UK statement on the Committee’s future role at the 61st COPUOS Legal Sub-Committee


Allow me to outline the UK’s perspective on the future role of COPUOS. As you know, the UK has played a leading role in both the sustainable space development agenda and the space security agenda. COPUOS has a crucial role to play in ensuring the sustainability of the space environment.

It can monitor the implementation of the Guidelines for the Long-Term Sustainability of Outer Space Activities and support countries.

It can set the international framework for safe space operations, listening to member states and their academics, businesses and scientists.

It can support safe and sustainable space exploration; help fight climate change; discuss the peaceful uses of nuclear power sources in outer space; and encourage sustainable development, including the achievement of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

And it can, and does, seek ways to establish new norms, regulations, and rules to support new activities, such as the use of in situ space resources.

These should ensure that the space environment can be used by all nations to support their development and socio-economic prosperity.

We will continue to be active within COPUOS and in support of UNOOSA, in order to maintain a sustainable space environment. This includes the funding we provided for an LTS project on implementation, through the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA).

But one thing that COPUOS cannot do is engage in discussions about threats that states pose to space systems. As you know, space systems include satellites, ground infrastructure, and the signals and data that flow between them. States have developed and deployed weapons to target these space systems and threaten state security.

But the discussion on weapons belongs to the disarmament structures of the UN. COPUOS must not blur the lines with the disarmament community.

Thus, the United Kingdom will continue to actively participate in discussions on the agenda item of Preventing an Arms Race in Outer Space at the Conference on Disarmament and the United Nations Disarmament Commission. United. Again this year, we were delighted with the overwhelming support for our United Nations General Assembly resolution on “Reducing Threats from Space through Norms, Rules and Principles of Responsible Behaviour” during the First Committee of the United Nations General Assembly. The UN Secretary-General’s report last year and the open-ended task force that is being set up for 2022 show how responsible spatial behaviors can reduce the risk of miscalculation and conflict arising from threats states against our space systems.

Mr. Chairman, let’s not confuse these two very different streams of work and forums. One, COPUOS, seeks to maintain space for all nations to use. The other, UN disarmament, aims to prevent the escalation and conflicts that could result from the use of weapons against space systems. They must be treated separately.

Finally, Mr. President, the United Kingdom believes that COPUOS must continue to be nimble and responsive to the growing number of actors in outer space. To ensure that the development of global outer space governance is transparent, COPUOS should consider new and innovative ways to best involve relevant stakeholders, such as industry, academia and civil society actors, in our joint efforts.

Thank you.

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