Fourth Committee Shifts Focus to Peaceful Uses of Outer Space with Speakers Emphasizing Need to Close Technological Gap
Delegates Highlight Ways That Space Can Promote Sustainable Development
As outer space activities multiply, it is vital to ensure the security and sustainability of that resource and bridge the space divide, the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) heard today, as it began its consideration of international cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space.
“Space activities are thriving while space actors are becoming more diverse and plural than ever before,” Omran Sharaf (United Arab Emirates), Chair of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, said as he introduced the report on its work for 2022 (document A/77/20). In particular, he highlighted the “Space2030” Agenda, endorsed by the General Assembly in 2021, as a forward-looking strategy for strengthening the contribution of space activities and tools.
Argentina’s delegate, speaking on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), highlighted regional initiatives in space cooperation. Given the nature of space activity, it is not possible to advance unilaterally, he said, noting that for developing countries, it is not just a matter of technological development, but also a question of sustainable development for applications with economic, social and environmental benefits.
Indonesia’s delegate, speaking on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), called for capacity-building partnerships between spacefaring and emerging spacefaring nations. Collaboration with relevant international organizations and agencies should also be intensified, he added, stressing the need to narrow gaps in space technologies across countries.
The representative of the European Union, in its capacity as observer, said that as a responsible space actor, the bloc is exploring concrete ways to comply with international rules on peaceful uses of outer space. Condemning the Russian Federation’s aggression against Ukraine, he said that his bloc can no longer support the affiliation of a new regional centre for space, science and technology education in that country. He also encouraged all States to refrain from initiating any cooperation project with that country in the current situation.
The Russian Federation’s representative, for his part, said it is important to avoid politicizing discussions on the peaceful exploration of outer space. Also highlighting his country’s cooperation in space activities, he drew attention to an agreement on integrated space flights that was concluded in July 2022 by the Russian Federation’s Roscosmos and its United States counterpart, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. He also noted his country’s pioneering role in space exploration, with 4 October marking the sixty-fifth anniversary of the launch of Sputnik-1, the first artificial Earth satellite in human history.
South Africa’s delegate said that, as an emerging spacefaring nation, his country launched its first constellation of satellites in 2022. Noting that they will contribute to sustainable development on his continent, he stressed the importance of bridging the digital divide between developing and developed countries. African countries are becoming ever more space-dependent in communication, education, agriculture and health, he noted, underscoring the need for global governance of outer space.
Pakistan’s representative, along similar lines, said his country is using its space capabilities to improve agriculture, health, climate change mitigation and disaster management, among other things. Space is a fragile resource and should be treated as a global common good, he said, expressing disappointment that countries are already treating it as a fighting domain. He also cautioned that the existing legal architecture has not kept pace with the growing risk of an arms race in outer space.
Also speaking today were representatives of Philippines, Oman, Iran, Colombia, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Switzerland, Thailand, Argentina (in its national capacity), Japan and Viet Nam
The Fourth Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 27 October, to hold a joint panel discussion with the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) on possible challenges to space security and sustainability. It will resume its general debate on international cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space at 10 a.m. on Friday, 28 October.
OMRAN SHARAF (United Arab Emirates), Chair of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, introduced the report on its work for 2022 (document A/77/20), noting that 2022 marks the sixty-fifth anniversary of the launch into outer space of the first human-made Earth satellite, Sputnik 1, as well as the fifty-fifth anniversary of the entry into force of the Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies (Outer Space Treaty). Such commemorations are an opportunity to consider the broader contribution of outer space activities to the global development agenda. “Space activities are thriving while space actors are becoming more diverse and plural than ever before,” he said, noting that COVID19 pandemic crisis management and relief efforts underscored the reliance on satellite infrastructures, specific technology capabilities and space applications.
Highlighting the General Assembly’s 2021 endorsement of the “Space2030” Agenda, he said it is “a forward-looking strategy” for strengthening the contribution of space activities and space tools. Turning to the Committee’s work, he noted that the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee’s Working Group on the Long-term Sustainability of Outer Space Activities and the Legal Subcommittee’s Working Group on Legal Aspects of Space Resource Activities agreed on and adopted their methods of work and workplans. The Working Group on the Use of Nuclear Power Sources in Outer Space agreed that its multi-year workplan be extended to 2023, while the Working Group on Space and Global Health finalized the report on its work conducted under its multiyear workplan and developed the text of the draft resolution to be considered at this session, he said.
Noting that he will introduce a draft omnibus resolution covering the agreements of the Committee and its two subcommittees, as well as the text on space and global health, he called on the international community to enhance the role of the Committee and its subcommittees, as a unique multilateral forum for fostering dialogue and cooperation. Strengthening partnerships among States and other stakeholders, fostering dialogue among spacefaring and emerging space nations, and promoting the increased involvement of all countries in space activities, including through capacity-building initiatives, is crucial, he underscored.
FABIÁN ODDONE (Argentina), speaking on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), said that given the nature of space activity, it is clearly not possible to advance unilaterally. International cooperation is therefore essential, as it contributes to promoting the development of space science and technology, fostering the development of space capabilities in concerned States and facilitating the exchange of knowledge and technology among States. The Latin American and Caribbean region has great potential for space cooperation, he said, noting that 20 countries are now signatories to the Constitutive Agreement of the Latin American and Caribbean Space Agency. Once 11 States have ratified that instrument and it comes into force, the Agency will make it possible to strengthen regional capacities in space affairs by, among other things, promoting and strengthening ties between participating States, developing scientific activities and exchanging space information, promoting technology transfers, and developing satellite technology, he said.
Access to outer space must be equitable for the entire international community, he added, and in that regard, the full validity of international law in all Space activities is fundamentally important. For developing countries, it is not just a matter of technological development, but also a question of sustainable development for applications which benefit the economic, social and environmental benefit sectors. Space technologies have a great role to pay not only in the future but also in the present, and therefore the deepening of international cooperation is imperative, he said.
ARRMANATHA CHRISTIAWAN NASIR (Indonesia), speaking on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), emphasized that the use and exploration of outer space shall be carried out exclusively for peaceful purposes and conducted for the benefit and interest of all countries, irrespective of their degree of scientific or economic development. As enhanced access to space technologies and the benefits of space will be beneficial for all countries, capacity-building partnerships in space science and technologies between spacefaring and emerging spacefaring nations must be strengthened. Collaboration with relevant international organizations and agencies should also be intensified, he added, encouraging the Outer Space Committee and the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs to continue to conduct programmes and activities to narrow gaps in space technologies across countries.
ASEAN seeks to forge closer regional cooperation through the ASEAN Research and Training Centre for Space Technology and looks forward to advancing research and development, as well as academic studies with all relevant partners, he said. In that regard, a proper legal framework to facilitate international cooperation in space, with full respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, is of utmost importance. He underscored the importance of space-based technologies in disaster risk management, noting that the ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance on Disaster Management has enhanced the utility of those technologies to improve early warning systems and enable better search and rescue operations. Voicing concern about the proliferation of space debris, he called for the immediate implementation of the Outer Space Committee’s Space Debris Mitigation Guidelines and urged countries to refrain from action that could further undermine the sustainable and stable use of outer space.
PATRICK CHATARD MOULIN, representative of the European Union in its capacity as observer, condemned the unjustified military aggression of the Russian Federation against Ukraine, saying that it violates international law and the Charter while undermining European and global security. Against this background, the bloc and its Member States can no longer support the affiliation of a new regional centre for space science and technology education in the Russian Federation, as noted in the General Assembly resolution 76/76, he said. Inviting all States to refrain from initiating any cooperation project with that country in the current situation, he stressed the importance of a rules-based international order and said the Outer Space Committee is a unique platform for international cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space.
Highlighting the Outer Space Committee’s role in developing norms and standards, best practices and confidence-building measures, he stressed that the Outer Space Treaty is a cornerstone of international space law. As a responsible space actor, the European Union is exploring concrete ways to comply with international rules and accepts its rights and obligations as enshrined in various space treaties. Further, the bloc continues to actively promote the preservation of a safe, secure and sustainable space environment, he added, noting that its Member States are seeking to harmonize their national legislations with international agreements concerning cooperation in outer space activities, including space debris mitigation. “Mutualism in the space sector produces results,” he said, noting that the role of space as an avenue for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals was recognized in the ministerial declaration of 2022’s High-Level Political Forum.
ANTONIO MANUEL REVILLA LAGDAMEO (Philippines), associating himself with ASEAN, said outer space should be a global space for a wide range of human activities. It should not be the exclusive purview of a small group of States. Outer space activities must take place inclusively, with full respect for sovereignty, territorial integrity and equity. It is not a place for “first come first served,” he emphasized. Discussing the Philippine Space Act, he said that it focuses on six thematic areas, including national security and development, hazard management, space research and development, space education and awareness, and international organizations. He also noted his country’s cooperation with other States, such as Japan, in outer space matters. Supporting a stronger role for the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, he said that capacity-building programmes and outreach should help to bridge the divide between developing and developing countries in space matters. He also called for confidence- and capacity-building measures to prevent an arms race in outer space, adding that it is important to ensure truly collaborative international cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space.
HARIB AL SAID (Oman), stressing the need to keep exploring outer space, called for strengthened international cooperation to ensure that all Member States can benefit from outer space to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. Oman has created a Space Settlement Centre which not only provides training, but also studies the behaviour of astronauts before they journey into space. Oman is also a party to several space-related instruments, including the Convention on the Registration of Items Launched into Outer Space (Registration Convention). Oman does not doubt that space-related projects will open vast horizons for future generations in a wide range of fields, in addition to contributing to local and national economies by supporting a shift towards a digital economy. He went on to stress the importance of the Committee’s work, which should open new channels for communication.
VAHID GHELICH (Iran), underscoring the importance of compliance with United Nations treaties on outer space, said a multilateral approach to international affairs should be supported and the “pre-failed” approach of illegal unilateral coercive measures against developing countries rejected. The more advanced spacefaring nations should be encouraged to participate in knowledge-sharing initiatives as well as capacity-building and technical assistance with developing countries, he said, pointing out, however, that such participation not be used as a pretext to impose limitations on developing countries’ space programmes. He called on all Member States to enhance universal endeavors against the arms race, militarization and placement of weapons of any kind in outer space, voicing support for the negotiation of a legally binding instrument in that regard.
FRANCISCO JAVIER GUTIÉRREZ PLATA (Colombia), noting his country’s constructive participation in multilateral forums addressing the safety and sustainability of outer space activities, said discussions on the norms and principles of the Outer Space Treaty, the relevant agreements that followed, and their relationship to the current geopolitical context, should be conducted at the multilateral level and within the framework of the Outer Space Committee. To best harness opportunities, as well as to tackle the risks posed by the activities of the private sector and the extraction of natural space resources, an inclusive multilateral framework that recognizes and bears in mind the interest of all States is needed. Also needed are measures to guarantee the long-term sustainability of outer space activities, an updated international regulatory framework, as well as confidence-building and cooperation measures, to ensure that all States can have access to the benefits of space technology, he said.
SONG KIM (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea), noting that outer space is no longer the exclusive domain of certain developed countries, stressed the importance of creating an international environment that provides developing countries free access to space technology. Monopoly of science and technology is an obstacle to humankind’s aspirations to shape a better future, he said, adding that the international community should oppose the politicization, militarization and weaponization of outer space. Drawing attention to the recent space policy document of the United States, which spelled out the guidelines for enhancing its space military operation capability, he condemned its designation of space as a national military domain under the guise of national security. He added that his country has advanced peaceful space development since the 1980s and is now able to manufacture and launch artificial satellites. He went on to say that the fabrication by the United States of sanctions resolutions in the Security Council will not stop the dynamic advancement of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
NAEEM SABIR KHAN (Pakistan) noted that his country has been a member of the Outer Space Committee since 1973 and has ratified all five United Nations space treaties. Pakistan uses its space capabilities to improve agriculture, health, climate change mitigation and disaster management, among other things. Pointing to its membership in various regional and international space research and cooperation organizations, he said that Pakistan’s national space agency hosts the regional support office of the United Nations Platform for Space-based Information for Disaster Management and Emergency Response (UN-SPIDER). Stressing the importance of the “Space2030” Agenda, he said that developing countries still face hurdles that prevent them from fully benefitting from space technologies. Further, space is a fragile resource and should be treated as a global common good, he said, adding that space traffic management and space debris mitigation are crucial to long-term sustainability of space. It is disappointing that countries are already treating space as a fighting domain, he said, adding that existing legal architecture has not kept pace with the growing risk of an arms race in outer space.
NATALIA ARCHINARD (Switzerland) said the United Nations and Outer Space Committee have a key role to play in ensuring that space can be used in a safe and sustainable manner over the long term for the benefit of the greatest number of people. She welcomed the General Assembly’s adoption of the "Space2030” Agenda last year, saying it should contribute to strengthening the use of space technologies for sustainable development. Switzerland supports the establishment of the Space and Global Health Platform in Geneva, in collaboration with the Office for Outer Space Affairs and the World Health Organization, and invites interested countries and actors to join the Space and Global Health Network to exchange experiences, share knowledge and establish new collaborations in a multidisciplinary framework. Noting that the number of operational satellites in orbit has more than doubled in five years, she welcomed the Outer Space Committee’s work on the long-term sustainability of space activities, including the adoption of relevant guidelines in 2019. Keeping space accessible and viable in the long term is everyone's responsibility, she said, emphasizing that multilateral work is essential to develop a common understanding of legal aspects while also considering scientific and technical aspects and the interests of different actors, including the private sector.
DIYANA SHAISTA TAYOB (South Africa) said that as an emerging spacefaring nation, South Africa places great importance on the peaceful use of space for the benefit of all nations. An international order must be upheld in outer space, with the United Nations at its core. Multilateralism is the only credible way to deal with these issues, with the well-being of the planet at its heart. African countries are becoming ever more space-dependent, including in such areas as communication, education, agriculture and health issues. South Africa launched its first satellites in 2022 to monitor, detect and communicate with ocean-going vessels in real time. This constellation of satellites will continue to contribute to the development of the African continent, she said. The long-term sustainability of outer space activities is of great importance to South Africa and will help to bridge the digital divide between developing and developed countries, including job creation and poverty reduction, she continued. South Africa has promulgated national laws and regulations to ensure pristine environments for radio and astronomy in South Africa. South Africa emphasizes the importance of global governance and international cooperation in outer space matters, and urged all countries involved to maintain this positive spirit, she said.
THARARUT HANLUMYUANG (Thailand), associating herself with ASEAN, said that her country has benefitted from the use of space-based services and technologies for sustainable development. Its national space agency and space research organization, the Geo-Informatics and Space Technology Development Agency, has been applying satellite technologies to map and monitor crops such as rice during the growing season with a view to enhancing Thailand’s food security. In collaboration with the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), data from that crop monitoring platform is shared with neighbouring countries, thus contributing to greater regional food security. In addition, using the Agency’s geospatial information system, Thailand continues to strengthen its early warning capacities for disaster risk reduction, in line with the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030.
MAXIMILIANO JAVIER ALVAREZ, (Argentina), noting his country’s active work in space law, voiced support for the negotiation, within the framework of the Conference on Disarmament, of a legally binding treaty on the prevention of an arms race in outer space. Until such a treaty is adopted, international transparency and confidence-building measures in outer space activities will be appropriate and necessary, he said. Highlighting his country’s space programme for exclusively peaceful purposes, he said that the Observation and Communications Satellite 1A and 1B satellites, launched in 2018 and 2020, respectively, have produced cutting-edge data for such sectors as agriculture, biomass, ice monitoring and emergencies. Data from that mission are combined with those of the Italian COSMO-SkyMed mission, within the framework of cooperation with the Italian Space Agency in the Italian-Argentine Satellite System for Emergency Management. In the case of emergencies, the data is then submitted to United Nations Platform for Space-based Information for Disaster Management and Emergency Response (UN-SPIDER) and to the working group on disasters of the Committee on Earth Observation Satellites, he said.
YUTA KUSANO (Japan), welcoming the Outer Space Committee’s discussions on ensuring the safety and sustainability of outer space, added that considering the growing number of space actors, it is important that each country conduct its space activities responsibly. He highlighted the importance of the principles and guidelines for the peaceful uses of outer space developed by the Outer Space Committee and endorsed by the General Assembly, saying they have an important role in complementing existing treaties. Expressing appreciation for the work conducted so far by the Outer Space Committee’s working groups, he noted that as a leading spacefaring nation, Japan continues to promote space cooperation for the benefit of all humankind. He went on to point to Japan’s collaboration with international partners as well as its space exploration and science missions.
ROMAN KOLESNIKOV (Russian Federation), noting his country’s pioneering role in space exploration, said that 4 October marked the sixty-fifth anniversary of the launch of the first artificial Earth satellite in human history. Stressing the importance of peaceful space exploration on an equal and non-discriminatory basis, he called for strengthening the role of the Outer Space Committee, describing it as a time-tested platform for regulating a broad range of outer space questions. Expressing the hope that the Fourth Committee will approve by consensus the draft resolution titled "International cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space" (document A/C.4/77/L.7), he stressed the importance of avoiding politicization of discussions on the peaceful exploration of outer space. Further, attempts to duplicate the functions of the Committee on parallel platforms are counterproductive, he said, highlighting his country’s cooperation in space activities, including the agreement on integrated flights signed in July 2022 by the Russian Federation’s Roscosmos and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration of the United States.
HONG NHAT NGUYEN (Viet Nam), underscoring the many challenges facing the world today, including the impact of the COVID‑19 pandemic, called space a proven useful tool for multilateral development. The peaceful use of outer space should be carried out in line with international law and the United Nations Charter, with all countries having equal and universal access. Space technology has helped with the development of Member States, which have benefitted from space technology such as broadcasting, environmental monitoring and surveillance. Other useful applications continue to be discovered and put into practice, allowing for the successful achievement of the “Space2030” Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals. Viet Nam pays great attention to researching the uses of space technology to enhance socioeconomic development, she added, noting the active role it has been playing in the region and with development partners in developing space technology and its application. Going forward, Viet Nam is interested in enhanced cooperation as a driver for sustained development, she added.