22 October 2003



NEW YORK, 21 October (UN Headquarters) -- The importance of using space science and technology for the benefit of all humankind and the need to avoid an arms race in outer space were among the issues stressed this afternoon, as the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) began its consideration of international cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space.

Lebanon’s representative highlighted the collective benefits of space technology and outer space exploration on agriculture, medicine, transportation, weather forecasting and natural disaster planning.  Its contributions to communications were helping make the planet a global village, he added. 

Similarly, Cuba’s representative, describing outer space as mankind’s common heritage, called for all countries to preserve the use of outer space for peaceful purposes and the advancement of sustainable development.

On that theme, several speakers noted that technology transfer from developed to developing countries was crucial if space science and technology were to benefit all of humankind.  In that regard, the representative of Algeria said greater attention must be devoted to programmes designed to help developing countries that had an interest in accessing space technology, and to measures designed to reduce the existing gap between poor and rich countries in matters of outer space. 

China’s representative highlighted the importance of the peaceful use of outer space, saying the increasing use of outer space for military purposes was not only posing a grave threat to its peaceful uses, but also having a negative impact on the process of international arms control and disarmament, and on the international security environment in general.  In the face of that threat, there was a need to negotiate a legally binding international instrument to prevent an arms race in outer space, he added.

The representative of the Russian Federation said his Government consistently supported the prohibition of placing weapons in outer space and renounced the use of force in outer space or from outer space.  Unfortunately, he added, the Outer Space Committee’s discussion on the ways and means to maintain outer space for peaceful purposes was not sufficiently active, and Committee members were not focusing the necessary attention on the issue.  In that regard, he called on Member Sates to work together to exploit that body’s unique potential for fruitful discussion on the issue.


However, the representative of the United States noted that there was no scarcity of appropriate multilateral mechanisms where disarmament matters were discussed and that the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space was not, and should not, become one of them.  The Committee was not created to deal with disarmament.  Over four decades ago, resolution 1348 had established the Ad Hoc Outer Space Committee, the only standing body of the Assembly to consider international cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space.  It had been clear that there would be independent efforts to deal with disarmament issues, including the First Committee and the Conference on Disarmament.

Delegates joined in congratulating China on the successful launch of the “Shenzhou V” manned spacecraft on 15 October 2003.  The United States representative described the successful journey of “taikonaut” Yang through space as an important step forward in the exploration and use of outer space.

Several delegations supported the request by Libya for membership in the Outer Space Committee.  The Libyan representative requested support for his country’s request to become a full-fledged member of the Committee, noting that it would create greater geographical balance within the Committee and enhance the role of Africa.  Libya’s membership would also show that the political differences between States did not prevent them from cooperating in the peaceful uses of outer space.

Also speaking this afternoon were the representatives of the Niger, Kazakhstan, France, Mexico, Nigeria, India and Austria.

The Committee will meet again at 3 p.m., Thursday, 23 October, to continue its work.



The Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) met this afternoon to begin its debate on international cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space.  [For background information, see Press Release GA/SPD/268 of  20 October 2003.]

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