Since this is the first time my delegation is taking the floor under your Presidency of the Conference, I take this opportunity to extend our sincere congratulations and also to compliment the serious, careful manner in which your Presidency has been prepared. You may, of course, count on the full support of my delegation and myself personally as a Friend of the President to contribute to the successful conclusion of your task. We appreciate the impressive compilation of the basic documents on PAROS put together by the Secretariat and distributed today.
In your opening statement on June 1st, you had stated that today’s plenary would be devoted to the subject of the importance of PAROS. Sri Lanka also supports the statement to be made shortly by the Indonesian Ambassador on behalf of the G21. Sri Lanka’s active engagement on this issue, is well known and dates back at least to the early 80’s when with likeminded developing countries in the Group of 77, we called for the preservation of outer space as the common heritage of all mankind, to be used in cooperation and solely for peaceful purposes by all states. The notion that outer space should be devoted “exclusively to peaceful and scientific purposes” has an even earlier resonance in the United Nations in the joint initiative by the major space faring nations in 1957 when the GA adopted its first resolution on Outer Space incorporating that language (Res. 1148).
Since the 1960’s we have witnessed unprecedented advances in space technology coming within the reach of an increasing number of both developed and developing countries. Fuelled by globalization, some space applications such as in broadcasting, meteorology, navigation, education and health, environmental and crop management, have become crucial to the everyday functioning of a modern society. At the same time it is becoming increasingly clear that the line between commercial and scientific use of space technology and military use of such technology is fast blurring, to the point that there is an urgent need today to ensure that space, the last frontier of humankind, is used only for non-offensive and non-belligerent purposes. As the amazing photographs of new space exploration continue to inspire awe and wonder, we believe popular resolve will surely strengthen to keep this pristine world of space a peaceful arena for all mankind for all time.
Over the past 35 years, a number of treaties and agreements have been concluded to protect assets in space, among which, the Outer Space Treaty of 1967 concluded in the early years of space exploration, remains the most important. In my statement to the CD on 30 June 2005, we had reminded of the approaching 40th anniversary of the signing of the Outer Space Treaty, and urged member states to work towards universalizing this important legal regime, which currently has 98 State Parties. The WMD Commission report recently presented to the UN Secretary General has in fact now recommended that a Review conference of the Outer Space Treaty be held in 2007 to mark this special anniversary.
Although so far no violation of international law in space has been detected, we cannot presume that no violation will take place in the future. Rapid scientific and technological developments have increased unpredictability in the world order. During a recent seminar on space security on the side lines of the CD, we heard from commercial space operators of preventive measures they were taking in the context of increasingly plausible threats of piracy not only from states but also non-state actors.
Over the years there has been much discussions in the CD and work done in the Ad-hoc Committee on PAROS established between 1985-1994 on how we may reinforce existing legal instruments. We thank the delegations of China and the Russian Federation for presenting a number of proposals and working papers on possible elements for a new multilateral legal agreement.
The PAROS resolution that Sri Lanka and Egypt co-sponsor annually in the First Committee states that the CD has the primary role in the negotiation of any multilateral agreement as appropriate and also recognises the growing convergence of views, on the elaboration of measures designed to strengthen transparency, confidence and security in the peaceful use of outer space. There has been a view which holds that there is no arms race in outer space and would question the relevance of PAROS on these grounds. One response Mr. President , could be, as my delegation has always held, that preventing an arms race in outer space is an easier task than attempting to control and decelerate such a race after it has begun. Can we really afford an expensive competition in outer space when there remain so many other challenges before us such as poverty, hunger, disease and deprivation?
Mr. President, I would also recall that as far back as 1985 Sri Lanka had proposed a moratorium on the testing and development of space weapons preceding multilateral negotiations on a treaty to prohibit all weapons in space. We see merit therefore in recent calls for a series of independent declarations from major space faring nations that they would not be the first to deploy weapons in space, which would provide considerable protection to existing space assets and help build confidence in the security of space.