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22 October 2012 - First Committee - “Outer space” - Statement by Ambassador Jean-Hugues Simon-Michel, Permanent Representative of France to the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva

(Unofficial translation)

Mr. Chairman,

France fully supports the statement made by the European Union. Space has become essential to modern life. Its peaceful applications are countless and range from telecommunications and land, air and sea navigation to meteorology. Space is naturally also equally essential to international security. Consistent with its longstanding position, France remains committed to preserving peace and security in outer space and to developing space activities for peaceful purposes.

In this assembly, France supported the creation through resolution 65/68 of a group of government experts on outer space transparency and confidence-building measures. France actively participates in the work of this group where these issues can be addressed. We welcome in this regard the effective action of the Russian presidency, which successfully launched the work of the group at its first meeting in July in New York.

Moreover, France is concerned with avoiding an arms race in space. France considers that a new legally binding instrument will only provide a real security gain if it is comprehensive, specific, universal and credible. In addition, this work has to be conducted over the long term, and problems that we come across everyday in outer space activities require pragmatic swift solutions.

One of our priorities is to ensure that the space environment allows for the development of space activities for peaceful purposes, to the benefit of all. But the increase in stakeholders and the rapid development and diversification of civil and military activities in space generate risks to the security of objects that are placed there. One of the number one threats to space activities is the growing number of debris of space objects. In this respect, France is taking an active part in work on the long-term sustainability of outer space activities conducted in the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS).

The problems we need to address are security problems in the broadest sense and require responses that address civil and military aspects. That is why, to better ensure security of space activities, France supports in the various relevant bodies, with countries that have or intend to develop space activities, the drafting of voluntary transparency and confidence-building measures that are acceptable to as many countries as possible. We lend our full support to the Draft International Code of Conduct for Outer Space Activities launched in 2008, the most recent version of which was presented in Vienna last June.

As we have had the opportunity to state many times, we are extremely committed to the three major principles that have guided the creation of this code and that in our opinion should govern space activities. They include:

— Freedom of access to space for peaceful purposes;
— Preservation of the security and integrity of space objects in orbit;
— Respect of the right of States to self-defence.

One of our priorities is to ensure that the space environment allows for the development of space activities for peaceful purposes, to the benefit of all.

The text that has been presented, which is currently supported by a very large number of countries, will apply to all space activities, whether they are conducted by States or non-government bodies. It will be voluntary and open to the participation of all States. It will define the main rules to be observed by States with capabilities in outer space in military and civil fields. The project does not contain provisions concerning the placement of weapons in outer space as such, but stresses the importance of implementing measures to prevent outer space from becoming an area of conflict and calls on all States to resolve conflicts in space by peaceful means.

We believe that the ongoing work on the Code of Conduct with a view to developing information sharing, confidence-building measures and best practice for space activities fully meets this objective because in our opinion, it will develop confidence and understanding between space stakeholders, thereby effectively contributing to the long-term sustainability of outer space activities.

Promoting transparency in order to build confidence will help prevent accidents and collisions of space objects. It will also help prevent malicious acts from going unnoticed or space incidents from systematically being interpreted as hostile action. It will therefore boost the security of space activities.

This comprehensive initiative addressing both military and civil aspects cannot be addressed in established forums such as the Conference on Disarmament, which deals with military aspects of the problem, or the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, which deals with its civilian aspects. Discussions need to be pursued outside of such forums within a process that is open to all United Nations Member States.

We hope that this approach will be productive and result in the adoption by as many States as possible of a Code that will then be presented to this Assembly. We call on all United Nations Member States to participate in discussions that will take place in the coming months.

Thank you.

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Organisation des Nations Unies Présidence de la République France Diplomatie La France à l'Office des Nations Unies à Genève Union Européenne Première réunion de l'ONU