28 May 1998

Press Release


Background Release
To Finalize All Organizational and Procedural Aspects of 1999 Vienna UNISPACE III, To Discuss Proposals on Improving Adherence to Existing Space Laws

(Reissued as received.)

VIENNA, 28 May (UN Information Service) -- The main task for the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space as it begins its forty-first session here on 3 June is expected to be finalizing the organizational and procedural aspects of the Third United Nations Conference on the Exploration and Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UNISPACE III), to be held in Vienna from 19 to 30 July 1999.

The Committee, which acts as the Preparatory Committee for UNISPACE III, will be finalizing the organizational and procedural aspects in a way to ensure an optimal, cost-effective framework for the Conference which parts with past traditions of exploring global problems in the context of major world conferences. Instead, UNISPACE III will be held as a special session of the Committee -- open to all 185 member states -- and organized within existing resources of the Committee and its Secretariat. Participants anticipate the same constructive atmosphere of cooperation characteristic of the previous UNISPACE III preparatory meetings to continue and expect the current session to also make considerable advances in preparing the draft report of the Conference.

Delegates at the current session will discuss issues related to the allocation of the agenda items to be considered by the Plenary and the two main committees. The Preparatory Committee will also refine the way various international organizations and industry will participate in the Conference as well as ways to enhance the space exhibition, technical forum and lectures linked to the Conference. The optimal organizational framework is expected to help UNISPACE III lead to the adoption of a solid plan of action for the short- and mid-term, concentrating on only a small number of concrete, realistic recommendations. Compared to the two previous outer space conferences -- UNISPACE and UNISPACE 82, both held in Vienna in 1967 and 1982 -- UNISPACE III will be the first such world gathering that will aim at

actively involving not only the delegates from Member States but also the representatives of space industry in the official work of the conference.

The evolution of science and technology since the 1982 Conference, the new cooperative political climate, reduced public spending and the large number of new participants in space related research and technology application -- including several developing countries and also the private sector -- all require that policy and decision makers in the public and private sectors, particularly in developing countries, take stock of the existing and potential possibilities offered by space technology to address problems of global concern.

UNISPACE III -- convened under the theme "Space Benefits for Humanity in the Twenty-first Century" -- is expected to provide a forum for politicians, scientists, international organizations and representatives of space industry to highlight the benefits that are derived from the use of space technology. Delegates are also expected to come up with concrete ways of international cooperation and sharing of available technology to best assist in dealing with social and economic problems of a regional or global concern, including land degradation, desertification, climate change, ozone depletion, air quality problems, disaster management, distance education and health services.

Space activity is expected to become a world economic engine in the next century, offering a wide array of possibilities for which countries, especially developing countries need to be prepared. Organizers agree, that space technology could be a means to close the widening gap between developing and developed countries. Therefore, one of the key objectives of UNISPACE III is to strengthen the capabilities of Member States, especially developing countries, to use the applications of space research for economic and social development.

The Committee will review all the relevant preparatory work linked to UNISPACE III by considering the work of one of its subsidiary bodies, the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee, which is serving as the advisory body for the Conference.

Apart from preparations for the 1999 Conference, a key topic for the current session involves the issue of adherence to existing international space treaties. The topic was new to the agenda of the March session of the Legal Subcommittee -- the other subsidiary body of the Committee. As proposed by Mexico, the topic centers on the review of the status of the five international treaties governing outer space and the various obstacles identified by Member States that impede the ratification of those five legal instruments (the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, the 1968 Rescue Agreement, the 1972 Liability Convention, the 1975 Registration Convention and the 1979 Moon Agreement).

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The Subcommittee agreed to submit a working paper presented by Germany on behalf of 19 European States to the current session of the Committee for further consideration. The paper identifies the 1975 Registration Convention as one of the legal instruments that can be further improved. The paper proposes that the issues involved could be addressed within the framework of a three-year work plan. The Committee is expected to make a decision on whether the Legal Subcommittee should begin this work.

In singling out the 1975 Registration Convention the paper's proposal reflects the dramatic advances both in technology and in the nature of activities taking place in outer space. Also, several states are conducting space activities without being Parties to the Convention which calls on States to maintain registries of space objects launched into outer space and furnish specified information on each space object for inclusion in a central United Nations Register. If Member States endorse the proposal put forward by the European countries, the Committee will request the Legal Subcommittee to develop a protocol to improve the Convention.

Member States

The Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space comprises the following Member States:

Albania, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Benin, Brazil, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Canada, Chad, Chile, China, Colombia, Cuba*, Czech Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Lebanon, Malaysia*, Mexico, Mongolia, Morocco, Netherlands, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru*, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea*, Romania, Russian Federation, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Spain, Sudan, Sweden, Syrian Arab Republic, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States, Uruguay, Venezuela, Viet Nam and Yugoslavia.

(*Peru and Malaysia rotate every two years with Cuba and the Republic of Korea.)

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