U.S. Perspective on the Importance of the GGE
Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance
I am very pleased to be here today with my UN GGE colleagues, Sergio and Victor. Victor was the Group’s co-chair, Sergio was the Italian expert, and I was privileged to serve as the U.S. expert. I also want to recognize Peter Martinez, who served as the South African expert.
As many of you know, the UN Group of Governmental Experts, or GGE, was established by the UN General Assembly to study the possible contributions of voluntary, non-legally binding TCBMs to strengthen stability and security in outer space. The Group included experts nominated by fifteen UN Member States, though we all served in our personal capacities.
To help inform its work, the Group agreed at its first meeting in 2012 to solicit inputs from other governments, other parts of the UN system involved in space activities, and civil society. In response, the GGE received a number of thoughtful and substantive inputs.
As the GGE study progressed, the GGE experts sought to find solutions to common challenges and problems in an increasingly contested and congested space environment. The Group’s study was a unique opportunity to establish consensus on the importance and priority of voluntary and pragmatic measures to ensure the sustainability and safety of the space environment as well as to strengthen stability and security in space for all nations.
The Group recommended that States and international organizations consider and implement a range of measures to enhance the transparency of outer space activities, further international cooperation, consultations and outreach, and promote coordination to enhance safety and predictability in the uses of outer space.
Furthermore, the Group endorsed efforts to pursue political commitments – including a multilateral code of conduct – to encourage responsible actions in, and the peaceful use of, outer space. In this regard, the Group noted the efforts of the European Union to develop an International Code of Conduct for Outer Space Activities through open-ended consultations with the international community.
Finally, the Group’s study endorsed efforts to pursue bilateral transparency and confidence-building measures. This highlights the importance of efforts such as ongoing discussions on space security policy that the United States has been conducting with a number of spacefaring nations, including Russia, Italy, South Africa, and Japan. These discussions, along with U.S. efforts to develop mechanisms for improved warning of potential hazards to spaceflight safety, constitute significant measures to clarify intent and build confidence.
The GGE’s endorsement of voluntary, non-legally binding transparency and confidence building measures to strengthen stability in space is an important development, and the consensus report was endorsed by UN General Assembly resolution last December.
I would like to close by noting that while all nations are increasingly reliant on space, our ability to continue to utilize space for these benefits is at serious risk. Accidents or irresponsible acts against space systems would not only harm the space environment, but would also disrupt services on which all governments and people depend. As a result, I would recommend that all governments review and consider implementing the recommendations of the GGE.
Thank you very much.