Speakers highlighted two milestone anniversaries today — the launch of Sputnik I and the entry into force of the Outer Space Treaty — as the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) began its general debate on international cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space.
Ceren Hande Özgür (Turkey), Committee Vice‑Chair, observed that it had been 60 years since the Soviet Union’s launch of Sputnik I, the first artificial Earth satellite, and that 2017 also marked the fiftieth anniversary of the entry into force of the Outer Space Treaty, on 10 October 1967.
David Kendall (Canada), Chair of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, called attention to dramatic changes in space exploration since the launch of Sputnik I 60 years ago, and the increasing complexity of space issues before the Outer Space Committee. UNISPACE+50, to be held in 2018 in honour of 50 years of the Outer Space Committee’s existence, would strengthen its ability to respond to new realities, challenges and opportunities in the space arena. Drawing close links between outer space security and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, he pointed out that global development was reliant on the sustainability of activities in outer space. Dialogue between spacefaring and emerging space nations was therefore essential in that context, he stressed.
Indonesia’s representative agreed, noting on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) that, since the development and application of space‑based technologies required significant and specific resources, developing countries had not been able to reap their full benefits. The bloc therefore encouraged closer partnership among developing countries, developed countries and relevant international organizations and agencies, in building sustainable capacities in space science and technology.
Egypt’s representative said the 1967 Outer Space Treaty could no longer be seen as sufficient, considering recent technological developments. He called for new legally binding instruments, pointing out that existing legal instruments were inadequate to deter the further militarization of outer space or to prevent its weaponization. Egypt therefore supported the negotiation, within the Conference on Disarmament, of a new, legally binding instrument on the prevention of an arms race in outer space, he said.
Venezuela’s representative also called for a new, legally binding international agreement incorporating the principles of equity and verification. To that end, she welcomed the draft treaty proposed by China and the Russian Federation, saying it would open the negotiations on such an instrument and facilitate the preservation of outer space for peaceful exploration.
China’s representative noted that consultations on guidelines for the long‑term sustainability of outer space activities were now in their final stages, and called for a proper balance between the free and equitable use of outer space and the healthy and orderly development of space activities.
Others addressing the Committee included representatives of Iran, Argentina, Thailand, Israel, Namibia, Switzerland, Malaysia, Pakistan and Costa Rica, as well as the European Union delegation.
Also delivering a statement was the Director of the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs.
The Fourth Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 12 October, for a joint panel discussion with the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) on possible challenges to space security and sustainability. It will resume its general debate on international cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space at 10 a.m. on Friday, 13 October.
CEREN HANDE ÖZGÜR (Turkey), Committee Vice‑Chair, noted that 2017 was particularly notable in the history of space activities as the sixtieth year since the Soviet Union’s launch of Sputnik I, the first artificial Earth satellite, on 4 October 1957. The year also marked the fiftieth anniversary of the entry into force of the Outer Space Treaty, on 10 October 1967, he said, adding that those two significant milestones had been commemorated during International Space Week.
SIMONETTA DI PIPPO, Director, United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs, noted the closing of International Space Week at the United Nations and the fiftieth anniversary of the entry into force of the Outer Space Treaty. To celebrate that anniversary, the United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration had shared a video message from the International Space Station, she said.
In that video message, played for the Committee, astronauts noted that space exploration brought everyone together and described the International Space Station as a model for how nations could work together for the greater good. Scientific studies conducted at the Station would benefit everyone on Earth. Saluting the United Nations on the fiftieth anniversary of the Outer Space Treaty, the astronauts expressed pride in what the International Space Station represented.
DAVID KENDALL (Canada), Chair, Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, called attention to the dramatic changes in space exploration since the launch of Sputnik I 50 years ago, and the increasing complexity of space issues before the Committee. UNISPACE+50 in 2018 would strengthen the ability of Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space to respond to new realities, challenges and opportunities in the space arena, he said, adding that it would also support the broader efforts of the Secretary‑General to meet the targets of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
He went on to state that the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space continued to encourage dialogue between the General Assembly’s First (Disarmament and International Security) and Fourth (Special Political and Decolonization) Committees on space security and sustainability. Tomorrow’s panel discussion on challenges to security would contribute considerably to the international legal framework governing space activities.
The draft declaration before the Committees would work towards universalizing United Nations treaties on outer space, he continued, emphasizing that their implementation would be vital to strengthening the global framework governing space activities. Reiterating the close links between outer space security and the 2030 Agenda, he pointed out that global development was reliant on the sustainability of activities in outer space. Dialogue between the spacefaring and emerging space nations was essential to meeting those demands, he stressed.
INA HAGNININGTYAS KRISNAMURTHI (Indonesia), speaking on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), underlined the importance of General Assembly resolution 71/90 on the peaceful uses of outer space, urging all Member States to work intensively to prevent the possibility of an arms race in that arena. The Moon and other celestial bodies could not be appropriated by any State, she said, emphasizing that the use of outer space must remain strictly for improving living conditions and ensuring peace for humankind. Calling for regional and interregional cooperation in space activities, she reiterated the need to help States develop their capabilities and implement the relevant 2030 Agenda Sustainable Development Goals.
South‑East Asia had faced many natural disasters and ASEAN therefore attached high importance to the utility of space‑based technologies in enhancing capacity for disaster risk preparedness, response and mitigation, she continued. Such technologies would help to improve early warning systems and enable better search and rescue operations to save more lives. As such, ASEAN stressed the importance of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015‑2030, she said. The ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance on Disaster Management also used satellite images for its disaster management and response system, which underscored the importance of outer space for such purposes. Because the development and application of space‑based technologies required significant and specific resources, developing countries had not been able to reap their full benefits, she noted. ASEAN therefore encouraged a closer partnership with developed countries, as well as with relevant international organizations and agencies, in building sustainable capacities in space science and technology.
Speaking in her national capacity, she emphasized that international cooperation should be inclusive, taking especially into account the level of technological development of non‑spacefaring nations in advancing the use of outer space for peaceful purposes. The Committee had a vital role to play in bringing such States together with spacefaring States in order to enhance cooperation in building capacity in space technology and its applications. She expressed concern that no consensus had been reached on the definition and delimitation of outer space so as to clarify the boundary between airspace and outer space, thereby establishing legal certainty.
DIDIER LENOIR, European Union delegation, highlighted the global availability of the bloc’s Galileo and Copernicus platforms, saying they could enable users to harness space applications to improve food production, assist in pest control, broaden health and education services and monitor pollution and climate change. Disaster management and response were equally important, and would become more so in light of global warming.
Underlining the urgent need for international cooperation, he said UNISPACE+50 would present an opportunity to agree on a concrete agenda. He also stressed the need to tackle extreme space weather events and orbital debris, and applauded the work of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space Working Group on Long‑term Sustainability of Outer Space Activities. The European Union’s long‑term goals, he said, included greater cooperation in space, establishing standards of responsible behaviour in space, obtaining non‑interference commitments in relation to the peaceful exploration and use of outer space, and facilitating equitable access to outer space.
ESHAGH AL HABIB (Iran) said outer space should be freely accessible for exploration by all countries, and as such, it was important to adopt a universal, non‑discriminatory and comprehensive approach to outer space activities. Iran fully supported the United Nations Platform for Space‑based Information for Disaster Management and Emergency Response (UN‑SPIDER), which helped developing countries access space‑based information and apply space technology to disaster and risk management. As host to the Regional Support Office of UN‑SPIDER, Iran spared no effort in strengthening that platform, he emphasized, recalling that his country had hosted a workshop in 2016 that had raised awareness of the use of space technologies in monitoring drought as well as sand and dust storms. Such technologies would be particularly beneficial to countries in the Middle East, including Iran, which suffered such weather patterns, he noted.
MARTÍN GARCÍA MORITÁN (Argentina) underlined the importance of equal access to outer space, the non‑appropriation of space bodies by States, the non‑militarization of outer space, and the use of space activities strictly to improve life and ensure peace. Regional and international cooperation to those ends was vital, he emphasized, adding that cooperation was also essential to ensuring that the benefits of space activities reached developing countries. It was also vital to prevent an arms race in outer space, to monitor space debris and prohibit the stationing of nuclear weapons in outer space. Outer space should never become an instrument for spacefaring States to restrict their aspiring space counterparts, he said, stressing that international cooperation was crucial to Latin America and the Caribbean, specifically in allowing the exchange of knowledge and best practices. Space tools were also key in managing and mitigating the effects of disasters and the effects of climate change. The fiftieth anniversary of the Outer Space Treaty was an opportunity to reflect and look towards future goals, he said.
CHULACHAT KANJANA‑ORANSIRI (Thailand), associating himself with ASEAN, said that his country had applied space‑derived data to the management of water and land. Thailand had launched a project to improve agricultural efficiency and effectiveness, with geoinformatics covering 20 per cent of total agricultural areas. That had yielded better climate and disaster management as well as the development of early warning systems and search and rescue operations. International frameworks would be important in ensuring that outer space was preserved for peaceful uses, he said, emphasizing that the development of international law on outer space must be transparent and inclusive. Thailand was in the process of drafting a comprehensive national space strategy that would focus on different aspects of outer space use in terms of technology, innovation, knowledge and manpower, he said. However, it was still necessary to address significant gaps between developed and developing countries in terms of advances in space technology , he said, emphasizing the role of regional cooperation in that regard.
ROI ROSENBLIT (Israel) said the vastness of outer space had not prevented his tiny country from joining the space race. Since science and innovation were core to Israeli identity, reaching outer space remained a vital frontier. Noting that Israel was among the few countries with space launch capabilities and had reached numerous cooperation agreements with sister national space agencies, he said its Government looked forward to increasing its cooperation with the international space community on many issues, including space systems and subsystems, ground segment, space science and space exploration, Earth observation, communication and navigation. At the same time, the national private sector was an active partner in developing new space and satellite‑based applications and utilities, he said. He went on to highlight his country’s cooperation with France in launching the Venus satellite, saying it was capable of exploring geological, seismic and biodiversity changes using innovative technologies. The satellite was an innovative solution to food insecurity and brought the international community one step closer to realizing the Sustainable Development Goals, he added.
LINDA ANN SCOTT (Namibia), associating herself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, said outer space technology had many important and positive uses in relation to disaster risk management in such fields as weather and epidemiology surveillance. As a country with two large deserts, Namibia was prone to drought and flooding, she said, adding that it was also keen to utilize outer space technology for preventing desertification, spatial planning, monitoring crops and managing water resources. Space tools were an important means for implementing the Sustainable Development Goals, and the ability to use data and share knowledge would benefit developing countries, she said.
AHMED ELSHANDAWILY (Egypt) said the 1967 Outer Space Treaty could no longer be seen as sufficient, considering recent technological developments, and called for new legally binding instruments to fill many gaps because existing legal instruments were inadequate to deter the further militarization of outer space or prevent its weaponization. Egypt therefore supported the negotiation, within the Conference on Disarmament, of a new, legally binding instrument on the prevention of an arms race in outer space. Such an instrument would reinforce and enhance the effectiveness of the existing international regime on outer space and must be a priority, he stressed. While transparency and confidence‑building measures were important, they could not be a substitute, he stressed. Egypt had recently announced its intention to establish a national space agency that would contribute to sustainable development, coordinate peaceful space activities and develop international partnerships, he said.
Ms. ARCHINARD (Switzerland) noted that the use of space for peaceful purposes had evolved as a democratic process for the benefit of a growing number of people around the world, even though much remained to be done to widen access to such technology. Private actors were now participating in activities that had once been the exclusive domain of Governments by planning highly ambitious new space projects, she noted. However, there had been a sudden and worrying increase in the volume of space debris, she pointed out, calling for new precautions when conducting operations in that arena. The Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space played a key role in developing guidelines and making recommendations on increasing security and the long‑term sustainability of outer space activities, she said, welcoming its almost 10‑year‑long effort to establish such guidelines. The work was scheduled to be completed in June 2018. She called upon the many States involved in that effort to seek consensus on the draft guidelines still under discussion and on the working group report on the subject.
Ms. RODRIGUEZ (Venezuela) emphasized that the exploration and use of outer space must be exclusively peaceful and for the benefit of all States, whatever their level of development. She called for scrupulous respect for the principle of non‑militarization of outer space, adding that a possible arms race in that arena must be prevented by negotiating a new, legally binding international agreement incorporating the principles of equity and verification. To that end, Venezuela welcomed the draft treaty proposed by China and the Russian Federation, which would open the negotiation of such an instrument, which would facilitate the preservation of outer space for peaceful exploration. She went on to express concern about the launching of spy satellites, saying they jeopardized the principle of State sovereignty. Moreover, the reduction and removal of space debris must be prioritized in a way that would not place an excessive burden on State space programmes, she said.
NUR ASHIKIN BINTI MOHD TAIB (Malaysia), associating herself with ASEAN, said her country was committed to United Nations legal instruments on outer space. Malaysia’s key priorities for its National Space Policy 2030 consisted of building capacity in global navigation, satellite communication and Earth observation systems, she said. The commercialization of outer space raised a need to “define and delimit” outer space, thereby avoiding legal uncertainties about the applicability of air and space law, she added.
SAIMA SAYED (Pakistan) said it was the collective responsibility of humanity to keep outer space safe for future generations. Noting the growing reliance on space applications and the potential risk of weaponization, she said Pakistan consistently opposed the militarization of outer space because it posed a grave threat to humanity and would, in fact, impede progress towards long‑term sustainability. She said her country supported the recommendations contained in the report by the Group of Governmental Experts on Transparency and Confidence Building Measures in Outer Space Activities. Pakistan was increasing its own space‑related activities and considering an upgrade to its Institute of Space Technology in order to join the international network affiliated with the United Nations, she said.
LI YONGSHENG (China), noting that consultations on guidelines for the long‑term sustainability of outer space activities were now in their final stages, called for striking a proper balance between the free and equitable use of outer space and the healthy and orderly development of space activities. China continued to forge ahead in its peaceful use of outer space, with a new generation superheavy carrier rocket, Long March V, having successfully completed its maiden flight. The development and construction of the Chinese space station was in full swing, he added. The Government of China had issued a white paper on Chinese space activities in December, reaffirming its fundamental purpose and introducing its main tasks, specific plans and policy proposals for the coming five years.
He went on to state that China would pick up the pace towards becoming a major spacefaring nation and would continue its efforts in such areas as manned spaceflight, lunar exploration and Earth observation systems, among others. The Government had also expanded international exchanges to promote the sharing of the benefits from space activities. In June, China had successfully convened the Global Space Exploration Congress in Beijing, with 1,000 guests and delegates from 51 countries and regions in attendance, he recalled. On the use of satellite data for major disaster relief, he noted that in the course of 2017, such data had been made available for local relief efforts in Argentina, Chile, Madagascar, Australia and Bangladesh.
JUAN CARLOS MENDOZA-GARCÍA (Costa Rica) emphasized the need to build capacity in order to ensure that all humanity, particularly those from less developed countries, enjoyed the benefits of space activities. He noted that realizing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development would require the pooling of outer space resources and data. It was vital to care for outer space with the same attention and diligence devoted to caring for the planet, he stressed, describing the care and stewardship of outer space as a collective responsibility that could even promote gender equality, as illustrated by the United Nations Expert Meeting on Space for Women event held in New York City from 4 to 6 October.