18 April 2006
Outer Space Legal Subcommittee Concludes 45th Session in Vienna
VIENNA, 18 April (UN Information Service) - The practice of States and international organizations in registering space objects was a key item on the agenda of the 45th session of the Legal Subcommittee of the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS), held in Vienna, Austria from 3 to 13 April.
Other topics of discussion included the status and application of the five United Nations treaties on outer space, the definition and delimitation of outer space, the draft protocol on matters specific to space assets to the Convention on International Interests in Mobile Equipment, review and possible revision of the Principles Relevant to the Use of Nuclear Power Sources in Outer Space and matters relating to the character and use of the geostationary orbit. As in previous sessions of the Subcommittee, international organizations were invited to report on their activities relating to space law.
A symposium, which was held following the conclusion of the first day of the session, examined the legal aspects of space-system-based disaster management.
Practice of States and international organizations in registering space objects
A key item on the agenda was the practice of States and international organizations in registering space objects. The Convention on Registration of Objects Launched into Outer Space (the Registration Convention) requires States parties launching objects such as satellites, to provide information on the launched object to the United Nations. Based on this information, the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (OOSA) maintains, on behalf of the United Nations Secretary-General, the United Nations Register of Objects Launched into Outer Space, for which it also provides an online searchable index.
The Subcommittee agreed that it was important to further promote greater adherence to the Registration Convention, which would lead to more States registering space objects, and also to encourage international organizations to declare their acceptance of the rights and obligations under the Convention.
The Working Group under this agenda item agreed on the elements that could constitute the basis for consensus on specific recommendations and conclusions to be included in the report of the Legal Subcommittee at its next session in 2007. These elements relate to: (a) the benefits of becoming a party to the Registration Convention; (b) adherence to and implementation of the Registration Convention; and (c) registration practice.
Status and application of the five United Nations treaties on outer space
The Subcommittee endorsed the recommendation of the Working Group under this agenda item that member States of COPUOS provide information on any action that might have been taken at the national level as a result of receiving the letter from the UN Secretary-General encouraging participation in the outer space treaties.
The Subcommittee also endorsed the recommendation that the Office for Outer Space Affairs (OOSA) send a letter transmitting information on advantages of adherence to the Convention on International Liability for Damage Caused by Space Objects (the Liability Convention), to all States that had not yet become parties to that Convention.
Definition and delimitation of outer space
The Working Group under this item agreed to continue to invite Member States to reply to the questionnaire on aerospace objects until a consensus on criteria for analyzing the replies could be reached by the Subcommittee. The Working Group also agreed to invite member States of COPUOS to submit information on national legislation or any national practices that might exist or were being developed, relating directly or indirectly to the definition and/or delimitation of outer space, taking into account the current and foreseeable level of the development of space and aviation technologies.
Registering property interests in space assets
Another item on the agenda of the Subcommittee were the developments concerning the draft protocol on matters specific to space assets to the Convention on International Interests in Mobile Equipment. The Convention was developed by the International Institute for the Unification of Private Law (Unidroit), an intergovernmental organization not affiliated to the United Nations. The Convention establishes a general legal framework for registering interests in mobile high-value equipment that move across national boundaries, such as aeroplanes and trains, and would result in lower costs of securing funding for the equipment. The protocol on matters specific to space assets is aimed at establishing an international system for registering property interests in space assets, such as satellites.
The symposium examined the legal aspects of disaster management and the contribution of the law of outer space.
The symposium was jointly organized by the International Institute of Space Law (IISL) of the International Astronautical Federation and the European Centre for Space Law (ECSL) and was held in the afternoon of the first day of the Subcommittee session. The programme included presentations by leading experts on topics such as the challenges of access to Earth observation data for disaster management, the initial legal issues and experiences related to the International Charter "Space and Major Disasters" and the legal and policy aspects of disaster management support from space in Asia.
The Subcommittee agreed to invite IISL and ECSL to organize a one-day symposium during the forty-sixth session of the Subcommittee, in 2007, that would include presentations by national and international space law institutions with emphasis on their capacity-building activities.
The Legal Subcommittee, like COPUOS, its parent committee, has the following 67 Member States: Albania, Algeria, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Benin, Brazil, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Canada, Chad, Chile, China, Colombia, Cuba, Czech Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Lebanon, Libya, Malaysia, Mexico, Mongolia, Morocco, Netherlands, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Romania, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Slovakia, South Africa, Spain, Sudan, Sweden, Syria, Thailand, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States, Uruguay, Venezuela and Viet Nam.
The following inter-governmental and non-governmental organizations have permanent observer status with COPUOS: Association of Space Explorers, Committee on Earth Observation Satellites, Committee on Space Research, Regional Centre for Remote Sensing of the North African States, Eurisy, European Space Agency, European Space Policy Institute, International Academy of Astronautics, International Astronautical Federation, International Astronomical Union, International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, International Law Association, International Mobile Satellite Organization, Intersputnik International Organization of Space Communications, International Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing, International Space University, National Space Society, Space Generation Advisory Council, Spaceweek International Association and The Planetary Society.
The Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS) was set up by the General Assembly in 1959 to review the scope of international cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space, to devise programmes in this field to be undertaken under United Nations auspices, to encourage continued research and the dissemination of information on outer space matters and to study legal problems arising from the exploration of outer space. COPUOS and its two Subcommittees each meet annually to consider questions put before them by the General Assembly, reports submitted to them and issues raised by the Member States. The Committee and the Subcommittees, working on the basis of consensus, make recommendations to the General Assembly.
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.unoosa.org/ .
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