Press Releases

    20 June 2008

    United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of
    Outer Space Concluded 51st Session in Vienna

    VIENNA, 20 June 2008 (UN Information Service) - How to maintain outer space for peaceful purposes and ensure that space technology applications continue to be used in many areas critical to all humanity such as disaster management, climate change and food security, were among the main topics discussed at the 51st session of the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS) that was held in Vienna, Austria, from 11 to 20 June.

    Other topics on the agenda included "Space and water", "Space and society" with the special theme "Space and education", under which the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) presented its education and capacity-building programme. The Committee also discussed issues raised in the reports of its two Subcommittees - the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee and the Legal Subcommittee - on their sessions earlier this year.

    "Why should we go to space?", was the question posed by the newly elected Chairman of the Committee, Ciro Arévalo Yepes of Colombia, in his opening statement to which he answered by citing Professor Stephen Hawking: "In a way the situation was like that in Europe before 1492. The discovery of the new world made profound differences to the old. Spreading out into space will have even greater effect. It will completely change the future of the human race and maybe determine whether we have any future at all. Hopefully, it would unite us to face a common challenge".

    Apart from the new Chairman, the Committee also elected Suvit Vibulsresth of Thailand as First Vice-Chairman, and Filipe Duarte Santos of Portugal as the Second Vice-Chairman/Rapporteur for the two-year term 2008-2009.

    Implementation of the recommendations of UNISPACE III

    In accordance with the implementation of the recommendations of the Third United Nations Conference on the Exploration and Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UNISPACE III), the Committee discussed its contribution to the work of the Commission on Sustainable Development and the thematic cluster 2010-2011 of the Commission, which will place special emphasis on transport, chemicals, waste management, mining, and consumption and production patterns.

    Space and Society

    Under this item, a special focus was given to the topic "Space and education". The Committee heard on a number of educational initiatives undertaken at global level that use satellite technology for distance education to reach educators and students at all levels. Among them, the Space Education Programme of UNESCO, which is the lead United Nations agency for the United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable Development 2005-2014.

    Space and Water

    Space technology and its applications have an expanding potential to obtain information useful for the support of sound water management practices. The Committee noted a broad spectrum of water-related issues, ranging from too little water, affecting sufficient food production, to too much water, causing floods and destruction. The Committee heard a number of reports on regional and national water resource management initiatives that involve the use of space technology to contribute to monitoring and mitigating the effects of flood disasters and to improving the timeliness and accuracy of forecasts.

    Use of space-derived geospatial data for sustainable development

    Under this agenda item, the Committee took note of a number of national, regional and global initiatives that use timely, high-quality and space-derived geospatial data for sustainable development in areas such as agriculture, deforestation assessment, disaster monitoring, drought relief and land management. The Committee agreed that at its next session in 2009, it would evaluate the activities undertaken within the United Nations system that were directly related to the use of space-derived geospatial information for sustainable development and consider ways to highlight the links existing among those activities and the means to give them stronger international recognition.

    Other Matters

    The Committee approved permanent observer status with COPUOS to the following intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations: the European Organisation for Astronomical Research in the Southern Hemisphere (ESO), the European Telecommunications Satellite Organization (EUTELSAT-IGO), the International Institute of Space Law (IISL), the Prince Sultan Bin Abdulaziz International Prize for Water and the Secure World Foundation (SWF). Under "Other matters" the Committee also discussed its future role and activities and decided on two new items to be discussed at the next session: "Space and climate change" and "Information on the use of space technology in the United Nations system".

    Exhibitions "Space and Planet Earth"

    Two exhibitions are displayed throughout the month of June in the Rotunda of the Vienna International Centre in conjunction with the session of the Committee. The first one is dedicated to the celebrations of the International Year of Planet Earth (IYPE) 2008, proclaimed by the UN General Assembly. For this occasion, UNOOSA has prepared, in cooperation with the IYPE Secretariat and GEOSPACE International, a poster exhibition on how space technology contributes to the observation, monitoring and protection of the Earth's environment. The three themes on display are: Space and Archeology; Space and Forestry; and Space and Water. The second exhibition includes a documentary about the Japan's lunar probe Kaguya, portraying high-definition imagery of the Moon taken by the probe.


    The Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space has the following 69 Member States: Albania, Algeria, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Benin, Brazil, Bolivia, 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, Switzerland, Syria, Thailand, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States, Uruguay, Venezuela and Viet Nam.

    The following intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations have permanent observer status with COPUOS: African Organization of Cartography and Remote Sensing, 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, The Planetary Society and World Spaceweek Association.


    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 its Subcommittees, working on the basis of consensus, make recommendations to the General Assembly.

    The United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) 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, UNOOSA maintains a website at

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    For further information, please contact:

    Romana Kofler
    Associate Programme Officer
    United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs
    Telephone: (+43-1) 26060-4962