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UNOOSA Director’s Statement to the 60th Session of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space

Simonetta di Pippo, Director of the United Nations Office of Outer Space Affairs. Photograph courtesy of UNOOSA.




Sixtieth session of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space

Vienna, 7-16 June 2017

Mr. Chair, distinguished delegates,

On behalf of the Office for Outer Space Affairs, I warmly welcome you all to the sixtieth session of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, and thank you for the opportunity to address this session on the work of the Office.

Mr. Chair, it is a great pleasure for me to once again see you chairing this session of the Committee. I am confident that the Committee will continue to achieve major accomplishments, under your and your two Vice-Chair’s guidance. I would like to assure you all of the support of the Office in making this session a success.

I would also like to join you, Mr. Chair, in welcoming New Zealand as a new State member of the Committee, as well as the International Air Transport Association (IATA) as a new permanent observer to the Committee.

Mr. Chair, distinguished delegates,

The Office stands ready to continue supporting the Committee in the preparations to UNISPACE+50, which are now considerably intensifying.

The overall UNISPACE+50 process – in the long-term perspective leading towards 2030 – is aimed at building synergies between space science, technology, policy and law and the outcomes of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (including the 17 Sustainable Development Goals); the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030; and the outcomes of the 2015 Paris Climate Summit (COP21).

Indeed, the year 2030 will be extraordinary for the world community in assessing the global agendas at hand. For this reason, and in order to build up a dedicated space agenda, unique to the space community, and where the Committee stands in the centre of global governance of outer space activities, the Space2030 agenda, including its long-term implementation plan, is being defined.

The shared goal for UNISPACE+50, and several processes within the framework of the Committee, such as the series of High Level Forums (HLF), is to build, together with all stakeholders, this comprehensive Space2030 agenda, for the contribution of space activities and space tools to the achievements of the Global Agendas, addressing overarching long-term development concerns, based on the peaceful exploration and use of outer space.

UNISPACE+50 is shaped to take into account the interdependencies in the space sector and foster international cooperation, paying special attention to the needs of developing countries and emerging space nations, carefully considering the long-term sustainability of outer space activities – leading towards 2030. This long-term vision is to be set around the following four pillars and key indicators: space economy and the development of space-derived economic benefits; space society and the evolution of society and societal benefits stemming from space-related activities; space accessibility and all communities using and benefiting from space technologies; and space diplomacy and building and strengthening international cooperation in space activities.

In providing a solid background to UNISPACE+50, document A/AC.105/1137, with a historical overview of the UNISPACE conferences and an assessment of the role of the Committee in global governance of outer space activities, has been issued. This document was also made available to both Subcommittee sessions this year.

Mr. Chair, distinguished delegates,

In accordance with the plan of work for UNISPACE+50, contained in document A/AC.105/L.297 and endorsed by the Committee at its 58th session in 2015, the preparations for UNISPACE+50 are well underway. The Office is working with the established Steering Committee for UNISPACE+50 comprising the bureaux members of COPUOS and its Subcommittees and Working Group Chairs. A separate Local Organizing Committee with the Office and Austrian authorities has been established and has started its work.

The status of preparations for UNISPACE+50 is further described in Conference Room Paper 5 (A/AC.105/2017/CRP.5), which is before delegations at this current session and is intended to assist delegations further in the preparations for UNISPACE+50. This is the update of the document made available to both Subcommittees this year. CRP.5 provides a detailed overview of the preparations for UNISPACE+50, including information on actions taken and activities in preparation under the 7 thematic priorities.

I encourage delegations to read CRP.5 carefully, because it addresses in more detail the major decisions expected from this session of the Committee, namely: 1) the UNISPACE+50 segment on 20-21 June 2018; 2) the General Assembly considerations of UNISPACE+50 at the 73rd session of the Assembly in 2018; and 3) the importance for the Office for Outer Space Affairs to cooperate with industry and private sector in the space sector for the benefit of developing countries.

It is important in this regard for the Office to further strengthen its partnership with Member States, international organizations, and other space actors. The UNISPACE+50 process, culminating in 2018, needs to result in long-term directions and mandates, through decision-making at the right level.

Mr. Chair, distinguished delegates,

As examples of recent and current activities to foster the preparations for UNISPACE+50, in April this year, the Open Universe Expert Meeting was co-organized with and hosted by the Italian Space Agency in Rome. Furthermore, a COSPAR-UNOOSA Coordination Meeting on COSPAR’s contributions to UNISPACE +50 was also held in Vienna in May this year, and a meeting of the Directors of the Regional Centres for Space Science and Technology affiliated to the United Nations will be held in the margins of this present session of the Committee. The Office also contributed with a high-level panel discussion to the 5th Manfred Lachs Conference, organized by the Institute of Air and Space Law of McGill University, and held in Montreal, Canada, in May.

Mr. Chair, distinguished delegates,

To provide an opportunity for the collective space community to elaborate recommendations for the UNISPACE+50 blueprint and to further advance the debate on the role of space science and technology in fostering global development, the Office for Outer Space Affairs, in collaboration with the Government of the United Arab Emirates, organized the High Level Forum on space as a driver for socio-economic sustainable development in November 2016. The Forum declaration, branded “Dubai Declaration”, is annexed to document A/AC.105/1129, and represents an important step in the broader context of UNISPACE+50 and in the long-term perspective towards 2030.

The next High Level Forum will be held in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, from 6 to 9 November 2017, with a focus on building stronger partnerships among space actors. The 2018 Forum will be co-organized with Germany and co-sponsored by the European Space Agency (ESA), and held in Bonn, Germany, in the second half of 2018. That Forum will focus on the implementation of UNISPACE+50 deliverables and outcomes in the framework of the Space2030 agenda.

Also, I am pleased to inform delegations that a letter of designation of Mr. Scott Kelly, former astronaut of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), as United Nations Champion for Space was signed at the Forum held in Dubai last year.

Mr. Chair, distinguished delegates,

The fiftieth anniversary of the Outer Space Treaty, this year, influences the work of our Committee, both Subcommittees, and of the Office. Let me summarize here measures taken to raise awareness of this fundamental instrument. Delegations have before them the draft declaration on the fiftieth anniversary of the Outer Space treaty in the six official languages of the United Nations, contained in document A/AC.105/ L.311, as agreed by the Legal Subcommittee at its 56th session this year, for endorsement by the Committee at its present session. Furthermore, the mandated panel discussion organized by the Office will be held this afternoon, combining science, technology, policy, law and executive management.

Indeed, this year we also commemorate the remarkable 60th anniversary of the launch of Sputnik 1 – a tremendous achievement in space flight and space activities. As delegations have already seen, we have a striking exhibition hosted by Roscosmos in the Rotunda of the VIC at this present session.

In addition, the General Assembly in its resolution 71/90 decided to convene a joint half-day panel discussion of the First Committee and the Fourth Committee on possible challenges to space security and sustainability, which will constitute a joint contribution by those Committees to the fiftieth anniversary of the Outer Space Treaty. The joint panel discussion will take place October this year in New York. Preparations are being carried out in coordination with the Office for Disarmament Affairs.

Mr. Chair, distinguished delegates,

In this regard, the Office is deeply committed to discharging the Secretary-General’s responsibilities under international space law in the most effective and efficient manner and is pleased that the Register of Objects Launched into Outer Space continues to enhance confidence among space actors by providing transparency through its mechanisms. The Register’s function as the core mechanism for treaty-based transparency and confidence-building has been reinforced by the impact of the 2007 General Assembly resolution 62/101 on registration practice.

This is particularly important in the context of transparency and confidence-building measures in outer space activities, and in view of the Committee’s consideration of the broader perspective of space security and associated matters that would be instrumental in ensuring the safe and responsible conduct of space activities. The treaty-based obligations of the Secretary-General under the legal regime on Outer Space form a foundation under international law for transparency and confidence-building in the safety, security and sustainability of outer space activities.

In this connection, specifically on the issue of promoting and facilitating visits to launch sites, I wish to report that I attended, upon an invitation by the Chinese Government, the successful launch of the Tianzhou 1 cargo spaceship on 20 April, and the second China Space Day, this year. The launch was observed by a delegation of invited representatives of Member States, with the Director of the Office for Outer Space Affairs as part of that delegation. This is an example of an innovative approach taken by a Government towards enhanced transparency and confidence-building.

Mr. Chairman, distinguished delegates,

To support the work of ICG and its Providers’ Forum, the Office for Outer Space Affairs, as the executive secretariat of ICG and as the body leading ICG’s Working Group on Capacity-Building and Information Dissemination, through its programme on GNSS applications, each year co-organizes and co-sponsors a wide range of seminars, training courses and workshops. The Government of Japan will host the twelfth ICG meeting from 2 to 7 December 2017 in Kyoto. In this context, I am pleased to note that the ICG Providers’ Forum held its eighteenth meeting yesterday on 6 June 2017 in Vienna under the co-chairmanship of Japan and the Russian Federation.

Mr. Chair, distinguished delegates,

UN-SPIDER held its 6th annual conference in Beijing in September 2016 as one of the commitments of the Office for Outer Space Affairs in support of the implementation of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030, and is already preparing for the 7th such annual conference to be held in October this year. The 3 day annual meeting of the UN-SPIDER regional support offices started here in Vienna this Tuesday before this COPUOS session, manifesting their important contributions to the implementation by the Office of the UN-SPIDER mandate.

Mr. Chair, distinguished delegates,

In the area of strengthening international cooperation in planetary defense, the Office for Outer Space Affairs, since my last reporting to the Committee, assumed its role as the permanent secretariat to Space Mission Planning Advisory Group (SMPAG) in accordance with General Assembly resolution 71/90. SMPAG and the International Asteroid Warning Network (IAWN) in 2017 reached initial agreements on the criteria and thresholds for impact response actions, which also have direct relevance for Member States in terms of information sharing on a potential NEO threat, as reported to the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee this year. The Office also this year co-chaired, together with JAXA, the panel on Key International and Political Developments at the 2017 Planetary Defense Conference (PDC), held in Tokyo, on 15-19 May, and was asked to consider hosting the next PDC 2019 in Vienna.

Mr. Chair, distinguished delegates,

In implementing its mandate relevant to the Inter-Agency Meeting on Outer Space Activities (UN-Space), the Office is preparing for the upcoming session of UN-Space in conjunction with the United Nations/World Health Organization/Switzerland Conference on Strengthening Space Cooperation for Global Health to be held in Geneva on 23-25 August this year. Furthermore, and in this context, I am pleased to present to the Committee the UN-Space Special report on Space Weather, as contained in A/AC.105/1146, before you.

The series of Aerospace Symposia held in Montreal in 2015 and Abu Dhabi in 2016 will be concluded with the third ICAO/UNOOSA Aerospace Symposium here in Vienna on 29-31 August 2017 and will connect several areas relevant to the UNISPACE+50 considerations and of importance to the space community, such as future space traffic management, small and very small satellite activities, and suborbital flights.

Mr. Chair, distinguished delegates,

At the present session of the Committee, delegations will have before them Conference Room Paper 13, which outlines the work and plans of the Office in the field of gender equality and the empowerment of women. The document also provides information about the International Gender Champions Initiative, which has recently been extended to Vienna. This extension to Vienna, and indeed the Initiative itself, were made in response to continuous joint efforts by Member States and the Organization aimed at strengthening work in the field of gender equality and empowerment of women. A similar conference room paper was made available to the Legal Subcommittee at its recent 56th session, and was noted by the Subcommittee with appreciation.

The conference room paper 13 also addresses one of the main gender-related initiatives of the Office, namely, the Space for Women project. The Project is being prepared in the framework of thematic priority 7 (Capacity-building in the twenty-first century) for approval at UNISPACE+50. In connection with this important project, I wish to invite interested States, international inter- and non-governmental organizations, and other stakeholders, to become partners to this Project and contribute, in concrete terms, to furthering gender empowerment and equality in the space area – a matter which I strongly believe is shared and understood by all of us. Interested parties are welcome to explore avenues for contributing in cash and in kind into the Project. In this regard, I am pleased to inform you that the Office is finalizing formalities for accepting the first contribution to the Project by the European Space Agency (ESA), which I thank for their support.

Mr. Chair, distinguished delegates,

Underscoring the importance of UNISPACE+50 for the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, its subsidiary bodies and the Office for Outer Space Affairs in strengthening our unified efforts to define concrete deliverables pertaining to space for global sustainable development, I reiterate our invitation in 2016 to States members and permanent observers of the Committee to consider providing voluntary support and funds to enable the Office to prepare, structure and implement activities on the promotion of space-based applications and technologies to help Member States to meet objectives of the global development agenda.

The diminishing regular budget, increasing demand for assistance from a growing number of Member States, and the additional mandate of the United Nations system relating to the fulfilment of the 17 SDGs, to which the Office is also mandated to contribute, are factors that considerably change the way the Office needs to operate in order to better service Member States, in particular for the benefit of developing countries.

It is in connection with those plans, activities and initiatives aimed at the development of UNISPACE+50 that the Office has undertaken a number of important transitional measures.

Firstly, the function of the Expert on Space Applications has been assigned with the post of the Director of the Office.

Secondly, planning and reporting on the activities conducted under the Programme on Space Applications and UN-SPIDER, as well as overall capacity-building activities, are being conceptually reconsidered to accommodate numerous UNISPACE+50 themes and priorities within existing workshops, seminars, technical advisory missions, and other relevant activities of the Office.

Moreover, transitional efficiency measures have been put in place aimed at strengthening existing collaboration and opening up new partnerships, with the goal of assuring a flawless process towards UNISPACE+50, and, at the same time, working towards the definition of a more resilient capacity-building programme for the Office.

We are assessing the effectiveness of these transitional measures so that we can efficiently react, within the capacity of the Office’s limited human and financial resources, to the expectations of the Committee and its member States, as well as of the Organization and other stakeholders, all linked to the ongoing preparations for the milestone event – UNISPACE+50.

On the issue of resources, the Office has sought to overcome some of the challenges it faces, particularly with respect to human resources. I am very pleased to inform that the total number of staff has grown in the past year. I am particularly thankful to Austria, China, Germany, Japan and Saudi Arabia, who are providing for a total of 10 additional staff distributed over our three locations, Vienna, Bonn and Beijing (2 funded positions, 6 NRLs and 2 JPOs). In the longer-term, however, it will be necessary to find a more stable and sustainable solution, and to find a means for securing the Office’s budget so that it is made fit for implementing the Space2030 agenda.

At this time I also acknowledge and sincerely thank Austria, China, Germany, Japan, the European Commission and the European Space Agency for their voluntary cash contributions since June 2016. We also remain indebted for the contributions regularly received from key players among the Committee’s members and permanent observers. For more detailed information on the evolution of the Office’s resources, including cash and in-kind contributions, please see the Annex to my statement.

With the aim of involving more stakeholders from space industry and private sector entities, the Office is going to present a revised version of CRP.20 from the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee session. The updated document before you provides details and background, and stresses the importance for the Office to further develop such relationships with different actors in the overall space community.

Mr. Chair, distinguished delegates,

I am pleased to see the active involvement of all delegations in the work of the Committee and its subsidiary bodies. This is done through the series of regular briefings that aim to provide updated information to Member States of the United Nations, the latest of which was organized on 18 May this year. These briefings by the Director of the Office for Outer Space Affairs are organized for Heads of Permanent Missions in Vienna for the purpose of updating Member States on the preparations for UNISPACE+50, as well as on activities of the Office.

Furthermore, and in conclusion, it is a pleasure for me to announce that the Office has published its second annual report to enhance the transparency and visibility of the Office’s activities. The report provides you with an extended account of the Office’s work in 2016 and is made available to the delegations attending this session.

Thank you very much for your attention.

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