STATEMENT BY SIMONETTA DI PIPPO
UNITED NATIONS OFFICE FOR OUTER SPACE AFFAIRS
Global Space Economic Workshop-Space Cybersecurity for Mobility
24 May 2018
Ladies and Gentlemen, distinguished colleagues, dear participants,
First, please allow me to express my thanks to our organisers - the Aerospace Technological District of Apulia (DTA) - who, together with the Italian Space Agency (ASI) and the European Space Agency (ESA), have put together this timely event. It is a pleasure to join you all today for what is already turning out to be a very interesting series of discussions.
I would like to start by sharing with you a famous proverb that says, "If you want to go fast, go alone but if you want to go far, go together." In many ways, this perspective summarises the value that I, as the Director of the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA), can bring to the table.
Well, let's talk briefly about the Office for Outer Space Affairs. First, I'm proud to say that I lead a great team working to bring the benefits of space to everyone, everywhere. As the UN's gateway to space, UNOOSA offers a truly global perspective. As a capacity-builder, we are implementing the UN's programme on the peaceful uses of outer space, understanding and meeting the needs of UN Member States around the world to enhance the use of space science, technology and applications for sustainable development. This capacity-building work covers the entire spectrum of space science and technology, from Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) and Earth Observation to telecommunications. As we have already heard this morning, these three technologies are now fundamental to 21 st-century policymaking. Recent joint research by UNOOSA and GSA, for example, has found that close to 40% of the indicators underpinning the UN's Sustainable Development Goals use space science and technology. The research looked at 38 case studies of how EGNSS and Copernicus are tangibly contributing to each SDG, concluding that space has a significant impact on 13 of the 17 goals. Such statistics only begin to illustrate the extent to which space is contributing to policymaking across the board and how important it is, therefore, to maintain a secure, safe and sustainable space environment in which we can all invest our political and commercial capital.
As custodian to the five UN treaties that, collectively, constitute the framework governing activities in outer space, UNOOSA is also 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 - the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space - is working closely with Member States on such challenges, ensuring that our existing normative framework remains fit for purpose for the years to come.
That is why today's event is so timely as it highlights an emerging policy challenge that is already at the very top of political agendas around the world. It is important that we properly harness this political interest into viable policy solutions that complement the existing structures that have, until now, provided the stability underwriting decades of growth in the global space sector. This is where the UN, as a convener of stakeholders, has a key role to play and I, therefore, look forward to working with all of you to ensure that the global conversation on the secure, safe and sustainable use of outer space remains high on the UN's political agenda.
Indeed, you do not need me to tell you that the 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, if I may, please allow me to share with you a few statistics. Did you know that, for example, 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 State actors, and shows how many governments and other stakeholders are investing - and exposing - their national interests in the safe, secure and sustainable use of outer space. Such widespread engagement in space is, naturally, driving up activity across the board. Right now, for example, we have over 1,700 objects in current orbit, just above our heads. In 2017 alone, the world registered - through UNOOSA - a record 553 new objects, with about half of those being satellite launches coming from commercial entities. It is fundamental therefore 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 and technical assistance in the field of international space law, policy and space-related institutional capacity-building. This work helps install and reinforce a culture of compliance with regards to the existing normative structures. In the same vein, we are also working with Member States on a range of transparency and confidence-building measures - or TCBMs - with regard to maintaining the peaceful uses of outer space. For example, last year in New York we co-convened, with our partners at the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs, a joint meeting of the UN General Assembly 1st and 4th Committees. These two Committees of the General Assembly cover both the non-civilian and civilian uses of outer space respectively. You may be surprised to hear that bringing Member States together at the UN to discuss outer space policy from both sides of the coin was a ground-breaking event. Such a state of affairs is indicative of the bureaucratic tendency to silo our policymaking. A tendency that policymaking in both the space and cybersecurity fields has to avoid at all costs in order to be effective.
It is, therefore, heartening to announce that we are managing to make some progress on new policy at the UN level in this field. For example, UNOOSA is diligently supporting Member State efforts to develop an overarching set of new UN guidelines that outline what the sustainable use of outer space looks like. Developing policy at the global level is not easy. It is, therefore, an achievement that the process has already reached consensus amongst Member States on a range of guidelines. These include outlining what the sustainable use of space looks like regarding the equitable, rational and efficient use of the radio frequency spectrum or the sharing of orbital information on space objects, for example. 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. UNOOSA is also working directly with the private sector to help 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 DigitalGlobe. 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 for developing countries currently with no access to space capabilities to run space-science research programmes through the SNC's DreamChaser spacecraft.
Overall, the long history of productive multilateral collaboration at the UN 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. The real-life contribution space is making to our daily lives is undeniable - underpinning security and prosperity around the world. The ubiquity of such contributions space is making exposes us all to a complex matrix of opportunities and risks. I can therefore only hope that we continue to find the right balance of elements so that we can collectively navigate such opportunities and risks to ensure we continue to enjoy the stability that allows us to share the benefits of space for the years to come.
As I said before - if you want to go far, go together. For subjects like space and cybersecurity, going far counts because we are not just talking about issues that affect our lives today but about two fundamental factors that will define our lives for many years to come.