The Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) approved four draft resolutions and a draft decision today, concluding its general debate on international cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space.
By a recorded vote of 124 in favour to 22 against, with 6 abstentions (Bangladesh, China, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Ghana, Kazakhstan, Malaysia), the Committee approved a draft decision titled “election of officers nominated for the bureaux of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space and its subsidiary bodies for the period 2018-2019” (document A/C.4/72/L.8).
By the terms of that text, the General Assembly would note that, in accordance with the agreement reached by the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space at its forty-sixth session — on measures relating to the future composition of its bureaux and those of its subsidiary bodies — regional groups had nominated their candidates for various positions for the period 2018-2019. The Assembly would, buy other terms, endorse the composition of those bureaux and agree that the Outer Space Committee and its subsidiary bodies, at their respective sessions in 2018, would elect their officers nominated for that period.
Acting without a vote, the Committee also approved the draft resolution, “international cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space” (document A/C.4/72/L.2). By its terms, the General Assembly would recommend that States that had not yet become signatories to international treaties governing outer space ratify or accede, and incorporate them into national legislation. It would further urge all States, in particular those with major space capabilities, to help prevent an arms race in outer space.
Acting again without a vote, the Committee approved the draft resolution “declaration on the fiftieth anniversary of the Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies” (document A/C.4/72/L.3). By its terms, the General Assembly would urge States not yet party to that instrument, in particular members of the Outer Space Committee, consider signing up. It would also call upon the Outer Space Committee and its legal subcommittee to continue to promote the widest adherence to the Treaty, its application by States, and the progressive development of international space law.
The Committee also approved, also without a vote, the draft resolution “consideration of the fiftieth anniversary of the United Nations Conference on the Exploration and Peaceful Uses of Outer Space” (document A/C.4/72/L.4). By its terms, the General Assembly would request that the Outer Space Committee submit a draft resolution on the outcomes of UNISPACE+50 for consideration by the Assembly, in plenary meeting, at its seventy-third session. The Assembly would further endorse the Outer Space Committee’s decisions relating to the preparations for UNISPACE+50, including the holding of intersessional consultations from 7 to 11 May 2018.
Concluding its general debate on international cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space, the Fourth Committee heard many speakers detail their national space programmes. The representative of the United Arab Emirates said his country would host the International Astronautical Congress in 2020, adding that the event would be the largest international space forum. In the same year, the United Arab Emirates would launch the first Arab probe to Mars, becoming one of only nine countries to explore that planet.
India’s representative said his country’s space programme continued to integrate advances in space technology and applications into national development goals, going on to underline the crucial role of space data and technology in improving the efficiency of development programmes.
Concurring on space technology’s important role in development, many delegates called for equal and universal access to that potential for all countries, without regard to size or development level. Nepal’s representative said that space science for satellite communications, remote sensing and land mapping, among other things, could significantly promote sustainable development, thereby improving people’s lives, conserving natural resources and enhancing disaster preparedness and mitigation.
In similar vein, South Africa’s representative said the benefits of outer space must be accessible to all and not confined exclusively to countries with a space programme. Recalling that the African Space Policy and Strategy adopted by the continent’s leaders in January 2016 had raised awareness of the central role of space science and technology in socioeconomic development, he said space applications had indeed provided the impetus for economic development and the alleviation of poverty on the continent.
Also speaking were representatives of Mongolia, Cameroon, Iraq, Japan, Republic of Korea, United States, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Brazil, Ecuador, Algeria, Malawi, Canada, Mexico, Saudi Arabia (on behalf of the Arab Group), Syria, Pakistan, Israel, Iran and Kiribati. The Permanent Observer for the Holy See also addressed the Committee.
Speaking in exercise of reply were representatives of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and the Republic of Korea.
The Fourth Committee will reconvene at 3 p.m. on Wednesday, 19 October, to take up questions relating to information.
SUKHBOLD SUKHEE (Mongolia) said his delegation saw the significant contributions of space science in advancing human development and its role in the implementation of global development frameworks, including the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction and the Paris Agreement on climate change. Citing his country’s progress in space activities since the establishment of its first space communications station in 1971, he said the first Mongolian satellite in space had been launched earlier this year to the International Space Station, where it would be involved in experiments relating to GPS location, measuring air density, investigating cosmic radiation and broadcasting the Mongolian national anthem into space. Most importantly, having a satellite allowed countries to conduct independent studies, including in predicting and managing natural disasters, he said, adding that Mongolia was engaged in regional alliances and remained ready to work with the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space.
Ms. KOLIAM REINE (Cameroon) emphasized the important role played by space science, technology and related applications in sustainable development and efforts to promote the development of all countries and regions around the world. However, the militarization of outer space and the potential for an arms race in that domain was a cause for concern, she said. She called upon the international community to confront challenges arising from the exploitation of outer space, the common heritage of all mankind, emphasizing that cooperation would be important in ensuring the primacy of the rule of law and the peaceful use of outer space for the benefit of all peoples. The Outer Space Committee and its subsidiary bodies constituted the ideal platform for such discussions, she said, encouraging it to help consolidate and strengthen moral principles and legal guarantees for the just exploration of space.
STEPHEN MAHLABADISHAGO NTSOANE (South Africa) said the benefits of outer space must be accessible to all and not confined exclusively to countries with a space programme, emphasizing the enormous potential to improve the international community’s collective capability to respond to a range of pressing issues. Going forward, scientific and technological developments in outer space would be central in assisting with the delivery of the 2030 Agenda and in addressing the challenges of poverty, inequality and unemployment. He said the African Space Policy and Strategy adopted by the continent’s leaders in January 2016 had raised awareness of the central role of space science and technology in socioeconomic development. For example, space-related activities were essential in bridging the digital divide, which could result in placing African countries on a path to sustainable growth and development. Indeed, space applications had provided impetus to economic development and the alleviation of poverty on the continent, he said.
AHMED N. AL-SAHHAF (Iraq), associating himself with the Arab Group, acknowledged the importance of advancing space activities for socioeconomic development, but also noted the vulnerability of outer space to advanced military activities. Emphasizing the need for space-faring nations to share knowledge through scholarships and workshops, he highlighted the role of the Outer Space Committee as a forum for exchange in such matters. Iraq had leveraged the benefits of space data in various ways. For example, “despite combating terrorism on behalf of the world”, Iraq had used free space data to specify and locate oilfield fires, identify those tampering with oil pipelines, and to follow and map the smoke clouds from those fires. Iraq had also sent specialists to developed countries for advanced training, he said, underlining his country’s rejection of the militarization of outer space and welcoming international monitoring and protection frameworks.
Ms. OKU (Japan) said her Government and the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs had jointly launched a capacity-building initiative for developing countries, adding that in the past year, Japan had also succeeded in launching eight spacecraft. Another notable accomplishment was the 113‑day‑long mission that Japanese astronaut Takuya Onishi had completed on the International Space Station, which would contribute to research to improve the understanding and treatment of symptoms relating to aging, she said. Additionally, the Government of Japan believed the International Space Exploration Forum could be a mechanism for coordinating global space exploration efforts, and would host its second meeting in March 2018, she said.
KHALIFA ALSUWAIDI (United Arab Emirates) said his country was organizing and developing its outer space sector through the United Arab Emirates Space Agency, which had initiated a national space policy to define national principles, ambitions and approaches in developing its space programme. The Agency was responsible for developing the space law that would define legal frameworks and legislation for the space sector, in accordance with international law. In 2020, the United Arab Emirates would host the International Astronautical Congress in Dubai, he said, adding that the event would be the largest international space forum. It would also launch the first Arab probe to Mars in the same year, becoming one of only nine countries to explore that planet.
He went on to state that the Emirates Mars Mission Hope spacecraft would contribute to scientific knowledge and space applications, noting that more than 150 Emirati engineers, both men and women, would participate in the mission and that more than 200 research institutions and centres would benefit from data and results arising from the project. He went on to report his country’s launch of the Mars 2117 Strategy earlier this year, saying it would include the construction of the first human city on Mars, to be built in 100 years. The United Arab Emirates had also hosted a high-level international forum, “Space as an Engine for Sustainable Social and Economic Development”, in 2016, which had generated the Dubai 2016 Declaration, he said, adding that its second and final session would be held from 6 to 9 November, 2017, in cooperation with the United Nations.
SURYANARAYAN SRINIVAS PRASAD (India) said a transparent legal framework was needed to encompass the complexity of today’s interactions in space. States should initiate national legislation relevant to the peaceful uses of outer space and aligned as much as possible with international treaties. India, for its part, was currently formulating national space legislation and supporting the building of space law capacity among law students. At the same time, the space sector remained one of the most promising and effective tools for realizing the 2030 Agenda, he said, adding that the Indian space programme continued to integrate advances in space technology and applications into its national development goals. He went on to underline the crucial role of space data and technology in improving the efficiency of development programmes.
LEE HYE JIN (Republic of Korea) said the increasing number of space-faring nations reflected the growing strategic importance of outer space. While responsible members of the international community were committed to peaceful use of that domain, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea continued to violate Security Council resolutions prohibiting any launch using ballistic missile technology, she noted. Since Pyongyang had threatened to target the United States mainland as well as the General Assembly and its First Committee, its claims to have any right to launch satellites would not be successful, she said, calling on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea immediately to abandon its ballistic missile programme in a complete, verifiable and irreversible manner. As one of the leading space-faring nations, the Republic of Korea remained committed to the peaceful use of outer space for the benefit of all humankind, she said.
KENNETH HODGKINS (United States) highlighted the notable achievements of the Outer Space Committee and its subcommittees, voicing his pleasure that the Science and Technology Subcommittee had been able to reach consensus on voluntary guidelines issued in 2016. Calling upon countries to consider how to implement the guidelines at the national level, he said the Legal Subcommittees had a distinguished history of working by consensus, having played a key role in establishing several outer space treaties. Under that framework, the exploration and use of space by States and private entities had flourished, and related technology had contributed to economic growth around the world. Recalling that the Outer Space Committee had agreed that 2018 — the fiftieth anniversary of its first conference — would be a fitting time to take stock of its work in fostering international cooperation in space activities, he said that his delegation looked forward to participating.
KIM IN RYONG (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) reported that, in his country, the peaceful development of outer space activities was conducted in accordance with the 2016‑2020 plan for national outer space development. In February 2016, the Government had entered the practical satellite developing stage with the successful entry into orbit of “Kwangmyongsong-4”. In September 2016, it had succeeded in the static firing test of a new type of high-thrust motor of the launch vehicle for a geostationary satellite.
As a State party to several space treaties, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s outer space development activities had a completely legal basis in all aspects, he emphasized. However, the United States was “going frantic” to render its development of outer space activities illegal by claiming that it contravened Security Council resolution. Those resolutions were mere fabrications denouncing the peaceful launch of satellites as a threat to international peace and security, he said, adding that his country’s peaceful development of outer space activities was the just right of a sovereign State. The country’s status in terms of producing and launching artificial satellites could not be changed.
LARISSA SCHNEIDER CALZA (Brazil), emphasizing the principle of universal access and the importance of peace and security in space, said the fiftieth anniversary of the United Nations Conference on the Exploration and Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UNISPACE+50) offered a unique opportunity for Member States to discuss and reflect upon advances in space activities and how they could play a crucial role in fostering development and creating better living conditions on Earth. Citing examples of his country’s cooperation with others, she said Brazil had launched, in partnership with France, the Defence and Communication Geostationary Satellite, which was expected to provide Internet services for the entire country. In addition, it had launched the Panoramic Electro‑Optical system for detecting space debris in cooperation with the Russian Federation. Brazil also operated the satellite CBERS‑4 with China, and had launched the UbatubaSat microsatellite with Japan. She also cited events organized by the National Institute for Space Research in partnership with Japan, Italy, China and Canada.
MARIO A. ZAMBRANO ORTIZ (Ecuador) said his country promoted responsible programmes that leveraged space activities like natural disaster mitigation. Commending United Nations Platform for Space-based Information for Disaster Management and Emergency Response as an effective relief tool, he said Ecuador supported the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction. He emphasized the importance of universal access to space in the pursuit of international development goals. Ecuador’s aerospace institute was five years old, he said, adding that it continued to advance space knowledge and training.
MUSTAPHA ABBANI (Algeria) said his country’s national space programme, Horizon 2020, represented an exemplary way to support sustainable development because it satisfied national needs in various areas while contributing to the spread of knowledge and expertise. The programme’s projects were designed to make space technology a means for speeding up socioeconomic development and cooperation, he said, recalling that in September 2016, his country had successfully launched three satellites carrying national monitoring stations into orbit. The use of such technology was especially important in the areas of desertification, land use, cartography and reducing the risk of natural disasters. Regarding training and research in space applications, he noted his country’s participation in organizing international cooperation programmes, seminars and workshops. Algeria supported all initiatives towards regional sustainable development, having helped to finalize the African Space Policy adopted by the African Union in 2015, he said. The country had also participated in various activities to establish a scientific, legal and technical framework for Africa and partner regions, he added.
DILIP KUMAR PAUDEL (Nepal) noted that all countries, irrespective of size and economic or scientific development level, should have equal opportunities to access space technology. Moreover, there was need to consider access to such technologies for least developed countries and landlocked developing countries, which were yet to gain proportionate benefit from space activities. The application of space science for satellite communications, remote sensing, land use and land mapping, among other things, would be indispensable to improving people’s lives, conserving natural resources and enhancing disaster preparedness and mitigation, and promoting sustainable development, he emphasized. Nepal was working closely with the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs, with which it had organized and hosted a workshop on the application of global navigation satellite systems in Kathmandu in December.
LOT THAUZENI PANSIPADANA DZONZI (Malawi) apologized for the statement made by his country to the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space on 11 October and any confusion it caused. He said space technology was of vital importance in managing disaster and had proved invaluable when his country had been hit by “the worst‑ever flood” in 2015. Satellite images of the affected areas had made it possible to plan evacuation routes and begin an initial impact assessment. He highlighted the need for major international cooperation on technical assistance and the sharing of geospatial information for developing countries and for realizing the African Space Policy and Strategy. On the uses of outer space, he expressed concern about the build‑up of debris resulting from unregulated and mismanaged space technology that posed a danger to sensitive space equipment and to the International Space Station. The militarization of outer space was incompatible with international agreements and with the 2030 Agenda, he stressed.
BERNARDITO CLEOPAS AUZA, Permanent Observer for the Holy See, noted that pollution had increased at an alarming rate, defiling outer space with debris, chemical effluents, as well as biological and radiological contamination. Caring for the environment was a moral imperative, he said, emphasizing that indeed, it was the fundamental principle of intergenerational solidarity. An environmental crisis of the environment necessarily meant a crisis for humanity, he pointed out, underlining the urgent need for an international effort to combat the increasing problem of space pollution. The present international legal system had yet to respond adequately to the challenge, he noted. Various options were available to address the situation, among them the drafting of new treaties and guidelines, and the creation of the appropriate agency, he suggested, expressing hope for the development of an international normative system adequate to protect outer space and Earth from further degradation.
Right of Reply
The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said he objected to all the statements made by the Republic of Korea’s delegate. Making an issue “of our peaceful activities in outer space is a provocation”, he said, insisting that his country’s space development activities were peaceful in every respect. Its space capacity was meeting internal goals and, in fact, all satellites could be launched at any time. To monitor and guide the country’s rapidly developing space capacity, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had developed an internal mechanism that was in accordance with relevant treaties and agreements on the peaceful use of outer space. Condemning the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s peaceful satellite launch was violating its rights as a sovereign State, he reiterated. Demanding to know who had given the Republic of Korea such authority, he said that country used outer space for military purposes by allowing the United States to keep a military base on its territory. Ballistic missiles were required to launch satellites, he pointed out, adding that objecting to his country’s programme was nothing but a denial of its right to launch satellites, a right acknowledged under international law. He said such unlawful fabrications were intended to stifle his country, underlining that ballistic rocket technology was no threat to the international community, and that no law restricted its development or use. If the use of such technology was a threat, why were other countries not questioned, he asked, describing the situation as a double standard.
The representative of the Republic of Korea pointed out that whereas the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea disguised its use of outer space as a means to promote economic development and improve its people’s livelihoods, 4.6 million people in that country remained food-insecure. Meanwhile, the Government pursued ballistic technology, she said, expressing concern that prohibited activities generated revenues for Pyongyang while its citizens suffered.
The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea said the Republic of Korea was not qualified to talk about his country’s peaceful use of outer space. Its statements were groundless allegations intended to run down the image of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, he said, adding that there was no need to respond further, as his country’s activities were the right of sovereign States and in accordance with international law. The Republic of Korea should give up the criticism and stop following the lead of other nations, he added.
Action on Draft Resolutions
The Committee took up several draft resolutions relating to international cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space.
The representative of Canada, Chair of the Working Group of the Whole, said that body had held three meetings from 11 to 17 October, considering three draft resolutions and one draft decision. Agreement had been reached on all four texts.
Moving to take action on all four, the Committee first took up the draft resolution “International cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space” (document A/C.4/72/L.2), approving it without a vote.
The Committee then took up the draft “Declaration on the fiftieth anniversary of the Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies” (document A/C.4/72/L.3), also approving it by consensus.
Acting again without a vote, the Committee then approved the draft resolution “Consideration of the fiftieth anniversary of the United Nations Conference on the Exploration and Peaceful Uses of Outer Space” (document A/C.4/72/L.4).
Finally, the Committee took up the draft decision “Election of officers nominated for the bureaux of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space and its subsidiary bodies for the period 2018‑2019” (document A/C.4/72/L.8).
The representative of Canada introduced that text, noting that a positive vote was vital for the Outer Space Committee’s functioning in the upcoming period, including its work on the fiftieth anniversary of the United Nations Conference on the Exploration and Peaceful Uses of Outer Space and the long-term sustainability guidelines. He called on all States to vote in favour of the text.
The representative of Mexico made a general statement, noting that States had a major responsibility to ensure continuity in the Outer Space Committee’s work. Mexico respected the decisions of all regional groups relating to their candidates.
The representative of Saudi Arabia, speaking in explanation of position on behalf of the Arab Group, expressed surprise at the presentation of the draft decision. She noted that regional groups were supposed to have presented their candidates for the Outer Space Committee’s bureaux two years before they took office and nominations were to be approved by consensus. In addition, reference to those nominations must be made in the final report of the relevant session of the Outer Space Committee, she said, recalling that the Western European and other States had not been able to arrive at a consensual decision on a second vice chair of the outer Space Committee for the period 2018‑19.
Moreover, the two final reports for the 2016/17 session had not included any reference to that nomination, she continued, emphasizing that there had not been sufficient consensus amongst Western European countries on Israel’s nomination. The Arab Group objected to the draft decision in light of its procedural breaches and violations, as well as attempts to circumvent the will of Member States, she said, adding that it also contravened the consensus and agreement on the running of the Outer Space Committee. The Arab Group objected to Israel’s nomination for the position of Vice‑Chair because the actions it had undertaken were contrary to the peaceful use of outer space. The nomination would therefore have negative repercussions for the Outer Space Committee’s work, she stressed, calling on all Member States to vote against the draft decision in order to preserve the spirit of consensus. The Arab Group reiterated its support for the Outer Space Committee’s work and its desire to preserve international instruments and transparency, she said.
The representative of Venezuela also spoke in explanation of position, saying his delegation would vote against the draft decision since it contained a nomination to be considered in the Fourth Committee while there remained a lack of consensus over whether or not that entity should be considering nominations at all. It was not for committees of the General Assembly to secure the composition of their own subsidiary bodies, he emphasized. The Outer Space Committee was meant to reach agreement without voting, only sending issues to the General Assembly when there was need for a vote. The membership of the Outer Space Committee was smaller than that of the General Assembly, meaning that its members who did not belong to the Outer Space Committee could not vote, he said. As a subsidiary body of the General Assembly, it must base its decisions on Assembly rules and procedures, including votes, he stressed, expressing his delegation’s concern about the lack of transparency on the part of some delegations in presenting the text to the Committee. For those reasons, it was difficult for Venezuela to agree on the text.
The representative of Syria strongly rejected Israel’s candidacy as second Vice‑Chair/Rapporteur of the Outer Space Committee, saying that some would argue that his rejection amounted to politicizing the Committee’s work. However, it was based on legal rather than political arguments, he emphasized. First, as an occupying Power, Israel continued its occupation of the lands of others — including members of the Organization — in violation of the United Nations Charter and international law, he pointed out. That alone barred Israel from any United Nations body, and, in fact, it should be expelled. Moreover, Israel was in violation of United Nations resolutions recognizing Palestine and stipulating its people’s right to return. He noted that Israel was being considered for the Outer Space Committee while in contradiction to its central goals, he said, pointing out that Israel possessed nuclear weapons and refused to join conventions prohibiting biological or chemical weapons. Israel had not even met the requirements to join the United Nations, let alone to become part of a committee bureaux, he said, calling upon that country to end its occupation of all lands.
The representative of Belarus requested that his delegation be removed from the list of co‑sponsors, citing a technical mistake.
The Committee then approved the draft decision by a recorded vote of 124 in favour to 22 against, with 6 abstentions (Bangladesh, China, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Ghana, Kazakhstan, Malaysia).
The representative of Pakistan said her delegation’s vote should not be construed as a shift in its position on the question of Palestine. Pakistan fully supported the Palestinian people and their struggle, she emphasized.
The representative of Israel expressed regret over the events that had led to the vote, saying the Outer Space Committee should be maintained as an apolitical body. The Arab Group had cynically attempted to politicize it, she added.
The representative of Iran said that, in accordance with the Outer Space Committee’s normal procedure, agreement on regional bureaux nominees should have been reached transparently by consensus in Vienna and included in a report. Moreover, since two of the Outer Space Committee’s main goals were to promote the peaceful use of outer space and to prevent an arms race in that domain, the election of the Israeli regime, with its record of aggression and militarization, would prove counterproductive, he stressed, voicing his delegation’s strong objection to such an election.
The representative of Kiribati said his delegation favoured pushing the issue at hand as fast as possible because the sky was becoming more polluted with the littering of space. Kiribati was concerned about the damage it was causing and about climate change, he said, adding that, while his delegation was sensitive to political considerations, those were the reasons why it had voted in favour of the decision.