International Conference on Effective Multilateralism in a Globalized World-

The Case of Europe and Asia Pacific

16 May 2018

Vienna, Austria


Regional approaches to security in Europe and Asia Pacific

Distinguished delegates,

It is a pleasure to be with you all today. Allow me to begin by expressing my sincere appreciation to our hosts, the Austrian Ministry of European Integration and Foreign Affairs, who convene today's conference in the context of Austria's 2018 Chairmanship of the OSCE Asian Partnership.

This morning we have already heard from many different international organisations that are making important contributions towards international security challenges. As the Director of the UN Office for Outer Space Affairs, it is my honour to represent another of these Vienna-based international organisations that, collectively, make this city such a global centre for effective multilateral policymaking.

As the UN's gateway to space, the UN Office for Outer Space Affairs - or UNOOSA - works to ensure the benefits of space are available to everyone, everywhere. Historically, space has often acted as a litmus test for the health of the multilateral system. Over 50 years ago, a decade after the launch of Sputnik 1, the world came together in reflection on the emergence of the space-age and, as a result, agreed the Outer Space Treaty. The Treaty's role in maintaining international peace and security is paramount. Effectively it serves as the constitution for space activities and forms the central legal basis for the global governance of outer space. This foundation has seen four subsequent UN space treaties that, collectively, UNOOSA is charged with maintaining as the normative framework governing and guiding our activities in outer space.

The pictures we see today, of nations standing shoulder to shoulder on the International Space Station, make great daily headlines but such images are only possible with a stable multilateral system built through decades of pioneering policymaking.  This stability has enabled the realisation of a myriad of benefits derived from space technology and science that are driving so many aspects of our modern society. For example, Global Navigation Satellite Systems help us find the fastest way home when we are driving or telecommunication technology that enables us to call our friends and families around the world. Earth observation, for example, is fundamental to macro-level policy-making across the board, such as ensuring food security by assisting farmers to monitor their crops, or contributions to regional security by supporting law enforcement officials combat transnational criminal activity such as human trafficking. The broad role space technology is contributing to policy making in the 21 st century is underlined by recent research indicates that over 40% of the indicators underpinning the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals are reliant on space-based science and technology.

Of all the international security threats that space cooperation is helping alleviate perhaps disaster risk reduction and climate change are two of the most pressing. In the Asia Pacific region, for example, UNOOSA, both through our headquarters in Vienna and our regional office in 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 the region. Since receiving a mandate from the General Assembly in 2006, the office has engaged with around 40  Member States on such matters, providing solutions to people's security needs through tailor made programmatic activities across a wide range of Member States. 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, a region we plan to return to in the near future, UNOOSA has been actively working for several years with Tonga, the Solomon Islands and Fiji to enhance their institutional capacity to tackle such issues .

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 a growing need for effective multilateral policy-making to ensure that the normative framework governing space, a framework that we all rely on every day, remains fit for purpose in the years to come.

It has taken many years to get the international community to this stage. Another contribution UNOOSA makes is to support the intergovernmental meetings of the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space. This specialised UN committee brings together almost 90 UN Member States to deliberate and decide new policy on emerging areas such as space traffic management, space debris mitigation and space resource mining. Crucially, we are also starting to explore how the existing multilateral policy framework, devised through years of intergovernmental negotiations, can stand the test of time in the face of the ever increasing numbers of commercial, i.e. non-governmental, space actors.

UNOOSA also works with Member States on a range of transparency and confidence-building measures - or TCBMS - with regards to the peaceful uses of outer space. For example, last year we co-convened with our partners at the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs, a groundbreaking joint meeting of the UN General Assembly 1 st and 4 th Committees which covers both the non-civilian and civilian uses of outer space respectively. Back here in Vienna, UNOOSA is also supporting Member State efforts to agree on an overarching set of UN guidelines that outline what the sustainable use of outer space looks like. After nearly ten years of negotiations, this multilateral process is scheduled to be finalised next month which will represent a significant new contribution to the existing multilateral policy framework.

Of course, the story doesn't end there. For multilateral policy to be truly effective, the system only works when we respect the agreements we sign. UNOOSA, through our legal advisory programmes, is therefore also working directly with Member States to build a culture of compliance with regards to their obligations under the existing normative framework governing outer space. 

All this progress is well timed. As of this year over 70 UN Member States have established national government space programmes. Such widespread engagement is driving up activity. Right now, for example, we have over 1,700 objects in current orbit, just above us our heads. In 2017 alone, the world registered - through UNOOSA - a record 553 new objects, with nearly half of those satellite launches coming from commercial entities. You may, therefore, be surprised to hear exactly how crowded outer space is and how governing such activities is becoming an increasingly complex process.

Next month many of these issues will be top of the agenda as UNOOSA hosts 'UNISPACE + 50', which will see the political and space community convene at the highest-levels in Vienna to discuss outer space policy. Top of the list will be how to enhance the use of space as a tool to drive global sustainable development. Following from the last meeting in 1999, UNISPACE+50 will be only the fourth time in history the world has gathered at the UN to discuss space policy on such a large scale. 

Overall, the long history of productive multilateral activity in the space sector is a great example of what the international community can achieve with robust institutional support, a common purpose, political will and, most importantly, time. For most of us, our activities in space remain a distant, abstract concept, but the real-life contribution space is making to our daily lives is undeniable, underpinning security and prosperity around the world. I can therefore only hope that we continue to find the right balance of elements to ensure this legacy of effective policymaking continues so that we may all share the benefits of space for the years to come.

Thank you for your kind attention.

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