  It would endorse the Committee’s decision to grant permanent observer status to the Regional Centre for Remote Sensing of North African States and the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis.


The Committee would also be requested to identify new mechanisms of international cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space to strengthen multilateralism and to report to the Assembly at its fifty-ninth session.


Also before the Committee was a draft resolution submitted by Chile on the review of the implementation of the recommendations of UNISPACE III (document A/C.4/58/L.8). 


By its terms, the Assembly would decide to conduct the review of the progress made in the implementation of the recommendations of UNISPACE III in a plenary meeting -– or meetings -- at its fifty-ninth session under a separate agenda item.  It would also request the Committee to submit its report on the review of the implementation of the recommendations of UNISPACE III to the plenary meeting at its fifty-ninth session and decide that the meeting be held in October 2004.  Member States would be invited to participate in the meeting at the ministerial level.


LOUAY FALLOUH (Syria) expressed solidarity with the United States regarding the shuttle Columbia tragedy and congratulated China for its successful launch of a manned spacecraft.  He also commended the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space for its work.  The world today was witnessing an unprecedented increase in the exploration and use of outer space.  He welcomed the generally positive trend towards the use of outer space for peaceful means to achieve wider human and economic benefits, especially for the developing countries. 


He viewed with concern, however, the existence of programmes that used outer space for purposes that ran counter to international peace, he said.  The peaceful use of outer space required a sincere commitment, guaranteed by clear-cut legal rules and regulations to prevent an arms race in space.  He welcomed the efforts of some States to reduce space military expenditures and channel them to peaceful activities, such as natural disaster mitigation, environmental preservation and health applications.  He also stressed the need to address the problem of space debris more seriously, particularly to prevent the collision of space debris containing nuclear fuel.  States with nuclear-powered satellites had a greater responsibility to present information about their vehicles, fuels and safety methods.  He welcomed the addition of Libya to the Committee’s membership.


KATSUHIKO TAKAHASHI (Japan), said that people everywhere, not only those living in countries that conduct activities in space, should enjoy the benefits derived from such activities through expansion of human intellectual assets, improved environmental management, and better surveillance of natural disasters. 


He noted that Japan was actively implementing activities in cooperation with other countries within the framework of the Committee for Earth Observation Satellite (CEOS) and was promoting the Integrated Global Observing Strategy (IGOS).  Regarding the utilization of the space environment, Japan was contributing to the International Space Station programme, he added.


He reaffirmed his country’s commitment to take an active role in efforts to implement the recommendations of the 1999 Vienna Declaration. 


JAIME ACUNA (Chile), speaking on behalf of the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR), said space technology had become a key instrument in the lives of all inhabitants of the planet, pointing to the need for juridical and ethical norms governing the peaceful uses of outer space.  Outer space must be seen not merely as a resource, but as a common patrimony of mankind, which must be used rationally and for the collective benefit of present and future generations.  In that regard, there was a vital need for a common, firm and resolute commitment by the international community to achieve that goal. 


Despite the significant advances in the field of space technologies, many people still did not understand or benefit from them, he said.  Many nations lacked any real awareness of the importance and scope of space technology applications for their development.  For that reason, MERCOSUR supported the activities of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, and had actively participated in its activities.  The peaceful uses of outer space must be for the benefit of all mankind and should take particular account of the interests of developing countries.


He agreed that the Committee’s study of ways and means of maintaining outer space for peaceful purposes, taking particular account of the needs of developing countries, continued to be a priority.  MERCOSUR supported the inclusion in the Committee’s agenda of a new item entitled “Space and water”.  It was also important to encourage the growing trend towards the use of peaceful space applications in such areas as distance learning, remote medicine and disaster management, bringing developed countries closer to the space sector.


He noted with satisfaction the Committee’s unreserved support for the efforts of the Working Group to prepare a report for the Assembly on the implementation of the recommendations of UNISPACE III.  Also of great interest, was the progress being made by the Committee’s Scientific and Technical Subcommittee.  He appreciated the selection of priority fields of action, including satellite communications for disaster learning and remote medicine.  Regarding the work of the Legal Subcommittee, he noted the importance of current treaties on outer space and the need to encourage more States to implement them.  The Outer Space Committee could consider elaborating a convention on remote sensing to update the principles relating to observation of the earth from space. 


AIZAZ AHMAD CHAUDHRY (Pakistan) said his country remained concerned that outer space, which had been declared the “province of mankind” 32 years ago, was currently under the threat of becoming yet another arena of military competition.  Militarization of outer space needed to be avoided at all costs and, if possible, reversed.  It was Pakistan’s view that, in spite of arguments to the contrary, addressing this issue fell well within the competence and mandate of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, he added.


He reiterated his country’s support for the draft document on the possible elements of a future international legal agreement on averting the placement of weapons in outer space, as drafted by China and Russia at the 2002 Conference on Disarmament in Geneva.


The principles of nuclear power sources in outer space should be reviewed with a focus on safety and risk reduction, he said.  In this regard, Pakistan supported the safety standards development process of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) for those principles. 


He reiterated the importance of equitable access to the geostationary orbit for all countries, particularly developing ones, and underscored the importance of easy- and low-cost access to remote sensing data for developing nations, which could provide them with a wide range of useful applications. 


He called for greater efforts to provide teaching assistance, and training and institutional capabilities to all countries, and underscored the need to reduce the gap between poor and rich countries in matters of outer space.


RONALD KIANDEE (Malaysia) welcomed the Committee’s active role and its implementation of the UNISPACE III recommendations.  He commended the implementation of mechanisms to create synergy between the Committee and other United Nations bodies.  The introduction of weapons in outer space would undermine efforts to ensure the peaceful uses of outer space.  Greater efforts should be made to prevent the militarization of outer space, in particular, by drawing up an international agreement to prevent an arms race in outer space and to prohibit the deployment of weapons in outer space.  The outer space committee could play an important role in that regard.


He said Malaysian National Space Agency was laying the road map for Malaysia’s national space programme, which included the implementation of Malaysia’s national satellite programme and the ratification of United Nations space treaties and conventions.  Malaysia was also actively involved in regional cooperative endeavours.  The development of international space law and preparation of international agreements governing various practical applications for the peaceful uses of space science and technology was very important.  Equally important was space technology development.


He said Malaysia was concerned with the ecological and economic effects of biomass burning and forest fire in South East Asia.  In that context, Malaysia had proposed the establishment of a space-borne real time autonomous system for detection and monitoring of forest fires, peat fires and haze.  With such a system in place, the response time to emergency situations would be drastically improved.  Malaysia was willing to cooperate with interested partners in the region in developing technology transfer, science missions and training programmes in space-related education and industries.


RIM SONG CHOL (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) said it was important to realize equitable and free participation in the exploration of outer space, if it was to promote the welfare of mankind.  The activities of developing countries designed to explore outer space should be respected and the benefits of space exploration should be shared for the prosperity of all countries and peoples, he added.


He called attention to attempts to turn outer space into a military base. The missile defense system was being pursued without any restrictions and constituted a grave challenge to peaceful exploration and uses of outer space that would inevitably bring about military confrontation and an arms race in outer space.


He said the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea supported the proposal made by Russia and China pertaining to an international legal agreement to prevent the deployment of weapons in outer space.  He said his country had successfully launched its first artificial satellite in August 1998, and said it would make every effort to carry out cooperation and exchanges with other countries in the field of peaceful uses of space.


IHAB AWAD (Egypt) congratulated China for its launch of a manned spacecraft.  The Vienna Declaration had established a clear framework for the uses and application of space technology in areas including the improvement of communications, environmental protection, natural resource management, education and training.  Aware of the importance of UNISPACE III, he hoped that all States would develop the necessary methods for implementing its recommendations.  He welcomed the Committee’s intention to strengthen its efforts to consolidate multilateral action in the exploration of outer space.  Those efforts could include defining the legal framework for outer space and the expansion of regional and international cooperation in the use of outer space. 


He hoped the Outer Space Committee would continue efforts to strengthen the capacities of the developing countries, in areas such as capacity-building and research.  He reaffirmed the importance of General Assembly resolution 51/122 of December 1996 on international cooperation in the exploration of outer space, and its use for the well-being of all States, with special consideration for the needs of developing countries.  He called for caution regarding concepts that were being legitimized by United Nations bodies that did not enjoy consensus.  Egypt reaffirmed its full support for the efforts of the Outer Space Committee, to define the foundations for the exploration of the peaceful uses of outer space.  He urged all Member States to contribute to that Committee.  He said he supported Libya’s request to become a member of the committee, and he hoped a final decision would be taken during the Assembly’s next session.


BENJAMIN VILLACIS (Ecuador) reaffirmed his support for the recommendations of the Outer Space Committee and highlighted that one such recommendation pertained to the preservation of water resources, an issue of great importance for all humanity.  He underscored the importance of information sharing and technology transfer to ensure that outer space was better understood and the benefits of outer space exploration were used for peaceful purposes.  He called on the international community to unite in its efforts to make space technology a medium for progress in agriculture, health, security and transportation for all of mankind.


Action on drafts


RAIMUNDO GONZALEZ (Chile), chairman of the working group of the whole, introduced the draft resolutions on international cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space (documents A/C.4/58/L.7 and A/C.4/58/L.8).


He said that the draft resolution contained in document L.7 covered the work of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space and its subsidiary bodies for the next year.  Although similar to the draft resolutions of previous years, this year’s text was different in several respects.  The preamble stressed the importance of the United Nations Millennium Declaration.  The text also reflected the recommendations of the Committee concerning the work to be conducted by its Legal Subcommittee and Scientific and Technical Subcommittee next year.  It also included matters related to the follow-up to the UNISPACE III conference, and called for the need to promote the use of space science and technology and their applications to promote economic, social and cultural development and welfare.


The Chairman also included the following substantive changes.  Concerning operative paragraph 36, the amended text would read:  Notes that space, science and technology and their applications could make important contributions to economic, social and cultural development and welfare, as indicated in “The Space Millennium:  Vienna Declaration on Space and Human Development”, and further notes that the International Fair on Air and Space to be held in Santiago de Chile in early 2004 will address in an international conference the issue “Space and Water:  Towards Sustainable Development and Human Security”.


Concerning operative paragraph 47, the amended text would read as follows:  Welcomes the continued interest of the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya to become a member of the Committee and, to this end, requests that constructive consultations be conducted, as soon as possible within the Committee, as well as among regional groups, taking into account the principle of equitable geographical distribution with a view to reaching a positive and final decision on Libya’s membership in the committee at the fifty-ninth session of the General Assembly.


There would also be an operative paragraph 47 (bis), which would read as follows:  Requests the Committee to consider ways to improve participation by Member States and entities with observer status in its work with a view to agreeing on specific recommendations in that regard at its forty-eighth session.


With regard to the draft resolution on UNISPACE III plus 5 review, contained in A/C.4/58/L.8, he said, this resolution would highlight some of the organizational aspects to facilitate the preparations for the review.


The Committee Chairman, ENRIQUE LOEDEL (Uruguay), noted that the draft resolutions, contained no programme budget implications.


Acting without a vote, the Committee then adopted the draft resolutions, as orally amended.


Following that decision, the representative of Chile and Chairman of the working group, expressed his lack of satisfaction over the fact that a number of delegations had amended the text concerning the title of the conference on Air and Space to be convened in Chile in early 2004.  While the modification did not imply any change in the substance of the text, he considered that it would have been an act of politeness, especially on the part of certain countries with which Chile has special diplomatic relations, to not have done so.


Responding to the remarks by the representative of Chile, the representative of Mexico indicated that she would transmit his displeasure to her Government.


Before the session was adjourned, the representative of South Africa requested that, in relation to item 84, which deals with Israeli practices affecting the human rights of the Palestinian people and other Arabs of the occupied territories, the Special Rapporteur on human rights in the occupied territories, who was scheduled to make a presentation to the Third Committee, be also invited to present his findings to the Fourth Committee.


The representatives of Lebanon, Algeria, Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Libya, Iran, Egypt, Malaysia, Yemen and Senegal welcomed the proposal.  The representatives of the United States, Australia and Israel said that they would not favour an invitation to the Special Rapporteur to address the Fourth Committee.


The Chairman suggested that the issue be taken up either during unofficial consultations on 24 October, or during the next official meeting of the Committee, scheduled for 27 October at 3 p.m.


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For information media. Not an official record.