Strength of International Space Law to Prevent Militarization of Outer Space, Respond to Other Current Challenges Weighed in Fourth Committee

14 October 2010
GA/SPD/458

Strength of International Space Law to Prevent Militarization of Outer Space, Respond to Other Current Challenges Weighed in Fourth Committee

14 October 2010
General Assembly
GA/SPD/458
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-fifth General Assembly

Fourth Committee

10th Meeting (AM)

Strength of International Space Law to Prevent Militarization of Outer Space,

Respond to Other Current Challenges Weighed in Fourth Committee

 

United States Says Space Exploration Thrived under Existing Framework; Russian

Federation Warns of Gaps in Space Law, Risk of Space Becoming Arena for Arms Race

Delegations in the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization), before concluding their consideration of the peaceful uses of outer space, weighed the strength of existing international space law to prevent the militarization of outer space and to respond to other current challenges, such as the use of nuclear power sources in outer space and the threat of space debris.

The representative of the United States said that the United Nations Outer Space Committee and its legal subcommittee played a key role in international space law, in establishing the primary outer space treaties.  As the only standing body concerned exclusively with the peaceful uses of outer space, the Committee had been very successful in fostering international cooperation, as it offered a forum to celebrate cooperative achievements.

Under the framework of those instruments, he said, space exploration by nations, international organizations, and now private entities, had flourished.  As a result, space technology and services contributed to economic growth and quality of life around the world.  Due to an increasing number of space actors, spacecrafts and space debris, the international community must come together to measure and reduce the risks to space operation for all.

Notwithstanding the relevance of space law, however, he said that many members had not accepted key treaties.  He urged those States that had not yet ratified the four main instruments to do so, while those who had accepted them to look to their nation’s laws to implement them.

Several delegations, however, expressed concern at possible loopholes in the current legal regime governing space activities, which could compromise its ability to effectively address the current challenges to outer space activities.

The representative of the Russian Federation stressed that a number of gaps still remained in space law.  He called for the multilateral implementation of the current international legal instruments regulating space activities to actualize those regulations that already existed.  The development of new technologies, and the commercialisation and privatization of space activities demonstrated that further elaboration of a legal framework for space activities was needed.

The world faced the risk of turning outer space into an arena for the arms race, which would negatively impact the overall spirit of cooperation and trust amongst countries, he warned.

Libya’s representative said that establishing global legal norms for outer space activities was key, and he called on Member States to complete the legal rules concerning outer space to prevent militarization.  He also advocated for a global instrument to control outer space for peaceful purposes, and he encouraged the Outer Space Committee to increase its efforts to that effect. 

Outer space must be used in a rational way, he said, in recognition of all relevant treaties.  The use of nuclear technology in space should be as limited as possible, and all nuclear-weapon States should provide comprehensive and transparent information on their procedures, in order to guarantee safety.  Space debris jeopardized the planet, and the international community should follow the guidelines to reduce that phenomenon, he urged.

Similarly, Pakistan’s representative stressed that as a common heritage of mankind, space should remain free of inclusion in any military doctrine, as any military-related application of space would limit the scope and progress of its peaceful uses and would jeopardize the security of all.  In Pakistan, the earthquake of 2005 and recent floods underlined the need for greater and more efficient use of space technologies for peaceful purposes, particularly in the fields of environment, health, and disaster mitigation.  The United Nations Space Committee should also ensure that benefits from space-science technology reached developing countries, that representative said.

In that vein, Thailand’s representative, speaking on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), said that with the growing impact of climate change and natural disasters in the ASEAN region, early warning and protective mechanisms would help limit the scale of calamities. ASEAN had become very active in strengthening disaster management at the regional and subregional levels, especially after cyclone Nargis, and was working with the Committee to make Sentinel Asia more effective and user-friendly.

Sentinel Asia was also used to assist once disasters had already occurred, said Japan’s representative, pointing out that the Sentinel Asia project had already carried out about 80 observations, by taking satellite images and space data of areas affected by natural or manmade disasters.  He stressed the continued need to assure peaceful uses of outer space for all Member States, regardless of their level of scientific, technical and economic development.

Concluding the meeting, the Fourth Committee Chairman, Chitsaka Chipaziwa of Zimbabwe said that in order to allow for sufficient time to process the amended draft resolution on outer space in all languages, the Committee would introduce and take action on the revised draft resolution at a date to be announced.

Also speaking today were the representatives of Malaysia, Burkina Faso, Mexico, Philippines, and Sudan.

The Fourth Committee will meet at 3 p.m. on Tuesday, 19 October, to take up questions relating to information.

Background

The Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) met this morning to continue its consideration of international cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space.  (For background of the report before the Committee, document A/65/20, see Press Release GA/SPD/456.)

Statements

JAKKRIT SRIVALI ( Thailand), on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), said that applications of space technology contributed greatly to many aspects of human life.  They provided valuable information on natural resources management, preservation of the environment, entertainment, education, disaster management and information management.  In that connection, ASEAN encouraged a more widespread use of space technology.  The Association continued to support regional and subregional cooperation in the field of space activities to promote the peaceful uses of outer space, and recognized the successful activities of the United Nations Space Committee and Office to assure peaceful uses of outer space for all Member States, regardless of their level of scientific, technical and economic development.

He said that as development of space technology advanced, ASEAN member States had been promoting capacity-building in the use of outer space for the benefit of mankind.  With the growing impact of climate change and natural disasters in the region, early warning and protective mechanisms would help limit the scale of calamities.  ASEAN noted with satisfaction the work of the United Nations Platform for Space-based Information for Disaster Management and Emergency Response(UN-SPIDER) and welcomed the recent signing of the agreement between it and a number of Asian and African countries.

In the past few years, ASEAN had become very active in strengthening disaster management at the regional and subregional level, especially after Cyclone Nargis, he said.  ASEAN commended the Committee’s efforts to make Sentinel Asia more effective and user-friendly to enhance the development of space programmes in the Asia-Pacific region and to promote regional cooperation in the field of space technology and its applications.  The results and lessons learned from Sentinel Asia’s activities in applying remote sensing and Web-GIS (Geographic Information Systems) technologies to assist disaster management in the Asia-Pacific region could provide useful ideas and models for disaster management support activities in other regions.  Before concluding, he added the following in his national capacity:  as a member of Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS), Thailand supported it in taking steps to prevent the weaponization of outer space and promote cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space.

HALIMAH MOHAMED SADIQUE (Malaysia), aligning his statement with that of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN), said his country was continuously seeking opportunities to collaborate globally, which would benefit mankind as a whole.  Presently, Malaysia was actively collaborating with Japan in microgravity and parabolic flight experiments, and had been sending protein samples to the International Space Station (ISS) since 2008, and would continue to do so through 2012.   Malaysia was also working with the Asia Pacific Regional Space Agency Forum (APRSAF) in the STAR Development Programme, the International Space Weather Initiative (ISWI), and the MARS 500 programme hosted by the Russian Federation.

He said that Malaysia would also continue to contribute to the development of space science and technology, with an emphasis on technological innovation, to fulfil the mission of the Malaysian Space Sector Development Programme.  In that regard, Malaysia was preparing for the first expert meeting on the Human Space Technology Initiative, to be held in Putrajaya around the second quarter of 2011.  That country would also continue to participate in the activities of the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UNCOPUOUS), specifically in the implementation of recommendation of the Third United Nation Conference on the Exploration of Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UNISPACE III).

Malaysia was proud of the continuing role played by Malaysian Dr. Mazlan Othman as Deputy Director-General of the United Nations Office in Vienna and Director of the Office of Outer Space Affairs (OOSA).

YUTAKA ARIMA ( Japan) introduced some of the space-related activities that Japan had recently carried out.  In May, the country had launched the Venus explorer, Akatsuki, and the space yacht, Ikaros, which used sunlight to cruise through space.  The Ikaros mission was to demonstrate a technology that, for the first time in history, was able to cruise through space using only its sun sail and the immense capacity of thin-film solar cells.  That was an ambitious project using “epoch-making” technology that was essential for the age of geographical discovery in the solar system.  The two explorers were currently on their way to Venus and were sure to inspire many dreams.

He said that the most notable event, however, had been the return to Earth of the asteroid explorer, Hayabusa.  It had overcome several difficulties, after a seven-year trip through space.  It was important that space-vehicle launches contributed to the solutions to global issues; for example, in the event of natural disaster, the advanced land observing satellite, Daichi, could provide urgently needed images of the area to the affected country. The data captured by that satellite was provided to Brazil and Indonesia and monitored illegal logging and carbon tracking in tropical rainforests.

Japan believed that taking satellite images and space data to areas affected by natural or manmade disasters should be one of its top priorities, he said.  Thus, his country promoted the Sentinel Asia project, which utilized satellite data.  So far, about 80 observations of disasters had been carried out. In addition, it was important to participate in the rulemaking process, which would ensure the long-term sustainability of space activities.

KEN HODGKINS ( United States) said that over the past year, the Outer Space Committee had made a substantial contribution to promoting international outer space cooperation.  As the only standing body concerned exclusively with the peaceful uses of outer space, the Committee had been very successful in fostering international cooperation, as it offered a forum to celebrate cooperative achievements and had a distinguished history.

Continuing, he said that Committee and its legal subcommittee played a key role in international space law and in establishing the primary outer space treaties.  Under the framework of those instruments, space exploration by nations, international organizations and now private entities had flourished.  As a result, space technology and services contributed to economic growth and quality of life around the world.  Notwithstanding the relevance of space law, however, many members had not accepted key treaties. Those States should consider ratifying the four main instruments, and those who had accepted them should look to their nation’s laws to implement them.

Under the legal subcommittee’s item on national legislation relevant to the use of outer space, delegations engaged in exchanges of information as to how States oversaw their governmental and nongovernmental activities, he noted.  The United States remained impressed by the progress of the working group, and looked forward to concluding that group’s report.  The subcommittee also continued its consideration of space debris mitigation, which gave Member States and observers the opportunity to exchange information and provide useful vehicles to continue the important work being done on space debris mitigation, such as the adoption of the United Nations space debris mitigation guidelines.  Due to an increasing number of space actors, space crafts and space debris, the international community must come together to measure and reduce the risks of space operation for all.  The United States was prepared to work productively in the working group to achieve that objective.

MICHEL KAFANDO ( Burkina Faso) said that avoiding militarization of outer space was key to preventing an arms race there, and thus, the issue deserved the Committee’s special attention.   Burkina Faso, as a Committee member, would never cease to defend that cause.  Space technology could provide advances in health, education, disaster management and meteorological applications.  Those could be used for economic and cultural development.   Burkina Faso had extensive flooding due to climate change, which called for a re-evaluation of the country’s needs. Space technology transfer remained weak, and thus, it was difficult to use technology to cope with the effects of climate change. Thus, support for the Committee was needed.  All of humanity could benefit from the peaceful uses of outer space, and it was now time for the international community to promote sound management of outer space for the benefit of all.

MATOUG ABORAWI (Libya) said that establishing international legal norms in the field of outer space would be key, and he called on Member States to complete the legal rules concerning outer space to prevent militarization.  It would be necessary to form an international instrument to control outer space for peaceful purposes, and he encouraged the Outer Space Committee to increase its efforts to that effect.

He said that all countries should have access to outer space, regardless of their scientific or economics advancement.  Outer space must be used in a rational way in recognition of all relevant treaties.  The use of nuclear technology in space should be as limited as possible, and all nuclear-weapon States should be encouraged to provide comprehensive and transparent information on their procedures, in order to guarantee safety.  There was no reason for the use of nuclear technology in the Earth’s orbit.  He also expressed deep concern over space debris, which jeopardized the planet, especially those States that were under the equator.  The international community should follow the guidelines to reduce space debris.

He welcomed the programme of health services through remote sensing, and the surveillance of the planet within the study of epidemics.  He sought closer cooperation with the Outer Space Committee and those areas of the Organization

Dealing with sustainable development, especially those bodies concerned with eradicating poverty and bolstering development.  Space technologies should also be used to explore minerals, classify soil and observe the phenomenon of desertification.  Libya had launched a satellite in September connecting hospitals through remote sensing, which would have great benefits for Africa; that would certainly help further the peaceful uses of outer space in Africa.

PABLO MACEDO ( Mexico) said his country recognized the work of the Outer Space Committee, as well as the several upcoming space activities on the regional and inter-regional levels.  He particularly noted his region’s efforts through the Sixth Space Conference on the Americas, to be held from 15 November through 19 November, under the theme of “Space and Development:  SpaceApplications at the Service of Humanity and for the Development of the Americas.   That conference worked to achieve a convergence on issues, and agreement on strategies, such as encouraging space applications to prevent or mitigate disasters, telemedicine and other projects that would help promote development.  The Sixth Conference would make it possible for youth, non-governmental organizations and others to find ways to use space technology to promote development of the region.  It would also help to promote the Mexican Space Agency.   Mexico was innovating the format of the conference, which this year would have three segments concerning intergovernmental, research, and industry issues.  A youth forum and space camps would be set up.  He urged the participation of agencies and Member States at those meetings.

AMJAD HUSSAIN B. SIAL ( Pakistan) said that the United Nations Outer Space Committee and its two subcommittees were the central focal point for the United Nations Member States to seek avenues of enhancing international cooperation for the peaceful uses of outer space.  The Outer Space Committee had an important role to play in maximizing the benefits of space capabilities in the service of humanity, particularly in the fields of environment, health and disaster mitigation.  He attached great importance to space-based emergency communication and disaster management support.

He said that the earthquake of 2005 and recent floods in Pakistan had underlined the need for greater and more efficient use of space technology in predicting and monitoring natural disasters.  The Outer Space Committee should also ensure that benefits from space-science technology reached developing countries; developed countries must have the “right priority” and engage developing countries in that field.  Pakistan supported rational and equitable access for all States to the geostationary orbit.

He noted that Pakistan’s lead agency in the field, Pakistan Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission (SUPARCO) applied space sciences in projects and programmes ranging from education to telemedicine, agriculture, irrigation, monitoring of watercourse and floods, natural resources management, satellite meteorology and environmental surveying.  As a common heritage of mankind, space should remain free of inclusion in any military doctrine. Any military-related application of space would limit the scope and progress of the peaceful uses of outer space, and would jeopardize the security of all.

LIBRAN N. CABACTULAN ( Philippines) said that in 2009, the Philippines had topped the list of countries most affected by natural disasters with a total of 26 calamities, including typhoons and earthquakes, which affected more than 14 million lives, killing more than 1,000.  Around this time last year, his country was reeling from the aftermath of tropical storm Ketsana and typhoon Parma, two calamities that had submerged a huge portion of the capital, killed hundreds and destroyed agricultural land and infrastructure.  It would be an understatement to say that those calamities traumatized families and communities and kept the entire country on its toes with every single storm warning since September 2009.

Since then, he said, much had been done to beef up the Philippines disaster risk reduction and response program.  The new administration of President Benigno S. Aquino III was resolute in reviewing and improving the country’s weather forecasting system to ensure immediate Government response.  Cognizant that information was key in planning for any calamity, President Aquino prioritized improvements in the dissemination of information, such as finding ways to inform fisherman who could not afford radio equipment of weather changes so they could immediately go back to shore.

During national tragedies, the United Nations and the international community extended assistance, and he was eternally grateful for that. The Philippines benefited from space-based technology used during those calamities through the UN-SPIDER system, and witnessed how effective satellite imagery could be in monitoring the movement of typhoons, especially if sent in a timely manner.  He reiterated a need for available and accurate statistics to support disaster reduction, and supported the efforts of the United Nations Outer Space Office and UN-SPIDER to come up with initiatives that would equip Member States to deal with future disasters.

ANDREY KALININ ( Russian Federation) said that the activities of the international community in outer space needed to be broad efforts and environmentally friendly.  The Russian Federation felt very positively about the creation of UN SPIDER, and was now, more than ever, convinced of the importance of that project.  He stressed that further steps were needed in that direction.

He said his delegation was pleased that new topics were being included in the work of the Outer Space Committee, which continued to play a key role in all efforts for the peaceful use and exploration of space for the benefit of all mankind.  The Russian Federation was a leader in providing launch services, as today something close to 40 per cent of all space vehicles launched in the world emanated from the Russian Federation.

There was a steady trend in the Russian Federation’s research on outer space to increase the indicators of quality and quantity, he said.  At the same time, there was a risk of turning outer space into an arena for the arms race, which would negatively impacted the overall spirit of cooperation and trust among countries.  Thus, a key issue confronting the international community today was saving space for peaceful purposes.  The international community should strive for the full use of the United Nations potential, in order not to allow the militarization of space.  A multilateral implementation of the current international legal instruments regulating space activities was needed.  However, discussions held within the Outer Space Committee confirmed that in space law, a number of gaps still remained.  The development of new technologies, and the commercialization and privatization of space activities demonstrated that further elaboration of a legal framework for space activities was indeed needed.

ABUZIED SHAMSELDIM AHMED MOHAMED ( Sudan) reiterated that a country’s participation on scientific committees for outer space should be made without regard to the level of development of the country.  He looked forward to the training and vocational activities regarding outer space for those that did not have access to it.  The challenges were to make it incumbent upon all to promote interregional and regional development for all; there was a moral imperative to serve everyone.  It was important to have regional conferences, and he noted Kenya’s hosting of a conference in 2011 and a third conference that had been held in Algeria, in 2009.  He stressed the need to focus on biodiversity, sustainable development and the laying down of rules and principles that prevented the militarization of outer space.  In conclusion, he stressed support for all activities related to the peaceful uses of outer space.

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