FOURTH COMMITTEE WEIGHS WHETHER OR NOT ‘1979 MOON TREATY’ SUFFICIENT TO PREVENT MILITARIZATION OF OUTER SPACE, AS DEBATE CONCLUDES ON ITS PEACEFUL USES

15 October 2008
GA/SPD/403

FOURTH COMMITTEE WEIGHS WHETHER OR NOT ‘1979 MOON TREATY’ SUFFICIENT TO PREVENT MILITARIZATION OF OUTER SPACE, AS DEBATE CONCLUDES ON ITS PEACEFUL USES

15 October 2008
General Assembly
GA/SPD/403
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-third General Assembly

Fourth Committee

9th Meeting (AM)


FOURTH COMMITTEE WEIGHS WHETHER OR NOT ‘1979 MOON TREATY’ SUFFICIENT TO PREVENT


MILITARIZATION OF OUTER SPACE, AS DEBATE CONCLUDES ON ITS PEACEFUL USES


Russian Delegate Presses Acceptance of Russia-China Treaty to Prevent Armed

Confrontation in Space; Pakistan Says Enforcing Existing One Essential in Interim


As the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) concluded its general debate today on international cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space, divergent views emerged on the need for greater legal jurisdiction to prevent the militarization of space, while there was broad agreement on the value of shared space technologies as a tool for sustainable development and disaster management.


Turning space into an arena for armed confrontation, warned the Russian delegate, threatened humankind and was “unacceptable”.  His country had advocated the peaceful use of outer space for many years and drew the Committee’s attention to the draft treaty on the prevention of the placement of weapons in outer space and the threat or use of force against outer space objects, which the Russian Federation and China had submitted in February in the Conference on Disarmament.


He said the treaty was timely, useful and could positively impact international efforts to keep the uses of outer space peaceful.  He pressed for further consideration of the core United Nations treaties on space, stressing that such an effort should take into account a legally binding document that would regulate all of man’s activities in space.


In his capacity as Chairman of the Legal Subcommittee of the Outer Space Committee, the delegate of the Czech Republic addressed a comment made yesterday by France on behalf of the European Union that Europe hoped to elaborate a non-legally binding international code of conduct for space activities.  While such an agreement could help strengthen the moral aspects of space activities, the Legal Subcommittee Chairman said, the framework established by the United Nations in its 1979 space treaty, the Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies, already articulated those activities in a legally binding manner.


Pakistan’s representative said that, while negotiation of a comprehensive convention would help prevent the proliferation of weapons in space –- which he warned was under the threat of being transformed into an arena for “flexing military muscle” -- proper implementation of the existing agreements was essential in the interim.  Confidence building and greater transparency in space activities must be undertaken by various States, and those with significant space capabilities had greater responsibilities in preventing space’s militarization.


Agreeing that outer space should be exploited only for peaceful purposes, Fiji’s delegate said it remained the common province and heritage of all mankind and could help meet emerging challenges, including in the area of sustainable development.  Thus, promoting space exploration for the benefit of all Member States, regardless of their economic or scientific development was in everybody’s interest.  Space-based technologies could be used to address the negative effects of global warming.  Significant socio-economic benefits could be derived from those technologies, but there was an urgent need to enhance capacity-building so that developing countries could exploit the available data.


Attention was drawn to plans by “some space-faring countries” to launch extensive explorations of the moon.  Japan’s speaker described his country’s initiative to advancestudies of the Moon’s origin and evolution using the lunar satellite KAGUYA, launched in August 2007.  Japan also planned to launch a greenhouse gas satellite, which would, through the data it gathered, contribute to policy options for global warming.  Japan would use this and other remote sensing technologies to help other countries that lacked such capabilities.


Throughout the morning, speakers praised the work of the United Nations Platform for Space-based Information for Disaster Management and Emergency Response (UN-SPIDER).  One delegate called for a strengthening of international efforts and cooperation in disaster management.  That, in conjunction with UN-SPIDER, would be very important in providing early warnings in cases of tsunamis, cyclones and earthquakes.  Another speaker mentioned Sentinel Asia’s next phase, which aimed to increase the number of Earth observation satellites for early warning systems.  UN-SPIDER would complement domestic efforts to upgrade forecasting capabilities through the acquisition of modern equipment and land- and space-based technologies, in cooperation with bilateral and regional partners.


In other business, the Committee postponed action on the draft resolution on the question of Western Sahara.  According to the Committee Chairman, Jorge Argüello of Argentina, negotiations on language contained in the text would continue, in an effort to reach consensus.


Before the meeting concluded, a letter addressed to the Fourth Committee Chairman from the Chairman of the Special Committee on Decolonization R.M. Marty M. Natalegawa of Indonesia concerning the “omnibus” draft resolution VI contained in document A/63/23 was circulated.  In it, Mr. Natalegawa explained the process by which the draft text was discussed and then endorsed, saying that throughout the process, the Special Committee had maintained an open approach and was ready to engage all interested parties in the process of dialogue and consultations. 


Also according to the letter, the Special Committee had strictly followed existing procedure and mechanism.  “This also applies to operative paragraph 2 under section A of the draft resolution, whose content was carefully discussed through the aforementioned process, and is consistent with the many resolutions previously adopted by the General Assembly and the Special Committee on Decolonization, as well as the final documents in different Regional Seminars on Decolonization, dating back from the 2004 Pacific Regional Seminar.”


The representatives of the Philippines, Libya, Mexico, Malaysia, Sudan, Nigeria and Cameroon also spoke in the general debate on international cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space.


The Fourth Committee will begin its consideration of the effects of atomic radiation at 10 a.m. Wednesday, 16 October.


Background


The Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) met this morning to take action on a draft resolution on the question of Western Sahara (document A/C.4/63/L.5).  By its terms, the General Assembly would give strong support to Security Council resolution 1754, dated 30 April 2007, which, among other things, called on the parties to enter into negotiations without preconditions and in good faith, taking into account the developments of the last months.


The present draft would welcome the ongoing negotiations between the parties held on 18 and 19 June and on 10 and 11 August 2007, and from 7 to 9 January and from 16 to 18 March 2008, in the presence of the neighbouring countries under United Nations auspices.  It would commend the efforts undertaken by the Secretary-General and his Personal Envoy to implement the Council’s resolution.  The Assembly would encourage the parties to continue to show political will and a spirit of cooperation.  It would call on them to cooperate with the International Committee of the Red Cross and to abide by their obligations under international humanitarian law.


The Committee was also expected to continue its consideration of international cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space.  (The report before the Committee is summarized in Monday’s Press Release GA/SPD/401.)


Action on Draft Text


The Committee postponed action on the draft resolution on the question of Western Sahara (A/C.4/63/L.5) so that negotiations on language contained in the text could continue, in an effort to reach consensus.


ELMER G. CATO (Philippines), aligning himself with the statement made on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), reaffirmed support for the work of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS).  The Committee played a valuable role in promoting access to space technology for States that were non-space-faring or lacked active space programs.  He welcomed the Committee’s adoption of its Strategic Framework for the Programme on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space for the period 2010-2011, as well as the ongoing discussions within the Committee on its future roles and activities.  The United Nations Programme on Space Applications had helped Philippine scientists and experts hone their expertise in remote sensing, Global Navigation Satellite Systems and water quality monitoring, among other things.


He noted the importance of the United Nations Platform for Space-based Information for Disaster Management and Emergency Response (UN-SPIDER) in disaster mitigation, particularly in disaster-prone countries like the Philippines.  UN-SPIDER would complement domestic efforts to upgrade forecasting capabilities through the acquisition of modern equipment and land- and space-based technologies, in cooperation with bilateral and regional partners.  The Philippines was interested in hosting a regional support office for UN-SPIDER in Manila, and was in talks with the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs in Vienna.


States that had not yet done so should accede to the Moon Treaty of 1979, formally, the Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, Including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies, in light of the plans by some space-faring countries to launch extensive explorations of the Moon.  The National Congress on Space Technology Applications and Research was seeking to harness space technology applications and international cooperation to meet the Millennium Development Goals, and the goals of the Water Sector Development Strategy and of the World Summit on the Information Society.  The Philippine Science and Technology Coordinating Council was completing feasibility studies for the development of a small Earth observation satellite to help mitigate the impact of natural calamities.  It would be used in agriculture, forestry and land mapping, among other areas.


ANDREY KALININ (Russian Federation), noting that his country had advocated the peaceful uses of outer space for many years, underlined the important role of the Outer Space Committee in working towards that goal.  Turning space into an arena for armed confrontation threatened humankind and was unacceptable.  He drew the Committee’s attention to the draft treaty on the prevention of the placement of weapons in outer space and the threat or use of force against outer space objects, which the Russian Federation and China had submitted in February in the Conference on Disarmament, saying it was timely, useful and could positively impact international efforts to keep the uses of outer space peaceful.


Reaffirming his delegation’s commitment to the development of space law, he pressed for further consideration of the core United Nations treaties on space.  That work should take into account a legally binding document that would regulate all of man’s activities in space.


VLADIMIR KOPAL ( Czech Republic) said that in his capacity as the Chairman of the Legal Subcommittee of the Outer Space Committee, he had participated in the preparation of the Committee’s report and knew first-hand that it adequately reflected the wide volume of issues discussed by the Committee and its two subcommittees.  He fully supported all of its recommendations and conclusions and hoped that the draft resolution on outer space would be approved by the Fourth Committee and adopted by the General Assembly.


He noted that the use of nuclear power sources in outer space had been on the Outer Space Committee’s agenda for years.  In fact, the last paragraph of resolution 47/68 on the Principles Relevant to the Use of Nuclear Power Sources of 14 December 1992 had provided for a revision of those principles by the Outer Space Committee within 2 years.  Since then, the issue had mostly been discussed in the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee, but the Legal Subcommittee’s discussion had also proceeded and several interested delegations in the subcommittee had welcomed the joint meeting between the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).  That joint meeting intended to provide analysis of the deeper problems of nuclear power sources in outer space; it was also expected, over time, to develop a framework for the use of those nuclear mechanisms in outer space.  Once that was done, the Legal Subcommittee would then be able to increase its consideration of legal aspects of the issue.  Yet that would be possible only if it was regularly informed of the discussion on nuclear power sources by the joint expert group, and to date, that had not been the case.


A new item entitled “general exchange of information on national mechanisms relating to space debris mitigation measures” had been agreed on in the Legal Subcommittee and endorsed by the Outer Space Committee, he noted.  The item was rather informative in nature, and the Subcommittee was moving in the right direction on the issue.


He then turned to the comment made yesterday by France on behalf of the European Union that Europe hoped to elaborate a non-legally binding international code of conduct for space activities.  While such an agreement could help strengthen the moral aspects of any such activities, it was necessary to keep in mind that the framework established by the United Nations in its Space Treaty already articulated those activities in a legally binding manner.  As a result, the Outer Space Committee continued its effort aimed at increasing the number of countries that were party to this treaty.


KAZUTO TSURUGA ( Japan) said that a “basic space law” had been passed by Japan’s legislative body in May for the promotion of international cooperation and diplomacy, industry, national security, quality of life, regulation of space activities and the establishment of a strategic headquarters for space policy.  A lunar satellite, KAGUYA, launched in August 2007, allowed for wider coverage of the Moon and would enhance international information by advancing studies of the Moon’s origin and evolution.


He said that such satellites provided reliable communication, not only in disaster situations, but also for areas without switching centres, such as mountains and oceans.  Japan also planned to launch a greenhouse gas satellite, which would contribute to policy options for global warming.  It would also use its remote sensing technologies to help foreign participants that lacked such technology.  Japan hoped that Kibo, an experiment module, would be widely used as an asset to the international community.


Japan had organized the fourteenth session of the Asia-Pacific Regional Space Agency Forum (APRSAF) last year, which had brought together 130 participants in Bangalore, India, he recalled.  Concrete steps had been discussed to enhance multilateral cooperation and support Sentinel Asia’s next phase, which aimed to increase the number of Earth observation satellites.  Japan intended to take active part in the International Heliophysical Year (IHY) 2008, by advancing studies of the solar system and Earth.  Additionally, Japan had provided modern astronomical facilities for educational purposes to developing countries, through official development assistance.  It was essential to contribute to the prosperity of global society by participating in international collaborations based on a broad and long-term vision.


MASON SMITH ( Fiji) said his country was convinced that outer space remained the common province and heritage of all mankind, which should be exploited only for peaceful purposes, to meet emerging new challenges and for sustainable development.  Thus, its possible militarization was a real concern; that would undermine collective efforts towards the peaceful use of space.  Promoting space exploration for the benefit of all Member States, regardless of their economic or scientific development, was in everybody’s interest.  Emphasizing that the United Nations must lead that effort, he implored those States with major space capabilities to contribute to the goal of preventing an arms race in outer space and to promote international cooperation in the peaceful use of it.  The international community should promote greater transparency in space activities; strengthen international cooperation, particularly with respect to the safety and security of space assets; and build the capacities, especially of developing countries, in the use of space-based technology and its applications.


Stressing that for Pacific small island developing States climate change was a matter of international peace and security, he said the use of space-based technology to address global warming’s negative effects was a priority concern.  His delegation sought support for the resolution to be introduced by the Pacific small island developing States in the General Assembly, which sought to draw the Organization’s attention to the risks that climate change posed to those States’ very existence. 


Reminding the Committee that food security was far from secure, he said that the toolkit for addressing it should include non-traditional technical tools such as those offered by space-based technology.  There was no doubt that significant socio-economic benefits could be derived from using timely, high-quality, space-derived geospatial data for sustainable development in areas such as agriculture, deforestation assessment, drought relief, land management and the management of fish and marine resources.  Yet, while the benefits of those tools were well-known, there was an urgent need to enhance capacity-building so countries could exploit such data.  Indeed, such capacity-building activities should be considered under Millennium Development Goal 8, which emphasized the Global Partnership for Development, and should include the timely provision of universal, non-discriminatory open data access and open source software at a reasonable cost, or even free of cost, to developing countries.


AHMED H.M. JEBREEL ( Libya) said his country was keen to follow the progress in space technology and its application for sustainable development.  Libya had constructed an integrated network for earthquake seismology to bridge the gap between existing maps, and would be cooperating with the European networks to obtain a more comprehensive picture.  The necessary steps had been taken to accede to three international conventions, and he reaffirmed the importance of achieving a mechanism through which it would be possible to ensure that conduct in outer space was protected from weaponization and its use monitored in a non-discriminatory manner.


EMMA RODRÍGUEZ SIFUENTES ( Mexico) said it was important to improve the legal framework that governed outer space.  Mexico had shown decided support for the consolidation of the CRECTEALC Campus Mexico (El Centro Regional de Enseñanza en Ciencia y Technología Espacial para América Latina y el Caribe) and was hosting the Centre’s General Secretariat.  Joint efforts had allowed the Centre to expand, owing to excellent communication and cooperation among countries.


She said that a new bill for the creation of a Mexican space agency showed the importance being given to the Mexican space agenda.  Mexico believed the peaceful use of outer space should always be focused on international cooperation, and it wished to evolve regional synergies, particularly with developing countries.  In that context, it supported the creation of a Latin American regional space agency.


NG CHIN HUAT ( Malaysia), aligning his remarks with the statement delivered on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, welcomed the establishment of the International Committee on Global Navigation Satellite System (ICG) as a forum to promote cooperation on the compatibility and interoperability of such satellite systems, as well as their use for sustainable development.  That should have a significant impact on the future use of global navigation technology.  He also welcomed the establishment within that international committee of a providers’ forum to enhance the compatibility and interoperability of current and future regional and Global Navigation Satellite Systems.


He said his country had long supported strengthening international efforts and cooperation in disaster management.  That effort would be very important in providing early warning in cases of tsunamis, cyclones and earthquakes.  As part of its support for that effort and for UN-SPIDER, Malaysia would be hosting the third Asian Ministerial Conference on Disaster Reduction in December.


YASIR IQBAL BUTT ( Pakistan) said his country supported efforts to maximize the benefits of space technology for all countries and in all fields of application.  The application of that technology could bridge the gulf within societies and between nations and regions.  He called for realizing the full potential of that field to contribute to the achievement of development objectives.  All developing countries should be engaged in that process, including through non-discriminatory, affordable and timely access to state of the art data and information.  Pakistan would continue to share its expertise with all countries and was fully committed to the goals outlined in the Vienna Declaration on Space and Human Development, adopted by UNISPACE III.  The establishment of UN-SPIDER and the International Committee on Global Navigation Satellite Systems demonstrated the international will to cooperate and pass on space technology to mankind.


Yet Pakistan remained deeply concerned that outer space was under the threat of being transformed into an arena for flexing military muscle, he said.  It was unfortunate that the bulk of space research was meant for military purposes, which would not only impede international cooperation in peaceful uses of outer space, but would jeopardize that realm’s security.  There was a need for confidence-building and greater transparency in space activities undertaken by various States.  Those States with significant space capabilities had greater responsibility for preventing the militarization of space.  While negotiation of a comprehensive convention would contribute to preventing the weaponization of space, proper implementation of existing agreements was essential in the interim.


The Outer Space Committee should be enabled to fulfil its task of recommending ways and means of maintaining outer space for peaceful purposes, he continued, stressing the need for working relationships to be established between the Committee and the Conference on Disarmament to enable those policy-making bodies to benefit from each other’s work.  Pakistan continued to make progress in projects of national importance in space science through the Pakistan Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission (SUPARCO).  Projects ranged from education to telemedicine, agriculture, irrigation, monitoring of watercourses and floods, natural resource management, satellite meteorology and environmental surveying, among others.  It was also developing a remote sensing satellite system of its own that would provide images for application to agriculture, forestry, mineral exploration and natural disaster planning, among others.  Further, his country planned to launch a space education and awareness programme.


KHALID M. ALI ( Sudan) said that each day there was the need to increase sustainable development and meet the challenges impeding it.  International cooperation was key to integrating space technology when dealing with climate change, social upheavals and increased poverty and food security.  Space technology was a resource for all humankind, and legal rules and principles should be in place that guaranteed its egalitarian and peaceful uses.


He said the Sudan was one of the small developing countries that possessed vast natural resources, and it hoped to increase the development of those resources through international cooperation and space technologies.  Sudan had closely followed the recommendations for increasing opportunities for developing countries to make use of remote sensing technologies and early warning systems in the face of drought and natural disasters.  Disasters should be managed through an international network for navigation and coordination between the Bureau for Space Affairs and the Commission on Sustainable Development.


The activities of the Commission on Sustainable Development between 2008 and 2009 should raise awareness of space technology’s uses for agriculture, forestry, and other land-related issues, he continued.  The Outer Space Committee should continue to develop its role, for which it must be provided with greater financial resources.  He welcomed UN-SPIDER, and shared the Fourth Committee’sconcerns over limited financial resources.


He said that those issues were important for developing countries.  Remote sensing could be used to prevent the developmental setbacks associated with natural disasters.  Member States should consider those reasons for maintaining UN-SPIDERviability.  He said the peaceful use of space should be preserved, and thus, he supported the draft treaty presented by China and Russian against the militarization of space.  There was a lack of “transparency and confidence” regarding that important topic, which needed to be dealt with seriously.


AYO OTEPOLA ( Nigeria) said that pervasive global challenges had brought the issue of food security to the agenda of the United Nations.  Member States were extremely concerned over current food scarcities, which were exacerbated by surging food prices.  The world was also facing, on a daily basis, disasters of various dimensions.  Poverty and hunger still affected more than half the populations of developing countries, which were struggling to meet the Millennium Development Goals.  Thus, his delegation attached importance to the conclusion of the Outer Space Committee that space-based tools could help mitigate the consequences of food insecurity caused in part by unsustainable agricultural practices.  He called on the Office of Outer Space Affairs to work more closely with developing countries to meet their requests for help in building their capacities to harness space technology.  Member States should also contribute to the Trust Fund for the United Nations Programme on Space Application, so that research and technology pilot projects in developing countries could be established.


Noting the enormous cost of launching satellites into space, he underlined that developing countries were unable, despite their desire, to do so.  Thus, for the benefit of Africa and other regions, and in the sprit embodied in the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), Algeria, South Africa and Nigeria had signed a declaration of intent aimed at using space applications science to monitor agricultural development, borders and disasters, and to manage housing, urban planning, land use, water resources and health, among other things.  That “direct move” for ensuring sustainable development should be supported by the international community.


Turning to the UN-SPIDER programme, he said that the office of Outer Space Affairs should do everything possible to ensure that the programme’s services were readily available, particularly in times of natural disasters.  Welcoming the regional office that had been established in Europe and Asia, he called for subregional offices to be established to serve as regional reference points for disaster management and emergency response.  He also welcomed the programme of the Office of Outer Space Affairs, which outlined how it would work with the Commission on Sustainable Development for the thematic cluster 2008‑2009, including with respect to the role of space in land use and rural development, preventing drought and combating desertification, and boosting sustainable development in Africa.


MAMOUDOU MANA ( Cameroon) said that, given the enormity of the food crisis, climate change and natural disasters, his country, along with the African continent as a whole, had taken a number of collective measures to combat those challenges.  Yet, those measures had been insufficient.  Cameroon, therefore, reaffirmed its confidence in the international community’s support for the struggle to ameliorate those challenges, particularly in the ongoing fight against climate change.


Convinced of a permanent link between food security and sustainable agricultural practice, Cameroon was engaged in jointly using land-based and remote sensing data to improve its farming and enhance rural redevelopment, he said.  The support of programmes at the national and international level was indispensable in that effort and he particularly commended the work of UN-SPIDER, which was supporting global and regional efforts in harnessing space tools.  Cameroon was using that technology, but given the enormous difficulties that might arise in such disasters as plane crashes, he welcomed the decision by the Outer Space Committee to review the International Satellite System for Search and Rescue.  The Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS) was also welcome, since it was ever more crucial in the food and energy crises and in the case of pandemics.  His delegation also welcomed progress made in funding UN-SPIDER, particularly those contributions made by Austria and the Czech Republic.


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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.