Statement by Kenneth Hodgkins, Advisor, on Agenda Item 50: International Cooperation in the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, in the Fourth Committee

Kenneth Hodgkins, Advisor
New York, NY
October 14, 2010




AS DELIVERED

Over the past year the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS) and its subcommittees made a substantial contribution to promoting international space cooperation. The Office for Outer Space Affairs (OOSA) should be congratulated for another year of outstanding support to COPUOS.

The United States wishes to express deep appreciation to the Chairman of COPUOS, Amb. Dumitru Dorin Prunariu, the Chair of the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee, Mr. Ulrich Huth, and the Chair of the Legal Subcommittee, Mr. Ahmad Talebzadeh, for their dedication and leadership over the past year.

As the only standing body of the UN concerned exclusively with the peaceful uses of outer space, COPUOS has been extremely successful in fostering international cooperation towards this end. Whereas other UN organs, including the First Committee, hold competence to consider disarmament issues relating to outer space, COPUOS offers us a forum focused on promoting the cooperative achievement – and sharing – of benefits from space exploration.

So it is only fitting to note that COPUOS and its Legal Subcommittee have a distinguished history of working through consensus to develop space law in a manner that promotes space exploration. The Legal Subcommittee played a key role in establishing the primary Outer Space Treaties -- the Outer Space Treaty, the Rescue and Return Agreement, and the Liability and Registration Conventions. Under the legal framework of these treaties, space exploration by nations, international organizations and, now, private entities has flourished. As a result, space technology and services contribute immeasurably to economic growth and improvements in the quality of life around the world.

Notwithstanding the continued relevance of the space law instruments, many states have not accepted key treaties, including some members of COPUOS. The United States has joined other delegations in the Committee in encouraging states to consider ratifying and implementing the four main space law instruments I just mentioned. And, of course, those states that have accepted the core instruments are encouraged to look at the sufficiency of their nation’s laws to implement them.

At its most recent session, the Legal Subcommittee continued its consideration of several items recently added to the agenda. Under the item on national legislation relevant to the peaceful exploration and use of outer space, delegations engaged in an informative exchange of information that will provide insights as to how states oversee their governmental and non-governmental activities in space. We were pleased with the level of participation and the high quality of the information presented. We remain impressed with the progress made by the Working Group under the leadership of its Chair, Irmgard Marboe of Austria, and we look forward to working to conclude the report of the Working Group at the next session of the Subcommittee.

The Subcommittee also continued its consideration of an item on national mechanisms relating to space debris mitigation measures. This item, which gave Member States and observers the opportunity to exchange information on what steps have been taken by states to control the creation and effects of space debris, provides a helpful vehicle to continue the important work that has been done in the area of space debris mitigation, such as the recent adoption of the UN Space Debris Mitigation Guidelines.

Equally encouraging was the Subcommittee’s consideration of the item on capacity-building in space law. Member States and observers had the opportunity to exchange views on efforts underway at the national and international levels to promote a wider appreciation of space law. Such efforts, including the draft curriculum on space law developed by OOSA are vital to our work to build capacity in this area.

The 47th session of the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee made significant progress on a wide variety of topics.

We would like to especially note the decision by the STSC to establish a working group under the Chairmanship of Peter Martinez of South Africa to carry out the new work plan on the long-term sustainability of space activities. We believe this topic is very timely due to the increasing number of space actors, spacecraft, and space debris. It is essential that we come together to agree on measures that can be employed to reduce the risks to space operations for all. We are prepared to work productively in the Working Group to achieve that objective.

We would also like to highlight the progress made at the STSC in reaching consensus on a new multi-year work plan for the Working Group on the Use of Nuclear Power Sources in Outer Space. Following up on its excellent work in developing a safety framework for the use of nuclear power sources in outer space, the Working Group will now examine any obstacles to implementing this framework through national mechanisms. We congratulate the Chairman of the NPS Working Group, Mr. Sam Harbison of the UK, for his dedicated work to ensure that a consensus model for the safe use of nuclear power sources in space is now a reality.

Mr. Chairman, I would also mention that the United States was pleased that the Subcommittee has begun consideration of a new agenda item on the International Space Weather Initiative. This is a natural follow-on to the International Heliophysical Year (IHY) 2007 agenda item, and it will allow valuable international cooperation begun under the IHY to continue well into the future as we seek to understand more fully the effects of the Sun on our space infrastructure and our environment here on Earth.

On June 28 of this year, the President’s National Space Policy was released. It is a strong statement of our principles and goals regarding U.S. national interests and activities in space. It is a commitment that the United States will lead the way in preserving space for the benefit of all nations. Enhancing international cooperation in space, both today and in the future, is a critical element of this policy.

The policy calls on countries around the world to work together to adopt approaches for responsible activity in space in order to preserve this right for the benefit of future generations. Nations and organizations are increasingly using space to create wealth and prosperity, monitor the Earth's environment, maintain peace and security, and explore the mysteries of the furthest unknown reaches of the universe. The world's growing dependence on information collected from and transmitted through outer space means that irresponsible acts can have damaging and potentially long-term consequences for all.

In this regard, we will expand our work in the United Nations and with other organizations to address the growing problem of orbital debris and to promote “best practices” for its sustainable use. The United States will also pursue pragmatic transparency and confidence-building measures to mitigate the risk of mishaps, misperceptions, mistrust, and miscalculations. This policy reaffirms the longstanding U.S. policy that we will consider arms control concepts and proposals, provided they meet the rigorous criteria of equitability, effective verifiability, and consistency with our national security interests.

We intend to promote suitable commercial space regulations, international standards that promote fair market competition, and the international use of U.S. capabilities such as launch vehicles, commercial remote sensing services, and the civil services of the Global Positioning System. We will pursue enhanced cooperative programs with other space faring nations in space science, human and robotic space exploration, and in the use of Earth observation satellites to support weather forecasting, environmental monitoring, and sustainable development worldwide.

Finally Mr. Chairman, the U.S. supports the recommendation that Tunisia should become a member of the Committee. And, we also welcome the recommendations made by COPUOS to commemorate at its session next year the fiftieth anniversary of the first session of the Committee and the fiftieth anniversary of human spaceflight.

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PRN: 2010/208