Delegates Underline Need for Equitable Use of Outer Space Technology, Welcome Innovative Digital Peacekeeping Tools, as Fourth Committee Continues Debate
Emphasizing the need to bridge the technological divide between developed and developing countries in the peaceful uses of outer space, delegates called for more capacity‑building activities and technology sharing in that arena, as the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) continued its general debate today.
Noting that the use of space science technologies remains an invaluable tool to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, the representative of Nepal called on spacefaring nations and the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs to assist in technology transfer and bridge capacity gaps by boosting capabilities of developing nations.
Echoing that call, the representative of the Philippines stressed the need to bridge the technological space divide as well as to strengthen international cooperation. In that context, he also encouraged States to ensure safety, security and sustainability in the use and exploration of outer space and prevent an arms race on that crucial frontier.
The representative of India, also speaking on that issue, outlined her country’s spacefaring activities as well as efforts to share its experience with space‑aspiring partner nations through the UNISPACE+50 initiative, which includes a capacity‑building programme on small satellite building. India also shares its facilities and expertise in the application of space science and technology through the United Nations‑affiliated Centre for Space Science and Technology Education in Asia and the Pacific, she said.
Meanwhile, several speakers spotlighted the importance of embracing technology to better protect civilians and peacekeeping personnel, with many voicing support for the Strategy for the Digital Transformation of United Nations Peacekeeping, launched by the Secretary‑General in August.
Among those was the representative of Bangladesh — a leading troop‑ and police‑contributing country to United Nations peacekeeping — who welcomed the new strategy and pledged to remain engaged in overcoming the challenges affecting the safety and security of the peacekeepers.
Senegal’s representative, meanwhile, expressed appreciation for the development and promotion of telemedicine capacities in peacekeeping operations — especially in remote areas — while pointing to the need to further harness technology in such areas as strengthening early warning systems and protecting troops. In a similar vein, the representative of Venezuela said the use of information and communications technology became particularly crucial during the COVID‑19 pandemic and must be employed responsibly and equitably.
Among other issues raised by speakers were the need to fulfil the promise of self‑determination for the world’s 17 remaining Non‑Self‑Governing Territories; ensure uninterrupted funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA); and address the dire humanitarian challenges faced by Palestine refugees through common efforts.
Also speaking today were the representatives of Liechtenstein, Jordan, Mauritius, Iraq, Syria, Cambodia, Japan, Maldives, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Zimbabwe, Cameroon, Chile and Togo.
The representatives of Israel, the United Kingdom, Syria, Iran, Argentina and Mauritius spoke in exercise of the right of reply.
The Fourth Committee will reconvene at 3 p.m. on Monday, 25 October, to continue its general debate.
MATTHEW EDBROOKE (Liechtenstein) called on the international community to earnestly work to bring peace, justice and, most importantly, closure for Non‑Self‑Governing Territories, in order to fulfil the promise of self‑determination conveyed in the United Nations Charter. Stressing that Liechtenstein remains committed to upholding the right to self‑determination of the Palestinian people, he reiterated that the annexation of territory, or any decision to change or amend the border between Israel and Palestine without the explicit consent of both parties, is in violation of international law and relevant Security Council resolutions, as is the ongoing occupation of Palestinian territories. He also pointed out the need for special political missions to continue to work closely with underrepresented groups, including women and young people. In that respect, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) exemplifies the vital role of the United Nations in upholding the human rights of all women and girls in Afghanistan and supporting their full and unhindered participation in decision‑making.
ENRIQUE AUSTRIA MANALO (Philippines), associating himself with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), touched on the issue of international cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space, noting that his country recently signed an agreement with the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs to collaborate in various strategic areas. He stressed the need to strengthen international cooperation; bridge the technological space divide between developed and developing countries through capacity‑building; ensure safety, security and sustainability in the use and exploration of outer space and prevent an arms race. On peacekeeping, he underscored the Philippines’ support for the Secretary‑General’s zero‑tolerance policy and its victim‑centred approach to all forms of sexual exploitation and abuse and reiterated the need to fully vet and train Member States’ troops before deployment. Encouraging greater collaboration between the United Nations and ASEAN in peace operations, he also noted efforts in peacebuilding and sustaining peace, performance and accountability, promoting political solutions, and the protection, safety and security of peacekeepers. Turning to special political missions, which should continue to serve as “forward platforms for conflict prevention”, he went on to address the matters relating to information. In that arena, he expressed supports for the work of the Committee on Information and the Department of Global Communications, calling on States and other actors to responsibly harness the power of information to promote peace, inclusivity and development.
MAHMOUD DAIFALLAH HMOUD (Jordan) said the war in Gaza in May reminded the world that the status quo there is untenable. Furthermore, Israeli violations of holy sites in Jerusalem are illegal under international law, and their consequences will extend throughout the entire world, constituting a provocation to all Muslims. Noting that Jordan will continue to work to preserve the historic status quo of the Al‑Aqsa Mosque under Hashemite custodianship, he went on to voice his country’s steadfast support for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), which provides health and social services to millions and must be allowed to continue its work until a resolution to the conflict is found. Its mandate is not merely humanitarian but is linked to the national identity of Palestinians. As such, any attempts to weaken the Agency would have grave repercussions and would further fuel the conflict. Turning to Western Sahara, he expressed support for Morocco’s proposed autonomy initiative, which he said would improve the situation of the Territory’s inhabitants and allow the Government of Morocco to address the COVID‑19 pandemic in the region.
MD MONWAR HOSSAIN (Bangladesh), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, commended the work of the University for Peace, particularly for introducing three new courses in 2021 and ensuring the continuation of its activities during the pandemic. Welcoming the implementation plan of the “Space2030” agenda, he noted that his country recently launched its first communications satellite. He also praised the work of UNRWA, noting the pressures on its funding. Bangladesh will continue its modest support to the Agency, he said, urging the international community to come up with sustainable and predictable funding to enable it to continue its critical work for Palestine refugees. As a leading troop‑ and police‑contributing country to United Nations peacekeeping, Bangladesh will remain engaged in overcoming the challenges affecting the safety and security of the peacekeepers, he said, welcoming the new Strategy for the Digital Transformation of Peacekeeping.
JOYKER NAYECK (Mauritius), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, voiced regret that the process of decolonization remains incomplete. Expressing solidarity with the people of the Non‑Self‑Governing Territories in pursuing their legitimate and inalienable right to self‑determination, he said that any attempt aimed at the partial disruption of the national unity and territorial integrity of a country is incompatible with the United Nations Charter. Commending UNRWA for providing valuable humanitarian and essential services in health and education to Palestine refugees, he stated that the Agency should be supported and strengthened until there is a just and lasting solution. On the Chagos Archipelago, he recalled a decision of the International Court of Justice, which confirmed that decolonization was not conducted in a manner consistent with the right to self‑determination and that the continued administration of the archipelago by the United Kingdom is a wrongful act. He further pointed to a United Nations map, published in 2020, which confirmed that the Chagos Archipelago is part of the territory of Mauritius. Expressing his disappointment by the failure of the United Kingdom to end its unlawful administration, he stressed that the “immoral legacy of the colonial past is still on our agenda” and urged States to eradicate colonialism in all its forms and manifestations, “once and for all”.
AMRIT BAHADUR RAI (Nepal) said that pending the decolonization of Non‑Self‑Governing Territories, the administering Powers should promote the political, economic, social and educational advancement of their inhabitants and ensure the legitimate rights of those Territories to their natural resources. On outer space matters, he noted that the use of space science technologies remains an invaluable tool to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. In that context, he called on spacefaring nations and the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs to assist in technology transfer and bridge capacity gaps by boosting capabilities of developing nations. As for peace operations, Nepal has contributed more than 151,000 peacekeepers to date and is currently the world’s third largest contributor of troops and police. However, lack of mandate clarity, resources and technological enablers is placing peacekeepers in high‑risk environments. Stressing the need to address the root causes of conflict, he also called for the equitable representation of troop‑contributing countries in senior Secretariat positions, as well as field missions, based on their contributions.
SARHAD SARDAR ABDULRAHMAN FATAH (Iraq) said the value of UNRWA goes beyond the humanitarian assistance it provides, because the Agency is the first line of defense for the right of return for the Palestinian people. As such, UNRWA is an unequivocal legal instrument, he underscored. Calling on Member States to increase their contributions to the Agency, he noted that it will remain essential until a lasting solution is found to the Palestinian question. He went on to emphasize the need to prevent the use of anti‑personnel landmines, reporting that there are more than 20 million such mines in Iraq, which create a major obstacle to national development projects. Turning to peace operations, he underscored the need to prioritize preventive diplomacy and commended the efforts of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), which has provided particular help with Iraq’s elections, consolidating peace and strengthening democratic institutions.
BASSAM SABBAGH (Syria), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, said his country will spare no efforts to stand in solidarity with the people of Palestine in their struggle to reclaim their occupied territory and establish an independent State. Reiterating his country’s commitment to reclaiming the full territory of the Syrian Golan, he said attempts by Israel to impose its administration over the area have no legal affect per international law. Describing the expansion of settlement activities by Israel in the Syrian Golan as a serious threat to the peace and security of the region, he cited ongoing impunity for that continued aggression. “Our struggling people in the Syrian Golan look forward to their liberation,” he said, highlighting a recommendation of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices to update data on Israeli settlement activity and to provide public access to it. Turning to the operations of UNRWA, he said that Palestine refugees “became subject to the mercy of donor countries”, and supported efforts to rehabilitate infrastructure in several Palestinian refugee camps damaged during the “terrorist war” earlier in 2021.
MEALEA HENG (Cambodia), associating herself with ASEAN, recalled that her country has deployed over 7,000 peacekeeping troops to nine countries. She went on to express support for the Action for Peacekeeping (A4P) initiative and said that Cambodia will send a high‑level delegation to participate in the ministerial meeting on peacekeeping and peacebuilding later in 2021. Emphasizing that COVID‑19 vaccines should be ensured as a global public good, she said the pandemic has interrupted peace operations and it is vital to ensure that troops adhere to the United Nations guidelines and latest safety standards. Turning to peacekeeping mandates, she said they must be clear and achievable, with well‑defined roles and responsibilities for all key actors. She went on to emphasize the importance of thorough pre‑ and post‑deployment training for all peacekeepers.
YUKIYA HAMAMOTO (Japan) reported that his country provided assistance to 21 countries and regions in collaboration with the United Nations Mine Action Service to end the suffering and casualties caused by anti‑personnel mines. Ahead of the upcoming presentation of the report on the effects of radiation exposure due to the nuclear accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, prepared by the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR), he stressed his country’s commitment to nuclear safety. Turning to the question of Palestine, he reaffirmed his country’s continued support to UNRWA, drawing attention to its disbursement of $40.9 million in support of the Agency in 2021. A solution to that conflict can never be achieved through violence, but only through negotiations, he warned, committing to further promote the economic self‑reliance of Palestine and facilitate confidence‑building between the two sides. Turning to peacekeeping, he noted the importance of capacity‑building and drew special attention to the Triangular Partnership Programme in that regard.
THILMEEZA HUSSAIN (Maldives), focusing on issues related to the Occupied Palestinian Territory, stressed that the dire humanitarian problems faced by Palestine refugees are a shared international responsibility and urged greater funding for UNRWA. She emphasized that Israel’s illegal occupation and attempts at annexation, control or seizure — including of the occupied Syrian Golan — must end in order to ensure a lasting peace in the region. Recalling multilayered violations and harms committed against the Palestinian people described in the Secretary‑General’s Report, she urged States to respect United Nations resolutions and decisions and urged the Committee to address continuing violation of human rights of Palestinians and demonstrators, including the unfair trials and the excessive use of force that has resulted in deaths. Pointing to the humanitarian crises in Gaza caused by the Israeli bombings in May, as well as to practices of evictions and home demolitions, she said the prospects for human existence, let alone peace and development, are nearly impossible. She noted her country’s support for a two‑State solution and for the people of Palestine in their pursuit of international political recognition.
JOAQUÍN ALBERTO PÉREZ AYESTARÁN (Venezuela), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), said the situation in Puerto Rico has dragged on for 100 years, denying the people of the island their human rights. Puerto Ricans must be able to elect their own political representatives. He went on to express support for the inalienable right to self‑determination of the Palestinian people, noting that a two‑State solution is broadly supported by the international community, and called upon the administering Power there to put an end to colonial occupation, crimes against humanity and apartheid measures. As for United Nations peace operations, he said it is a central responsibility of the host country to ensure support for missions and the safety of peacekeepers. While COVID‑19 has demonstrated the essential importance of information and communications technology, such tools must be used responsibly and equitably. In that context, he said policies of aggression by certain Powers undermine national efforts to make advancements in those areas.
JUAN JOSÉ PORTORREAL BRANDAO (Dominican Republic), associating himself with CELAC, the Sistema de la Integración Centroamericana (SICA) and the Group of Friends of Spanish, said the international community has the outstanding task of helping the 17 Non‑Self‑Governing Territories regain their right to self‑determination. To that end, he supported Argentina’s sovereignty claims over the Malvinas Islands*, South Georgia Islands and South Sandwich Islands and the surrounding maritime areas, stressing that the only way to put an end to the dispute is through negotiations between Argentina and the United Kingdom. Highlighting the work of the Department of Global Communications, he welcomed that, despite the pandemic, it continues to provide fact‑based and accurate messages with regard to COVID‑19. Turning to multilingualism, he said all the United Nations publications should be produced in the Organization’s six official languages to better contribute to the core goals of linguistic and cultural diversity.
FATIMATOU FAYE (Senegal), associating herself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, expressed appreciation for the development and promotion of telemedicine capacities in peacekeeping operations, especially in remote areas. However, there is a need to further the use of technology in other areas, for example to strengthen early warning systems and protect troops. Africa must play a central role in the activities of the United Nations, she said, emphasizing the importance of the partnership between the Organization and the African Union. Turning to decolonization matters, she expressed dismay at the human rights violations committed against Palestinians and called on the international community to step up efforts to achieve a fair and just solution in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. She went on to express support for Morocco’s proposed autonomy initiative for Western Sahara, which she described as practical, lasting and based on compromise. Welcoming the appointment of the Secretary‑General’s new Personal Envoy, she urged stakeholders to maintain momentum with additional round‑table discussions.
LUIS ANTONIO LAM PADILLA (Guatemala), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, CELAC, SICA and the Group of Friends of Spanish, pointed to the “special and particular status” of the Malvinas Islands, South Georgia Islands and South Sandwich Islands and the surrounding maritime areas, while voicing support to Argentina’s claims over the Territory. Urging the United Kingdom to participate in negotiations on that matter, he condemned the country’s unilateral actions, including the exploration and development of renewable and non‑renewable natural resources. On the question of Western Sahara, he reiterated his country’s support for Morocco’s efforts to find a just and lasting political solution and welcomed the appointment of the Secretary‑General’s new Personal Envoy. Lauding peacekeeping personnel for their work amid the pandemic, he further endorsed the A4P initiative, highlighting its role in strengthening critical cooperation with host States. Ahead of the upcoming ministerial meeting in Seoul, he welcomed the Secretary‑General’s initiative on the use of new technologies in peacekeeping and called on the Security Council to analyse past transitions from peacekeeping to peacebuilding in order to ensure that future exit strategies are in line with the real situations on the ground.
DARLINGTON MASHOKO KADYAUTUMBE (Zimbabwe) underscored that the people of Western Sahara have been waiting a long time to exercise their right to self‑determination. Recalling his country’s history as a former colony, he expressed concern over the continued denial of that right, one that has been consistently reaffirmed by General Assembly and Security Council resolutions, as well as decisions by the African Union. He urged those bodies to fully assume their responsibilities to ensure the political, economic, social and cultural rights of the Sahrawi people and the right to permanent sovereignty over their natural resources. Also highlighting the recent judgment by the European Court of Justice that found agreements by the European Union and Morocco to be invalid, he welcomed the appointment of the Secretary‑General’s Personal Envoy and urged the General Assembly to complete the decolonization of Western Sahara by supporting a free and fair referendum. He also called on the Special Committee on Decolonization to undertake a visiting mission to Western Sahara for the first time since 1975.
VIDISHA MAITRA (India) outlined her country’s spacefaring activities, including its three successful launch vehicle missions and its efforts to share its experience with space‑aspiring partner nations. As part of the UNISPACE+50 initiative, India created a capacity‑building programme on small satellite building and shared its facilities and expertise in the application of space science and technology through the United Nations‑affiliated Centre for Space Science and Technology Education in Asia and the Pacific. India has also initiated a major space reform to enable the participation of the private sector in its space programmes and is formulating a national space legislation. Highlighting the key role of the special political missions, she reiterated the principles of impartiality, consent of parties, national ownership and national responsibility, while pointing out the need to streamline the funding of such missions, possibly through the use of a separate account. Recalling the key principle of self‑determination, she noted that pursuing a pragmatic approach to decolonization would lead to fulfilment of the legitimate wishes of the people of the 17 Non‑Self‑Governing Territories, and called on States to enhance cooperation and channel resources to that end.
Mr. AHIDJO (Cameroon) advocated for the provision of adequate assistance to peacekeeping troop‑contributing countries, well as for the further strengthening of partnerships between the United Nations and regional organizations to improve peacekeeper training and preparedness. To that end, he recalled that Cameroon created the International School of Security Forces in 2008 to ensure local capacity‑building of African troop‑contributing countries. On the issue of special political missions, he underlined the importance of making constant improvements to their organization, planning and supply chains. Such missions must be provided with clear and achievable mandates accompanied by necessary resources, he said, adding that their current mode of funding must be reviewed and an alternative approach, according to the same criteria as peacekeeping operations, considered. Another option would be to provide separate and predictable budgets that would ensure the successful transition of peacekeeping operations into special political missions, he said.
JOSÉ LUIS BUSTAMANTE (Chile), associating himself with CELAC and the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR), expressed support for Argentina’s sovereign right over the Malvinas Islands, South Georgia Islands and South Sandwich Islands and the surrounding maritime areas. In that context, he underscored that the Governments of Argentina and the United Kingdom must renew negotiations. Regarding Western Sahara, he said a solution in line with international law will contribute to stability in the region and will bring in its wake a process of sustainable development. Regarding UNRWA, he described the crucial efforts of the Agency on the ground, stressing that it plays a key role in providing assistance and protection for more than 5 million refugees, in spite of its precarious financial situation. In terms of peace operations, he said their success can only be achieved with the inclusion of members of civil society, youth and women.
ABD‑EL KADER YASMIN TCHALARE (Togo), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, the African Group and the Group of Francophone Ambassadors, underlined the crucial importance of peacekeeping operations, paying tribute to soldiers who have lost their lives. Those operations face challenges linked to discrepancies between mandates and resources, he said, noting that Togo is a significant contributor. Citing the 17 remaining Non‑Self‑Governing Territories, he stressed colonization is unfortunately still an issue, despite the General Assembly’s resolution on the granting of independence to colonial countries and peoples. Reaffirming Togo’s support for political processes in all non‑decolonized territories, he warned that the COVID‑19 pandemic has worsened conditions for refugees, requiring Member States to support UNRWA to avoid a genuine humanitarian disaster. Calling on States to mobilize finances to plug the Agency’s budget deficit, he welcomed the return of the United States as a UNRWA donor.
Right of Reply
The representative of Israel, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, responded to “outrageous comments” by the representative of Syria, a State guilty of ceaseless violations of the most basic human rights of its own population, and therefore in forfeiture of the right to make such baseless allegations. Most appalling, she stressed, is Syria’s use of chemical weapons against its own civilians, including women and children. Noting that Syria has also allowed Iran to set up bases within its borders, she reiterated that the Syrian regime has no legitimacy on the international stage.
The representative of the United Kingdom, responding to a number of delegates’ statements, said there is no doubting his country’s sovereignty over the Chagos Archipelago, which it has held since 1814. Mauritius has never held sovereignty there, he stressed. Referring to the International Court of Justice advisory opinion, he said that body should not consider bilateral issues without the consent of both parties. Similarly, the General Assembly is not an appropriate forum for such a bilateral issue. He noted the United Kingdom has provided funds of £40 million to support the needs of Chagossians. He also stated there can be no doubt of the United Kingdom’s claim over the Falkland Islands (Malvinas), South Georgia Islands and South Sandwich Islands and the surrounding maritime areas, nor over the right of their inhabitants to self‑determination. There can be no dialogue on sovereignty unless Falkland Islanders consent, he added.
The representative of Syria said it is ironic to listen to the representative of Israel try to cover up the infinite crimes it has committed in the Syrian Golan. Meanwhile, Israel has provided support to armed terrorist groups, including Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh). Furthermore, while Israel is obligated not to carry out any military operations across the ceasefire line, it continues to do so.
The representative of Iran said Israel’s representative made unfounded claims against his country, while describing those statements as a tool to divert attention away from the brutalities of her own regime. Israel should be reminded that it flagrantly disregards multiple United Nations resolutions with acts of aggression and war crimes against Palestinians, he stressed.
The representative of Argentina said the Malvinas Islands, South Georgia Islands and South Sandwich Islands and the surrounding maritime areas are an integral part of his country’s national territory. Their illegal occupation by the United Kingdom led the General Assembly to adopt 10 resolutions on the issue, calling for renewed negotiations to find a peaceful and lasting solution. Stressing that the principle of self‑determination is inapplicable to the dispute, he added that the referendum vote that took place was a unilateral British act with no legal value.
The representative of Mauritius said the whole world is aware of the United Kingdom’s gross violation of international law in the Chagos Archipelago and its forcible displacement of its residents. Noting that one of the 28 judges in three international bodies supported the United Kingdom’s position in the matter, he also cited related opinions by the nine‑member International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea. General Assembly resolution 73/295 also asserted that the archipelago is an integral part of Mauritius, he said, calling on the United Kingdom to comply with all those rulings and put an end to its dark chapter of colonization.
* A dispute exists between the Governments of Argentina and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland concerning sovereignty over the Falkland Islands (Malvinas).