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UNIDIR's 2023 Conference Recap

UNIDIR's Outer Space Security Conference is an annual flagship event that serves as a unique opportunity for the diplomatic community, experts from military, industry, and academia to collectively address the critical issues and solutions related to space security. This year, the debate on outer space has been extremely positive thanks to diplomatic efforts to prevent an arms race in outer space (PAROS).

October 17, 2023

A wide range of states, including members of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), the Central American Integration System (SICA), Mexico, Republic of Korea, Slovakia, Bulgaria, russia, Hungary, Vietnam, and India, have expressed appreciation of the adoption of recommendations on implementing transparency and confidence-building measures (TCBMs) by the UN Disarmament Commission (DC). Bulgaria, in particular, stated its continued efforts to strengthen the disarmament system, while Mexico highlighted the challenges facing the disarmament mechanism.

Nineteen states have acknowledged the work of the UN Open-Ended Working Group (OEWG) on Reducing Space Threats, which recently discussed norms, rules, and principles of responsible behavior. Although consensus was not reached on a final report, Canada commended the dedication of experts in advancing common goals. Slovakia, Japan, Italy, and Germany praised the transparent and inclusive nature of the OEWG's discussions. The UK intends to propose a resolution to renew the OEWG's mandate, focusing on refining specific norms, rules, and principles of responsible behavior.

Some states expressed frustration with diplomatic delays, with Germany and Ireland blaming russia for blocking consensus at the OEWG. The NAM also lamented the lack of consensus at the first Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) on PAROS. Despite this, Singapore remains hopeful that the OEWG's work can inform the upcoming discussions at the second GGE on PAROS, where they will explore elements of a legally binding agreement. China has called for early negotiations on a legal agreement to facilitate a fruitful outcome.

Numerous states, including the President of the UN General Assembly Dennis Francis, the NAM, the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), African Group, Bangladesh, Philippines, Sudan, Jordan, belarus, Argentina, and India, expressed the need for a new legal agreement on PAROS. russia, belarus, and NAM referred to the draft Treaty on the Prevention of the Placement of Weapons in Outer Space, the Threat or Use of Force against Outer Space Objects (PPWT) prepared by russia and China as a model.

While awaiting a legal agreement, CELAC advocated for TCBMs. russia highlighted the No First Placement (NFP) of weapons political commitment made by more than 30 states as an interim step to maintain space as a weapon-free zone. Other states emphasized the importance of existing international law, such as the UN Charter, for guiding space activities and preserving international peace and security in outer space.

Despite the available tools to strengthen PAROS, concerns about the threat of weapons and warfare in outer space persist. russia accused Western states, particularly the United States, of pursuing policies aimed at achieving space dominance. The NAM rejected the United States' declarations that space is a "warfighting domain" or the "next battlefield." Concerns about anti-ballistic missiles (ABMs) were also raised by Ghana and the NAM, which called for a universal and nondiscriminatory approach to address missile-related issues.

The rapid advancements in science and technology demand new approaches to arms control and disarmament, as emphasized by Australia. The Philippines stressed the importance of UN partnerships to ensure the responsible use of new technologies.

The intersection of weapons, insecurity, and sustainability is another challenge. Threats to orbital sustainability were raised by the President of the UN General Assembly and CELAC, and both Mexico and CELAC argued that peace and PAROS are essential to achieving sustainable development goals on Earth. This perspective aligns with the UN Secretary-General's report on Our Common Agenda and the UNSG's New Agenda for Peace initiative, which will conclude with the Summit of the Future in 2024. Space plays a crucial role in this process, as highlighted by the UN High Representative for Disarmament Affairs Ms. Izumi Nakamitsu, Cambodia, Tunisia, and the European Union (EU), which seeks to strengthen governance initiatives for safety, security, and sustainability in outer space.

Author: Nessa, Cyber Journalist

Source: https://reachingcriticalwill.org/images/documents/Disarmament-fora/1com/FCM23/FCM-2023-No2.pdf (18 page)

Photo: Rawpixel.com/Freepik

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