|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-eighth General Assembly
13th Meeting (PM)
Securing Sustainability of Outer Space Technology as Significant Contribution
to Modern Societies Meant Guarding against Militarization, Deterioration
Space Use Transforms Daily Lives, Say Speakers,
Warning It Must Not Become ‘Domain of an Exclusive Few’
Generally broad agreement emerged today in the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) as it concluded its debate on the peaceful uses of outer space that space systems contributed significantly to the functioning of modern societies, but that there was a risk of a “sudden, possibly, irreversible deteriorating of the orbital environment” owing to a number of factors, not least, space debris, as well as the use of that domain for military purposes.
The representative of Switzerland said space systems contributed to transport, telecommunications and security, however, that realm, dozens of miles above the Earth, had become “very crowded”, and the risk of an accident with potentially disastrous results had grown substantially. “Effective and affordable technologies must be developed to remove objects that had reached the end of their life cycle and other fragments known as space debris,” he said.
Several speakers insisted that outer space should not be allowed to become a backdrop for an arms race, including the delegate from Cuba, who said that such a development would destroy the future of space technology applications for the benefit of humankind, or wipe out humankind. Current laws did not guarantee the prevention of an outer space arms race, he said, urging the United Nations Outer Space Committee and its Legal Subcommittee, as well as the Conference on Disarmament to engage in constructive dialogue on the issue.
The representative of the United States said that the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) had the competence to consider such matters as they related to outer space. The United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space offered a forum for promoting cooperative achievement and sharing the benefits of space exploration, and together, with its Legal Subcommittee, had a distinguished history of working through consensus to develop space law in a way that promoted space exploration.
The launch of a peaceful satellite by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea for Earth observation, said its representative, had been misrepresented as a military launch. While countries such as the United States tolerated the launch of military satellites and intercontinental ballistic missiles by their friendly allies, they would not allow countries that were hostile to them to launch even a peaceful satellite. His country would continue to launch practical satellites for the development of its national economy.
Speaking for the Philippines, its representative said that the use of outer space must not fall into “the domain of an exclusive few”. Indeed, the militarization of outer space was a real concern to his country. It believed that activities in outer space — much like the behaviour expected of States on the ground — should be rules-based and favoured discussion on a code of conduct that was transparent, active and inclusive. He also called for increased cooperation in the field of global security between the Outer Space Committee and other bodies within the United Nations system.
Highlighting the many peaceful uses of space science, several delegates hailed its application for development. The representative of Iran pointed out that his country was disaster-prone and benefited from the many merits of the Space-System-Based Disaster Management Support (UN-SPIDER) programme in disaster management. Sustainability depended on regional and international cooperation rather than arbitrary approaches, he stressed.
As a small island developing State, Tonga, said its representative, was particularly susceptible to the impact of climate change and natural disasters. It was especially grateful for the assistance it had received through the UN-SPIDER, and he also commended the United Nations Programme on Space Application for its contributions to environmental monitoring, natural resource management, disaster risk reduction and climate change.
Iraq had also been using outer space resources for disaster planning, the representative of that country said. For instance, by using the information gained from satellite data about the potential collapse of the Mosul dam and its flood areas, Iraq had set up a website as an early warning system to provide immediate information and aid. Further, the country would be using space science to study sandstorms, given the high annual cost to the region of $13 billion.
Also highlighting the beneficial aspects of outer space technology, the representative of Nigeria said that his country had established a regional support office for UN-SPIDER in 2009 and had committed to the African Resource and Environmental Monitoring Satellite Constellation — a collaboration between Algeria, South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria. The work of the Constellation was aimed at providing easy access to satellite data for use in disaster management, food security, public health, infrastructure, land use and water resource management.
The Committee will consider the draft resolutions submitted under this agenda item at a later date.
Also speaking today were the representatives of Argentina, India, China, Belarus, Ukraine, Japan, Mongolia, Burkina Faso and Malawi.
Exercising the right of reply were the representatives of the Republic of Korea and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
The Fourth Committee will meet again at 3 p.m. on Friday, 25 October, to begin its consideration of the effects of atomic radiation.
The Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) met today to continue its consideration of questions relating to peaceful uses of outer space.
SEIDU ONAILO MOHAMMED, Director General of the National Space Research and Development Agency of Nigeria, reaffirmed his country’s conviction on the need to prevent an arms race in outer space and approved the increasing commitment of Member States towards that aim. However, despite the adoption of outer space treaties by most Member States, there was still much to be done, including the prevention of the testing, deployment and use of weapons of mass destruction in the Earth’s orbits; the protection of objects in outer space from destructive activities; and the universal adoption of outer space treaties. Because of that, Nigeria welcomed the European Union initiative for an international code of conduct in the use of outer space and highlighted the importance of greater cooperation between space-faring nations and emerging space nations for the purpose of information and technology sharing.
Nigeria, he said, had initiated a biennial regional conference on space science and technology for sustainable development, with the goal of sharing experiences about space technology application in the African region. In addition, it had established a regional support office for United Nations Space-based Information for Disaster Management and Emergency Response (UN-SPIDER) in 2009 and committed to the African Resource and Environmental Monitoring Satellite Constellation. That monitoring body consisted of a collaboration between Algeria, South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria and was aimed at providing easy access to satellite data for use in disaster management, food security, public health, infrastructure, land use and water resource management. Nigeria had commissioned the satellites Nigeriasat-2 and Nigeriasat-x and had been providing global satellite data for both commercial and national projects, including for disaster management and mitigation.
KEITH HODGKINS ( United States ) said that other United Nations organs, including the First Committee, was competent specifically to consider disarmament and international security matters relating to outer space matters, the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space offered a forum for promoting cooperative achievement and sharing the benefits of space exploration. In the half century since the adoption by the General Assembly of the “Declaration of Legal Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Uses of Outer Space”, there had been a radical transformation of every day human lives, in many ways, due to space use. The United States was placing increased emphasis on international cooperation in that area and was working closely with the United Nations and other countries to address the growing problem of space debris and to promote “best practices” for sustainable space use.
He said that the Outer Space Committee and its Legal Subcommittee had a distinguished history of working through consensus to develop space law in a way that promoted space exploration. The Legal Subcommittee had played a key role in establishing the Outer Space Treaty, the Rescue and Return Agreement, and the Liability and Registration Conventions. Under the legal framework of those primary instruments, space exploration had flourished, contributing immeasurably to economic growth worldwide. This year, the Legal Subcommittee had concluded its work on a revised draft set of recommendations on national legislation relevant to the peaceful exploration of outer space. The United States was also pleased with the progress of the Subcommittee in its multi-year work plan to conduct a review of international mechanisms for cooperation in the peaceful exploration and use of outer space.
GERARDO DIAZ BARTOLOMÉ (Argentina), associating himself with the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR), said that during discussions at the fiftieth meeting of Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space Scientific and Technical Subcommittee, chaired by the Secretary General of the Argentine National Space Activities Commission, three main activities were identified related to the topic of “Near-earth objects” aimed at reducing the threat posed: the detection and monitoring of hazardous asteroids and comets, planning mitigation campaigns through deflection or disruption of the object and civil protection activities; and implementing the most appropriate mitigation campaign. The Subcommittee had also prepared a series of recommendations to generate an international response to the threat of a “near-Earth object” impact on Earth.
Noting also Argentina’s several engagements in satellite missions, he stressed that international cooperation contributed to the development of science and space technology, to relevant and appropriate space capacity in interested States, and to the facilitation of knowledge and technology exchange among States. In that context, he welcomed the establishment in Buenos Aires of the UN-SPIDERthirteenth Regional Support Office for Latin America at the headquarters of the Argentine National Space Activities Commission, following the signing of a memorandum with the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs. The regional office would promote the development of national capacities of Latin America and Caribbean countries by providing horizontal cooperation and technical assistance to countries affected by emergencies, support for assessing national capacities on reduction and disaster management, and training in the use of satellite technology. Space activities benefitted developing countries in technological and sustainable development, he said, adding that the “full force” of international law in that sphere and of international cooperation was critically important.
AVINASH PANDE ( India) said that the Outer Space Committee remained a unique platform for international space cooperation and utilization of outer space for peaceful purposes. He expressed his satisfaction at the deliberations of the Committee at its fifty-sixth session, as well as the work done by the two subcommittees. He acknowledged the significant achievements of various Member States in space endeavours and highlighted several recent developments of India’s, including the launch of several satellites. The Indian space programme continued to integrate advances in space technology and applications with national development goals. The country placed considerable importance on international cooperation for the peaceful uses of space, and to that end, currently had formal instruments of cooperation in place with 33 countries and three international organisations. One example was the provision by his country of satellite-derived, near-real-time global wind vector data derived from its OCEANSAT-2 satellite to the global scientific community. Similarly, India provided expertise and services to developing countries in space technology application though capacity-building.
AHMED Al-KURWI ( Iraq) said that given the importance of an international strategy on outer space management, his country had conducted a survey to assess the areas in which it would benefit most. From the results, it had sought to use outer space technology in the management of natural resources, land, infrastructure, and public service and territorial management. Iraq had also been using outer space resources for disaster planning and learning the causes of disaster, especially concerning the potential collapse of the Mosul dam and potential flood areas. From the information gained, Iraq had set up a website as an early warning system to provide immediate information and aid should such an event occur.
He said that when it came to the peaceful uses of outer space technology, Iraq had begun using satellite imagery to develop irrigation maps in the hope of definitively finding places for the creation of more dams and lakes. Using the same technology, it made sense to study the significance of sandstorms, given the cost to the region of $13 billion annually. In addition to participating in a conference in Abu Dhabi on combating that problem, Iraq had sent 15 researchers from three national ministries to collaborate with an Italian university on TIGRIS, its first satellite, which would carry, among other weather prediction technologies, an observation camera to monitor sandstorms. It would be ready for launch by the end of the year.
SHANG ZEN ( China) said it was the consistent view of the Chinese Government that the exploration and use of outer space should be carried out on the basis of equality and common development. It was the duty of the international community to boost global exchanges in space activities, promote the rule of law in outer space and maximize the benefit the of space technological innovations to serve all countries. China was committed to the peaceful uses of outer space and opposed all outer space weaponization. It maintained that the sustainable development of outer space should be characterized by fairness, harmony, collectiveness and inclusiveness, based on the international rule of law.
Since last year, he said, the Chinese Government had actively sought to deepen and expand international cooperation for the peaceful uses of outer space, including by hosting the sixty-fourth International Astronautical Congress, where space experts, academics and Government officials had held extensive exchanges on space technology, as well as the United Nations Human Space Technology Initiative Workshop, during which international cooperation in the area of human space technology was discussed. China had also taken steps to establish a United Nations Asia-Pacific regional centre for space science and technology education to enable the countries of the region to share the benefit of space activities. In the past year, his Government had signed space cooperation agreements with more than 10 countries, laying a solid legal groundwork in areas such as satellite navigation, surveying and monitoring. China was ready to cooperate with more countries in a common effort to expand the peaceful uses of outer space.
EVGENY LAZAREV ( Belarus) said that the main work in outer space research in his country was carried out by 20 scientific organizations. Belarus was also a producer of wide and varied range of aerospace hardware. “Belarusian spacecrafts rivalled the best in the world.” Test flights had confirmed high-quality imaging and its utility in various services included provision of information. His country’s future plans in space science would involve production and launching of various satellites and tackling issues such as environmental protection and national security. Belarus had also prioritized space education, making that subject available for study from secondary school to university. Belarus’ aerospace education centre was equipped with terrestrial data receiving technology as well as meteorological satellites, which provided methodological training. His country also held regular conferences on space science.
DINA MARTINA (Ukraine), associating himself with the European Union, said it was timely for the Committee to make a comprehensive assessment of the implementation of the “UNISPACE III” recommendations relating to the use of space-based systems for such areas as agriculture and land use, water resources and disaster management. Those recommendations helped States to support their sustainable development needs. The Committee should also discuss the possibility of holding the next United Nations conference on the exploration and peaceful uses of outer space. Member States should enhance cooperation in disaster management and emergency response through greater access to and use of space-based services and by facilitating capacity building and institutional strengthening for disaster management.
He supported the European Union’s initiative on the development of a legally non-binding international code of conduct for Outer Space Activities, saying that such an instrument could enhance the safety, security and sustainability of outer space activities and complement international outer space law. In view of the constant growth of space activities, a new single and comprehensive convention on space would strengthen the international legal regime governing space activities. In that regard, his delegation welcomed the discussion on the current state of international space law and possible options for its future development.
HIROSHI ISHIKAWA ( Japan) proposed two draft resolutions on recommendations on national legislation relevant to the peaceful exploration and use of outer space and international cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space. As space-based technologies had became indispensable to society, efficient international cooperation was key to developing and maintaining proper activities in space. In that regard, the Outer Space Committee was a unique platform for global governance in the field at the multilateral level. He welcomed discussions in that forum towards securing the long-term sustainability of outer space and related activities, which would also contribute to sustainable development. He urged that the Committee’s contributions to the issue be followed up.
MAHE TUPOUNIUA ( Tonga) said he recognized the relevance of the statement made by ASEAN and acknowledged the work of the Outer Space Committee, as well as the Office for Outer Space Affairs. He commended the United Nations Programme on Space Application, in particular as it related to environmental monitoring, natural resource management, disaster risk reduction and climate change. Tonga likewise fully supported the use of space technologies in those areas. He noted the importance of the post-2015 development agenda for his country, which was a small-island developing State, and emphasised its susceptibility to climate change and natural disasters. Information made available through space technologies was especially relevant in that context, and Tonga supported a range of initiatives undertaken to in that regard. Among those was assistance received through UN-SPIDER. He looked forward to Tonga’s long-term association with that programme.
NATALIA ARCHINARD (Switzerland) stated space technologies and their applications had become key tools for sustainable development and the sound management of the Earth’s resources, and her country was grateful for the efforts of the Office for Outer Space Affairs in giving those technologies due credit in the post-2015 development agenda. Space systems had also contributed significantly to the functioning of modern societies in areas such as transport, telecommunications and security. However, space had become very crowded and the risk of an accident with potentially disastrous results had grown substantially. “We risk a sudden, possibly, irreversible deteriorating of the orbital environment unless effective and affordable technologies are developed to remove objects that have reached the end of their life cycle and other fragments known as space debris,” she said.
She said that efforts by several countries, including Switzerland, were under way to develop such technologies, but so far, none had proven its effectiveness, and furthermore, there were questions about how to share the high cost of those technologies. It was critical that space be used sustainably over the long term. Guidelines for international cooperation, systematic exchange of information, as well as more responsible conduct in space activities should make orbital satellite traffic safer, but space could only continue to be used for peaceful purposes if it did not become a conflict zone. In this context, Switzerland welcomed the report of the Group of Governmental Experts on Transparency and Confidence-Building Measures in Outer Space Activities.
MOHAMMAD REZA SAHRAEI ( Iran) stated that in order to achieve long-term sustainability of outer space activities, it was necessary to regulate all such activities “in good faith with transparency”. Sustainability depended on regional and international cooperation rather than arbitrary approaches. Measures that limited access to space by developing States with emerging space capabilities should be avoided, and any code of conduct should be of a comprehensive and peaceful nature within the United Nations legal framework, and acceptable to all.
Geostationary orbit, he added, was a limited source, and utilization of that orbit spectrum must be rationalized and extended to all States equally, taking into account the geographical location of certain countries and in compliance with the established principles in the normative framework and the decisions made by the International Telecommunication Union and other relevant United Nations bodies. Iran, as a disaster-prone country, recognized the considerable merit of UN-SPIDER in addressing disaster management.
BATTUNGALAG GANKHUURAI ( Mongolia) stated that one of the key themes that had emerged in recent years was the issue of space debris. It was gratifying that some States had already begun implementing space debris mitigation measures in line with the Outer Space Committee’s guidelines. At the same time, further efforts were needed to tackle those challenges. Her country called for expanded dialogue and exchange of information and experience at the regional and international levels. The first space communication station had been established in Mongolia in 1970. Over the past 43 years, the country had accumulated knowledge and experience in using space-based technologies. Today, the national agencies of Mongolia were actively cooperating with regional organizations, including the Asia-Pacific Regional Space Agency Forum and the Asia-Pacific Space Cooperation Organization.
KIM YONG SONG (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) said that activities for economic development through space exploration had been actively taking place in the international arena and that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had devoted itself to the peaceful development of outer space, following that world trend. Beginning in the 1980s, the country had launched self-made satellites on several occasions, most recently, the second version of the Kwangmyongsong-3, which was collecting data related to the distribution of forest resources, natural disaster mitigation, estimation of crops, monitoring of weather and the exploration of natural resources. Following Government policy, a national law on outer space development had been established and a national space agency founded to further the country’s capacity for the peaceful uses of space technology.
He said that the space technology of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was an inviolable, legitimate right of a sovereign State recognized by international laws. However, the story behind the second version of the Kwangmyongsong-3 showed that the launch of a peaceful satellite for Earth observation had been misrepresented as a military launch, in order to apply sanctions and pressure on the State. While countries such as the United States tolerated their friendly allies to launch whatever they wanted, including military satellites and inter-continental ballistic missiles, they would not allow their hostile ones to launch even a peaceful satellite.
In that regard, he said the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea totally rejected the United Nation Security Council’s sanctioning resolutions developed by the United States regarding his country’s peaceful satellite launches. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea would continue to launch practical satellites for the development of its national economy by going through all relevant legal procedures of international treaties and fulfilling it obligations for active use of outer space as the common property of all humankind.
FILATIENI COULIBALY ( Burkina Faso) said that the growing number of countries following the Outer Space Committee reflected the importance of spatial technology and its applications. Since joining that Committee, his country had progressed in harnessing spatial technology for development by acquiring a modern network of nine “GNSS” stations connected to the data centre in Burkina. The country had also adopted a national geographic information management policy, the main goal of which was to establish ongoing spatial data infrastructure to enable sustainable development. Further, in December 2012, the Japanese International Cooperation Agency had hosted a seminar on geospatial information, aimed at finding solutions to the problem of cartography in Africa. There was still a long way to go when it came to bridging the gap between developed and developing countries in space capacities. Cooperation was the only way to address that issue, as well as that of the establishment of international laws governing outer space. As noted at the Rio+20, Conference, outer space science and technology played a crucial role in sustainable development.
ROBERT ERIC BORJE ( Philippines), associating himself with ASEAN, stated that space science presented a fascinating frontier that was expanding at a deliberate pace with new scientific discoveries. Yet even with many positive advances, challenges remained. The international community must ensure that outer space was used peacefully and sustainably. It was also important to ensure that its use did not become “the domain of an exclusive few”. The Outer Space Committee was poised to play an increasingly large role in the field of global security as it considered the use of space systems for disaster management and cosmic threats. At the same time, it was clear that the issue of security in space required the Committee to enhance cooperation with other bodies and mechanisms within the United Nations system.
He said that space-based information was of vital importance to the international community, particularly in the prevention and mitigation of natural disasters. Capacity building was key to helping States to access and utilize the data gathered to support disaster-risk reduction and emergency response. His country was concerned about the militarization of outer space. Its principled position was that activities in outer space — much like the behaviour expected of States on the ground — should be rules-based. It was necessary, therefore, to elaborate binding norms and to discuss a possible international code of conduct for outer space activities. For that discussion to gain traction, “process and venue were important considerations as much as the principles involved”. Also important was to ensure that the process was transparent, active and inclusive.
CHARLES P. MSOSA ( Malawi) said that loss of life and property due to natural disasters, such as flooding, earthquakes, hurricanes, and tsunamis, striking various parts of the world, including Malawi, could have been reduced through better prevention and better information, assisted by space technology. Malawi’s economy was largely dependent on agriculture and, thus, data collected by satellites could greatly assist in monitoring climate change, disaster and water resource management, among other important uses. Malawi’s Department of Disaster Management with UN-SPIDER had recently conducted a Technical Advisory Mission, which addressed a great variety of areas in which Malawi would benefit from space technology. Those included remote sensing machinery for disaster risk management, satellite-derived soil moisture assessments and the sharing of geospatial information, especially as it supported emergency response.
Malawi, he said, also recognized the crucial role played by the Outer Space Committee in preventing an arms race in outer space. The world already feared the uses of the various forms of weapons of mass destruction. Placing weapons such as those in outer space would further endanger humanity. It was crucial, therefore, that all efforts be made to preserve outer space for peaceful purposes only and that the Committee promoted greater transparency in space activities, information sharing and increased compliance with the provisions of international space law.
LILIANA SANCHEZ RODRIGUEZ ( Cuba) stated that outer space should not become a backdrop to an arms race. Not only would that destroy the future of space and technology applications, but it would also seriously threaten the very existence of humankind. Existing laws did not guarantee the prevention of an outer space arms race, making constructive dialogue mandatory between the Outer Space Committee and its Legal Subcommittee and the Conference on Disarmament, which was the only platform for multilateral negotiations on disarmament.
He said that scientific and technological progress, the commercialization of outer space and the new legal questions arising from the involvement of transnational companies made it necessary for the Legal Subcommittee to step up its work on the definition and delineation of outer space. That must be resolved immediately. The Outer Space Committee must play a larger role in developing legal instruments to ensure that outer space was used and explored for peaceful purposes and that all States, regardless of their level of scientific development, had equal access to outer space. Cuba condemned the use of a dense network of spy satellites aimed at finding information about other States.
Despite the cruel economic blockade, Cuba had engaged in space research, including the use of space technology for meteorology, he said. High-resolution satellite imagery had contributed to reducing damage from hurricanes, thereby significantly reducing the loss of life. As the number of States in outer space activities increased, more bilateral and multilateral cooperation was necessary.
Rights of Reply
Speaking in exercise of the right of reply, the representative of the Republic of Korea repudiated the groundless remarks made by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea delegation about their satellite launch in December 2012. United Nations Security Council resolutions had clearly demanded that it not conduct that launch, and had made it clear through its presidential statement that North Korea’s launches were serious violations of its resolutions. Given its track record, it had no justification to claim peaceful use of outer space. Furthermore, the idea that it was not obliged to abide by international norms was wrong. It went without saying that North Korea was bound by Security Council resolutions. North Korea’s so-called register of objects launched into outer space was just a technical procedure and did nothing to create legitimacy for the December 2012 launch.
The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, also exercising the right of reply, said it was well-known that his country had successfully launched a scientific and technological satellite fitted with survey and communication devices essential for the observation of the Earth. The satellite had been in orbit collecting information necessary for crops. Even countries that were hostile to his own recognized that. But the United States and its followers continued to claim that it was not legitimate. The question was “how had those countries launched their own satellites and what kind of technology had they used?” The answer was clear — ballistic missile technology. Then, the real question was, “were there any articles or terms in outer space treaties stating that only specific countries could use updated technologies such as ballistic missile technologies?” That was a clear double standard. Outer space was not a monopoly of some countries; it was the common property of all mankind. His was one of the few States that could produce everything related to the launch of a satellite, he added.
The representative of the Republic of Korea said that the remarks of North Korea were always disappointing and “counter-factual”. The United Nations resolutions had clearly asked North Korea not to launch vehicles using ballistic technology, and all Member States were obliged to carry out the decisions of the Security Council. “The United Nations Charter is not an al carte menu.” North Korea could not reject parts of it, he said.
The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea said that his country had a clear position concerning United Nations Security Council resolutions and the launch of its satellite. North Korea resisted the sanctioning resolutions “cooked up by the United States” because those resolutions were meant to prevent a peaceful satellite launch. His country would continue to launch satellites to develop the national economy and improve its people’s lives, while ensuring transparency by abiding by international treaties.
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