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Statement to the Conference on Disarmament under Agenda Item 3: “Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space”

Statement  

Delivered by Ms. Tine Mørch Smith. Ambassador, Permanent Representative to the UN and other International Organizations

Geneva, 3 June 2021

Mr. President,

Thank you for giving me the floor. Let me first of all congratulate you on assuming the presidency, and thank you for your service to this conference. I would also like to thank you for providing us with the opportunity to have a substantive exchange on this central topic – in the unfortunate absence of a programme of work. Thank you also to the panellists for excellent presentations on Tuesday.

Mr. President,

Preventing an arms race in space is a matter of global importance. It’s a matter of increasing urgency. And it’s a matter in need of multilateral solutions. As set out in the Outer Space Treaty, the exploration and use of outer space for peaceful purposes is in the interest of all mankind. It is an issue in which all states have a stake.

Norway therefore welcomes resolution 75/36 of the General Assembly. It complements other initiatives for the prevention of an arms race in outer space, and offers a way forward for a discussion that has become entrenched by differing opinions on form. We need to move forward on substance.

The initiative for a reduction of space threats through norms, rules and principles of responsible behaviour gives us a space to discuss that substance without predetermining a formal outcome. It might contribute to the development of legally binding instruments in this area – or it might lead to other normative frameworks. What is important is that we start discussing the kinds of behaviour that we want – and do not want – with regard to outer space, with the aim of avoiding an arms race in outer space, and ultimately maintaining international peace and security.

Norway has provided a national submission pursuant to resolution 75/36 and looks forward to studying the substantive report of the Secretary General containing the views of other states. It is clear from those submissions already available that the issue of responsible space behaviour has generated significant interest.

Further discussion must take into account both the complexity and often dual-use nature of space systems. One key aspect of the discussion must be on how to promote transparency and other risk reducing practices in order to further cooperation and avoid unintended escalations due to misunderstandings or miscalculations. Mechanisms of notification to avoid misperceptions, for instance in close-proximity operations, could be a fruitful topic for discussion – to name one.  Norms against weapons tests or other operations that foreseeably will create long-lived orbital debris – to name another.

In 2019, the Norwegian government published a national White Paper on Space Policy. It sets forth Norway’s space policy including our overarching approach to space security. While the policy recognises the interest of states to protect their own space infrastructure and that of their allies, it equally recognises that measures to combat security threats must be developed in cooperation with other states and international organisations.

Like many other states, Norway is a highly reliant on space-based systems for communications, for positioning, navigation and timing (PNT), as well as for situational awareness. In particular, activities outside the Norwegian mainland present challenges where space systems enable efficient and safe operations, support operational security and bolster the exercise of jurisdiction in large areas. Search and rescue operations in the Arctic may serve as prime examples. As such, Norway attaches great importance to ensuring the reliability of space-based services and the reduction of risks that may threaten their operations. To help further this objective, Norway will support initiatives to bring this discussion on responsible behaviour forward within the United Nations.

Thank you, Mr. President.