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OPENING STATEMENT BY SIMONETTA DI PIPPO
UNITED NATIONS OFFICE FOR OUTER SPACE AFFAIRS
18 June 2018
Excellencies, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, dear delegates, colleagues,
As the Director of the UN Office of Outer Space Affairs, it is my honour to extend the warmest of welcomes to UNISPACE+50. We have an exciting four days ahead of us.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Since the beginning of the space age, the potential contribution of space science and technology to human development has been immense. Fifty years ago, the world gathered right here in Vienna for the very first UNISPACE conference. Back then, ten short years after Sputnik 1, the conference opened with exciting remarks about the 'truly promising potential of space'. I'm glad to say, as we gather once again at the UN, the potential of space has been realised. Space science and technology is a fundamental pillar of the 21st century society, driving development around the globe.
When we consider the different applications of space, it is impossible to summarise the vast contributions these technologies are making to our daily lives. So often we try to capture their influence with lists of examples, drawing on scenes of cell phones on car dashboards helping us get home, zoomed out images of cities in motion or corporate boardroom settings of teleconferences linking colleagues around the world. These lists always fall short of articulating exactly how much space has percolated into our daily routines. Put simply - without it - our modern world would not be possible.
So, after half a century of relentless progress, we are no longer talking about the promising potential of space but instead how we can work to ensure the benefits of space science and technology are available to everyone, everywhere. This is what we are putting on the agenda here at UNISPACE+50. To meet this challenge, we are going to need all the help we can get.
Ladies and gentlemen,
One of the true added-values the UN can bring to the table is an unfiltered, universal perspective. We will witness this value over the next four days as we convene a global cast list of stakeholders to discuss how we can meet this challenge and expand the contribution that space is already making to our lives. Throughout UNISPACE+50, across a wide range of events, we will be taking stock of the progress being made and discussing the future of space for sustainable development.
I'm proud to confirm, on behalf of the Office for Outer Space Affairs, that we have an extensive line up of panellists. You are going to hear from expertise drawn from all corners of the global space community. Today, we open the symposium with a panel of representatives connected to the UN's Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, or COPUOS. These panellists, through their links to COPUOS, represent one of the most important pieces of work we do here in Vienna, namely supporting Member States in enhancing international cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space. This is an appropriate way to start UNISPACE+50 as the work of COPUOS embodies the essence of effective multilateral policy making we have seen for so many years here in Vienna. The work of COPUOS, with the support of UNOOSA, has defined the normative framework for responsible behaviour in space for over half a century. This regulatory stability has played a key role in allowing the myriad space benefits already referenced to be realised in the first place.
Over the next few days, we will also be taking a step back and exploring the contributions of space from perspectives not always at the centre of this multilateral policy-making process. We will hear from subject matter experts delivering perspectives of industry, women, civil society and youth on the past, present and future of space. We will then conclude the symposium with the Heads of Space Agencies Panel, where we will hear from pioneering leaders from well over 25 space agencies around the world.
All this is only the start. From Wednesday this week we will then join the two days high-level segment of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space itself. There we will get to hear views from the UN Secretary General, guests of honour including the Austrian President and other top level policy makers from around the world. We have a lot ahead of us.
Ladies and gentlemen,
As already mentioned, the fundamental aim of UNISPACE+50 is to enhance the role of space as a driver for sustainable development. Three years ago, the world united around three agreements for global development, namely the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction and the Paris Climate Agreement. Collectively these landmark decisions set the development agenda for the next fifteen years. This is the world's first data-driven approach to a global agenda, a fact which underlines the key role space science and technology can play in supporting implementation of these three agreements. What remains to be seen, however, is how we can work collectively to organize our efforts across the board to deliver the full potential of space for sustainable development. The path to realizing this ambition is captured by the "Space2030" agenda, which is a concept that has enjoyed much discussion in the preparations for UNISPACE+50. The Space2030 agenda represents a framework for cooperation and delivery across sectors and across borders on the potential of space. It is an opportunity to define - for the first time in history - a strategy for how we can realize the true value of space applications at the UN level.
However, with a little over ten years to go before we reach the 2030 milestone, we do not have the luxury of time. If we enhance our collective use of space for sustainable development it is difficult to overstate the potential impact. We are all well familiar with the 17 different Sustainable Development Goals but did you know, for example, that of the 169 indicators underpinning the goals, 40% are reliant on access to space science and technology? This statistic only begins to illustrate the importance space has for effective policy-making. Thanks to space science and technology we are helping farmers implement resilient agricultural practices, for example. We use space to monitor the spread of health threats like the Zika virus, , using space-data to accurately target scarce public resources to prevent breakouts - before they happen. We are using space science to improve urban traffic flows and then using the same technology to monitor the reduction in pollution levels that such efficiencies deliver. We are even using satellite technology to track endangered species and disrupt the poaching activity that drives the illegal wildlife trade. From city halls to the General Assembly, when policy makers need to see the big picture to make well-informed policy decisions, they are turning to space. Let me be very clear: space is fundamental to effective policy making in the 21st century. The challenge is to ensure the tools and information space can provide are helping to make effective policy in all corners of the world.
Ladies and gentlemen,
As UNOOSA's Director, I'm proud to say that I lead a great team already working to build capacity around the world to make space-informed policy decisions. This work covers the entire spectrum of space science and technology, from Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) and Earth Observation to Telecommunications. Furthermore, much of this capacity-building work begins with our policy and legal advisory services, working with emerging space-faring nations on how best to meet international obligations under the five UN treaties on space.
Allow me to briefly describe some examples of what this all looks like in action. In the context of SDG 6 on clean water and sanitation, for example, UNOOSA is working in partnership with the Saudi Arabian based Prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz International Prize for Water. Our collaboration is working to deliver programmatic activity connecting the global water management community to the space sector. This link facilitates the exchange of information on water data, research databases, water resource related organizations, companies, space-derived and geospatial datasets and satellite imagery resources and applications. Eventually, this project will deliver a one-stop-shop web-portal providing an online forum and database for professionals involved in water management and space science. Through this partnership, we are training colleagues to use space science and technology in the sector. Such technology can be used to measure precipitation, floods, droughts, water storage, soil moisture and evaporation. Such measurements provide not just a snapshot of the status quo but, built up over time, image after image, reading after reading, detailed historic records of vast landscapes around the world.
Moving away from the countryside, you will recall that urban environments constitute just 3 percent of the Earth's land surface but account for 60-80 percent of energy consumption and 75 percent of carbon emission. These figures demonstrate exactly how many of the SDGs hinge on what happens in our cities. In the context of SDG 11, for example, space science and technology is again making huge contributions, helping build more resilient and sustainable cities around the world.. Rapid urban growth can challenge even the most well-thought-out urban plans. To be a smart city it is crucial to have a timely understanding of changes in urban dynamics. This information is fundamental to delivering modern infrastructure and services, such as water supply, transit corridors and sanitation facilities. Equipped with space technology, policymakers can react promptly to changes in urban dynamics, optimally allocating scarce resources. Another huge barrier for urban planners is disaster risk reduction. Target 11. 5, for example, calls for a significant reduction in the number of deaths and people affected by disasters and a substantial decrease in the direct economic losses caused by disasters. Since 2006, UNOOSA has been working with Member States on the use of space science for disaster risk reduction and emergency response with the UN-SPIDER programme. This work helps us understand the hazards our urban areas face. Space technology is building catalogues of historic events and scientific models that describe the spatial and temporal dynamics of such hazards. This information guides a range of decisions from guiding where new housing developments are built to deciding the safest location to build, for example, your new hospital.
If you'll allow me one final example of how space technology is contributing to the SDGs, I'll turn to goal 15: life on land. Of the many applications illustrating how space technology is protecting our forests and bio-diversity, one fascinating example is the fight against the illegal wildlife trafficking. UNOOSA has previously collaborated with our colleagues at the UN Office for Drugs and Crime and the UN Environment Programme to deliver space technology training in East Africa. With modern developments in micro GNSS receivers, combined with high-resolution earth observation, we can, for example, monitor the movements and exact locations of individual animals, in real time. This allows law enforcement to not only locate and disrupt poaching activities but provide evidence of such activities to ensure the right sentence is delivered in the court room.
These are just three snapshots of how UNOOSA is committed to delivering a step change in global awareness of space as a driver for the sustainable development agenda. With the space sector becoming more and more dynamic and barriers like cost and access continuing to fall dramatically, there is no reason why space science and technology shouldn't be making all the difference at each and every decision-making table around the world.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Indeed, you do not need me to tell you that global interest in space is growing rapidly. Coming from the UN I am, however, in a privileged position to see such developments from a truly global perspective. So, please allow me to share with you a few global statistics on behalf of us all. Did you know that, for example, that as of 2018 over 70 UN Member States have established national government space programmes? This number demonstrates exactly how far we are past the point of space being the domain of an exclusive club of just a few States. It also shows the extent to which Member States are investing - and exposing-their national interests in the safe, secure and sustainable use of outer space. Such widespread engagement is driving up activity across the board.
Another statistic, right now we have over 1,800 satellites in current orbit, just above our heads. In 2017 alone, the world registered - through UNOOSA - a record 553 new objects. The way we are launching our satellites is also changing, with about half of all launches last year being made by commercial entities. It is crucial that we begin to truly appreciate exactly how crowded outer space is and, subsequently, how complex the challenge of governing such activities is becoming.
So, what are we doing to meet such challenges? As mentioned, UNOOSA is working hard - within our limited resources - to enhance our capacity-building activities to support Member State efforts to incorporate space technology into their implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
With regards to the five UN treaties that, collectively, constitute the framework governing activities in outer space, we are working with a growing list of Member States requesting legal advice on how to meet their obligations under such treaties. Indeed, 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 has resulted in a growing need to enhance the security of space assets and space systems, including critical infrastructures and the safety of space operations. What this all comes down to is an increasing demand for effective multilateral policy-making to maintain the normative framework governing space, a framework that we all rely on every day. UNOOSA, as Secretariat to the UN's only intergovernmental body dedicated to space policy, is working closely with a growing list of Member States of COPUOS on such challenges, ensuring that our existing normative framework remains fit for purpose for the years to come. For the "Space2030" agenda, the importance of maintaining this normative framework is indispensable. The pictures we see today, of nations standing shoulder to shoulder in space, make great daily headlines but such images are only possible with a stable multilateral system built through decades of pioneering policymaking. This stability has also enabled the decades of progress in the space sector that we are now reaping the benefits of. Such progress also allows us to reach the stage where we can today call for a Space2030 agenda to define the delivery of space's benefits across sectors and borders. . Indeed, this normative stability is a fundamental aspect of the reason why we are gathering here today and in the next comings days to discuss how to enhance space's contribution to the global sustainable development agenda.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Of all the global challenges that space cooperation can help alleviate, perhaps disaster risk reduction and climate change are two of the most pressing. Since receiving a mandate from the General Assembly in 2006, as a direct result of UNISPACE III, the Office has been implementing the United Nations Platform for Space-based Information for Disaster Management and Emergency Response, or UN-SPIDER. As we have already heard, the programme is working to reduce disaster risk and support disaster response operations. This is done through knowledge sharing and the strengthening of institutions in the use of space technologies. UN-SPIDER facilitates cooperation between satellite data and information providers and the different groups of users of such data, including policymakers, disaster risk managers or emergency responders. Through this programme, UNOOSA has engaged with around 40 Member States to provide solutions to people's security needs through tailor-made programmatic activities on disaster risk reduction. UNOOSA, both through our headquarters in Vienna and our regional offices in Bonn and Beijing, is working with Member States to increase capacity to use space-based data and information to manage disaster cycles and mitigate environmental changes. In South East Asia, for example, UNOOSA has recently worked with Myanmar and Vietnam to deliver technical assistance and institutional strengthening missions on remote sensing and how to acquire, process and use satellite imagery to enhance policy interventions. In the Pacific, we have been actively working for several years with Tonga, the Solomon Islands, Samoa and Fiji to enhance their institutional capacity to tackle such issues as climate change and disaster risk reduction.
Another tangible contribution UNOOSA is already making to support international cooperation in space is through our role as Secretariat to the International Committee on Global Navigation Satellite Systems, or ICG. This committee, which convenes under the umbrella of the United Nations, serves to promote cooperation on matters related to global navigation satellite systems, or GNSS. The ICG works to enhance coordination among GNSS providers, regional and augmentation systems in order to ensure greater compatibility, interoperability and transparency, and to promote the greater use of GNSS capabilities to support sustainable development, particularly in developing countries. It is in this context when taking stock of what has been achieved to date, that I am pleased to note that the ICG has manifested its role as an important platform for international cooperation and coordination in achieving compatibility and interoperability among GNSS providers. Supporting such international cooperation mechanisms as the ICG is a core part of UNOOSA's ability to convene the international space community towards a common aim. This is especially valuable in a GNSS context, which is one of the most important fields of space applications, supporting the implementation of a range of location-dependent SDG targets. There are many examples of GNSS in action with regards to the SDGs; one concrete illustration would be in the context of Target 6 under Goal 3, which aims to halve the number of global deaths and injuries from road traffic accidents. Here GNSS technology has enabled developments such as the European Unions 'eCall' initiative to automatically connect motorists to health care professionals in the event of a motor accident. Revelations such as this are entirely reliant on the continuation of effective international cooperation to develop and maintain the availability of the great benefits GNSS provide. Of particular note, in the context of the work of the ICG, have been recent discussions between providers of space and ground-based navigation systems work together to address issues, including protection of the GNSS spectrum, orbital debris and orbit de-confliction.
Indeed, the field of GNSS continues to develop as an instrument of international cooperation among the satellite operators of current and planned systems and their augmentations. The ability to locate one's position or the position of various objects accurately and reliably is a growing need in our modern societies and economies, with wide-ranging implications for the environment, the management of natural resources, disaster warning and emergency response, to name a few. Particularly for developing countries, GNSS applications offer cost-effective solutions to support economic and social growth while preserving the environment, thus promoting sustainable development.
UNOOSA is also building connections on space across the international community. As the secretariat of UN-SPACE, since the 1970s UNOOSA has led the UN's interagency meeting on outer space activities. The purpose of this initiative is to reduce silos and strengthen One UN collaboration in the use of space technology and science to match Member States' needs. Coordination has also been improved through bilateral agreements with other UN entities. For example, a 2017 MoU between UNOOSA and UNDP provides UNDP with access to satellite imagery and analysis and leverages UNDP's global user network to deliver space-based solutions for the Sustainable Development Goals, and demonstrates UNOOSA's desire to engineer a step-change in such inter-agency UN coordination.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Through UN-SPIDER, the ICG, UN-SPACE and our Programme on Space Applications, UNOOSA, as the UN's gateway to space, is playing a central role in connecting the international community on space-related matters.
Besides this, UNOOSA is also engaged in a network of bilateral partnerships across the full range of space applications. Indeed, the Secretary-General himself, who we will be hearing more from later in this week's schedule, has said that to unlock the full potential of business partnerships, we need to strengthen accountability and transparency, enhance coherence and capability and advance system-wide collaboration.
At UNOOSA we are embracing this. We have worked hand in hand with a number of governments, space agencies and research institutions in Member States to utilize their national assets for the benefit of developing countries in particular.
For two very recent examples of our partnership programme in action, we only have to look back to the past few weeks. In May our partnership with the Japanese Space Exploration Agency, JAXA, through the KiboCUBE programme, broke records for international cooperation in space by realizing the deployment from the International Space Station of Kenya's first ever satellite and of the first space hardware ever deployed under the auspices of the United Nations.
We're not stopping there either. Just three weeks ago, UNOOSA and China made a joint announcement to open up the China Space Station to all UN Member States wishing to access space for research and development purposes. Specifically, while open to all Member States, this opportunity focusses on developing countries, allowing access to space across a range of activities including conducting orbital scientific experiments inside and outside the China Space Station.
All of these examples of our work are conducted under the umbrella of our Human Space Technology Initiative, which continues to go from strength to strength.
These partnerships employ what can be described as a triangular approach to space capacity-building, where UNOOSA partners with a space-faring nation to help non-space-faring nations develop their space technology capabilities. The Office has played a crucial role in channelling appropriate opportunities donated by countries having space capabilities, to institutions in developing countries that would otherwise have little to no prospect of carrying out space-related scientific research, thereby bridging the space divide.
Furthermore, as we have already heard, space is no longer just a domain for governments. The global commercial space sector is growing from strength to strength and is here to stay. It is of extreme importance to include industry and the private sector in our partnerships to bridge the space divide. That is why UNOOSA is already building partnerships directly with private entities to help us deliver our objectives to enhance the use of space science, technology and applications for sustainable development. On Earth Observation, for example, we have been collaborating for several years with Digital Globe, now Maxar Technologies. This partnership is helping provide top quality, high-resolution data and services to facilitate policy interventions across the UN system and for Member States. Another example is on space science and exploration where we are working with the Sierra Nevada Corporation (or SNC) to provide opportunities in particular for developing countries currently with no access to space capabilities to conduct space science experiments on board the SNC's Dream Chaser vehicle that contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.
Ladies and gentlemen,
We hope that, over the course of the next few days, with such a vast array of stakeholders represented under one roof, we will see many more partnerships being forged amongst our community. Many opportunities lie ahead, and I am looking forward to seeing where they lead.
So, there is nothing left for me to say, other than to welcome you all, once again, to UNISPACE+50.
Please get involved. Share your passion and expertise. Ask questions, discuss, exchange views. And forge the partnerships that will drive our work forward. Together we will achieve a future where the benefits of space are really realised for everyone, everywhere.