Background Press Release

5 June 2001


To Discuss Ways and Means of Maintaining Outer Space for Peaceful Purposes

VIENNA, 5 June (United Nations Information Service) – The forty-fourth session of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS) will be convening from 6 to 15 June. Among topics to be discussed are: ways and means of maintaining outer space for peaceful purposes, implementation of the recommendations of the Third United Nations Conference on the Exploration and Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UNISPACE III), and enlargement of the membership of the Committee.

Symposium: The Human Dimension in Space Science and Technology Applications

In order to consider the cultural, ethical and human aspects of space science and technology applications, a symposium on "The human dimension in space science and technology applications" will take place on Monday, 11 June 2001 at 15:00, at the Vienna International Centre (VIC), Conference Room III.

Since humankind first began exploring outer space, space science and technology and their applications have had enormous benefits for education, health, environmental monitoring, management of natural resources, disaster management, meteorological forecasting, satellite navigation and communications. However, the practical benefits of space science and technology applications have not yet reached all people equally. While many applications are positively used on the daily basis by the developed world, a large part of the developing world is not aware of the benefits of space applications and only has limited access to these applications. The need for increasing awareness of space benefits as well as the need to facilitate access to space science and technology, and to entities with space capabilities as well as the necessity to act responsibly will be addressed during the symposium.

The symposium will be open to all delegates and representatives attending the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space as well as to the staff members of international organizations located in the Vienna International Centre, the media, students and the general public.

UNISPACE III Recommendations

The United Nations Space Applications Programme was established in 1971 by the General Assembly, with a mandate to assist nations in using space technology for economic, social and cultural development. UNISPACE III was held in Vienna from 19 to 30 July 1999, and it has identified specific areas and actions through which space science and technology can help solve common problems on both the regional and global level.

Among UNISPACE III recommendations were the following: remote sensing for protecting the environment, facilitating and utilizing communications, improving and using positioning and location capabilities, furthering knowledge and building capacity, enhancing education and training opportunities for youth, information technology needs and the global approach, spin-offs and commercial benefits from space activities: promoting technology development and exchange, and promoting international cooperation.

The Outer Space Scientific and Technical Subcommittee - one of the two subsidiary bodies of COPUOS - at its thirty-eighth session taking place 12-23 February 2001, considered through its Working Group of the Whole the implementation of the recommendations of UNISPACE III. The Committee will discuss a mechanism to put these recommendations into reality through the voluntary leadership of individual Member States, with the help of NGOs. The Working Group recommended that a survey should be conducted among Member States to identify the level of interest and priority for each action constituting the nucleus of a strategy, contained in the resolution of UNISPACE III to address global challenges in the future.

As a first step, a survey was conducted. Through the survey, each Member State indicated whether it wished to be the leader or a team member to carry out the recommended action and identify non-governmental entities that might wish to be members of the team. The Committee will have before it the results of the survey. Informal consultations will be held by the Chairman of the Subcommittee in order to reach consensus on the leader and identify members for each action.

Natural Disaster Management

The Committee will also consider establishing expert groups to conduct research, analyze and make recommendations on particular actions recommended by UNISPACE III. In particular, they will consider a recommendation by subsidiary body – the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee - to establish an expert group on an integrated, space-based global natural disaster management system. The Committee will review a list of nominees for this expert group provided by Member States.

Natural disasters, such as earthquakes, typhoons, wildfires and floods, cause huge loss of life and damage to property annually around the world, and can wipe out in minutes, years of progress in economic and social development. Space technologies have important applications to disaster reduction and emergency management.

Space Debris

Space debris – retired or defunct satellites and fragments and small particles of various origin – were considered as a single issue and item for discussion on a priority basis by the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee, with attention given to various aspects of space debris during the thirty-eighth session of the Subcommittee. The Committee will consider endorsing the proposal of the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee for a multi-year work plan on space debris, to be discussed by the Subcommittee. This work plan may lead to the Subcommittee’s endorsement of debris mitigation guidelines to be implemented on a voluntary basis through national mechanisms.

Draft Convention of Unidroit on international interests in mobile equipment

The Draft Convention of the International Institute for the Unification of Private Law (Unidroit) on international interests in mobile equipment and the preliminary draft protocol thereto on matters specific to space property were considered during its fortieth session in 2-12 April 2001, by the Legal Subcommittee, the other subsidiary body of COPUOS.

The Subcommittee agreed to the establishment of an ad hoc consultative mechanism to review the issues relating to this item to be used in order to hold informal consultations during the forty-fourth session of the Committee, and, if necessary, inter-sessional consultations at the convenience of interested Member States, with the participation of the representatives of the Secretariat of the Subcommittee, and to which representatives of the secretariat of Unidroit and relevant specialized international organizations might also be invited.

The mechanism would act under the aegis of the Legal Subcommittee and the results of consultations undertaken through the mechanism would be reported to the Subcommittee at its forty-first session, in 2002, for its consideration and endorsement, as it deemed appropriate.

Enlargement of the Membership of the Committee

Informal consultations on the enlargement of membership of the Committee were held during the thirty-eighth session of the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee, with a view to reaching consensus agreement on the matter at the forty-fourth session of the Committee.


The Committee consists of the following members:

Albania, 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, Malaysia*, Mexico, Mongolia, Morocco, Netherlands, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru*, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea*, Romania, Russian Federation, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Spain, Sudan, Sweden, Syrian Arab Republic, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States, Uruguay, Venezuela, Viet Nam.

(*Peru and Malaysia rotate their memberships every two years with Cuba and the Republic of Korea)

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