Fifty-ninth General Assembly
37th Meeting* (AM)
GENERAL ASSEMBLY ENDORSES ACTION PLAN TO PROMOTE USE OF SPACE TECHNOLOGIES
FOR BENEFIT OF ALL, FOLLOWING REVIEW OF 1999 CONFERENCE
Endorsing a wide-ranging action plan to promote the exploration and peaceful uses of outer space, the General Assembly today unanimously adopted a resolution urging all States and international organizations to strengthen their efforts in promoting the use of space technologies for the benefit of all humankind, taking into particular account the interest of developing countries and involving civil society, including private industry.
Building on the Third United Nations Conference on the Exploration and Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UNISPACE III) -- held in Vienna in 1999 -- the text adopted in the Assembly today stresses the importance of following the guidelines set out in that Conference’s forward-looking outcome, “Space Millennium: Vienna Declaration on Space and Human Development”. That Declaration recognized that significant changes have occurred in the structure and content of world space activity, and the benefits and applications of space technologies in addressing unprecedented challenges to sustainable development, such as depletion of natural resources, loss of biodiversity and the effects of natural disasters.
By today’s text, the Assembly endorsed the Plan of Action set out by United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs in its annual report, which urges a focus on four main areas in the years ahead: the use of outer space to support overarching global agendas for sustainable development; developing coordinated global space capabilities; the use of space to support specific agendas to meet human development needs; and overall capacity development.
Also, the Assembly requested the Secretary-General to undertake measures to strengthen the Office’s role in implementing the UNISPACE III recommendations, particularly to strengthen its capacity-building activities in space law, and its technical advisory services to support the operational use of space technologies, particularly in response to actions called for in the Plan of Action.
As the Assembly began its five-year review of the implementation of the UNISPACE III recommendations, the Chairman of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space said the Conference’s Declaration contained a strategy to address global challenges through the use of space science and technology and their applications. Key actions called for in the Declaration covered such areas as protecting the Earth’s environment and managing its natural resources; using space applications to improve human security, development and welfare; advancing scientific knowledge of space; enhancing education and training opportunities; and strengthening the Organization’s space-related activities.
Delegations taking the floor during the debate stressed that increased action and cooperation on the recommendations of UNISPACE III would contribute to meeting some of the global development challenges identified by the United Nations Millennium Summit, the World Summit on Sustainable Development, and the World Summit on the Information Society.
They highlighted that the importance of space technologies went beyond information and communication, particularly for developing countries, and included meteorology, marine biology, disaster management and forecasting, as well as in emerging fields such as tele-medicine and tele-health, which transmitted data, medical care and instructions over long distances to remote locations.
The head of China’s National Space Administration said space technology increasingly penetrated into daily life, and also played an important role in efforts to achieve sustainable development. All countries should enjoy equal rights, and take an active part in the exploration and peaceful use of outer space, he said, adding that relevant activities should be conducive to global peace and security, human subsistence, and development.
The representative of Indonesia said the development of space science and technologies and their applications had provided unprecedented benefits, but in practical terms, such technologies had not reached all people or touched all nations uniformly. Indeed, while space technologies were extensively applied in the developed world, much of the developing world had received minimum benefits or had little access to their vast potential. Therefore, he believed that the rapid and doubtless life-altering advances in that field and their applications should focus squarely on mankind’s common interests and welfare, regardless of political and cultural differences or levels of socio-economic development.
Also speaking today were the representatives of the Netherlands (on behalf of the European Union and associated States), Japan, United States, Chile, Austria, France, Peru, Russian Federation, India, Mexico and Venezuela.
The representative of Nigeria introduced the draft resolution on the recommendations of UNISPACE III.
The Assembly will meet again tomorrow at 10:00 a.m. to take up items on cooperation between the United Nations and regional and other organizations.
The General Assembly met this morning to review implementation of the recommendations of the Third United Nations Conference on the Exploration and Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UNISPACE III), held in Vienna in July 1999.
Before the Assembly is a note by the Secretary-General transmitting the report of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (document A/59/174), which details the efforts made by Member States, organs of the United Nations system and other intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to give real effect to the possibilities for space application set out in “The Space Millennium: Vienna Declaration on Space and Human Development”, adopted at UNISPACE III. The report provides a road map for further development of space capabilities to advance human development, and calls the Assembly’s five-year review a “critical milestone” in the implementation of the Conference’s recommendations.
A wide range of space applications affects many aspects of people’s daily lives, the report says. In the broadest sense, the capabilities enabled by using space to observe, measure and allow instantaneous communications from any part of the globe to any other part have far-reaching implications. Space applications provide invaluable tools that can be used to address many of the global tasks facing us and to improve living conditions. These applications can be used in such areas as achieving a sustainable world, protecting the environment, enabling all people to benefit from global communications, better managing and alleviating the effects of natural disasters and enhancing capacity-building worldwide.
UNISPACE III was convened under the theme “Space benefits for humanity in the twenty-first century”, in order to promote and take advantage of new opportunities for international cooperation in space activities to address the challenges faced by humanity. The Conference’s primary objectives were: to promote effective means of using space solutions to address problems of regional or global significance; to strengthen Member States’ capabilities, especially developing countries, to use the results of space research for economic and cultural development; and to enhance global cooperation in space science and technology and its applications. The Vienna Declaration provides a strategy to address future global challenges through the use of space technology and its applications.
The report goes on to state that the implementation of the Conference’s recommendations support the overarching development agenda set by the Millennium Summit, the Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD), and the first phase of the two-part World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), in such areas as the eradication of poverty and hunger, education, health and the protection of the environment. The accomplishments to date in the follow-up to UNISPACE III provide many specific examples of the contributions of space science and technology and their applications in support of global and regional development agendas and in gaining benefits for society at large.
The establishment of “action teams” under the volunteer leadership of Member States proved to be a unique and effective mechanism for initiating the implementation of the UNISPACE III commitments. More than 50 Member States and some 40 intergovernmental organizations and NGOs, along with 15 entities from within the United Nations system, participated in the teams, which had made progress throughout the year and whose State-driven activities had made it possible to press ahead without sole reliance on the resources of the Secretariat. Based on that work, the Committee has set the pace for implementation, and its plan of action proposes other initiatives and identifies entities willing to undertake some of those actions. It recommends, among other things, ensuring the development of coordinated global space capacities, making space tools more widely accessible, and the establishment of the necessary frameworks for standards.
Also before the Assembly is a related draft resolution (document A/59/L.4), by which it would endorse the Plan of Action proposed by the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space -- which makes recommendations on the use of space to support overarching global agendas for sustainable development. The Assembly would also urge all governments, United Nations entities and intergovernmental and non-governmental entities conducting space-related activities to carry out the Plan as a priority for further implementation of the Conference’s recommendations.
Further, the Assembly would request the Secretary-General to undertake necessary measures to strengthen the role of the Office for Outer Space Affairs in implementing the UNISPACE III recommendations, particularly to strengthen the Office’s capacity-building activities in space law, and strengthen its technical advisory services to support the operational use of space technologies, in particular in response to actions called for in the Action Plan.
Statement by General Assembly President
JEAN PING (Gabon), President of the General Assembly, said the world body had gathered to assess the progress achieved over the past five years since the UNISPACE III. That Conference had led to the unanimous adoption of the forward-looking “Space Millennium: Vienna Declaration on Space and Human Development”, which the Assembly had subsequently endorsed. The Declaration contained a strategy to increase benefits of space science applications and technologies for society as a whole, particularly through action and initiatives that complemented overall global human development goals.
Highlighting some of the important plans and programmes that had been initiated since UNISPACE III, he said that, to date, five space agencies had placed their expertise at the service of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space and its subsidiary bodies, as well as other agencies, free of charge, to help mitigate the effects of mudslides, earthquakes and other natural disasters, which mostly affected developing countries. He also drew attention to groundbreaking medical, health and disease monitoring programmes, as well as increased promotion of the uses of satellite technology to promote development, particularly in Africa. Now the task of the Assembly was to evaluate what had been achieved and to recommend the way ahead.
Introduction of Report, Draft
ADIGUN ADE ABIODUN, Chairman of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, introduced the Committee’s report, saying that the UNISPACE III Declaration contained a strategy to address global challenges through the use of space science and technology and their applications. Key actions called for in the Declaration covered such areas as protecting the Earth’s environment and managing its natural resources; using space applications to improve human security, development and welfare; advancing scientific knowledge of space; enhancing education and training opportunities; and strengthening the Organization’s space-related activities.
Using unique methods, chiefly the “action teams” being led by volunteer governments, the Committee had played a central role in coordinating implementation of the Conference’s recommendations. The teams, working with intergovernmental organizations and civic groups in their respective States, had made significant progress throughout the year based on policy guidelines set by the Committee. The Committee and its action teams had not been working alone, as several countries, their space agencies and space-related institutions, as well as United Nations agencies, had carried out complementary activities.
On the report itself, he drew the Assembly’s attention to a closing chapter, which outlined the strategy for the way forward. That Plan of Action urged a focus on four main areas in the years ahead: the use of outer space to support overarching global development goals; developing coordinated global space capabilities; the use of space to support specific agendas to meet human development needs; and overall capacity development.
AMINU WALI (Nigeria) introduced the related draft resolution, saying the text should help reinforce public interest in and support for the exploration and peaceful uses of outer space. He also outlined some of Nigeria’s efforts towards such implementation, most importantly in the area of disaster management. The Government had launched, with Algeria, Turkey, China and the United Kingdom, its “NigeriaSat-1”, one of a set of satellites that made up the innovative Disaster Management Constellation. Nigeria also participated in a programme that had placed a series of beacons in a number of West African countries to assist with search and rescue missions.
ARJAN HAMBURGER (Netherlands), speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, said he considered the application of space technology as one of the tools for improving human living conditions. Space activities had the capacity to contribute to meeting many important development goals. Therefore, he welcomed the work initiated by the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS) in the implementation of the recommendations of UNISPACE III. The Committee’s report clearly demonstrated the benefits of using space technology in meeting worldwide development goals.
The recommendations of UNISPACE III, he noted, contributed to meeting some challenges set by the United Nations Millennium Summit, the World Summit on Sustainable Development, and the World Summit on the Information Society. Those challenges included eradication of extreme poverty and hunger; achieving sustainable development and protecting the environment; better managing and alleviating the effects of disasters; and strengthening overarching capacity development, including bridging the digital divide. The recommendations for further action, as contained in the Plan of Action of the report, addressed several important areas for improving human living conditions, such as the development of a comprehensive worldwide environmental monitoring strategy and the protection of the Earth’s environment and the management of its resources, among others.
The European Space Agency, he continued, played an important role, as many of the principles and goals of UNISPACE III corresponded with the Agency’s primary goals and were the basis of its cooperation activities. The European Union attached great importance to the work that was done so far, and encouraged all involved to continue to do so with the same effort. Bearing in mind the importance that Member States, governmental and non-governmental entities attached to UNISPACE III and the synergy between UNISPACE III and the Summits, he believed that adequate funding should be made available for the implementation of the recommendations.
HIROSHI ISHIKAWA (Japan) said Japan had served as chair of the action team on enhancing capacity-building through the development of human and budgetary resources, which had proposed a number of recommendations, including the sharing of educational materials and information, and coordination of international activities on capacity-building. It was Japan’s hope that by working together with nations and organizations participating in the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, it would be possible to contribute to the education and training of the next generation in the fields of space development and utilization and space science.
Japan had participated in, and contributed to, activities of other actions teams, such as those on environmental monitoring; natural resources management; and weather and climate forecasting. On disaster management, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency had applied to join the International Charter “Space and Major Disasters”, and was now participating in Charter activities as an observer. As a reflection of the growing concern about global environmental problems, the “Action Plan on Science and Technology for Sustainable Development” was adopted at the Evian Group of Eight (G-8) Summit last June. That plan recognized Earth observation as one of three important fields in which efforts should be concentrated in the future. The importance of Earth observation was also acknowledged during the first Earth Observation Summit held last July.
Space was a common frontier for all mankind and, as such, offered infinite possibilities, he added. The international community should look beyond national borders to help bring the benefits derived from space activities not only to the citizens of the countries engaged in space activities, but to all mankind.
KENNETH HODGKINS (United States) said that in the past four decades, the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space had developed and adopted five major outer space treaties, and promulgated valuable standards that served as international principles. In doing so, the Committee had generated nothing less than an entirely new branch of international law. It had also acted as a catalyst, promoting international cooperation in space activities and fostering a broad information exchange among developed and developing countries on the latest advances in space exploration and the beneficial results.
The United States was especially pleased with the breadth and scope of the topics considered at UNISPACE III, as well as the extensive involvement of leading scientists, government officials, and private sector representatives. The emphasis on space applications, private space activities, and potential opportunities for cooperation now and into the next century made the programme of work highly relevant to the needs of developed and developing countries. His country was encouraged that UNISPACE III produced recommendations and conclusions that supported its overall objectives. Among them were broader participation in activities related to the monitoring and understanding of the Earth and its environment; identification of new areas conducive to international cooperation; and dissemination of information on space research areas and strategies for developing countries.
The United States supported the Plan of Action of UNISPACE III, he continued, and intended to work at the national and international level to ensure that as many of the recommendations as possible were fulfilled. He was particularly pleased with the unique contribution that the action teams made to those efforts. Under the voluntary leadership of governments, that innovative mechanism had allowed the participation of governmental and non-governmental entities in the follow-up of UNISPACE III while preserving the pivotal role of Member States.
SUN LAIYAN, Administrator, National Space Administration of China, said space technology could be used for the peaceful exploration, development and utilization of outer space, and was one of the most influential technologies in the world today. Space technology increasingly and extensively penetrated into daily life, and had also played an important role in endeavours to achieve sustainable development. The Vienna Declaration was an instrument with historical significance, and its positive impact would enhance the peaceful uses of space science and technology; reinforce international space cooperation; and promote economic development and social progress of all countries, especially the developing countries.
The exploration and development of outer space, he continued, should be for peaceful applications and for the benefit of all people. All countries should enjoy equal rights, and take an active part in the exploration and peaceful use of outer space. All activities in outer space should be conducive to international peace and security, and to human subsistence and development. Therefore, he advocated closer international space cooperation, based on equality, mutual benefit and common progress. China would continue to reinforce space cooperation with developing countries. It would also continue its cooperation with developed countries to enhance capacity-building of developing countries, and for economic and social development through space technology and its applications.
As a developing country, China always defined its space programme based on realistic needs and a long-term strategy for its national development, he said. Its next five-year plan would focus on satellite application and the development of large capacity, high quality and enduring telecommunication satellites, so as to gradually consolidate China’s satellite telecommunications industry. It would also continue research on human space flight programmes, lunar orbiting engineering, and deep space exploration, among others, so as to facilitate the sustainable development of China’s space programme.
T.A. SAMODRA SRIWIDJAJA (Indonesia) said the development of space science and technologies and their applications had provided unprecedented benefits in the areas of education, health, environmental monitoring, management of natural resources, disaster management, meteorological forecasting, and satellite navigation and communication. However, the practical benefits of such technologies had not reached all people or touched all nations uniformly. Indeed, while space technologies were extensively applied in the developed world, much of the developing world had received minimum benefits or had little access to their vast potential. Therefore, he believed that the rapid and doubtless life-altering advances in that field and their applications should focus squarely on mankind’s common interests and welfare, regardless of political and cultural differences or levels of socio-economic development.
Indonesia supported strengthening inter-agency cooperation and increasing the use of space science within and among United Nations agencies, he continued. But while some degree of United Nations-led cooperation had been underway for a while now, it was felt that the patterns and methods of such activities, especially in the area of technology transfer, had not necessarily resulted in wide-scale technological advances and related human resource development in most developing countries, which were required to undertake self-sustaining and an ever-increasing number of space activities on their own. He supported all efforts to implement the UNISPACE III recommendations, and believed that steps should be taken to harmonize those recommendations with the follow-up of major United Nations conferences, such as the Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) and the first phase of the two-part World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), as well as the Millennium Summit.
RAIMUNDO GONZALEZ ANINAT (Chile) said satellite technologies were a vital tool for creating conditions of sustainable development and human security. That was set out in the Vienna Declaration, adopted at UNISPACE III, in which the private sector and industry had actively participated for the first time. The careful study of the positive effects of space applications, conducted at the Conference, merely confirmed that space technology had enormous potential to address and resolve all those problems that prevented individuals and nations from achieving acceptable levels of security and human development. At the national level, it was necessary to disseminate information and promote awareness on the substantial work done on the issue of outer space.
Progress had been made in raising awareness in institutions of the United Nations and at relevant international conferences, he said. It was now up to governments to transform the recommendations into actions and tangible benefits for their peoples, based on the critical mass that was now available and which would gradually increase. Yet, the lack of firm political will to develop appropriate space-related plans and institutions was an obstacle to the promotion of human development projects. There was no human activity today that could not be approached using technology, he said. The mapping of natural resources, migrations, control of infectious diseases, control of drug trafficking and small arms, among others, were examples of the potential use of that technology.
In all of them, he continued, the direct beneficiary or victim, depending on the use made of satellite images, was man. However, structural impediments required an additional effort on the part of governments. Much of mankind lacked access to knowledge and equal education. Hunger and poverty would persist despite the fact that space applications could be used to improve yields, develop new crops and manage coastal resources.
WALTHER LICHEM (Austria) said that when looking at governance systems for space exploration and technology development, the international community could observe an institutional evolution, which could almost be described as a model for many sectoral management systems at the global level. Few other issues on the global agenda had been able to demonstrate similar achievements in innovation, cooperation and support, vis-à-vis links between government, space agencies, the scientific community, academia and the private sector. Parliaments had taken an interest in the development of space capacities. The European Inter-parliamentary Space Conference met last fall, and concluded that the use of space was essential for a better definition and more efficient implementation of European Union policies both with regard to the space sector and the application of space technology.
Space had now been recognized in its capacity to address the challenges of the international community, and consequently to support efforts in achieving the objectives defined by the Millennium Summit, he said. Yesterday’s panel discussion reflected the new focus on the potential of space technology. The institutional challenge now was to further develop links between space and the socio-economic and environmental agendas at national, regional and global levels. But significant first steps had already been taken, including cooperation within the Group on Earth Observation, the role of space in disaster reduction management, and the application of space for water resources development and use in the European Space Agency’s TIGER programme for Africa.
GÉRARD BRACHET (France) said that each of the three United Nations Conferences on the exploration and peaceful uses of outer space had contributed significantly towards the promotion of international cooperation on the uses of outer space and the use of space and science technologies for the whole of mankind. In 1999, UNISPACE III had highlighted the importance of monitoring near-Earth space, as well as promoting scientific exploration and research for wider human development. It had also spotlighted the extent to which space technology could contribute to a broad range of human needs, beyond traditional communications and satellite technologies.
Some of those contributions included advances in meteorology, marine biology, disaster management, and tele-medicine, thanks to distance teaching technologies. Outer space had now become an intensive and growing realm for international cooperation, he said. For its part, France had made specific investments to the Committee’s disaster management and alternative financing teams. It would also contribute to increasing regional cooperation in the space field. He highlighted the major role of the United Nations in implementing the strategy laid out at UNISPACE III. Progress in space use and exploration was in the interest of all mankind, and France would continue to support the United Nations space-related efforts and to play an important role in the work of the Committee.
VITALIANO GALLARDO (Peru) said UNISPACE III was the continuation of decades of preoccupation by the international community on how to harness the peaceful use of outer space for the service of all States, based on cooperation. Following the cold war, the fast-paced era of technological change and the acceleration of globalisation, the international community had now decided to use space to support the Millennium Development Goals, in order to attain social development and fulfil related needs in the fight against social exclusion. Information and its transmission were becoming the core of all activities, he noted, while stating that the acquisition of new technologies improved one’s ability to develop. In that respect, he welcomed the advances made to date.
The great advances made at UNISPACE III were in direct contrast to the obstacles faced, he said. There was reticence, for example, to take any political decisions. The topic of space also raised a number of questions. For example, was it more important to find water on other bodies in space than to improve water management on Earth? The approach of UNISPACE III in linking outer space issues with social issues converged not only with Peru’s own interests but also with those of the international community. Those interests were education, health, information, poverty eradication, disaster prevention, humanitarian assistance and eventually conflict prevention.
STEPAN Y. KUZMENKOV (Russian Federation) highly commended the results in the implementation of the decisions taken at UNISPACE III. The Conference had noted the valuable contribution of space science and technology in improving the welfare of mankind throughout the world. It also pointed to the need for the further intensification of international cooperation in that sphere. He was convinced that work should continue under the aegis of the United Nations.
He agreed that the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, with the assistance of working groups especially created for the task, had already done a great deal of work in implementing the decisions of UNISPACE III. At the same time, he said that the necessity stipulated in the Vienna Declaration for preserving outer space for peaceful uses still had not received due attention. He called for the active discussion of that issue. He also expressed gratitude to the delegation of Nigeria for preparing the draft resolution on the issue, which fully reflected the results of the five years of work on implementation. Finally, he said that his delegation supported the adoption of the resolution.
KIRIP CHALIHA (India) said he agreed with the assessment given in the report of the Committee on the progress made so far in implementing the recommendations of UNISPACE III. Considerable momentum had been generated in realizing the importance of space to meet developmental challenges. The activities carried out so far, including the detailed work by the action teams, could be termed as the initial phase of the implementation of UNISPACE III recommendations. He noted certain challenges, identified in the report, in the implementation of the recommendations, such as limited awareness among policy makers on the benefits of space activities; limited financial resources to implement the recommendations; limited expertise in space matters, especially in developing countries; and engaging the private sector to work with governments and inter-governmental organizations as partners in the implementation of the recommendations.
Member States should enable the Committee and the Office for Outer Space Affairs (OOSA) to take the implementation of UNISPACE III recommendations to the next level, he said. States could take pride in the initiative of UNISPACE III only when concrete results were realized to the benefit of developing countries. The Assembly could provide support at two levels, namely at the political level in putting weight behind the Committee and the Office, and by specifically mandating the implementation of the detailed action plans recommended by the action teams. The availability of funds to implement those recommendations required strong support from the Assembly. He called on Member States to encourage the private sector industry in the space field to contribute to the trust fund established for that purpose.
AMPARO ANGUIANO (Mexico) said today’s debate held specific significance as it was taking place just ahead of next year’s mid-term review of efforts to meet the objectives set out in the Millennium Declaration, and the goals of other United Nations conferences and meetings of the 1990s. Mexico supported all initiatives aimed at enhancing cooperation on the peaceful uses of outer space. It also supported efforts to ensure that the benefits of space-related science and technologies benefited all humankind. It further supported efforts to strengthen the legal framework that regulated the use of outer space. Mexico had participated in regional plans and programmes focused on disaster management, among others. At the national level, it had established an innovative tele-medicine and tele-health project to promote medical care through satellite, audio, video and data transmission.
IMERIA NUÑEZ DE ODREMÁN (Venezuela) said outer space was the common heritage of all mankind and no nation had the right to claim it or be given special rights to exercise unilateral privileges. She supported the proposal of China and the Russian Federation to establish a legal convention to prevent the deployment of weapons to outer space. Venezuela had signed three out of five United Nations treaties related to the protection of outer space. Her country was also opposed to the testing of nuclear weapons in space, as well as under the sea.
Action on Draft
The Assembly then adopted, without a vote, the draft resolution contained in A/59/L.4, as orally amended by India and Nigeria.
* *** *