Statement During UNGA Fourth Committee General Debate on International Cooperation in the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space

Caitlin Poling
New York, New York
October 26, 2023


Thank you, Chair, delegates.

At the outset, I would like to thank both His Excellency, Mr. Omran Sharaf, Chair of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, as well as the UN Office for Outer Space Affairs, for your continued work in advancing this Committee’s significant contributions to the responsible and safe use of space. My delegation also wishes to extend an enthusiastic welcome to Ms. Aarti Holla-Maini as the new Director of UNOOSA and Dr. Driss El Hadani as the new Senior Adviser. We look forward to working with you both and welcome your expertise and leadership as the Office tackles an ever-growing set of issues and opportunities.

As the only standing body of the United Nations dedicated exclusively to the peaceful uses of outer space, COPUOS has spent the past six decades working tirelessly to foster international cooperation in the peaceful exploration and use of outer space to benefit all of humanity.

The work of COPUOS and its two subcommittees is more important now than ever, as evidenced by the ongoing efforts to implement the 21 guidelines for the long-term sustainability of outer space activities and the recently established Working Group on Legal Aspects of Space Resource Activities within the Legal Subcommittee. My delegation would also like to stress the importance of Member States adopting an agenda item and expert group on Dark and Quiet Skies at the upcoming Scientific and Technical Subcommittee, as this is a challenge that will not simply disappear if we choose to ignore it. I applaud Chairman Sharaf’s initiative to make the work of COPUOS more efficient and effective – a welcome effort as the number of issues before COPUOS grows.

These initiatives, along with countless others that COPUOS has before it, are a true testament to the continued relevance and importance of the Committee, especially as the number of actors and activities in outer space grows. We have operated for decades under processes, precedents, and procedures that have furthered our collective efforts to explore and utilize outer space responsibly, safely, and sustainably, and we must continue to do so. If we want to protect the effectiveness of COPUOS, we must not get drawn into discussions about issues that are outside the long-standing mandate of the Fourth Committee and would be more appropriately addressed by other elements of the UN system. The stakes are simply too high for COPUOS to devolve into a contentious and unproductive discourse that undermines our important work.

We have achieved so much in [COPUOS], not through brinkmanship or voting, but through consensus. We operate in this manner not because we have to—the UN is certainly no stranger to voting—but because consensus, or the often touted “spirit of Vienna,” is foundational to our work. It encourages us to work through our differences and find a path forward, as the principles developed in the Outer Space Treaty state, “for the common interest of all humanity.” I therefore urge all delegations here today to keep that spirit alive, adopt the omnibus resolution before us, and continue bringing any substantive discussions to Vienna for consideration by the Committee.

Thank you Chair.