Press Releases

    UNIS/OS/293
    18 October 2004

    Development and Outer-Space Agendas to be Fully Integrated

    General Assembly Resolution Will Pave the Way for the Use of Outer-Space Technologies in Achieving the Millennium Development Goals

    NEW YORK, 18 October (UN Headquarters) -- The peaceful uses of outer space can contribute to meet the targets set in the Millennium Declaration as well as the actions called for in the declarations on sustainable development and on bridging of the information gap.

    A special panel to discuss how the development and space agendas can, and should, be fully integrated, is being organized by the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (OOSA). The panel, entitled “Outer Space and the Global Agenda” will be held from 15:00 to 17:00 hours on Tuesday, 19 October 2004, in the Chamber of the United Nations Trusteeship Council. The panelists will include the President of the Economic and Social Council, the Chairman of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, the Director General of the Malaysian Space Agency, and the former Director General of the French Space Agency (Centre National d’ Etudes Spatiales). The General Assembly President, H. E. Mr. Jean Ping, has been invited to address the special panel.

    Among other development issues, the panel will discuss space solutions to the problems discussed earlier that day at another special panel on “Malaria and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)” that is being organized by the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, the Millennium Project and the World Health Organization, chaired by the President of the General Assembly.

    From the start of the “space era”, international cooperation in space activities had been influenced to a large extent by a political agenda. That influence has changed. Beginning with the Third United Nations Conference on the Exploration and Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UNISPACE III), held in 1999, the new political, economic and social factors have clearly focused space on a development agenda.  In that sense, UNISPACE III was a turning point. Since then, the Committee on Peaceful Uses of Outer Space has gone further and has developed a new space agenda that focuses on operational space applications being used by new partners to support the global development issues.

    Through the Millennium Declaration, world leaders set targets aimed at measurably improving the quality of life of the poorest and most vulnerable communities. To reach those targets, a broad range of governmental, non-governmental and private sector entities have set goals aimed at reducing poverty, providing clean water, ensuring food security, providing education and medical care for rural communities, reducing the spread of infectious diseases and the impact of disasters. The World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD), through its Plan of Implementation, identified specific actions that need to be taken to reach these goals in a sustainable manner. Altogether, the achievement of those goals and objectives would increase the number of people participating in a sustainable development of their economic and social conditions.

    The development agenda has evolved since the Millennium Summit and broad global efforts are being carried out, at the national and international levels to meet the targets. In support of the MDGs, the Secretary-General of the United Nations and the Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme have launched the Millennium Project to recommend the best strategies for achieving the MDGs. Over a period of three years the Millennium Project will work to devise a recommended plan of implementation that will allow all developing countries to meet the MDGs by 2015. Ten thematically oriented Task Forces perform the bulk of the research. They are comprised of representatives from academia, the public and private sectors, civil society organizations, and United Nations agencies with the majority of participants coming from outside the UN system.

    According to a progress report by Secretary-General Kofi Annan released on 7 September 2004, developing countries are reducing extreme poverty, extending access to primary education and alleviating disease and hunger in many regions of the world. Still, reaching the MDGs, particularly for the landlocked and least developed countries remains a challenge, which can be met through the concerted efforts of all stakeholders.

    Space science and technology applications already make important contributions to meet the MDGs but can do much more. In fact, twelve Action Teams, with broad governmental and non-governmental participation, have worked successfully in the last three years to turn the usefulness of space technologies into operational capabilities for decision-making and management. Some teams have made excellent progress in disaster management, including early warning, prevention and relief, protecting and monitoring of the environment, preventing the spread of infectious diseases such as malaria, management of natural resources, particularly water, providing education and medical services to rural populations and in sustainable development. Other Action Teams have made equally good progress in overarching aspects such as building capacity to use space applications, particularly in developing countries, identifying ways and means of funding for operational space activities and raising the awareness of decision-makers and the general public of the benefits of space applications. These Action Teams were established by the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, under the leadership of Governments, to implement the recommendations of UNISPACE III.

    Very significant space assets are in place and can be used to support development. The space agencies and companies have invested billions of dollars in constellations of satellites that observe the Earth, provide telecommunications and global navigation services that support economic and social development activities. The space-related public and private sectors, as well as the inter-governmental organizations and non-governmental entities have also worked on ground-based services to make the data and services derived from existing space assets easier and more affordable to access. In addition to these assets, more than 50 Governments have adopted a framework for a ten-year implementation plan, which would provide for the establishment of the Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS). The GEOSS will virtually integrate all major Earth observation systems, from satellites in space and in-situ land, ocean and atmospheric instruments. The GOESS will make a large diversity of high quality data available to assist countries to meet their obligations under treaties and conventions as well as for planning and managing development activities. The actual implementation plan is to be adopted in early 2005.

    The elements of the new space agenda are contained in the report of the Committee to the General Assembly for its review and appraisal, in its plenary on 20 October 2004, of the progress made in the implementation of the recommendations of UNISPACE III. The General Assembly is expected to adopt a resolution that endorses the Plan of Action proposed by the Committee to further the implementation of the recommendations of UNISPACE III. This action by the General Assembly will pave the way for a greater use of space technologies in achieving the MDGs.

    Now is the right time for the development and space agendas to be fully integrated. Both agendas have evolved to the point where what is needed is to match to the capabilities that space science and technology and their applications can provide with the specific challenges to achieving the MDGs. This would be a crucial step to fully integrate space as an important stakeholder for economic and social sustainable development.

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    The United Nations Programme on Space Applications is implemented by the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs and works to improve the use of space science and technology for the economic and social development of all nations, in particular developing countries. Under the Programme, the Office conducts training courses, workshops, seminars and other activities on applications and capacity building in subjects such as remote sensing, communications, satellite meteorology, search and rescue, basic space science, satellite navigation and space law.

    The United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (OOSA) implements the decisions of the General Assembly and of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space and its two Subcommittees, the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee and the Legal Subcommittee. The Office is responsible for promoting international cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space, and assisting developing countries in using space science and technology. Located in Vienna, Austria, OOSA maintains a website at http://www.oosa.unvienna.org.