28 October 1999

Partnerships with Private Sector, Cooperation in Disaster Prevention
Among Themes of Fourth Committee’s Outer Space Debate

NEW YORK, 25 October (UN Headquarters) -- The Third United Nations Conference on the Exploration and Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UNISPACE III) marked the first global meeting with full participation by industry and civil society as partners of Governments, the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) was told this afternoon as it started its debate on outer space issues.

The Conference (Vienna, 19-30 July 1999) reflected increasing economic use of outer space and the rapidly growing importance of private companies in that area, said the representative of Finland, speaking on behalf of the European Union. The involvement of private and commercial enterprises reflected the fact that industry was playing a key role in the development of space technology and its applications.

Stressing the importance of sharing the benefits of space technology with the developing countries, the representative of India recalled the final document produced by the Conference -- the Vienna Declaration on Space and Human Development. He said that the action programmes developed at UNISPACE III should be given priority. It was necessary to establish a special voluntary fund to implement the recommendations of the Conference as envisaged in the Vienna Declaration.

Regarding regional cooperation, the representative of Greece drew attention to the establishment of the Network of Space Science and Technology Education and Research Institutions of Central, Eastern and South-Eastern Europe, saying that it could play an important part in the dissemination of space science and technology in the region. The representative of Greece likewise noted the signing of an agreement between his country’s national space centre and the European Space Agency, aimed at placing their satellites at the disposal of countries that needed them, especially with regard to disaster prevention and mitigation.

At the opening of the meeting, the Chairman of the Fourth Committee made a statement before inviting the Chairman of the Outer Space Committee to introduce the reports of UNISPACE III and the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space.

Also speaking in today’s debate were representatives of Colombia, Japan, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Saudi Arabia, and China.

The Fourth Committee will continue consideration of international cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space at a time and date to be announced.

The Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) met this afternoon to begin consideration of international cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space.

Before the Committee was the report of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (document A/54/20), which describes that body’s most recent session, held in Vienna from 14 to 16 July 1999. It also describes the work of the Outer Space Committee's Scientific and Technical Subcommittee and its Legal subcommittee.

The report says that the Committee agreed on the need for international cooperation to expand appropriate and affordable strategies to minimize the potential impact of space debris on future space missions. In particular, it was felt that Member States should pay more attention to the problem of collisions of space objects -- including those with nuclear power sources -- with space debris.

Owing to the complexity of space debris questions, the report recommends that the Inter-Agency Space Debris Coordination Committee (IADC) continue to brief the Subcommittee annually. Further, the Subcommittee should assess the effectiveness of existing space debris mitigation practices and the extent of their implementation; and efforts to model and characterize the debris environment should continue. The technical report on space debris should be updated as new technological developments occur and as the technical understanding of the space debris environment improves.

According to the report, the Committee agreed that the Subcommittee, at its next session, should review international application of International Telecommunication Union (ITU) standards and IADC recommendations concerning the disposal of satellites in geosynchronous orbit at the end of their useful life. The area of focus could be expanded to include the disposal of upper stages used to achieve geosynchronous orbits and debris issues associated with geosynchronous transfer orbits.

The report cites the view of some Committee members that, in view of the Subcommittee's completion of the multi-year work plan and the technical report on space debris, the Outer Space Committee should request its Legal Subcommittee to consider presenting its views on the applicability of the existing outer space treaties to space debris, as proposed in the working paper presented by France and reproduced in annex II to the present report. Other members felt that it was premature for the Legal Subcommittee to discuss space debris before the technical report had been thoroughly analysed by Member States and by the relevant space-related organizations and industry.

According to the report, the Committee noted with satisfaction that the Office for Outer Space Affairs had continued to develop a World Wide Web home page (http://www.un.org.@/OOSA/index.html), offering access to information sources within the United Nations system and to external databases. It also expressed satisfaction at the publication of Seminars of the United Nations Programme on Space Applications: Selected Papers on Remote Sensing, Space Science and Information Technology (document A/AC.105/711) and of a booklet entitled, Space for Development, which gives detailed descriptions of the Committee's activities.

On regional and interregional cooperation, the Committee expressed appreciation for the continuing efforts by the United Nations Programme on Space Applications, in leading an international effort to establish regional centres for space science and technology education in existing national or regional educational institutions in developing countries. Once established, the report notes, each centre could expand and become part of a network that could cover specific programme elements related to space science and technology in established institutions in each region.

The Committee noted that the Centre for Space Science and Technology Education in Asia and the Pacific commenced its seventh nine-month course at the Space Applications Centre at Ahmedabad, India, on 1 July 1999. Also noted was the inauguration of the (French) African Regional Centre for Space Science and Technology on 24 October 1998 in Morocco. The report says that the Regional Centre will convene a first session, of training in remote sensing and geographic information systems in January 2000, and a second session, on space telecommunication, in the spring of 2000. The Regional Centre is also planning a workshop to identify the needs of African countries in space science and technology. A counterpart centre -- working in English -- had been inaugurated on 24 November 1998 in Nigeria.

According to the report, the Centre for Space Science and Technology Education in Latin America and the Caribbean, with facilities in Brazil and Mexico, is to be inaugurated this year. In preparation for the opening of the Brazilian campus of the Centre, the National Institute for Space Research of Brazil had carried out a number of activities for the benefit of States in the region.

Missions were sent to Jordan and the Syrian Arab Republic from 24 June to 1 July 1998 to evaluate the establishment of a regional centre for space science and technology education in western Asia, the report says. The mission reports are being finalized in consultation with the two Governments, with a view to selecting a host country for the centre.

In addition, the report states, a mission was sent to Bulgaria, Greece, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Turkey from 24 November to 7 December 1998, to undertake a technical study and provide a report to be used in determining an agreed framework for the operation of the Network of Space Science and Technology Education and Research Institutions for Central, Eastern and South-Eastern Europe. The Steering Committee for the Network held a meeting in February 1999 to discuss further procedures for the operation of the Network.

According to the report, the Committee emphasized the importance of regional and international cooperation in making the benefits of space technology available to all countries by such cooperative activities as sharing payloads, disseminating information on spin-off benefits, ensuring compatibility of space systems and providing access to launch capabilities at reasonable cost.

Regarding the Subcommittee's future work, the report says the Committee has asked the Secretariat to invite Member States and international organizations to submit information to the Subcommittee on the identification of terrestrial processes and technical standards that might be relevant to nuclear power sources, including factors that distinguish nuclear power sources in outer space from terrestrial nuclear power sources.

With regard to the work of its Legal Subcommittee the report says the Committee agreed that the Principles Relevant to the Use of Nuclear Power Sources in Outer Space would remain valid for the time being. The Scientific and Technical Subcommittee should consider the need for their revision in the light of changing technology before the Legal Subcommittee or the parent Committee undertook any actual revision. The item concerning nuclear power sources should be retained on the agenda of the Legal Subcommittee for discussion in plenary meetings.

On matters relating to the definition and delimitation of outer space and to the character and utilization of the geostationary orbit, the Committee noted that the Chairman of the Group of Latin American and Caribbean States had expressed the view that those issues are of particular interest to those States and should continue to be considered by the Committee and the Legal Subcommittee until they have been resolved to the satisfaction of all States. The working paper submitted by Colombia to the Legal Subcommittee's 1996 session could serve as the basis for further progress in this area.

According to the report, some Legal Subcommittee members reiterated that the geostationary orbit, because of its particular characteristics, required a special, sui generis legal regime to regulate access and utilization by all States, taking into account the needs of developing countries. The view was also expressed that the needs of equatorial countries should be taken into account in that regard.Other members held the view that, because the geostationary orbit was an integral part of outer space, the legal regime established by the Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and other Celestial Bodies, adequately covered the geostationary orbit. The Committee recommended that the Legal Subcommittee continue its consideration of the issue at its session in 2000.

The Committee noted that the Legal Subcommittee had continued its review of the status of the five international legal instruments governing outer space, with a view to promoting greater adherence to them.

Regarding the future agenda of the Subcommittee, the report cites the view of some members that its work should be revitalized, including the development of additional agenda items. It was also suggested, however, that the Subcommittee focus on making a useful contribution to meeting the interests of all States, rather than simply generating new legal standards regulating space-related activity.

It was suggested that, as the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee had finalized its technical report on space debris, it was appropriate for the Legal Subcommittee to consider including in its agenda an item entitled "Review of existing norms of international law applicable to space debris", as proposed by the Czech Republic.

The Fourth Committee also had before it the report of the Third United Nations Conference on the Exploration and Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UNISPACE III), (document A/CONF.184/6).

That report contains three resolutions adopted by UNISPACE III. By the terms of the first, entitled "The Space Millennium: Vienna Declaration on Space and Human Development", the General Assembly would declare the nucleus of a strategy to address global challenges as follows: protecting the Earth's environment and managing its resources; using space applications for human security, development and welfare; advancing scientific knowledge of space and protecting the space environment; enhancing education and training opportunities and ensuring public awareness of the importance space activities; strengthening and repositioning of space activities in the United Nations system; and promoting international cooperation.

Also by the Vienna Declaration, the Assembly would emphasize that the shared objective of sustainable development for all countries will require timely and effective action to achieve the stated goals and that such an endeavour will provide ample scope for space science and technology to play their proper role as major contributors to people's well-being. It would decide to declare "World Space Week" between 4 and 10 October as a yearly celebration at the international level of the contribution that space science and technology can make to the betterment of the human condition.

The second resolution, would have the Assembly request the Government of Austria to thank the city of Vienna and the people of Austria for their hospitality to UNISPACE participants. By the third draft the Assembly would approve the report of the Conference's Credentials Committee.

Also before the Committee was a letter (document A/C.4/54/8) Georgia, transmitting an information note from that country's Ministry of Foreign Affairs on new developments in the field of telecommunications.

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NOTE: A summary of the statements made can be provided upon specific request.
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