GA: Use of the veto - outer space

Statement delivered by New Zealand's Permanent Representative Ambassador Ms. Carolyn Schwalger on behalf of Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cabo Verde, Canada, Costa Rica, Denmark, Ecuador, Finland, Georgia, Germany, Ireland, Jamaica, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Marshall Islands, Moldova, Myanmar, New Zealand, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Romania, San Marino, Singapore, Sweden, Timor-Leste and Ukraine - Debate pursuant to resolution 76/262


I am speaking on behalf of a group of States committed to the implementation of General Assembly Resolution 76/262, otherwise known as the Veto Initiative: Austria, Bulgaria, Canada, Costa Rica, Denmark, Finland, Liechtenstein, Malta, Norway, Singapore … and my own country New Zealand.

We regret that the veto cast by the Russian Federation on the first ever Security Council resolution on outer space overrode a text which was supported by 65 cosponsors and received 13 votes in favour.

We welcome this opportunity for transparency and accountability on the casting of the veto through the implementation of the Veto Initiative. The veto is the most undemocratic element of the UN and it is arguably the single greatest source of criticism of the UN by the communities we serve. The casting of the veto by a single member, or small number of members, stymies the majority of the Council from carrying out its functions on behalf of the wider UN membership.

We are steadfast in our belief that the General Assembly has a legitimate interest in, and political responsibility to address situations where the use of the veto has prevented the Security Council from acting.

A peaceful, sustainable, safe and secure space environment is essential. We all rely on space-enabled capabilities which provide a wide, and growing, range of critical capabilities, enable exciting research, and help us find answers to many of our most confronting shared challenges. We also look to space to assist us in responding to crises and emergencies, such as extreme weather events and other natural disasters around the world.

Central to this is support for measures to prevent an arms race in outer space and efforts to reduce the risk of conflict in space.

Importantly, the draft resolution urged all Member States to carry out space activities in full compliance with international law, actively contribute to the objective of the peaceful use of outer space and of the prevention of an arms race in outer space, and affirmed the obligations of all States Parties to fully comply with the Outer Space Treaty, including not to place in orbit any nuclear weapons or weapons of mass destruction. The draft resolution went beyond current commitments and also called on Member States not to develop nuclear weapons or any other kinds of WMDs specifically designed to be placed in orbit. This call would have contributed to the prevention of an arms race in outer space. 

The resolution would have complemented other ongoing discussions towards measures to prevent an arms race in outer space in disarmament fora.

The use of the veto presents a missed opportunity for the Security Council, on behalf of the UN membership, to exercise its leadership and responsibility and reaffirm key obligations and principles under the Outer Space Treaty, international law and the UN Charter.

As members of the General Assembly, we will continue to exercise our collective political responsibility under the UN Charter to address matters of international peace and security.

We call on the Council to act in accordance with its primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security. We encourage the Assembly to be ready to fill the gap left by the use of the veto by considering taking further actions where the Security Council has been prevented from acting by the veto.

Thank you.