Press Releases

    1 June 2004

    Background Release

    United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space to Hold 47th Session in Vienna

    Implementation of UNISPACE III and Space and Water to Be Discussed

    VIENNA, 1 June (UN Information Service) -- Finalizing the preparations for the General Assembly’s review in October 2004 of the implementation of the recommendations of the Third United Nations Conference on the Exploration and Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UNISPACE III) will be the key agenda item of the forty-seventh session of the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS). The session will take place from 2 to 11 June in Vienna.

    Other topics of discussion include space and water, space and society, and issues raised in the reports of the two Subcommittees – the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee and the Legal Subcommittee – at their sessions earlier this year. The issues discussed by the Subcommittees include the use of nuclear power sources in outer space, the implementation of an integrated, space-based global natural disaster management system, space-system-based telemedicine, a draft General Assembly resolution on the concept of the “launching State” and the examination of the preliminary draft protocol on matters specific to space assets. 

    Implementation of the Recommendations of UNISPACE III

    The Committee will finalize the report to be submitted to the General Assembly for its five-year review of the implementation of the recommendations of UNISPACE III, which will take place in October this year during the fifty-ninth session of the Assembly. The report contains a set of proposed future actions, based on the recommendations submitted by action teams established by the Committee to implement high priority UNISPACE III recommendations.

    UNISPACE III was held in Vienna in 1999. It adopted “The Space Millennium: Vienna Declaration on Space and Human Development”, which included a strategy to address global challenges in the twenty-first century through the use of space science and technology and their applications. The actions called for in the Vienna Declaration dealt with, among other things, protecting the Earth’s environment and managing its resources; using space applications for human development and welfare; advancing scientific knowledge of space; enhancing education and training opportunities and ensuring public awareness of the importance of space activities; and promoting international co-operation in space activities.

    Implementation of an Integrated, Space-based Global Natural Disaster Management System

    Based on the report of the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee, COPUOS will discuss the issue of the implementation of an integrated, space-based global natural disaster management system. Space technology, such as remote sensing satellites, navigation and positioning satellites and telecommunication satellites, has already proven to be useful for disaster management. For instance, remote sensing satellites can be used to map features of interest in regions where disasters are likely to occur, and following a disaster, they can provide up-to-date images of the affected area. Satellite communications help connect regions affected by disasters to the outside world when ground infrastructure is damaged or destroyed.

    As part of the Committee’s deliberations on this matter, an industry workshop on “Satellites for Disaster Communications: Saving Lives from Natural Disasters” will be held on the afternoon of Monday, 7 June. Presentations will be given by industry representatives.

    United Nations Programme on Space Applications

    The Committee will review the United Nations Programme on Space Applications, including the activities of the International Satellite System for Search and Rescue (Cospas-Sarsat). The system is designed to provide distress alert and location data to assist search and rescue operations, and has been successfully in use since 1982, saving more than 17,000 lives worldwide. The United Nations Programme on Space Applications holds workshops and training courses to promote awareness of Cospas-Sarsat and to support countries in co-ordinating its use.

    Draft General Assembly Resolution on the Concept of the “Launching State”

    The legal concept of the “launching State” is important because some of the existing United Nations treaties governing outer space activities include obligations and responsibilities of the State that launches an object into outer space. These obligations are particularly related to the registration of the objects launched and to liability for damage caused by such objects. A review of the concept has become particularly relevant in light of increasing international co-operation in space activities, as well as the involvement of non-governmental entities in launches. The Legal Subcommittee, during its last session, agreed on the text of a draft General Assembly resolution on the concept of the “launching State”, which is being submitted to COPUOS for further forwarding to the General Assembly for its consideration later this year.

    Space and Water

    The Committee will consider space and water as a new agenda item. Space-based data collection and shared processing and analyses could substantially improve inter-jurisdictional water resources management. The results of the debate on this matter could provide input for the discussions among programme managers involved in water resources management as well as experts from space agencies participating in the United Nations/Austria/European Space Agency symposium to be held in September 2004 on the topic of  “Water for the World: Space Solutions for Water Management”.


    COPUOS has the following 65 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, 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, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States, Uruguay, Venezuela and Viet Nam.

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    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