Opening remarks by Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation Sergey A.Ryabkov at the First United Nations Conference on Space Law and Policy, Moscow, 11 September 2018
Dear Madame Director,
Dear Mr. Deputy Director General,
I would like to welcome the organizers, participants and guests of the First United Nations Conference on Space Law and Policy. I am sure that this event will become a good venue for an extensive discussion and exchange of experience in this field.
The Conference is expected to assist in generating competencies in space law and policy issues, including in developing countries, considering the goals of the existing programme on capacity-building, training and education implemented by the UN Office for Outer Space Affairs. The Conference participants will certainly demonstrate high level of analysis of attitudes States could adopt to ensure success of the United Nations, in particular, its Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS), in advancing international regulation of space activities.
Allow me to make some observations that seem to be pertinent considering the agenda of the Conference.
General references to the need to develop international space law are occasionally being made at different international fora. Nevertheless, there are no generally shared perspectives, either academic or political, regarding leveraging potential new legal regulation.
It is well known that after the consensus approval by the General Assembly in its resolution 34/68 of 5 December 1979 of the Moon Agreement COPUOS Member States increasingly subscribed to the idea of providing for further international regulatory frameworks by means of developing and adopting specific non-legally binding instruments.
Such an approach seemed to be acceptable and reasonable because it afforded an opportunity to provide for a regulatory framework in specific areas of space activities (like the use of nuclear power sources in outer space) based on political commitments. Such concept essentially meant an adequate regulation with added flexibility that fully corresponded to the needs of a responsible behaviour in space.
Similar approach, had it been fully and effectively applied to the set of guidelines for the long-term sustainability of outer space activities, the drafting of which, unfortunately, has been terminated last June, could have served the goal of compensating for the apparent deficiencies in the international legal regulation of safety and security in outer space. Regretfully, it did not happen due to political reasons. Had all States been more constructive and farsighted in addressing serious issues of safety of space operations, COPUOS could have made a major step forward in establishing a wider system of general safety and security in outer space.
International regulation seems to have lost value for some States which claim exclusive validity to their own standards, procedures and practices.
The situation surrounding negotiations on drafting the set of guidelines for the long-term sustainability of outer space activities causes our special concern.
It goes without saying that States should be encouraged to establish, at national levels, policies governing their space activities in line with international law. However there should be no geopolitical connotation attached and no intent to set out rules for the entire international community.
We would also like to notice, that, with all due importance of developing the so called best practices, States can not afford to switch to devising future international instruments containing exclusively references to, or the most general description of, such practices because such instruments will not produce regulation.
The significance of non-legally binding normative regulation could be enhanced still further if States support it through appropriate national policy directives. I think I will be right in saying that Russia is the only country that has stated in its Military doctrine a positive commitment towards establishing under the auspices of the United Nations of a regime of safety of space operations. We would like to propose that other States follow suit thus creating prerequisites for the success of future negotiations.
Problems will surely proliferate if States neglect international regulation of space activities and embark on the road of self-granting of regulatory authorities with regard to outer space expanding beyond of what is permi tted by international law. Unilateralism is already in evidence and manifests itself, first and foremost, in the attempts to derive an entirely new and politically motivated understanding of how space resources should be explored. The indulgence with unilateralism may be detrimental to safety and security in outer space.
Having adequate international regulatory framework in place to deal with safety of space operations, for which Russia stands for, would mean that States are successful in advancing the goals of confidence-building in outer space activities. The regulation itself would be an important factor in shaping, in particular, the model of the so-called space traffic management (STM) visualized as a possible new concept of conducting space activities.
It would be in the interests of all States to arrive at realistic judgements regarding all aspects of potential STM. So far, all of us are at the very start of the process of visualizing and devising the potential new international regulation. For example, the sharing and joint upgrading of information on space objects and events is critical to the success of the endeavour. Nevertheless, as part of drafting the set of guidelines on the long-term sustainability of outer space activities States have agreed only to a general provision on the need to share information on space objects and events failing, though, to define instrumentalities to achieve effective information interaction.
Considering that in its recently adopted policy statements on STM the United States proposed that other States accommodate their interests under the U.S. national STM regulation setting, we might as well expect that the United States will, nevertheless, share its vision of a truly international STM regulation.
Russia is actively developing ideas of potential regulation related to excluding the inception of conflicts in outer space. We stand for in-depth addressing factors that could compromise safety and security in outer space. It really is important that States have international regulations assisting in making contingency situations in outer space manageable and subject to resolution.
In conclusion, I would like to stress that it is not too late yet to jointly conceive new effective international regulation of space activities. Russia is ready for such substantive work.