Fourth Committee Concludes Outer Space Debate, Spotlighting Arena’s Growing Role in Economic Development, Disaster Mitigation, Information Management

19 October 2012
GA/SPD/512

Fourth Committee Concludes Outer Space Debate, Spotlighting Arena’s Growing Role in Economic Development, Disaster Mitigation, Information Management

19 October 2012
General Assembly
GA/SPD/512
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-seventh General Assembly

Fourth Committee

10th Meeting (AM)


Fourth Committee Concludes Outer Space Debate, Spotlighting Arena’s Growing Role


in Economic Development, Disaster Mitigation, Information Management

 


New Rules for Resolving Disputes Take Shape, Reports Arbitration Court Judge


A voluntary and comprehensive dispute resolution procedure, tailored to arbitrating disagreements over outer space activities, was taking shape, the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) was told today as it concluded its annual debate on the realm’s peaceful uses, with delegates weighing in on how space technology could mitigate challenges that affected their nations and regions of the world.


The Permanent Court of Arbitration Judge Fausto Pocar presented the “Optional Rules for Arbitration of Disputes Relating to Outer Space Activities” (Outer Space Rules), a new legal instrument adopted by the Court last year in an effort to address the “fundamental lacunae” in the existing dispute resolution mechanisms of international space law.  The court is an intergovernmental organization with 115 member States, which facilitates accord between States, State entities, intergovernmental organizations and private parties.


Pointing out that existing mechanisms for dispute resolution in outer space were limited in scope, he said that any such mechanism needed to be “international, accessible to a variety of public and private parties, and capable of responding to potentially high demand for dispute resolution”.  In the Court’s view, international arbitration had multiple advantages in that regard.


On the one hand, as a method open to all parties active in the field, arbitration was available, not only to States and State-controlled entities, but also to international organizations and private parties.  At the same time, arbitration was voluntary, premised on the consent of parties, which made it attractive to States as they might be more willing to agree to discrete agreements than to a new multilateral treaty that treated all disputes in the same way.


Further, “arbitration hearings need not be public and awards need not be published”, thereby preserving confidentiality, he said, expressing hope that Outer Space Rules would inspire confidence in the international community.


Ahead of that presentation, the Committee heard from numerous delegates, several from developing countries, who lauded the “catalysing role” played by space technology, especially the United Nations Platform for Space-based Information for Disaster Management and Emergency Response (UN-SPIDER), in humanitarian efforts.  The representative of Burkina Faso, speaking of “man’s ambition to one day conquer outer space”, pointed out that space science could enable countries such as his to manage natural disasters.  Data from UN-SPIDER had mitigated the consequences of the floods that had occurred in his country.


Similarly praising the important role played by UN-SPIDER through its technical advisory missions, saying it assisted Governments in improving their disaster risk reduction practices, was the representative of South Africa, who told the Committee how space technology was bringing crucial medical services to remote rural areas in his country through tele-medicine services, including tele-radiology and tele-pathology.


In Venezuela, said its representative, satellites and related space- technology applications were being used to provide telephone and Internet services in remote areas.  The information gained from such technology was also strengthening government decision-making in the fields of agriculture, health, defence, the environment and urban planning.


“The considerable merit of UN-SPIDER,” said the representative of Iran, was of particular value in his disaster-prone country.  The country, therefore, was an active regional partner in support of its work.  Having inaugurated its Space Structure Laboratory and Aerospace Centre, the largest of its kind in the Middle East, Iran was also raising awareness in the country about the use of space technology in the fields of health care and epidemiology.


Monitoring emergencies was a key area in which space science could greatly benefit humanity, and by 2015, the Russian Federation planned to have launched a number of space vehicles, which would assist in that regard, said its delegate, whose country would also be partnering in a global comprehensive system of remote sensing.  He expressed concern about “space rubbish”, which he urged the international community to adopt effective measures to counter.


Kazakhstan, said its speaker, supported broad international cooperation on the peaceful uses of outer space, and reaffirmed the need to use data from outer space in water resource management, disaster mitigation, environmental monitoring and global navigation systems.  The country attached great importance to its space station, Baikonur Cosmodrome, one of the largest in the world.


Emphasizing his country’s independent right as a sovereign State and legitimate right under international law to participate in outer space activities, the representative of Democratic People’s Republic of Korea stated that his delegation believed in “equal and non-discriminatory access” to outer space for all countries.


The Committee will meet at 3 p.m. on Tuesday, 23 October, to begin its consideration of “Questions relating to information.”


Background


The Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) met today to conclude its consideration of the peaceful uses of outer space.  For background, please see Press Release GA/SPD/510 of 17 October.


Statements


FILATIENI COULIBALY ( Burkina Faso) stated that the multiplication of actors in the area of space research, as well as the “extraordinary investment” in those activities, reflected “man’s ambition to one day conquer outer space”.  But the international community must be careful to have long-term, “healthy” research in space in order to preserve that common heritage.  Commending the tireless efforts of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space and urging it to enhance its efforts towards international cooperation, he said that strengthening outer space law was crucial to provide a legal framework for space-related activities.


Outer space research could play a catalysing role in disaster mitigation, he added, but unfortunately, those applications of space science were not sufficiently well known in developing States.  Burkina Faso was vulnerable to natural disasters and the data provided by the United Nations Platform for Space-based Information for Disaster Management and Emergency Response (UN-SPIDER) had ensured useful humanitarian mitigation after floods had occurred in the country.  In September 2011, Burkina Faso had held a regional training workshop on using space data for managing flood risk, and, in May 2012, the country had launched a digital mapping system to provide viable and reliable information for disaster management.  He affirmed the need to step up cooperation to promote good management of outer space.


JORGE VALERO BRICEÑO (Venezuela), aligning with the statement made by Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR), said that outer space should be used in a “sensible and fair” way by all States for peaceful purposes, and that all States, regardless of their level of scientific or economic development, had a right to access outer space on an equal footing.  He supported efforts to strengthen the policy regime to avoid any militarization of outer space, as the current legal framework was insufficient to deal with issues of safety.  In that respect, he appreciated the initiatives put forward at the Conference on Disarmament.


He said his country rejected measures that limited developing countries’ access to space technology and which could help them achieve their national development goals.  Venezuela had developed a public policy on the peaceful use of outer space to promote technological independence and encourage the use of space technology for the well-being of its people.  In cooperation with China, Argentina, France and the Russian Federation, Venezuela was using satellites and related space technology applications for a variety of purposes, including remote-earth sensing, and telephone and Internet services in remote areas.  The information gained from such technology was also strengthening government decision-making in the fields of agriculture, health, defence, the environment and urban planning, among other areas.  The country maintained a strong commitment to ensuring that the benefits of outer space and space technology reached all peoples of the world, especially those in developing countries, as it sought to build societies where justice and equality were the rule.


MANIEMAGEN GOVENDER ( South Africa) stated that the United Nations must remain at the centre of integrating and coordinating international efforts towards the peaceful utilization of outer space.  By applying geospatial data and information to the management of natural resources, food security and environmental protection, the knowledge of science would be translated into practical outcomes.  UN-SPIDER had played a particularly important role in that regard through its technical advisory missions, which assisted governments in improving their disaster risk reduction practices.  South Africa applauded UN-SPIDER for hosting the International Day for Disaster Reduction in October in its neighbouring country of Mozambique.


As an emerging space actor, he added, South Africa wished to contribute to the orderly, peaceful and safe utilization of the space environment.  His country had ratified the Liability Convention and acceded to the Registration Convention, and a National Register of Space Objects had been established.  The University of Pretoria had started to develop courses in space law.  Further, South Africa had utilized space technology to reach remote rural areas in the country, through its 86 tele-medicine sites, which offered such services as tele-radiology and tele-pathology.


MOHAMMAD REZA SAHRAEI ( Iran) said that the peaceful use of outer space could only be achieved if fully supported by initiatives to prevent an arms race.  The weaponization of outer space constituted a major threat to mankind and could potentially lead to an arms race similar to the one on Earth.  Notwithstanding the substantial contribution of satellites to the well-being of humanity and to the socioeconomic development of all countries, space activities should be carried out in a manner compatible with the sovereign rights of States, including the principle of non-intervention.  Furthermore, as States relied heavily on space-based activities, including as a pillar for development, it was essential to remedy existing shortcomings in treaties, especially as the number of activities and actors increased.  It was necessary, therefore, to take into consideration innovative proposals.  Any initiative should be multilaterally negotiated in the framework of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space.


He said that Iran gave a high priority to capacity-building, which played an essential role in the sustainable development of space technology.  Towards that goal, Iran had paid much attention to regional activities in recent years, and several workshops and symposiums had been organized in the country on topics ranging from space law to awareness-raising on the use of space technology in the fields of health care and epidemiology.  Furthermore, as a disaster-prone country, Iran realized the considerable merit of UN-SPIDER, and was an active partner in the region to support its work.  In conclusion, Iran had made a remarkable advancement with the inauguration of its Space Structure Laboratory and Aerospace Centre, which was considered the largest of its kind in the Middle East.


ANDREY KALININ ( Russian Federation), noting that next year would mark the fiftieth year since Valentina Tereshkova had become the first woman to explore space, said that each year brought forth new challenges that required new efforts at international cooperation.  The Russian Federation believed that the Outer Space Committee should remain the central forum for coordinating space research.  Monitoring emergencies was a key area in which space science could greatly benefit humanity.  The Russian Federation was pleased with the progress of UN-SPIDER.  By 2015, the country planned to have launched a number of space vehicles, which would assist in that regard.  The Russian Federation would also be partnering in a global comprehensive system of remote sensing.


He said the country continued to build its space potential and use space activities for socioeconomic development.  Expressing concern about the “space rubbish”, he added that the international community must adopt effective measures to counter that, including the Outer Space Committee’s guidelines.  The Russian Federation was working on national legislation towards that goal.  As for the question of strengthening the legal framework of space activities, his country believed that the best solution was one single and comprehensive treaty under United Nations auspices.  Such a treaty would provide reliable assurance that space would be used only for peaceful purposes.


RUSTEM ZHUMABEKOV ( Kazakhstan) said that his country had always supported the work of the Outer Space Committee and its important role in safeguarding that important realm, which was humanity’s asset.  The Outer Space Committee presented good opportunities to step up cooperation, and was a valuable forum to encourage coordination in space research, as well as to promote confidence-building.


He recalled that, in April 2011, the General Assembly had adopted resolution 65/271, which denoted 12 April as the International Day of Human Space Flight.  His country had co-sponsored the initiative, as the first flight of man into space had launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.  That space station remained one of the largest in the world and offered infrastructure for the launching of many different types of cosmic vehicles.  Kazakhstan assigned great importance to that comprehensive space centre and to its national space research programmes, and it had adopted a new law in 2012 regarding outer space activities.


Kazakhstan supported broad international cooperation on the peaceful uses of outer space, and confirmed the need to use data from outer space in the water resources and disaster management, environmental monitoring, and global navigation systems, the representative said.  In conclusion, he supported efforts by the Outer Space Committee to raise awareness on the potential role of space technology in the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, and to continue exploring other means for the peaceful uses of outer space.


RI KWANG NAM (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) said that the rapid development of modern science and technology, along with the unlimited resource of human creativity, had provided enough opportunities to conquer and exploit outer space for peaceful purposes.  In the past, space development had been the exclusive privilege of developed countries, but now developing countries were taking part in space programmes to advance their economic development, and launching satellites for various purposes as soon as the financial resources and technology became available.


Likewise, he said, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had undertaken independent space research and development programmes and launched satellites with its own resources and technology, and it had made strides towards building a “powerful economic nation”.  That was not only an exercise of his country’s independent right as a sovereign State, but also an exercise of a legitimate right under international law, as party to the 1967 Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies (Outer Space Treaty) and the 1975 Convention on Registration of Objects Launched into Outer Space, which the country had signed in 2009 in an effort to be transparent and to actively participate in the international cooperation and exchange of space technology.


He said he disagreed with some countries who alleged that since the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was not permitted, under “so-called” United Nations Security Council resolutions, to conduct any launch using ballistic missile technology, satellites for peaceful purposes should also be prohibited.  His delegation wished to stress the importance of providing equal and non-discriminatory access to outer space for all countries.  The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea would continue to exercise its sovereign and legitimate right of space development by launching practical satellites in accordance with international law.


FAUSTO POCAR, Judge in the Permanent Court of Arbitration, introduced the “Optional Rules for Arbitration of Disputes Relating to Outer Space Activities” (Outer Space Rules), which the Court’s Administrative Council had adopted in 2011.  The Outer Space Rules were an effort to address the fundamental lacunae in the existing dispute resolution mechanism of international space law.  The Court, he explained, was an intergovernmental organization comprised of 115 member States, with the principal function to facilitate dispute resolution between States, State entities, intergovernmental organizations and private parties.


He said that the steady rise in space-related activity showed that a great number of disputes were likely to arise at the international level, entailing a need for a voluntary and binding dispute-settlement mechanism for disputes.  The existing mechanisms were limited in their personal or material scope, making them unavailable to private parties or available only for some disputes.  An effective dispute resolution mechanism in space law had to be “international, accessible to a variety of public and private parties, and capable of responding to potentially high demand for dispute resolution”.


International arbitration had multiple advantages for the resolution of space-related activities, he said, emphasizing that it was open to all parties active in the field.  Arbitration was a voluntary mechanism, premised on the consent of parties, and could not be unilaterally imposed on unwilling parties.  That was particularly important where States were involved, as they might be more willing to agree to binding dispute resolution under discrete agreements than to enter into a new significant multilateral treaty that dealt with all space-related disputes in one way.


Yet another advantage of arbitration was that it resulted in final and binding decisions, in contrast with the nature of decisions, which resembled recommendations.  Also, parties to arbitration could choose their own decision-makers, unlike in court, and arbitration could preserve the confidentiality of sensitive information.  “Hearings need not be public and awards need not be published.”


The Outer Space Rules enhanced those general features of arbitration, he stated.  Primarily relying on the rules of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL), which were the most successful set of rules for international arbitration, while also drawing on the rules of procedure of the Permanent Court of Arbitration, the Outer Space Rules covered the unique aspects of space-related disputes such as technical complexity and confidentiality of information, through “novel provisions inspired by a set of PCA rules dealing with natural resource disputes”.  The Outer Space Rules were also aligned with the major treaties and conventions laying down the substantive principles of international space law.


While parties could choose their own decision makers, the Outer Space Rules had mandated the Court’s secretary-general to compile a standing list of arbitrators with an expertise in space-related matters, most of them nominated by member States of the Court and ensuring wide geographical representation.  However, the use of the list was optional, as the parties could appoint arbitrators who were not on it.  Also, where its technical and scientific knowledge proved insufficient to a dispute, the arbitral tribunal could appoint experts to assist it.


The Outer Space Rules, by providing “a voluntary comprehensive dispute resolution procedure tailored to disputes relating to outer space activities”, had already attracted attention from legal practitioners representing actors in outer space.  But their eventual success depended, he concluded, on the confidence they inspired in the international community.


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