International Order & Conflict
Report

GGE Report on Transparency and Confidence-Building Measures in Outer Space Activities

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Group of Governmental Experts on Transparency and Confidence-Building Measures in Outer Space Activities

In July 2013, a UN Group of Governmental experts issued a report on transparency and confidence building in outer space that provided further support for the concept of a Code of Conduct. In this report, for the first time, China and Russia endorsed the concept of a Code of Conduct, while withholding support for the EU’s draft text (the EU’s latest draft can be found here). The Governments of India and Brazil have also expressed reservations about the EU’s draft.  

Summary

“The present report contains the study on outer space transparency and confidence-building measures conducted by the Group of Governmental Experts on Transparency and Confidence-Building Measures in Outer Space Activities, which was established by the Secretary-General of the United Nations. The study was adopted by consensus. The Group concluded that the world’s growing dependence on space-based systems and technologies and the information they provide requires collaborative efforts to address threats to the sustainability and security of outer space activities. Transparency and confidence-building measures can reduce, or even eliminate, misunderstandings, mistrust and miscalculations with regard to the activities and intentions of States in outer space.

“The Group acknowledged that the existing treaties on outer space contain several transparency and confidence-building measures of a mandatory nature. Non-legally binding measures for outer space activities should complement the existing international legal framework pertaining to space activities and should not undermine existing legal obligations or hamper the lawful use of outer space, particularly by emerging space actors. The Group further agreed that such measures for outer space activities could contribute to, but not act as a substitute for, measures to monitor the implementation of arms limitation and disarmament agreements.

“After extensive and in-depth discussions, the Group drafted a series of measures for outer space activities, including exchange of information relating to national space policy such as major military expenditure on outer space, notifications on outer space activities aimed at risk reduction, and visits to space launch sites and facilities. The Group discussed criteria for developing transparency and confidence-building measures in outer space activities and for testing their implementation and validation. In addition, the Group encouraged further development of international cooperation between spacefaring and non-spacefaring nations in the peaceful uses of outer space for the benefit of all States.

“The proposed measures drafted by the Group also include coordination and consultative mechanisms aimed at improving interaction between participants in outer space activities and clarifying information and ambiguous situations. In order to promote effective implementation of the transparency and confidence-building measures, the Group recommended that coordination be established between the Office for Disarmament Affairs, the Office for Outer Space Affairs and other appropriate United Nations entities.

“The Group recommended that States and international organizations consider and implement the transparency and confidence-building measures contained in the present report on a voluntary basis and without prejudice to the implementation of obligations deriving from existing legal commitments.

“The Group further recommended that the General Assembly decide how to best advance transparency and confidence-building measures and facilitate their universal consideration and support, including by the relevant offices of the Secretariat and the United Nations entities whose work relates to disarmament. The Group also requested the Secretary-General to circulate its report to all relevant entities of the United Nations system.”

Download the full report