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GA/SPD/560
15 October 2014
Sixty-ninth session, 8th Meeting (AM)

‘Fill the Knowledge Gap’ in Outer Space Technology, Avoid Militarization, Finalize Code of Conduct, Urge Speakers in Fourth Committee

Equitable access to and effective harnessing of space knowledge and technology were critical to the success of the post-2015 sustainable development agenda, the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) heard today, as it began its consideration of international cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space.

Indeed, the benefits of space technology applications and the use of space-derived data and information were important tools for meeting global development needs, said Committee Chair, Durga Prasad Bhattarai ahead of a panel discussion today. He noted it had been agreed by the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space at its fifty-seventh session this year.

The Committee heard that, while tremendous but uneven progress had been broadly made on the Millennium Development Goals, many least developed countries were far off track and unlikely to meet their targets.  Even if those were achieved, they would be only a start, because the Goals, for example, were about halving poverty, not eradicating it.  Efforts were under way to identify and implement technological platforms, including space tools, in support of the much broader sustainable development goals.

The United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs, the Committee was told, worked on four pillars: space economy that created and provided value; space society in a social sustainable environment; space accessibility for the benefit of every human being; and space diplomacy to establish knowledge-based, international partnerships.

Also discussed were Algeria’s space programme and its contributions to reinforcing national and regional capacity with applications in such diverse areas as agriculture, town planning, water, and infrastructure.

In the interactive dialogue that followed, the representative of Iran asked how the UN-SPIDER knowledge portal had been assisting Member States in developing countries and what feedback had been received. He also asked how Iran’s space agencies benefited from such networks.

Noting the frequent natural disasters his country faced, the representative of Chile said previous panels had not led to concrete plans for regional cooperation on addressing such disasters.  The representative of Somalia asked how his country could best benefit from the information presented, particularly given its series of droughts and floods.

In response, the Committee heard, among other things, that UN-SPIDER was working to reach out to more countries, be “more present” overall, and follow up with beneficiary countries.

After the panel discussion, the Chair of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space presented its report, stressing that the body had made “extraordinary contributions” and was serving as a “unique platform” for international cooperation.  Regular mechanisms played a vital role in enhancing cooperation between space-faring States and others in the interest of common benefit, he added.

When the floor was opened for statements, the representative of Thailand, speaking on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), stressed the indispensability of regional and international cooperation in space promotion, and encouraged developed countries to assist developing ones in order to fill the knowledge gap.  Following the tsunamis of 2004, ASEAN recognized the utility of space-based data in improving early-warning systems and rescue operations, he said. 

Speaking in his national capacity, the representative called for an all-inclusive and transparent approach to finalizing an international code of conduct for outer space activities.

Speaking on behalf of Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR), the representative of Argentina stressed the sovereign right of every State to develop outer space for the benefits of human development.  That, he said, should be done on an equal footing without allowing anyone to appropriate or militarize outer space.

The representative of the European Union Delegation, highlighting the group’s unique space capabilities that made it a world-class leader, underscored his commitment to developing an international code of conduct.  He called on all States to join the Union in concluding that multilateral process, as such an instrument would make an “indispensable contribution to enhancing the safety, security and sustainability of outer space activities”.

The representative of Chile, pointing to a “Gordian knot” in terms of space legislation, said some key treaties were the product of the security-dominated cold-war era, whereas today’s world was one of global cooperation and new technologies.  There was a need to build capacity to consume the abundance of information available, he said, stressing the imperative of developing a conceptual framework on the global commons.

Also making statements were the representatives of Israel, Guatemala and Mexico.

The Committee will meet again at 10 a.m., Wednesday, 16 October, to resume consideration of international cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space.

Background

The Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) met this morning for a panel discussion on international cooperation on the peaceful uses of outer space and to begin its annual debate on the agenda item.  Before the Committee were documents A/69/20 and A/C.4/69/L.2.

Panel Discussion

The panellists comprised Azzedine Oussedik, Director General of the Algerian Space Agency and the Chair of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space; Simonetta Di Pippo, Director of the Office for Outer Space Affairs of the Secretariat; and David O’Connor, Chief Policy and Analysis Branch of the Division for Sustainable Development, Department of Economic and Social Affairs.

In brief opening remarks, Committee Chair Mr. Durga Prasad Bhattarai noted that the panel discussion, agreed by the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space at its fifty-seventh session earlier in the year, said the benefits of space technology applications and the use of space-derived data and information provided important tools for meeting global development needs.

Mr. O’Connor, speaking on sustainable development goals as a central tenet of the post-2015 agenda, said there was tremendous but uneven progress on the Millennium Development Goals.  There were still many least developed countries far off track and not likely to meet their targets.  Even if those were achieved, that would only be a start, because the Goals were about halving poverty, and not eradicating it.  The Rio+20 Conference stressed implementation mechanisms, including financing and technology use.  As part of promoting science-policy interface, the Open Working Group had forwarded its proposals to the General Assembly, which made them part of the post-2015 agenda.

As the Sustainable Development Goals broadened the Millennium Development Goals and targets, he said, efforts were under way to identify and implement technological platforms to bolster that agenda.  One input to the Secretary-General’s proposals in advance of the September 2015 summit included the role and use of data in the promotion of various dimensions of sustainable development.  To measure progress, there was a need for relevant indicators, which the United Nations was currently working on identifying.  Also being explored were ways of incorporating non-conventional sources of data to support indicators, including real-time information through the use of new technologies.

Speaking next, Ms. Di Pippo, highlighted the emergence and evolution of her Office and described achievements, including treaties and agreements governing outer space.  The Office was working towards promoting peaceful uses of outer space through workshops, initiatives, fellowships, and regional centres.  Its “UN-SPIDER” network allowed all countries to benefit from knowledge and initiatives developed in the area, she added.

At the same time, she said, the Office implemented the decisions of the General Assembly and of the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space.  She highlighted the capability-building activities and workshops in support of the Millennium Development Goals and application of space technology. Outer space could also be used as a catalyst for development.  There was a clear reference in the Rio+20 agenda to the importance of space-based data for sustainable development goals and ways of achieving them.  Space could be used in a helpful way in all main topics in that area, she said, underscoring its specific role in capacity-building.

Turning to disaster management, she said the UN-SPIDER programme was helping countries in response and recovery, and creating a bridge between providers and users of information.  Ways of using Earth observation technology to promote sustainable development would be discussed at a conference in Bonn next year.  The strategic choices for space use were: promoting space technology applications, improving the safety of space operations, and interlinking science, technology, policy and law for space activities.  The Office was working on four pillars: space economy that created and provided value; space society in a social sustainable environment; space accessibility for the benefit of every human being; and space diplomacy to establish knowledge-based international partnerships.

In his presentation, Mr. Oussedik spoke about Algeria’s space programme, which comprised space applications, projects, and facilities.  The Algerian Earth observation satellite, Alsat-1, launched in 2002, had been the first of five satellites of the Disaster Monitoring Constellation.  Its successor, launched in 2010, reinforced national capacity by building a satellite development centre, and mobilizing and training Algerian engineers.  The Alcomsat-1 initiative was aimed at promoting autonomy and responding to national knowledge needs in communication technology.  The African Resource Management Satellite Constellation — a regional consortium — was being developed to broaden the use of space technology.  Further versions of the programme were envisaged into the next decade and beyond.

Algeria, he went on, was engaged in bilateral cooperation with Argentina, United Kingdom, France, Russian Federation, India, Republic of Korea, South Africa, Malaysia, and China, and was working out initiatives with the United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration of the United States (NASA).  In addition, the country was involved in several multilateral space cooperation frameworks, he said.  Also, development agencies in Algeria were using services in pursuit of diverse areas of development, including agriculture, town planning, water, and infrastructure.  Countries in the region were also benefiting from Algerian space imagery in different areas, he said, highlighting the role of the ASAL-Observatory of Sahara and Sahel project, which aimed at promoting resilience of the populations there.

The representative of Iran, in the discussion that followed, asked questions about UN-SPIDER, particularly concerning its emergency response.  He wondered what exactly were the services and assistance rendered to developing countries, and what feedback had been received from those countries.  He also wondered if there were any networks dealing with natural disasters and, specifically, how Iran’s space agencies could benefit from such networks.

The representative of Chile commended this morning’s presentations noting that his country had organized a number of panels.  Unfortunately, Chile was one of the countries with the most natural disasters and earthquakes.  He said previous panels had provided similar information, but those had not led to a plan or projection for regional cooperation or the launch of projects on natural disasters.  He recalled that no convention on natural disasters had been put in place following the panels, while the victims of natural disasters continued to suffer.  He hoped that a legal framework and concrete actions devoted to developing countries and the implementation of the post-2015 development agenda would follow.

The representative of Somalia asked how best his country could benefit from the information presented.  Somalia, he said, had a problem of drought and flooding, and he asked what plan could be put in place to address that.

Ms. Di Pippo, noting that delegates’ questions had focused mainly on the UN-SPIDER programme, described what had been done to improve its activities.  UN-SPIDER had been well-developed and funded from available resources, but it still needed to expand its activities by reaching out to more countries and being “more present” overall.  Concerning Iran’s question on feedback, she stated that one of the goals for next year was to establish further follow up with the countries they were working with, and improve the monitoring and measurement of the activities put in place.  She recalled that the UN-SPIDER, with only two main contributors, needed additional funding and more contributors and donors, so as to develop a strategic plan and support more countries.

Presentation of Report

Mr. OUSSEDIK, Chair of the Committee for the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, presenting the report of the Committee, stressed its activities during the past year as well as those of its subcommittees.  The Committee had made extraordinary contributions since its establishment, and was serving as a unique platform for international cooperation.  It was working to develop a common platform for the use of space tools in furtherance of the sustainable development agenda, he said, adding that the post-2015 agenda required universally acceptable transformative tools to measure implementation of specified goals and targets.

Concerted efforts were required to monitor the environment, he said, and underscored the imperative of enhancing cooperation on accessing and sharing space-derived data.  The Committee, during its session earlier this year, urged Member States to reinforce inter-governmental processes to share such data in the pursuit of national, regional, and global sustainable development efforts.  Regular mechanisms played a vital role in enhancing cooperation of space-faring States and others in the interest of common benefit, he said, highlighting recent efforts made in this direction.  The Committee had made constant endeavours to build capacity in the use of space tools, he said, calling for greater focus on ways of improving their use in the promotion of the sustainable development agenda.

Statements

NORACHIT SINHASENI (Thailand), on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), was committed to working with the Outer Space Committee to promote the peaceful use of outer space.  ASEAN appreciated the discussions on space and sustainable development. Close cooperation at regional and international levels was indispensable to promote space technology; ASEAN encouraged developed countries to assist developing countries in order to fill the knowledge gap. Following the tsunamis of 2004, ASEAN recognized the utility of space-based data in improving early-warning systems and rescue operations. ASEAN reiterated its concern regarding the issue of space debris, which posed a communications risk.

Speaking in his national capacity, he noted that Thailand, a member of the Outer Space Committee, was committed to promoting the peaceful uses of outer space in order to better people’s lives. Thailand commended the European Union’s initiative during the open-ended consultations on the international code of conduct for outer space activities; he underlined, however, the need to maintain an inclusive and transparent approach to finalize the consultation.

In closing, he reaffirmed the commitment by ASEAN to the peaceful uses of outer space, stressing that space use must respect the principles of sovereignty, territorial integrity, and equal access for all States. He emphasized the need to prevent an arms race in the outer space. In order to ensure the sustainability and security of the space environment, he supported the discussion to lay down legal principles for outer space activities.

MATEO ESTREME (Argentina), speaking on behalf of Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR), attached great importance to the international cooperation and peaceful use of outer space.  MERCOSUR was satisfied with the activities done by the Outer Space Committee throughout 2013, acting as a guarantor of the peaceful use of outer space, and promoting international dialogue.  He expressed the importance of the sovereign right of every State to develop outer space for the benefits of human development.  With that, he noted the following points: access to outer space should be on an equal footing; the non-appropriation of outer space must be respected; the non-militarization of outer space; regional cooperation — in the case of the MERCOSUR region, that would require the continued process of cooperation and seminars in the Americas.

He stressed the primary importance of preventing an arms race in outer space, as that would avert a serious threat to international peace and security.  His region was aware that the increasing use of outer space could have unforeseeable impacts, such as space debris, which must be managed as that could affect the sustainability of space.  MERCOSUR believed international and regional cooperation was extremely important, especially for developing countries, as that would allow them to benefit from the technological progress made over the last years in space.  One priority was to develop synergy and create awareness of space and technology activities to spur development.  The impact of natural disasters was a matter of great concern, and the increasing effort to improve knowledge of space-disaster prevention was a must.  MERCOSUR supported the peaceful development of outer space and a legal order for space, taking into account the specific needs of developing countries.

IOANNIS VRAILAS, representative of the European Union Delegation, said that the Union had developed unique space capabilities, which made it a world-class leader in space.  It had co-funded a state-of-the-art global satellite navigation system, Galileo, which guaranteed global positioning service under civilian control.  It had also backed the ambitious Copernicus satellite programme, which he said had gotten off to “a flying start”.  Stressing the increasing importance of satellite navigation technologies, he gauged that 6 to 7 per cent of the European Union’s gross domestic product (GDP) relied on positioning, navigation or timing services provided by the European Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS); that had resulted in new business opportunities in a wide variety of sectors, regionally and worldwide.

He underscored the European Union’s commitment to developing an international code of conduct for outer space activities, and said that his region had offered all Member States the opportunity to share their views.  Following three rounds of consultations, the Union had prepared revised versions of the code, which was in near-final form.  Towards that end, he called on all States to join the Union in concluding that multilateral process, as a code of conduct would make an “indispensable contribution to enhancing the safety, security and sustainability of outer space activities”.

ISRAEL NITZAN (Israel) said that the significant developments in space research and exploration in the past decade provided opportunities for global cooperation, from which every nation could benefit.  The past two decades had witnessed a dramatic intensification of space-related activities.  Eleven countries, including Israel, had space-launch capability, and more than 60 countries owned and operated approximately 1,200 active satellites.  Such assets offered a wide spectrum of civilian, commercial, and humanitarian-related services, many of them essential.  For that reason, Israel had signed cooperative agreements with sister space agencies from various countries.  Committed to international cooperation, his country had recently acceded to the United Nations Platform for Space-based Information for Disaster management and Emergency Response.

He noted that Israel’s public and private sectors were striving for innovation and technological excellence in space research.  One of its five main objectives was to position the State among the five leading space-faring nations.  Israel’s strategic vision was to reach that objective through international cooperation; it invested almost 50 per cent of the National Civil Space Program’s budget in global partnerships.  Additionally, Israel was working closely with its partners in the United States and Europe in the fields of Earth and environmental monitoring and soil mapping.  Other areas of work included supernova detection and tracking, light-weight satellites and satellite formation flying, as well as micro-electrical propulsion systems and nano- and micro-satellites.

MÓNICA BOLAÑOS PÉREZ (Guatemala) said the work done by the Committee and Subcommittee was of particular importance for developing countries.  In that regard, the increase of international and regional cooperation must be strengthened.  Because of the unique opportunity to increase the role of space and technology, Guatemala attached great importance to agreement on common goals for the development of outer space and its future activities.  Strengthening the legal framework and developing international space law to prevent its militarization was another priority.  She recalled that sustainability of space activities could only be done by reducing space debris and limiting their proliferation.  Outer space development must be made available to all States, and its use must be guided by international law.  The rapid increase in space activities required synergies to promote understanding by all.  She added that applying international law could minimize dispute on space activities; only discussions would ensure that all activities were for the benefit of all countries, and guarantee the peaceful activities of outer of space.

RAIMUNDO GONZALEZ (Chile), associating with MERCOSUR, drew the Committee’s attention to a “Gordian knot” in terms of space legislation.  Five treaties had been adopted as well as fundamental principles to guide the peaceful use of outer space.  While there was a constant reiteration of the existence of treaties, he said, some of those were the product of the cold-war era; they were biased and had not kept up with new dynamics in technology.  At the advent of the space era, there was traditional cooperation determined by the paradigm of international security.  Over time, as the geopolitical map changed, access to strategic knowledge on space technology needed to be promoted in the interest of collective benefit.  There also was need to build capacity to consume the abundance of information, he said, stressing the imperative of developing a conceptual framework on the global commons.RICARDO ALDAY GONZÁLEZ (Mexico) renewed his country’s appeal for international and regional cooperation for the peaceful development of outer space.  The Outer Space Committee and subcommittee enhanced throughout the world the role of space instruments and their development.  In the framework of space debris, Mexico welcomed efforts by Canada, Germany, and the Czech Republic, to address the effects and measure of space debris with the aim of reducing it.

Mexico urged participating States to formalize proposals relating to the development of an international convention for outer space.  He responded positively to the European foreign action service participating in three consultations, to prepare a code of conduct on space activities, security, and sustainability, as well as confidence-building measures.  The code of conduct should be in line with international law.  The current proposal was not a binding instrument, and it should not include militarization, right of self-defence, or the destruction of space objects.  In his view, that instrument should be the result of a multilateral process.  Those countries that had not ratified the Outer Space Treaty should consider doing so.  The international symposium on space technology would take place next week, and he hoped it would strengthen international and regional efforts.

For information media. Not an official record.