JOINT AD HOC Meeting of the GA 1ST/4TH Committee - "Possible Challenges to Space Security and Sustainability"

Address by Ms. Simonetta Di Pippo

22 October 2015

Distinguished Delegates,

It is my pleasure to address this joint ad hoc meeting of the First and Fourth Committees on the topic of possible challenges to space security and sustainability. I would like to begin by quoting the Secretary-General in his foreword to the report of the Group of Governmental Experts on Transparency and Confidence-Building Measures in Outer Space Activities, the GGE-report (A/68/189):

"Outer space is an inherently multilateral domain. If we are to continue to take advantage of the invaluable resources that outer space provides, it is critically important for all nations to work collectively to keep it free from destabilizing conflict and to make it safe, secure and sustainable in the long term for the benefit of all humankind"

Outer space is a fragile environment where the steps taken by one actor may have an impact on others, including users of space services on Earth. In that sense the broader application of space operations and the increased strategic value of space had resulted in a growing need to enhance the safety of space operations, security of the space environment and space assets, and the long-term sustainability of outer space activities.

In line with General Assembly resolution 68/50 on transparency and confidence-building measures in outer space activities, the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS) has agreed on the importance of considering the broader perspective of space security and associated matters that would be instrumental in ensuring the safe and responsible conduct of space activities. COPUOS decided last year to consider the recommendations of the GGE-report as they relate to safety of space operations and the long-term sustainability of outer space activities. States members of the Committee were last year invited to submit their views on the GGE-report and contributions have been received from Germany, Italy, the Russian Federation and the United States of America (A/AC.105/1080 and Add. 1 and 2).

With the evolution of the space awareness in society, COPUOS is positioning itself at the forefront of the overarching global sustainable development process by addressing challenges to space security and sustainability.

COPUOS is now in the process of preparing for the fiftieth anniversary in 2018 of the first United Nations Conference on the Exploration and Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, UNISPACE+50. Among several matters to consider, there will be a review of international mechanisms, such as guidelines and transparency and confidence-building measures, which are reflective of an evolving and more complex space agenda that includes the broader concept of space security, the expanding commercial space sector and the long-term sustainability of outer space activities. Overall, the Committee will consider mechanisms for space cooperation and coordination at the international, regional, interregional and national levels towards stronger space governance and global partnerships.

Distinguished Delegates,

The GGE-report addresses several concrete measures to achieve security, safety and stability of outer space activities. The safety of space operations is at the core of its recommendations on information exchange and notifications procedures, including on risk reduction notifications. In the context the role of the Office for Outer Space Affairs in providing one of the existing most important tools for enhancing transparency and confidence in space activities should be noted.

The Office is mandated since four decades to maintain the central United Nations Register on Objects Launched into Outer Space, under the obligation of the Registration Convention of 1975. The Register functions as the core mechanism for treaty based transparency and confidence-building. In this regard it is important to recognize the impact of the 2007 General Assembly resolution on registration practice (resolution 62/101) where we note that several States increasingly use the recommendations of that resolution to provide additional and voluntary registration data for the purpose of the UN Register on the change of status of space objects in orbit, information on re-entry events and de-orbiting of space objects and similar information they deem important for the purpose of the registration regime and as appropriate to enhance the safety of space operations.

I mention specifically the registration regime because together with the established procedures of discharging the responsibilities of the Secretary-General under the United Nations treaties and principles on outer space, including the Outer Space Treaty and the principles on the use of nuclear power sources in outer space activities, the Office for Outer Space Affairs is vested with a mandate to assist in global efforts to enhance international governance in the long-term sustainability of outer space activities.

Distinguished Delegates,

At its 58th session in June 2015, COPUOS requested the Office for Outer Space Affairs to issue a special report by the Inter-Agency Meeting on Outer Space Activities (UN-Space) for consideration at its 59th session next year on the implementation of the GGE-report as pertaining to the United Nations system, and to lead and coordinate the preparation of that report with relevant United Nations entities.

The report will note how United Nations entities supported the implementation of transparency and confidence-building measures in outer space activities in accordance with their existing mandates, and identify how United Nations entities could assist Member States in implementing the recommendations of the Group. The report will also address means to coordinate the work of United Nations entities in line with the overall recommendations of the report of the Group as endorsed by the General Assembly in its resolution 68/50. This report will therefore serve as a tool for the further development of  inter-agency coordination to support the implementation of transparency and confidence-building measures.

The Office for Outer Space Affairs stands ready to cooperate with relevant United Nations entities, in particular the Office for Disarmament Affairs, in forming appropriate coordination within the United Nations system to support Member States in addressing the recommendations of the GGE-report.

Thank you for your attention.

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