History moves fast in space… This summer the Apollo-Soyuz Test project celebrated its 40 th anniversary. As the first example of international cooperation in space, this event changed how we have explored space. Over the past years, space research, science and technology has proven to play a unifying role in connecting nations in the common pursuit of utilising space for the benefit of humankind.
Since the beginning of the space age and the "Declaration of Legal Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Uses of Outer Space" in 1963, the United Nations has worked to promote of even greater international collaboration in outer space activities at the international, regional, interregional and national levels for the benefit of all countries.
The Preparatory Meeting brought together decision-makers from governments, space agencies, and other high-ranking officials to discuss the upcoming series of High Level Fora: Space as a Driver for Socioeconomic Sustainable Development. These Fora, taking place each year from 2016 to 2018, will offer a unique opportunity to collectively address the cross-sectoral impact of integrating economic, environmental, social, policy and regulatory dimensions of space for global sustainable development in the run up to UNISPACE+50, an event to be held in 2018 to celebrate the 50 th anniversary of the first UNISPACE conference.
Simonetta Di Pippo, Director of UNOOSA, opened the Preparatory Meeting with a speech setting the scene for the work to be done in the coming years. She gave an interview after the meeting to provide greater depth on the issues being discussed:
Why was it important to have this Preparatory Meeting for the 2016 High Level Forum?
2015 has proven already to be a decisive year for the United Nations. The adoption of the 2030 Development Agenda and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, as well as the upcoming COP21 meeting in Paris, has made this year pivotal in creating global goals for sustainable development and in mitigating the effects of climate change.
It was important for UNOOSA to use this historic opportunity to step up our efforts in addressing the role that space can and does play in meeting our international commitments. As we deepen our understanding of the methods for achieving global development targets we must also dedicate efforts into outlining the current and future space technologies that we can use to meet these goals.
It is fitting that this first historic step on the path to UNISPACE+50 takes place in Vienna. This city represents the spirit of our work. The space community has witnessed many guiding and inspiring meetings here, including UNISPACE I, held in 1968, UNISPACE II, held in 1982 and UNISPACE III, held in 1999. These events have helped forge a solid foundation for the international cooperation that governs space activities. It is therefore a great honour to host this meeting and a wonderful opportunity to wave the starting flag for what should be an exciting time ahead for us all, as we look towards 2018 and collaboratively prepare for the UNISPACE +50 conference.
What did participants focus on during the meeting and how will this influence the High Level Forum and UNISPACE+50?
The UNISPACE+50 Thematic Priorities will be based on the five cross-cutting areas identified by COPUOS: space governance, capacity building, resiliency, interoperability, and space for sustainable development. In addition, of extreme importance are the SDGs as per the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The series of High Level Fora: Space as a Driver for Socioeconomic Sustainable Developmentwill offer us a unique opportunity to collectively address the cross-sectoral impact of integrating economic, environmental, social, policy and regulatory dimensions of space for global sustainable development.
The meeting was centred upon the four pillars of Space Economy, Space Society, Space Accessibility and Space Diplomacy. These pillars will also guide the series of High Level Fora and our preparations towards UNISPACE +50 and beyond.
During our discussion on Space Economy we touched on topics including: space technologies and infrastructure, increasing awareness on the benefits of space economy for global sustainable development, and addressing the economic rationale for space activities, in addition to discussing framework possibilities for the cooperation of private and public entities. These issues show the extensive links that outer space activities have in the growth and sustainable development of all nations.
Next, we looked into the topic of Space Society which brought to the fore the notion that space society is a thread tying together all space activities. Raising awareness of the benefits of space technologies and space-based services during decision-making processes, and among governments, is vital 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 and we aimed to do this during our discussion on Space Accessibility. What I hear a lot when I address the development community is that space is a luxury, not a necessity. What this preparatory meeting and the series of fora are aiming to do is to communicate the relevance of space and the need to improve the access that all countries have to space-based data. Capacity-building and education will support the global effort in the development of the space sector for the benefit of humanity.
Finally, the pillar of Space Diplomacy was devised as a title under which we could discuss the global governance of space and the need to increase awareness of the vital role that the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space plays as the UN platform for space diplomacy and decision-making at the global level.
What is the next step in the process?
The preparatory meeting reinforced the fact that the addressed pillars must not be considered as existing in silos. As we continue on the path to UNISPACE+50, it will be essential to see these interlinkages and interdependencies in the holistic picture towards UNISPACE +50 and beyond.
The outcome of this preparatory meeting will be reflected in a final summary. It will guide us towards next year's High Level Forum on "Space as a driver for Socioeconomic Sustainable Development" in Dubai, and will constitute an important cornerstone for the production of a declaration at that meeting which is foreseen to include a set of recommendations to further shape and position space activities as drivers for innovation, socio-economic development and diplomacy for a sustainable future.
What do you see as being the key outcomes of UNISPACE+50 in 2018?
UNISPACE+50 itself will come as a great opportunity to commemorate the contributions of the three UNISPACE conferences (UNISPACE I, II and III) towards global space governance. But space has changed dramatically in the 50 years since UNISPACE I. UNISPACE+50 will represent a key opportunity to consider the current status and chart the future role of the space activities at a time when more and more actors, both governmental and non-governmental, commercial and non-commercial, are increasingly getting involved in outer space ventures. UNOOSA has worked for over 50 years to foster international cooperation in space and I am looking forward to entering this new era in the use of outer space for the benefit of humankind.