printable banner

U.S. Department of State - Great Seal

U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

International Space Reception Panel

Frank A. Rose
Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
Washington, DC
July 24, 2013


Thank you Victoria , for that kind introduction.

I also want to thank you and your colleagues at the Secure World Foundation not only for sponsoring this reception, but for your organization’s ongoing work with the governments and the private sector to – in the words of your Mission Statement -- “develop and promote ideas and actions for international collaboration that achieve the secure, sustainable, and peaceful uses of outer space.” Your involvement on a range of important space issues in both domestic and international engagements has made SWF one of the Department of States’ valued partners in civil society.

So I don’t need to remind you and most of the other experts here this evening that we will soon observe the 50th anniversary of the adoption by the United Nations General Assembly of the “Declaration of Legal Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Uses of Outer Space.” This resolution, which was adopted by consensus on December 13, 1963, laid out a number of key principles, including that the exploration and use of outer space shall be carried on in accordance with international law, including the Charter of the United Nations.

In endorsing these principles, the United Nations General Assembly affirmed what had been key precepts of the U.S. National Space Policies of Presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy. Diplomatic historians note that the consensus on the 1963 Principles Declaration also benefited from an easing of superpower tensions after the peaceful resolution of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Just over three years later, the Principles Declaration formed the core for the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, which remains the foundation of the international legal framework for space activities.

In the half century since the Principles Declaration was adopted, all nations and peoples have seen a radical transformation in the way we live our daily lives, in many ways due to our use of space. The globe-spanning and interconnected nature of space capabilities and the world’s growing dependence on them mean that irresponsible acts in space can have damaging consequences for all of us. As a result, it is essential that all nations work together to adopt approaches for responsible activity in space to preserve this right for the benefit of future generations.

Given the importance of international cooperation, I am pleased to report the achievement of consensus of the UN Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) on Transparency and Confidence-Building Measures (TCBMs) in Outer Space Activities during meetings earlier this month in New York.

The 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. It included experts nominated by fifteen UN Member States. Victor Vasiliev, Russia’s deputy permanent representative to Conference on Disarmament, ably served as the Group’s co-chair in three sessions over the last twelve months. I was privileged to serve as the U.S. expert.

To help inform its work, the Group agreed at its first meeting last year to solicit inputs from other governments, other parts of the UN system involved in space activities, as well as civil society. In response, the GGE received a number of thoughtful and substantive inputs, including one provided by the Secure World Foundation.

As the GGE study progressed, the United States 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.(As most of you know, the United States announced its decision in January 2012 to join with the European Union and other nations to develop a Code of Conduct.)

The GGE’s endorsement of voluntary, non-legally binding transparency and confidence building measures to strengthen stability in space is a landmark development. The United States looks forward to the official issuance of the GGE study, which will be submitted by the UN Secretary General to the sixty-eighth session of the General Assembly. We think this report can serve as the basis for a consensus resolution on space TCBMs –which would serve as a most appropriate commemoration of the fiftieth anniversary of the Principles Declaration.

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. These discussions, along with U.S. efforts to develop mechanisms for improved warning of potential hazards to spaceflight safety, themselves constitute significant measures to clarify intent and build confidence.

As my colleagues on this evening’s panel will note, we are increasingly reliant on space, not only when disasters strike, but also for our day-to-day life. However, our ability to continue to use 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 the international community depends. As a result, we must take action now and pursue TCBMs in space. These TCBMs will enhance the long-term sustainability, stability, safety, and security of the space environment. Protecting the space environment for future generations is in the vital interests of the United States and the entire global community.

Back to Top

Do you already have an account on one of these sites? Click the logo to sign in and create your own customized State Department page. Want to learn more? Check out our FAQ!

OpenID is a service that allows you to sign in to many different websites using a single identity. Find out more about OpenID and how to get an OpenID-enabled account.