25 October 2013 - General Assembly - First Committee - Statement by Ms Marie-Gaëlle Robles, Counsellor to the Permanent Mission of France to the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva
France fully endorses the statement made by the European Union.
Space has become an essential part of modern life. It has countless peaceful applications, ranging from telecommunications to terrestrial, aerial and maritime navigation to meteorology. Space is of course equally fundamental for international security. True to our long-standing position, France remains attached to the preservation of peace and security in outer space and to the development of space activities for peaceful purposes.
In this Assembly, France has played an active part in the Group of Governmental Experts on Transparency and Confidence-Building Measures in Outer Space Activities, created by Resolution 65/68, which concluded its work this summer. We welcome the quality of the work carried out by the experts under the chairmanship of M. Victor Vasiliev, from the Russian Federation.
France is concerned to avoid an arms race in outer-space. However, a new and legally binding instrument would truly advance security only if it were comprehensive, precise, universal and credible. Furthermore, drawing up such an instrument would inevitably be a lengthy process, whereas the problems encountered every day in outer space activities call for pragmatic and prompt solutions which include measures that can be taken immediately.
One of our priorities is to ensure that the space environment allows for the development of space activities with a peaceful purpose for the benefit of all. However, the growing number of players, coupled with the rapid expansion and diversification of civilian and military activities in space, cause risks to the security of objects placed there. One of the main challenges facing space activities is the proliferation of debris from space objects. It is in our common interest, as nations with a current or future space capacity, to develop resources which enable us to meet these challenges and ensure the safety and security of space activities.
On this point, France is playing an active part in the work on the long-term sustainability of space activities carried out in the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS). The problems we face are security problems in the broadest sense, requiring responses which span both civilian and military aspects. For that reason, in order to better ensure the security of space activities, in the relevant forums and with regard to countries which have developed space activities or intend to do so, France supports the framing of voluntary transparency and confidence-building measures acceptable to the greatest number of States. As we have stated on several occasions, we are attached to the overriding principles which we believe should govern space activities, namely:
freedom of access to space for peaceful uses;
preservation of the security and integrity of space objects in orbit;
due consideration for the right of self-defense of States.
We give our full support to the draft International Code of Conduct for Outer Space Activities, which was the subject of substantive discussions in Kiev in May. The text before us, which now has the support of a very large number of countries, will apply to all space activities. It will be voluntary and open to the participation of all States. It will define the key rules to be observed by States with a military and/or civilian space capacity. The draft Code recalls the importance of taking steps to prevent outer space from becoming a conflict zone and calls on all States to resolve conflicts in space by peaceful means.
We consider that ongoing work around the Code of Conduct, seeking to enhance exchanges of information, confidence-building measures and best practices in space activities, is entirely consistent with this objective, because we believe it will foster trust and understanding between players in space and thus make a helpful contribution to the long-term sustainability of space activities.
Promoting transparency, intended to strengthen trust, will help to avoid both accidents and collisions between space objects. It will also help to ensure that malicious acts do not go unnoticed and that incidents in space are not interpreted as having a hostile intention. By doing so, it will contribute to the security of space activities.
This comprehensive initiative, spanning both civilian and military aspects, cannot be addressed in established forums such as the Conference on Disarmament, which deals with the military aspects of the problem, or the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS), which deals with its civilian aspects. While securing the highest degree of inclusivity in the process, it seems necessary to continue discussions in the current ad hoc format.
We hope that this approach will be fruitful and lead to the adoption by as many States as possible of a Code that will then be presented to this Assembly. We call on all interested States to take part in the discussions that will be held in Bangkok in November.