|For information only - not an official document.|
|17 October 2000|
Outer Space Activities Should Be Based on Ethical Principles,
Special Political Committee Is Told
As Debate on International Cooperation Begins,
NEW YORK, 16 October (UN Headquarters) -- The principles of outer space activities must be derived from ethical considerations, the representative of France said this morning, as the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) began its general debate on international cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space.
Speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated countries, he said the European Union was pursuing an outer space policy of using scientific projects to develop knowledge and applications in the service of society, especially in the areas of telecommunications, environment and knowledge of the universe. Other important subjects for action included: environmental protection; space applications for security, development and the well-being of humanity; and the promotion of international cooperation.
Semakula Kiwanuka (Uganda), Committee Chairman, noted that, at the start of the space age, there had been international concern about a “space race”, dominated by a few countries. That concern had fostered international cooperation that had resulted in numerous multinational projects that would soon culminate in the launch of an international space station involving 16 countries. However, it was necessary to strengthen United Nations efforts to ensure that the benefits of space activities were shared by developing countries.
Introducing the report of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, Raimundo Gonzalez Aninat (Chile), that body’s Chairman, said it was a scandal that available technologies were not being used to end extreme poverty. The past decade’s rapid increase in international cooperation must be strengthened and broadened to promote greater use of outer space applications to that end.
Also speaking this morning were the representatives of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and China.
The Fourth Committee will continue its general debate on international cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space when it meets again at 10 a.m. tomorrow, 17 October.
Committee Work Programme
When the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) began its general debate on the peaceful uses of outer space this morning, it had before it the Secretary-General’s report on implementation of the recommendations of the Third United Nations Conference on the Exploration and Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UNISPACE III).
According to the report, the Programme on Space Applications was reoriented in conjunction with the recommendations of UNISPACE III, by which it would promote, through international cooperation, greater use of space technologies and data for sustainable development in developing countries. That effort includes capacity-building to enable developing countries to utilize space technologies, particularly in disaster management, satellite communications (including distance education), positioning and navigation systems, tele-medicine, natural resource management and environmental monitoring. In this effort, the Office for Outer Space Affairs proposed to launch a series of training modules and to provide assistance to initiate demonstrations or pilot projects. It also proposed to strengthen technical advisory services in astronomy and the planetary sciences, including support for developing countries to participate in space research and observation. Many such activities, planned for 2000 or already carried out, are described in Section III of the report.
The report states that the involvement of industry, in pursuing the goals of UNISPACE III, has begun to be fostered in symposia between representatives of satellite-service industries and the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, with further symposia planned. Young people participated in UNISPACE III through the Space Generation Forum, organized by and for young professionals and university students. To facilitate the implementation of various initiatives proposed by that group, a Youth Advisory Council was formed by the Subcommittee, which would be granted observer status on the Committee itself.
According to plans described in the report, the first World Space Week would take place in the year 2000, with special events in Vienna and United Nations Headquarters in New York that focused on the use of space technology for the benefit of humanity. Panel discussions with astronauts and cosmonauts would also take place. Spaceweek International Associates, an independent non-profit organization, changed its preferred dates for a space week to coordinate with the United Nations, and assisted in encouraging worldwide celebration.
In order to help finance the activities recommended by UNISPACE III, the General Assembly requested a change in the terms of reference of the Trust Fund for the United Nations Programme on Space Applications. It also requested the Secretary-General to invite voluntary contributions to the trust fund, with activities in support of UNISPACE III outlined in a letter of invitation.
The report also describes developments in inter-agency cooperation towards the goals identified by UNISPACE III, as well as enhancement of the International Space Information Service. It concludes with the hope that, by the year 2004, when the General Assembly appraises progress toward UNISPACE III's goals, the expanded use of space science and technology will have led to noticeable changes in the human condition. In addition, the usefulness of space tools in addressing a wide range of social and economic issues will have been recognized by major international forums.
Also before the Committee this morning was the report of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (A/55/20). The report summarizes the outcome of the Committee’s latest session, as well as those of its subcommittees -- the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee and the Legal Subcommittee -- all of which took place during 2000 in Vienna. It addresses the need to promote international cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space, taking into particular account the needs of developing countries, through the Committee’s scientific, technical and legal expertise.
In its discussions, the Committee recommended that, at its forty-fourth session, in 2001, it should continue its consideration of the agenda item entitled "Ways and means of maintaining outer space for peaceful purposes", on a priority basis. It also considered the recent work of its subcommittees.
The Scientific and Technical Subcommittee reported on several topics. Regarding the United Nations Programme on Space Applications, the strategy was described as one which would concentrate on a few themes of major importance for developing countries, establishing objectives that could be reached in the short and medium term. Those themes were: disaster management; satellite communications for tele-education and tele-medicine applications; monitoring and protection of the environment, including prevention of infectious diseases; management of natural resources; and education and research in the basic space sciences. The Programme would also promote capacity-building in enabling technologies -- such as the use of Global Positioning Systems -- and other spin-offs of space technology, promoting the participation of private industry in its activities.
In these areas, the Committee noted progress made in the preceding years and endorsed a list of conferences, training courses, fellowships and workshops around the world. It also noted that the Programme had provided technical advisory services involving regional space applications, and had promoted cooperation in space science and technology. Dissemination of space information and coordination of space activities regionally and within the United Nations system were also discussed.
The Committee endorsed the recommendations of the Working Group of the Whole concerning the implementation of the recommendations of UNISPACE III, as contained in its report (A/AC.105/736, annex II, paras. 3-37), along with its plans for World Space Week. In implementing UNISPACE III, it recommended the following projects take priority: support to regional centers for space science and technology education; development of specific modules for the use of space technologies in disaster management; provision of hardware, software and data to developing countries for protecting the environment and managing natural resources; development and implementation of a training module on the use of satellite communications for education, tele-medicine, and tele-health; and organization of outreach activities for young people and the general public.
In other areas of concern to the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee, the Committee considered matters related to the remote sensing of the earth from outer space, the use of nuclear power sources in outer space, international cooperation in human space flight and geo-stationary orbit for the benefits of developing countries. In the matter of space debris, the Committee agreed that Member States should pay more attention to the problem, particularly as it relates to collision of that debris with space objects, including those with nuclear power. Space debris, geo-stationary orbit and activities to promote education in space science and engineering were named single issue/items for discussion in the draft provisional agenda for the next session of the Subcommittee.
The Legal Subcommittee reported on its thirty-ninth session, at which it reviewed the status of international treaties governing the uses of outer space and information on the activities of international organizations relating to space law. It also reported on efforts to delineate concepts for legal address of outer space issues, such as the concept of the "launching state", and the definition and delimitation of outer space itself. It reviewed work devoted to ways and means to ensure the rational and equitable use of the geo-stationary orbit without prejudice to the role of the International Telecommunications Union.
The Committee agreed that the item "Review and possible revision of the Principles Relevant to the Use of Nuclear Power Sources in Outer Space" should be retained as a single issue/item for discussion at the fortieth session of the Legal Subcommittee, in 2001. The Committee also agreed to endorse the recommendations, prepared by a working group within the subcommittee, on measures to achieve the fullest adherence to the five international legal instruments governing outer space.
In other matters discussed in the report, the Committee agreed that spin-offs of space technology were yielding many substantial benefits for human health, the world environment, natural resource exploration, agriculture, hydrology, disaster monitoring, telecommunications and transportation. In promoting spin-off benefits and effective space applications, particularly in the case of developing countries, the Committee agreed that capacity-building was of primary importance. Finally, the Committee considered membership enlargement, the medium-term plan, meetings of the near future and a proposed new agenda item entitled "Space and society".
SEMAKULA KIWANUKA (Uganda), Chairman, introduced the topic of the peaceful uses of outer space, the consideration of which, he said, began at the United Nations from the start of the space age after the launching of Sputnik in 1957. At that time, international concern about a “space race”, dominated by a few countries, fostered international cooperation that resulted in numerous multi-national projects culminating, very soon, in the launch of an International Space Station involving 16 countries. The United Nations played a key role in this cooperation by, among other activities, establishing the international legal regime governing outer space, and by ensuring that benefits of space activities be shared by developing countries.
However, he said, that latter effort needed to be strengthened. Space applications could connect people, help manage exploitation of natural resources, protect the environment and minimize the effects of natural disasters. But to keep people from developing countries to benefit from those uses, efforts should be increased to provide education, training, awareness raising and assistance in obtaining technologies. The Third United Nations Conference on the Exploration and Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, known as UNISPACE III, came up with strategies to increase such efforts. Less than two weeks ago, the first World Space Week -- as established last year by the General Assembly following a recommendation of UNISPACE III -- was celebrated from 4 to 10 October, in more than thirty countries. He said he hoped that such a global celebration would lead to global appreciation of the benefits of space activities for all humankind.
RAIMUNDO GONZALEZ ANINAT (Chile), Chairman of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, introduced that body’s report, saying its work had been essential in setting up an international legal framework to regulate activities in outer space. UNISPACE III had recommended measures to develop scientific understanding of outer space and protect the outer space environment, as well as to promote education and training. It was crucial to raise awareness because many people, despite being intellectually sophisticated, continued to ignore the importance of outer space exploration.
He said the Committee’s Scientific Subcommittee would continue to evaluate the application of the recommendations of UNISPACE III. The Committee had also examined the proposed action plan by the Office of Outer Space Affairs, and recommended by the General Assembly, to strengthen the Committee and its subsidiary bodies; to set up training programmes in space law; and to involve the public, particularly young people, in outer space activities. During the Committee’s current session, its Legal Subcommittee had reached a consensus agreement on the use of the geostationary orbit. It had also set up a working group, which had heard several presentations on new launch systems.
PHILIPPE BOSSIERE (France), speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated countries, said the European Union was pursuing a policy, in the field of outer space, of using scientific projects to develop knowledge and applications in the service of society, especially in the areas of telecommunications, environment and knowledge of the universe. Current projects deemed important involved navigation systems and monitoring systems for environment and security.
The European Union, he said, welcomed the report of UNISPACE III and its realistic recommendations. It was of the view that the most important subjects for action were: the protection of the earth’s environment and resources; space applications for security, development and the well-being of mankind; the furthering of scientific knowledge and the protection of the outer-space environment; the strengthening of education and training; and the promotion of international cooperation. That was, indeed, a vast programme and required the mobilization of the international community’s energies, as well as greater cooperation with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and industry.
The principles of outer space programmes, he said, must be derived from ethical considerations, which the Union felt should become more prominent in the development of all scientific and technical progress. There were two fundamental principles of outer-space activities. Those activities must contribute to economic, social and cultural development while preserving the natural environment. And access to outer space should be equitable -- taking into account the needs of developing countries and not exacerbating technological disparities. In addition, existing risks needed to be mitigated. He said available measures to reduce the risks posed by space debris should be implemented, as a matter of urgency. Costs should be borne in an equitable matter. Possible environmental risks, especially those posed by nuclear energy sources, must be countered.
RI KYONG IL (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) said outer space had become a field in which disparity between developed and developing countries was most serious. A few countries possessing space technologies were commercializing the results of scientific study on outer space, using their exclusive possession as a means of accumulating material wealth. Those countries set out political conditions to avoid transferring technology to developing countries and even hindered the self-supported activities of those countries in outer space exploration.
He said that ever-increasing militarization of outer space evoked great concern from the international community. Some States openly ignored international laws stipulating peaceful exploration of outer space for the welfare of humanity and did not hesitate to abuse outer space in seeking military predominance. It was intolerable that certain countries were taking issue with the launch of an artificial satellite by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea with a view to justifying their own outer space militarization activities.
The rights of developing countries to the exploration of outer space should be respected. Steps should be taken to ensure that all countries benefited equally from the results of such exploration. Outer space was the common property of humankind. The United Nations should respect the efforts of developing countries in outer space exploration and pay attention to international cooperation to that end. It should also try to make the scientific and technological results of outer space contribute directly to sustainable development of developing countries.
He said an end to militarization was necessary for the success of peaceful exploration of outer space in the twenty-first century. The dismantling of military satellites violating and menacing other countries’ sovereignty should be considered a priority. In particular, the “national missile defence system” and the “theatre missile defence system” using satellites in outer space should not be allowed. The Office for Outer Space Affairs and the Legal Subcommittee of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space must give more attention to decisive measures to stop the militarization of outer space.
He said, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had entered a new stage of self-supported development in outer space science and technology following the successful launch of its first artificial satellite, “Kwangmyongsong I”, on 31 August 1998. The launch was of a peaceful nature, constituting the country’s contribution to the development of outer space science and technology across the world. The country would actively promote technological cooperation and exchange with other countries, in order to assure peaceful uses of outer space as well as to promote economic development by further developing its own outer space and technology.
GUAN JIAN (China) said the development and testing of weapons systems in outer space and any other military use of outer space violated the fundamental principles of the peaceful uses of outer space. Such activity was not conducive to the maintenance of international security. In that connection, it was necessary to negotiate an international agreement on the prevention of an arms race in outer space. The ultimate purpose of the exploration and utilization of outer space should be to create a better environment for the survival and development of humanity.
In addition, he said, in order to build a more sound legal framework for peaceful uses of outer space by mankind in the new century, the conclusion of a comprehensive convention on space law undoubtedly merited the full attention of the Committee. He said, the Chinese delegation stood ready to work on such a convention. China had celebrated World Space Week with a variety of activities throughout the country, which he hoped contributed to the commemoration of Space Week at an international level.
The Chinese space industry, he said, had made numerous advances in the past year, and China would work harder and contribute more to the great cause of exploring and using outer space for peaceful purposes.
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