ACUNS Vienna UN Conference

Implementing the 2030 Agenda:

A new vision for development - the contributions of UN Vienna-based Organizations

17 January 2017

Vienna, Austria

Distinguished Delegates and Participants,

As the Director of the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA), it gives me great pleasure to address you here today at the ACUNS Vienna UN Conference.

I would like to open my speech today by quoting the famous and eloquent words of the renowned physicist Carl Sagan:

"Look again at that dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. [and further] There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known"

We have only one Earth and we are all dependent on its limited resources. It is our duty to support and strengthen universal peace and to work together to address global challenges.

Within the framework of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals - or SDGs - all countries and stakeholders act in collaborative partnership to implement all goals and targets. The adopted Sustainable Development Agenda is designed to heal and secure our planet. UNOOSA is eager to contribute and take action towards the implementation of the bold and transformative steps that are urgently required to shift the world onto a more sustainable and resilient path.

Climate change, pollution, deforestation… these are the defining words of our time. To understand what is happening to our Earth and to be able to elaborate efficient counter-measures, we need to monitor developments and facilitate access to reliable data. Space infrastructure offers us this unique tool and is crucial for this purpose. International cooperation and long-term planning is essential in this regard.

There is no single goal or target within the Sustainable Development Goals that will be exclusively addressed by UNOOSA. The Office functions as a facilitator and will help and support countries and organizations in their need for cutting-edge technology and data for the implementation of the SDGs. Hence, Goal 17, that is "Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development", will be used as a guiding principle for the Office as we promote the use of space technology for development.

One of the great things I admire most about space exploration and human endeavours in outer space is the common desire for a better world. Space unites all humans for a shared and higher purpose; it excites, motivates and inspires us in so many ways.

We are constantly inventing new tools and capabilities; technology advances and innovations that will take humanity beyond any place we have already been. We are literally reaching every day for the stars and we at the Office for Outer Space Affairs are contributing on a daily basis to the peaceful uses and to the common uses of outer space.

As much as I believe that looking at the universe out there and fostering cooperation in space exploration will hold the key for humanity in the far distant future, I am convinced that it is also important to cooperate right now to preserve our home.

Space diplomacy aims to constructively engage with others on the basis of an equal footing and mutual respect, with the overall goal of addressing shared concerns and achieving shared objectives. A great example of making the most of the progress in space technology development and achievements is how countries have come together within the framework of the United Nations to discuss and work on Global Navigation Satellite Systems to collaboratively ensure their interoperability for the benefit of humanity. We should all work together to reach our common goals and use space diplomacy as a vehicle to create this atmosphere of mutual trust.

Sixty years have passed since the launch of Sputnik and since then the world has become more and more dependent on outer space activities and the wealth of information that is generated. Space today is a major growth sector, valued at around 320 billion USD. Currently over 70 space agencies operate more than 1,300 satellites and the number of commercial players is already outgrowing governmental operators. The recent announcement by the Indian Space Research Organisation to launch 103 satellites in a single mission will not only set a new world record on the number of satellites launched at once, but also underlines that the world is entering a stronger commercial phase of space activities as 100 of these satellites will be for commercial purposes and the remaining three for research.

It is therefore important to remind ourselves that space is a "global commons" and a limited resource that has to be protected through one joint vision. The advancements of space technology benefit all member states of the UN in one way or another, and space technology supports our common goals and our efforts in addressing global challenges and implementing the goals of the 2030 Agenda.

Space technology can help to predict crop yield, estimate land cover and use, determine soil moisture and type. With space-based technology the extent of desertification, droughts and floods can be assessed, water quality and salinity can be monitored, air composition and quality can be tracked, and greenhouse gases can be observed. We can monitor sea level, surface winds, sea ice extent, ocean colour and so on, or map public health situations and assess environmental influences. Tele-medicine can be used for remote and rural areas, and so on and so forth. And, as we all know, climate change impacts can be monitored best from space. Listing all the possible uses of satellite technology would take hours, and we still have not mentioned yet all the applications currently in development or research, findings and technological advancements made on a daily basis.

The task for the international community is therefore to preserve outer space as a limited resource for the benefit of humankind. In that regard, the year 2018 and UNISPACE+50 will mark an important milestone for the Office and the international space community. But, what is UNISPACE+50? Well, UNISPACE+50 will mark the fiftieth anniversary of the first UNISPACE conference and be an opportunity to take stock of the contributions of three global UNISPACE conferences, convened in Vienna in 1968, 1982 and 1999. These global conferences examined the practical benefits of space science and technology and their applications with special focus on the needs of developing countries, global and regional development agendas, and the benefits for society at large.

In this regard, the UNISPACE+50 process will align its thematic priorities and long-term outputs with the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and the Paris Climate Change Agreement. It will also examine where stronger space governance and supporting structures are required to protect the space environment and secure the long-term sustainability of outer space activities to ensure that the benefits of modern collaborative space governance strongly support nations in implementing the three agendas I just mentioned.

In the framework of four key thematic pillars, space economy, space society, space accessibility and space diplomacy, UNOOSA aims to raise awareness of the upcoming UNISPACE+50 conference and its preparatory activities.

Space economy touches on topics that include: space technologies and infrastructure, increasing awareness of the benefits of space economy for global sustainable development, and addressing the economic rationale for space activities, in addition to discussing possibilities for cooperation of/with/between private and public entities.

Space society is focused on raising awareness of the benefits of space technologies and space-based services during decision-making processes for a sustainable society. It is important to shed light on how the integrated use of space applications and space technology can be an essential driver for progressing towards a sustainable planet.

In the promotion of the peaceful uses of space for humanity, it is imperative to address issues around coordination and communication among all relevant stakeholders. Space accessibility is geared towards the benefits of open space data policies and practices to provide access to space. Capacity-building and education will support global efforts in the development of the space sector for the benefit of humanity.

Finally, the pillar of space diplomacy - as mentioned earlier - was created to discuss mechanisms for effective governance, to better include emerging space countries, to raise awareness of COPUOS as the United Nations platform for space diplomacy and decision-making at the global level, and to increase understanding within global development diplomacy of the benefits of space tools for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The increasing number of space-faring nations, major advances in space technologies, and the spectacular rise of the commercial space industry all call upon the international community to adapt to the new challenges and focus its work on Space2030.

To conclude, allow me to quote Robert Godard, who said that 'The dream of yesterday is the hope of today and reality of tomorrow.' With this,UNOOSA invites the international community, including Member States, non-governmental organizations, private entities and international organizations, to open up a new hatch and era in space cooperation and the peaceful uses of outer space.

I am very much looking forward to your questions.

Thank you!

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