Some Speakers Warn against Restrictions, Military Deployments as Others Highlight Efforts to Help Developing Countries
Emphasizing that the benefits of outer space must be accessible to all countries, regardless of their development level, delegates said today that they should not be restricted to those with space programmes, as the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) began its general debate on international cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space.
The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea said that, with many developing countries moving towards acquiring outer space technological capabilities, anachronistic manoeuvres to check international cooperation and contain their development should no longer be tolerated. He added that the failure of his country and others to participate as observers in meetings of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space was due to objections raised by certain States pursuing politically motivated selectivity and double standards.
Mexico’s representative recalled that some States have openly declared their intentions to give themselves offensive capacities in outer space. It is ominous that they consider outer space a viable theatre in which to deploy weapons of any kind, she said, cautioning that such an action would risk provoking an arms race in space. Military activities in space must be prohibited, she stressed, warning that they could place space‑based telecommunications and meteorological systems at risk.
South Africa’s representative said that Africa’s demand for space products and services is among the world’s highest as the continent’s economy becomes increasingly dependent on space. “In Africa, we see the utilization of outer space as a key driver towards addressing the triple challenges our people confront — poverty, inequality and unemployment.” As such, South Africa welcomes the African Union’s decision to establish a space agency headquartered in Egypt, he said.
Japan’s representative highlighted his country’s cooperation with developing States, saying it helped them deploy cube satellites from the Japanese Experiment Module of the International Space Station. Kenya, Guatemala, Mauritius, Indonesia and the Republic of Moldova were among those selected for the previous rounds of that initiative, he added, noting that Kenya successfully deployed its first satellite in 2018. Japan is also engaged in regional cooperation, having co‑hosted the Asia‑Pacific Regional Space Agency Forum, and will participate in the development of the United States National Aeronautical and Space Administration’s (NASA) Lunar Gateway, he said.
Similarly, India’s representative said his country has signed formal agreements with 55 countries and five multinational entities. Over the past year, India signed agreements with Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Finland, Bahrain, Bolivia and Tunisia, he reported, adding that the country is also working to realize two joint satellite missions with France and the United States.
The representative of the United Arab Emirates spotlighted her country’s regional cooperation, citing the formation of the Arab Group on Space Cooperation. The Group’s first project will be to develop a satellite to monitor climate change throughout the Arab world, she said, adding that the project will be financed by the United Arab Emirates Space Agency and designed by a team of Arab engineers.
Similarly, an observer for the European Union emphasized the need to strengthen commitments to avoid potentially harmful interference with the peaceful exploration of outer space, facilitate equitable access, and increase the transparency of outer space activities. The most realistic near‑term prospect is to reach agreement on a voluntary instrument, or voluntary norms, that could establish standards of responsible behaviour across the full range of space activities, she added.
At the meeting’s outset, André Joao Rypl (Brazil), Chair of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, highlighted that body’s adoption of the Preamble and Guidelines for the Long‑term Sustainability of Outer Space Activities. He also reported that the Outer Space Committee’s membership has risen to 92 States and 41 observer organizations, adding that the increase was accompanied by interest in a range of new topics, including global health, space exploration, small satellite activities and space traffic management, among others.
Others addressing the Committee today included representatives of Indonesia (on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations), Singapore, Thailand, Argentina, Colombia, Saudi Arabia, Namibia, Iraq and Jordan.
The Fourth Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 31 October, to hold a joint panel discussion with the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) on possible challenges to space security and sustainability. It is expected to resume its general debate at 10 a.m. on Friday, 1 November.
ANDRÉ JOAO RYPL (Brazil), Chair of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, highlighted that body’s adoption of the Preamble and Guidelines for the Long‑term Sustainability of Outer Space Activities and took important decisions on other work. The Outer Space Committee’s membership has risen to 92 States and 41 observer organizations, he reported, adding that the increase was accompanied by interest in a range of new topics, including global health, space exploration, small satellite activities and space traffic management, among others. He said the Outer Space Committee is currently advancing the development of a new “Space2030” agenda and an implementation plan intended to maximize the benefits of space activities for implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Describing space as a driver of sustainable development, he noted that the Outer Space Committee and the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs serve as unique platforms from which to foster international cooperation in the exploration and uses of that dimension for peaceful purposes, global governance of outer space activities, development of international space law, and fostering dialogue among space‑faring and emerging space nations. He also emphasized the importance of further enhancing the Outer Space Committee’s role as a forum for fostering dialogue and cooperation among Member States and organizations with permanent observer status, and for strengthening partnerships among States, intergovernmental and non‑governmental organizations, industry and private sector entities.
MOHAMMAD KURNIADI KOBA (Indonesia), speaking on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), said the Space 2030 Agenda should aim to narrow gaps between space‑faring and emerging space nations. As such, he encouraged closer partnership between those countries and relevant international organizations in order to build capacities in space science and technology in a sustainable manner. The legal framework for strengthening international space cooperation should be developed inclusively and be based upon full respect for the principles of sovereignty, territorial integrity and equitable access for all States to space science and applications, he emphasized, while reiterating the importance of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015‑2030. The ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance on Disaster Management has used space technologies for its management and response system, he noted.
He went on to express concern about the proliferation of space debris, calling for voluntary implementation of the Outer Space Committee’s mitigation guidelines in that regard. ASEAN continues to forge closer regional cooperation through its Research Centre for Space Technology and Applications, which serves as a regional resource hub for capacity and research development as well as academic study in the field. Expressing support for the efforts of the Office for Outer Space Affairs to promote gender equality, he said the role of women in space activities should be enhanced through targeted capacity‑building and technical advisory activities, among other means.
Speaking in his national capacity, he said outer space should be used and explored entirely for peaceful purposes and for the benefit of humanity. As such, Indonesia emphasizes enhanced international cooperation in building capacity and in the transfer of technology, he added, urging consideration of the varying levels of technological development attained by non‑space‑faring nations. He went on to stress the importance of defining and delimiting outer space in order to clarify the boundaries between airspace and outer space and to achieve legal certainty in the implementation of space law and air law. Welcoming the adoption of the Guidelines on the Long‑term Sustainability of Outer Space Activities, he said Indonesia currently operates two indigenous earth observation satellites — LAPAN‑A2 and LAPAN‑A3 — providing maritime traffic surveillance and supporting remote sensing databases on agriculture and the environment. The next generation satellite is under development and will be launched in 2020, he added.
CARINE CLAEYS, Head of the Space Task Force of the European External Action Service, European Union, said that the bloc, its member States and the European Space Agency have developed strong capabilities and has a large budget for space, most of which is allocated to the European Global Navigation Satellite systems. Space research and innovation is also supported by the European Union Horizon 2020 programme, she reported, explaining that space science, applications and technologies have great potential for tackling such major global challenges as climate change, disaster management and environmental protection, among others. The European Union programmes Galileo/EGNOS and Copernicus illustrate European and international cooperation because they are funded and owned by the European Union and overseen by the European Commission, whereas deployment, design and further development of the systems are entrusted to the European Space Agency, she explained.
About 7 per cent of the European Union’s economy depends on global navigation satellite signals, she continued, citing studies that show Galileo is estimated to deliver about €90 billion to the bloc’s economy over the first 20 years of operations. She said the recently adopted Long‑term Sustainability Guidelines will contribute to transparency in outer space. She went on to emphasize the need to strengthen commitments to avoid potentially harmful interference with the peaceful exploration of outer space, to facilitate equitable access to outer space, and to increase the transparency of outer space activities. The most realistic near‑term prospect is reaching agreement on a voluntary instrument or voluntary norms that could establish standards of responsible behaviour across the full range of space activities, she added.
TONG HAI LIM (Singapore), associating himself with ASEAN, said outer space should be preserved as a peaceful global common. With the world becoming increasingly reliant on space‑based infrastructure and applications, the international community should face such challenges as space debris and orbital congestion in a coordinated way, he added. Expressing support for efforts to enhance cooperation on international norms for space, he said that Singapore applied for membership of the Outer Space Committee in order to participate more actively in the international dialogue. He went on to state that his country’s Office for Space Technology and Industry was established in February 2013 to grow the national space industry in support of the demand for satellite‑based solutions, adding that it continues to work with relevant stakeholders in better coordinating Singapore’s activities in space.
KITTITHEP DEVAHASTIN NA AYUTHAI (Thailand), associating himself with ASEAN, noted that it has been six decades since the first satellite was launched into space and nearly 5,000 of them are orbiting the planet today. Noting that his country is an active member of the Outer Space Committee, he emphasized the importance of transparent and inclusive development of international frameworks to ensure the peaceful use of outer space. Thailand is drafting the National Space Act to pave the way for the creation of the National Space Agency, he reported, adding that it will enable the country to manage its space aspirations and ensure all national space activities are carried out in a coherent and responsible manner. The use of space technology, such as earth observation satellites and geo‑informatics, can help attain the Sustainable Development Goals, he said, stressing that space‑based science and information are critical in reducing disaster risk, developing early‑warning systems and guiding search‑and‑rescue operations. Underlining the vital role of regional cooperation in making up the gaps in financial, technical and institutional capacity between developed and developing countries, he pointed out that Thailand is home to the ASEAN Research Center for Space Technology and Applications.
MARÍA ANTONIETA SOCORRO JÁQUEZ HUACUJA (Mexico) said it is ominous that outer space is under consideration as a viable theatre for the deployment of any kind of weapons, adding that such an action would risk provoking an arms race in the realm of outer space. Noting that some States have declared openly that they will give themselves offensive capacities in outer space, she said confidence‑building measures would be useful and necessary as an intermediate step, emphasizing, however, that they cannot be considered a substitute for a legally binding instrument. As such, military activities in space must be prohibited, she stressed, warning that they could place telecommunications and meteorological systems in space at risk. Recalling that Mexico presided over the Outer Space Committee in 2018, she said the work of space agencies is essential to the search for solutions to mitigate the effects of climate change. It is, therefore, essential to ensure the long‑term sustainability of peaceful activities in outer space, she said. She went on to highlight the essential need for dialogue between space‑faring and emerging space nations.
MARTÍN GARCÍA MORITÁN (Argentina), reiterating the fundamental role played by the Outer Space Treaty in promoting the peaceful uses of that realm, welcomed its adoption of the Guidelines for the Long‑term Sustainability of Outer Space Activities, while expressing support for negotiations within the Disarmament Conference towards a legally binding treaty to prevent an arms race in outer space. In the absence of such an instrument, the adoption of measures to build confidence and transparency is convenient and necessary, he said. Describing his country’s space programme as purely peaceful, he said it focuses on local development of satellites. Argentina recently launched into orbit the first satellite of its SAOCOM project, which will be completed in 2020 with the launch of a second satellite, he reported. The project employs complex observation technology in space through the use of microwaves on the L band, he added. The observation capacity of those technologies will prove especially helpful to the monitoring, mitigation and evaluation of natural disasters, he said, adding that they can also be used for agricultural applications and will benefit the entire region.
FRANCISCO JAVIER GUTIÉRREZ PLATA (Colombia) said that discussions about standards in the Treaty of 1967 and its relationship with the current geopolitical context must be held at the international level. Calling for dialogue and exchange of information in the relevant multilateral forums, he emphasized the need for a structure that considers the needs of all States in order to prevent the risks of private‑sector exploitation of outer space. He went on to stress the essential importance of regional and interregional cooperation in pursuit of the sustainable development goals and in solidifying the Outer Space Committee’s central role.
Mr. ADEL ALFAWZAN (Saudi Arabia) said outer space will play a critical role in the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals, the monitoring of climate change, the management of disasters and the improvement of natural resource management. Emphasizing that outer space must only be used for scientific and peaceful purposes, he said that his country’s space centre contributed to the transfer of space technology locally, adding that by the end of 2018, Saudi Arabia had developed the infrastructure needed to establish space stations and orbital missions, while developing space science and promoting space security. Saudi Arabia launched two satellites in December 2018 to monitor Earth and established the Saudi Space Agency, the aim of which is to support scientific research and space missions, alongside its Russian counterpart, he said.
KIM IN CHOL (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) said that the Outer Space Treaty stipulates that outer space is a wealth common to humanity and grants sovereign States equal rights to explore it, while encouraging close cooperation among countries. However, international cooperation faces challenges due to obstructions by certain forces, he noted, citing in that context the failure of his country and others to participate as observers in the Outer Space Committee’s meetings owing to objections raised by certain States pursuing politically motivated selectivity and double standards. “The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is a space Power that has attained the status of a country engaged in satellite production and launches by dint of self‑reliance and self‑development,” he said. As such, there can be no reason why it should not participate in those meetings, he emphasized. Noting that many developing countries are moving towards acquiring outer space technological capabilities, he said the monopolistic position taken by some countries is collapsing, stressing that their anachronistic manoeuvres to check international cooperation in that realm and to contain development should no longer be tolerated.
XOLISA MFUNDISO MABHONGO (South Africa) emphasized that the benefits of outer space must be accessible to all countries, regardless of their level of scientific, technical or economic development, and should not be restricted to countries with a space programme. “In Africa, we see the utilization of outer space as a key driver towards addressing the triple challenges our people confront — poverty, inequality and unemployment,” he pointed out. South Africa, therefore, welcomes the African Union’s decision to establish an African space agency headquartered in Egypt, he said, adding that his delegation looks forward to working with partners to ensure that it delivers on its full potential to contribute to advance African space policy and strategy as a vital driver of the African Union’s Agenda 2063. Noting that Africa has one of the highest demands for space products and services as the continent’s economy becomes increasingly dependent on space, he said they include communications technology, e‑banking, navigation and the use of space‑based technologies to manage disasters and climate change, and to further agriculture, education and health‑related issues.
MS. SARA ALMUHAIRI (United Arab Emirates), recalling that her country launched its first astronaut, Hazzaa Ali Almansoori, into space in September, said he participated in important scientific activities at the International Space Station. This constitutes an integral part of the national strategy to build a strong space sector, she said, adding that the United Arab Emirates has developed a regulatory law covering outer space, the first of its kind in the Middle East. It has also launched the KhalifaSat satellite — entirely designed by Emirati experts — in addition to expanding the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre and the Yahsat Space Laboratory, she said, pointing out that 47 per cent of the latter’s staff is composed of women. The United Arab Emirates also seeks to explore Mars, having launched the Al-Amal mission, which will provide important data on that planet’s atmosphere, she reported. Highlighting the importance of international cooperation through capacity‑building and the exchange of best practices, she said her country signed a cooperation agreement with the Russian Federation, which led to the recent launch. It has also formed the Arab Group on Space Cooperation, intended to encourage research, development and regional cooperation in the field, she said, adding that the Group’s first project will be the development of a satellite to monitor climate change throughout the Arab world. The project will be financed by the United Arab Emirates Space Agency and designed by a team of Arab engineers, she said.
ELTON KHOETAGE HOESEB (Namibia) noted that his country has hosted the High Energy Stereoscopic System — a high‑energy gamma ray telescope located about 100 kilometres from its capital, Windhoek — since 2002. Highlighting the importance of involving developing countries in discussions about outer space, he called upon the Outer Space Committee to continue to deliver the common goals of all nations on space‑related issues. Namibia, though a small economy, is building capacities in areas that will prepare it for the fourth industrial revolution, premised on artificial intelligence, Big Data Analytics and machine learning, among others, he reported. Recalling that his country experienced the worst drought for the past 30 years as well as widespread flooding, he thanked various international organizations, including the International Meteorological Organization, for providing the tools and training necessary to enable Namibia to better respond to future natural disasters.
Mr. WISAM ALQAISI (Iraq) said space innovations have improved living conditions for humanity, particularly in the fields of navigation, transmission and communication. The security and viability of space activities rely on compliance with international law, he noted, emphasizing that the shortcomings of technology must not be used by any country as an excuse to abuse it. In cooperation with the Government of Italy, Iraq developed its first satellite, he reported, adding that his country also uses space data to determine where fires or explosions have happened and to measure the concentration of gas in the air to better understand the impact of such factors on climate change. In addition, Iraq uses space data to identify geographic areas that can store rainwater during periods of flooding for use in times of drought, he said.
KENTARO KANETO (Japan) said his country recognizes the importance of the rule of law in outer space and expressed support for the Outer Space Committee as an effective forum for developing norms of responsible behaviour. Warning that the emergence of large constellations and the increased risks of collision threaten the sustainability of space activities, he called upon all Member States to implement the Guidelines on Long‑term Sustainability of Outer Space Activities adopted by the Outer Space Committee. He went on to state that Japan intends to spearhead efforts to forge international cooperation in addressing the issue of space debris by undertaking a technology demonstration project for the removal of large‑scale debris. Japan has also decided to participate in moon exploration and will take part in the development of the United States National Aeronautical and Space Administration’s (NASA) Lunar Gateway, he added. Highlighting the importance of access to space, he said Japan has helped developing countries deploy their cube satellites from the Japanese Experiment Module of the International Space Station, with Kenya, Guatemala, Mauritius, Indonesia and the Republic of Moldova among those selected for the previous rounds of that initiative. Kenya successfully deployed its first satellite in 2018, he recalled, saying Japan is also actively engaged in regional cooperation, having co-hosted the Asia‑Pacific Regional Space Agency Forum.
DEEPAK MISRA (India), noting that his country’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle has made four successful missions, said it has also launched 10 satellites, including the heaviest satellites it has built — the GSAT‑11 — and its second mission to the Moon, Chandrayaan‑2. It has also launched 58 satellites from other countries, he noted, providing updates on the progress of Gaganyaan, the Indian human space flight programme. An international symposium on the same topic is scheduled for January 2020, in Bengaluru, he added. India has also been sharing its experience through international cooperation, signing formal agreements with 55 countries and five multinational bodies, he reported. Over the past year, the country has signed agreements with Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Finland, Bahrain, Bolivia and Tunisia, he reported, adding that it is working to realize two joint satellite missions with France and the United States. India has announced a capacity‑building programme on small satellite realization named UNISPACE Nano‑satellite Assembly and Training, which will provide excellent opportunities for developing countries in the field, he said. The first batch of 29 officials from 17 countries successfully completed the training earlier in 2019 and 30 experts from 16 countries have been selected for the second batch, which started this month, he added.
MOHANNAD ADNAN MOUSA SHADDAD (Jordan) said the Regional Centre for Space Science and Technology originated in his country and has a broad range of objectives, including offering bachelor’s programmes and shorter academic training on space technology. Jordan launched the world’s smallest satellite in 2018, he recalled, noting that it was designed by local expertise and, among other things, promotes tourism by broadcasting images from popular sites. The satellite JY1 was also implemented by a Jordanian youth team, including engineering students trained at NASA and at the United Arab Emirates Space Agency, he reported.