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Outer space

Militarization, weaponization, and the prevention of an arms race

The prevention of an arms race in outer space (PAROS) is a critical issue on the UN disarmament and arms control agenda. On the page, you can find links to definitions of key terms, information about relevant UN processes, and more. You can also download a two-page version in PDF.

Please note: The annual Keep Space for Peace Week will be held this year from 4-11 October 2014.

Definitions and key issues
Existing legal instruments
Relevant UN bodies
Processes and proposals
Official documents
Corporations working on potential space weapons
Space weapon and missile defence technologies and programmes
Civil society and PAROS

Definitions and key issues

One of the dangers in outer space is that almost anything can be used as a weapon. It does not take more than a tiny rock (or a random piece of space debris) to destroy important satellites or other devices. The United States argues that the inability to define space weapons is the main barrier to a treaty that prevents them. One key element, however, is the distinction between the militarization and weaponization of outer space:

Militarization of outer space: Space has been militarized since the earliest communication satellites were launched. Today, militaries all over the world rely on satellites for command and control, communication, monitoring, early warning, and navigation with the Global Positioning System. Therefore, “peaceful uses” of outer space include military uses, even those which are not at all peaceful—such as using satellites to direct bombing raids or to orchestrate a “prompt global strike” capability, which is “the ability to control any situation or defeat any adversary across the range of military operations.”

Weaponization of outer space: Space weaponization is generally understood to refer to the placement in orbit of space-based devices that have a destructive capacity. Many experts argue that ground-based systems designed or used to attack space-based assets also constitute space weapons, though are not technically part of the “weaponization of outer space” since they are not placed in orbit. Some also argue that weapons that travel through space in order to reach their targets, such as hypersonic technology vehicles, also contribute to the weaponization of space. Many elements of the US ballistic “missile defense” system currently being developed or planned could constitute space weapons as well, as many possess “dual-use” characteristics, allowing them to destroy space assets as well as ballistic missiles.Preventing an Arms Race in Outer Space (PAROS):

The overwhelming majority of UN member states are concerned that the weaponization of outer space will lead to an arms race and insist that a multilateral treaty is the only way to prevent such an arms race, emphasizing that this treaty would not limit space access, but would prevent such limitations. In 2006, Russia argued that if all states observe a prohibition on space weaponization, there will be no arms race. Russia and China also support establishing an obligation of no use or threat of use of force against space objects and have submitted a draft treaty to the UN on preventing the placement of weapons in outer space.

Space weapons and missile "defence"

While as far as anyone knows there are currently no weapons deployed in space, the United States has invested in developing potential technologies, and both China and the United States have demonstrated anti-satellite capabilities in 2007 and 2008, respectively. In response to the potential threats of space weaponization, as well as perceived ballistic missile threats, the US is also developing a ballistic missile defense shield. While missile defense is presented as a defense of American and allied territories against a limited missile attack, it is in reality one more step towards full spectrum dominance.

Missile defence allows countries to develop offensive technologies under the pretence of defense. For example, Kinetic Energy Inteceptors are missiles that are launched into space to take out enemy missiles by smashing into them. They also have potential applications as offensive anti-satellite weapons, because the same maneovering abilities and set of controls is necessary to destroy satellites.

Major defense contractors are actively developing their aerospace capabilities, and smaller aerospace corporations are competing to prove their technical innovation in making satellites smaller and launch vehicles less expensive.

There are many reasons to be concerned about the development of missile defence and space weapon technology, including the increased conventional military dominance by the United States, the vast waste of resources that accompanies any arms build-up, whether it's a race or an asymmetrical surge, and the physical results of fighting in outer space - especially space debris, which will destroy civil and commercial space infrastructure such as satellites. The corporations studied in Reaching Critical Will's Dirty Dozen and the Dirty Dozen Annex are all contributing to the steady drive toward a future in which these concerns are our dirty reality.

Space debris

Besides creating an new arms race, the weaponization of space means proliferation of space debris. Such debris, resulting from 50 years of space activity, already poses a considerable hazard to spacecraft. This crowding problem could worsen as a large number of space weapons could be deployed in Low Earth Orbit (LEO). The launching and testing of weapons would also increase space debris. Moreover, deploying space-based weapons in the increasingly crowded realm of LEO would leave less room for civilian systems. Those problems would also occur during periods of peace. If a number of satellites were to be destroyed during the course of a war, some scientists warn, they would create so much debris that it would prevent future satellites from being stationed in space and generally limit space access.

Effects on arms control and nuclear disarmament

The weaponization of space will destroy strategic balance and stability, undermine international and national security, and disrupt existing arms control instruments, in particular those related to nuclear weapons and missiles. These effects will inevitably lead to a new arms race. Space weaponization would seriously disrupt the arms control and disarmament process. The United States' withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in 2001 and the development of US ground- and sea- based “missile defenses” have already increased tensions with Russia and have led to increased missile proliferation.The deployment of these technologies or the development of space-based technologies will likely cause Russia, as well as the United States (in response to Russia), to make smaller and smaller reductions of their nuclear arsenals and to reject the development of new treaties to regulate nuclear weapons and their delivery systems. China would likely build more warheads to maintain its nuclear deterrent, which could in turn encourage India and then Pakistan to follow suit.

In January 2007, China tested an anti-satellite weapon against one of its own ageing weather satellites. The United States, while condemning the test, forged ahead with several space and missile defence projects with dual-use capabilities. In addition, in February 2008, the United States shot down own of it's own failed satellites that was carrying a half-ton of hydrazine rocket fuel (a toxic chemical). The US military shot it down with a Standard Missile-3, whose primary vocation is interceptor for the US Navy’s missile defense system.

Current trends in US policy

While as far as anyone knows there are currently no weapons deployed in space, the US policy on outer space is concerning. Under the Bush administration, the 2006 US National Space Policy explained that the US will “preserve its rights, capabilities, and freedom of action in space; dissuade or deter others from either impeding those rights or developing capabilities intending to do so; take those actions necessary to protect its space capabilities; respond to interference; and deny, if necessary, adversaries the use of space capabilities hostile to US national interests.”

At that point, the United States rejected treaties “limiting its actions” in outer space and its space policy firmly opposed “the development of new legal regimes or other restrictions that seek to prohibit or limit US access to or use of space,” and insisted that “proposed arms control agreements or restrictions must not impair the rights of the United States to conduct research, development, testing, and operations or other activities in space for US national interests.” 

In July 2010, the Obama administration released the new US National Space Policy. It states that the US shall pursue bilateral and multilateral transparency and confidence-building measures to encourage responsible action in, and the peaceful uses of, space. The new policy also notes that the US will consider proposals and concepts for arms control measures if they are “equitable, effectively verifiable, and enhance the national security of the US and its allies.” The language in this new policy suggests that this is a significant departure from its predecessor. However, the actual implications of this change are still unknown. While claiming that it is open to considering space-related arms control concepts and proposals, the US argues that such proposals must meet the “‘rigorous criteria’ of equitability, effective verifiability, and enhance the national security interests of the US and its allies.” The Russian-Chinese joint draft treaty on the Prevention of the Placement of Weapons in Outer Space (PPWT) would not meet these criteria according to the US, as it is “fundamentally flawed” and would not provide any grounds for commencing negotiations.

The United States Department of Defense continues to invest in programs that could provide anti-satellite and space-based weapons capabilities. While the technology itself is highly controversial, it presents major business opportunities to companies that know how to overcome moral, logistical, and financial roadblocks. War has always been highly profitable, and dominance of outer space leads to further profits in conventional warfare.  As the Air Force Space Command stated in its 2003 Strategic Master Plan, “the ability to gain space superiority (the ability to exploit space while selectively disallowing it to adversaries) is critically important and maintaining space superiority is an essential prerequisite in modern warfare.” Superiority in conventional warfare relies on military assets in space, especially satellites, which are used for intelligence, remote sensing, navigation, and monitoring, among other things. Since the US currently asserts its political will through force, protection of its own space assets and disturbance of others’ is key to guaranteeing US dominance.

Existing legal instruments

1963 Treaty Banning Nuclear Weapon Tests In The Atmosphere, In Outer Space And Under Water

1967 Outer Space Treaty (formally titled as the Treaty on the Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies.)
(Summary of Outer Space Treaty)

1968 Rescue Agreement (formally titled as the Agreement on the Rescue of Astronauts, the Return of Astronauts and the Return of Objects Launched into Outer Space)

1971 Agreement Relating To The International Telecommunications Satellite Organization "Intelsat" (with annexes and Operating Agreement

1972 Liability Convention (formally titled as the Convention on International Liability for Damage Caused by Space Objects)

1975 Registration Convention (formally titled the Convention on the Registration of Objects Launched into Outer Space)

1979 Moon Agreement (formally entitled the Agreement Governing the Activities of States on the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies)

1985 Convention On The International Maritime Satellite Organization (INMARSAT) with Annex and Operating Agreement (1976); as amended 1985; with Protocol (1981)

Although the current international legal instruments concerning outer space do, to some extent, prohibit and restrict the deployment of weapons, use of force as well as military activities in certain parts of space, the related provisions contained in them are seen by some states to be limited in scope and therefore inadequate for preventing weaponization of outer space. The progress of science and technology could make it necessary to strengthen the existing international legal system.

Relevant UN bodies

Several UN bodies deal with the issue of outer space:

UN General Assembly First Committee
Conference on Disarmament
Committee on Peaceful Uses of Outer Space
UN General Assembly Fourth Committee
International Telecommunitions Union

United Nations General Assembly

The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) is consensus-building body, where issues of international peace and security are collectively discussed among all UN member states. Its regular session convenes in September of each year, and after two weeks of General Debate, it breaks up into six specialized committees.

The General Assembly's work on disarmament is conducted through one of its main committees, the First Committee on Disarmament and International Security. Each year in the First Committee and then again in the General Assembly as a whole, a resolution on the prevention of an arms race in outer space (PAROS) is introduced and adopted by an overwhelming majority of UN member states. In fact, every country in the world votes in favor of negotiating a treaty on PAROS—except for the US and Israel, which abstain.

The PAROS resolution reaffirms the importance of the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, saying that PAROS efforts are in conformity with that Treaty. However, the resolution also notes that the current outer space legal regime “does not in and of itself guarantee the prevention of an arms race in outer space.” The PAROS resolution calls for states, especially those with space capabilities, to refrain from actions contrary to the objective of PAROS and to “contribute actively” to that objective. It argues for consolidation and reinforcement of the outer space legal regime, and says the Conference on Disarmament (see below) is the place for a new treaty on PAROS to be negotiated. A PAROS treaty would complement the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, which aims to preserve space for peaceful uses, if it prevented the use of space weapons and the development of space-weapon technology and technology related to so-called “missile defense.” A PAROS treaty would also prevent any nation from gaining a further military advantage in outer space and would hopefully reduce current military uses of outer space.

Other relevant UNGA work on Outer Space:

- In recent years, the General Assembly has also adopted by consensus a resolution drafted by Russia and China on transparency and confidence-building measures (TCBMs) in outer space. TCBMs are a good step towards enhancing trust and international cooperation among states. They facilitate management of situations which could otherwise lead to international tension. Most states acknowledge that TCBMs do not replace a legally-binding treaty on PAROS but may function as a start to a step-by-step approach on preventing the weaponization of outer space.

- In 2006 the General Assembly adopted Resolution 61/75 that calls for concrete proposals for Transparency and Confidence-Building Measures in Outer Space Activities. As an answer to this resolution the EU initiated a process on an International Code of Conduct for Outer Space Activities.

- In 2010, the General Assembly agreed to launch a Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) to explore TCBMs that could be undertaken to enhance space security.

Conference on Disarmament

PAROS has been a longstanding agenda item in the Conference on Disarmament (CD), the primary body where UN disarmament treaties are negotiated. The Conference established an “ad hoc committee” on PAROS in 1985 to examine and identify “through substantive and general consideration, issues relevant to [PAROS].” This committee lasted until 1994, though it made little progress. Annual CD reports suggested that the Western group of states, and in particular one state—presumably the United States—had been blocking the negotiation of a treaty banning weapons in space, or a treaty banning anti-satellite weapons, despite having made a proposal along these lines in 1981 that helped lead to the establishment of the ad hoc committee. The US stated openly in 1990 that it “has not identified any practical outer space arms control measures that can be dealt with in a multilateral environment.”

Russia and China have, despite the CD’s deadlock, continued to push for the CD to negotiate measures related to PAROS. In 2002, they submitted a joint working paper on “Possible Elements for a Future International Legal Agreement on the Prevention of the Deployment of Weapons in Outer Space, the Threat or Use of Force Against Outer Space Objects.” And in 2008, Russia and China submitted a draft treaty for a ban on weapons in outer space to the CD, based on the elements outlined in their 2002 working paper. An updated draft was introduced to the CD on 10 June 2014.

UN Committee on Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS)

Also referred to as the Outer Space Committee, COPUOS was established in 1959 by the UN General Assembly in resolution 1472 (XIV) to review international cooperation in and devise UN programmes related to the peaceful use of outer space, encourage research and dissemination of information on outer space, and consider legal issues arising from the exploration of outer space. The Committee, which has 67 member states, and its two subcommittees—the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee and the Legal Subcommittee—meet annually in Vienna and their decisions are implemented by the UN Office for Outer Space Affairs.

In June 2007, COPUOS adopted debris mitigation guidelines, which had been developed by a working group on space debris in the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee over the past few years. The guidelines include measures to be considered for mission planning, design, manufacture, and operational (launch, mission, and disposal) phases of spacecraft and launch vehicle orbital stages. Member states have pledged to implement these guidelines within their national licensing or other applicable mechanisms “to the greatest extent feasible.”

The 2007 session of COPUOS also agreed on a draft resolution on the practice of states and international organizations in registering space objects to be submitted to the General Assembly, and approved a workplan for the United Nations Platform for Space-based Information for Disaster Management and Emergency Response (UN-SPIDER).

UN General Assembly Fourth Committee on Special Political and Decolonization

The Committee has played a crucial role in advancing space cooperation and provides a unique opportunity for the exchange of information among governments on the latest developments in the use and exploration of outer space. The Fourth Committee could be a better forum to work on preventing the weaponization of space than the first committee since the framework of this committee is based on development instead of security and there are more actors using space for development purposes than for military ones. The Fourth Committee meets every year for a four or five week session following the General Assembly General Debate and is comprised of all UN member states.

International Telecommunication Union (ITU)

The ITU, headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, is another international organization within the United Nations System where governments and the private sector coordinate global telecom networks and services. The ITU plays a vital role in the management of the radio-frequency spectrum and satellite orbits, finite natural resources which are increasingly in demand from a large number of services such as fixed, mobile, broadcasting, amateur, space research, meteorology, global positioning systems, environmental monitoring and, last but not least, those communication services that ensure safety of life at sea and in the skies.

Processes and proposals

There are several proposals and processes ongoing:

Prevention of an arms race in outer space
Prevention of the placement of weapons in outer space
Transparency and confidence-building measures (TCBMs) in outer space
Group of Governmental Experts (GGE)
International Code of Conduct for Outer Space Activities

Prevention of an arms race in outer space

Through resolutions and discussions within the United Nations, a general agreement has developed that an arms race in outer space should be prevented. However, due to the structure of the international legal regime and to the objection of a (very) few states, a treaty has not yet been negotiated to comprehensively prevent the deployment of weapons in space or to prevent an arms race in outer space. The United States systematically argues that an arms race in outer space does not yet exist, and it is therefore unnecessary to take action on the issue. The rest of the international community agrees that, because there is not yet an arms race, now is the time to prevent weaponization of space.

Prevention of the placement of weapons in outer space (PPWT)

Some delegations and experts have argued that PAROS is not the most relevant term or treaty to pursue. Discussion in the Conference on Disarmament (CD) has recently focused instead on a treaty to prevent the placement of weapons in outer space. Changing the language in this way circumvents the US argument against PAROS, though it doesn't solve questions of definitions over where outer space begins, what type of weapons should be prohibited, or if the treaty would be verifiable.

On 12 February 2008, Russia's Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, addressed the Conference and presented a joint Russia-China draft Treaty on the Prevention of the Placement of Weapons in Outer Space, the Threat or Use of Force against Outer Space Objects (PPWT). This was the first and only draft treaty on this issue formally introduced to the CD, though it is based on elements proposed in a working paper to the CD in June 2002 by Russia, China, Viet Nam, Indonesia, Belarus, Zimbabwe, and Syria. Minister Lavrov explained the draft treaty is designed “to eliminate existing lacunas in international space law, create conditions for further exploration and use of space, preserve costly space property, and strengthen general security and arms control.”

The Bush administration dismissed the proposal out-of-hand, characterizing the offer to make preserve space for peaceful uses “a diplomatic ploy by the two nations to gain a military advantage.” The Obama administration has continued to reject this draft treaty.

A second draft was introduced by Ambassador Borodavkin of the Russian Federation on the 10 June 2014.  The new draft sees quite a lot of changes from the first version, most notable changes are that the definition of “outer space” has been removed from Article I, while other definitions like “use of force” or “weapon in space” have been slightly amended. Slight modifications to Article IV, the right to self-defense, have also been made. A few changes to the procedural parts of the treaty have been made, to provisions regarding an Executive Organisation to facilitate implementation, rules for amending the treaty, and rules for withdrawal. Other modifications are can be found in the explanatory note provided with the draft treaty text.

Overview of the first draft treaty
The preamble of both the 2002 paper and the draft treaty emphasizes the need to keep outer space free from “military confrontation” and open to peaceful uses and exploration for the “development of humankind”. It also notes that while existing arms control and disarmament agreements relevant to outer space “play a positive role ... in regulating outer space activities,” they are insufficient to “effectively prevent the placement of weapons and an arms race in outer space.” It argues for “examination of further measures in the search for effective and verifiable bilateral and multilateral agreements in order to prevent an arms race in outer space.”

The draft treaty’s articles expand upon the elements contained the 2002 working paper and it defines certain terms, such as “outer space,” “outer space object,” and “weapons in outer space.”

The draft goes on to explain that states parties to the treaty undertake not to place in orbit “any objects carrying any kind of weapons,” not to install them on celestial bodies or other space structures, not to use or threaten to use force against outer space objects, and not to encourage any other parties to do so. It emphasizes the treaty will not impede the rights of states parties “to explore and use outer space for peaceful purposes in accordance with international law.” For matters of transparency and compliance, the draft provides for voluntary confidence-building measures. On verification and compliance enforcement, the draft provides for the possibility of subsequent negotiation of an additional protocol and for the establishment of an executive organization for the treaty, which will consider complaints of treaty violations, organize and conduct consultations with states parties, and “take measures to put an end to the violation of the Treaty by any State Party.”

Analysis of the draft treaty

Transparency and confidence-building measures (TCBMs) in outer space

In 2007, the UN Secretary-General issued a report compiling the views of member states on the issue of TCMBs in outer space, as requested by a General Assembly resolution. The report was issued in two parts: A/62/114 and A/62/114/Add.1.

In 2010, the General Assembly agreeed to launch a Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) to explore TCBMs that could be undertaken to enhance space security.

Group of Governmental Experts (GGE)

The GGE consists of a small group of international space experts from a selection of space faring countries with the main objective to improve international cooperation and reduce the risks of misunderstanding and miscommunication in outer space activities. The final goal for the group is to deliver a consensus report that outlines conclusions and recommendations on transparency and confidence-building measures for space security and sustainability. The GGE’s will build its work on previous and on-going space security initiatives, such as the previous GGE from 1991-1993, 1967 Outer Space Treaty, the EU’s International Code of Conduct, the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space’s LTSSA Working Group, and already established bilateral TCBMs.

The GGE meet for the first time in New York, July 23-25, 2012, a second time in Geneva, April 1-5, 2013 and for the last time in New York, July 8-12, 2013.

The outcome consensus report was submitted to the 68th  Session of the UN General Assembly in 2013 and consiststs of  a set of voluntary TCBMs for outer space activities and recommended for states. In particularly activities on exchange of information between countries space policy and activities, risk reduction notifications and visits by experts to national space facilities. Furthermore it recommended establishing increased coordination between the Office for Disarmament Affairs, the Office for Outer Space Affairs and other appropriate UN entities.

International Code of Conduct for Outer Space Activities

In 2008, the European Union (EU) initiated a procedure to develop an International Code of Conduct for Outer Space Activities (ICoC). The code will not function as a legally binding treaty, but is intended to consist of a set of principles and guidelines agreed to on a voluntary basis amongst states. It is not intended to have any formal enforcement mechanisms.

The objective behind the ICoC is to enhance safety and security in outer space through the development and implementation of transparency and confidence-building measures.

The ICoC is based on 3 main principles:

1) All countries’ inheritable right to use space for peaceful purposes;

2) Protection of security and reliability of space objects in orbit; and

3) Consideration for states’ legitimate defence interests.

Once agreed upon, the EU has stated it expects the ICoC to be applicable on all outer space activities conducted by states, corporations, universities etc., and present the basic rules for both civil and security space activities. The code is intended to address both safety and sustainability of space environment as well as the stability and security in outer space.

Since it is aimed at both safety and security of outer space activities, the EU stated that existing international fora such as the Conference on Disarmament and United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUS) are not appropriate for the ICoC. By discussing the ICoC outside the CD and COPUS, it also includes UN member states which are not members of these bodies.

The EU has stated that it believes the non-legal binding and overarching nature of the ICoC’s means it does not contradict any on-going discussions on for example Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space (PAROS). 

The main goal is to “find an agreement on a text that is acceptable to all interested States and that thus brings effective security benefits in a relatively short term.”

Support from the international community:

Australia, Canada and Japan have already endorsed the ICoC while others have been less positive. Countries such as Brazil, Russia, India and China have expressed disappointment about not having been sufficiently consulted in its development. Together with other space emerging countries they also raised concerns that the ICoC could be a way to limit their future capacities for further outer space activities.

India main issue with the code is that it is not legally binding, with enforcement, verification and a penalty mechanism. 

The United States, the leading country in space development, endorsed the ICoC after having had a national debate where some concerns were raised that the ICoC could lead to the mistaken belief that it could constrain missile defences or anti-satellite weapons.  

Other criticisms raised have been that it replicated already existing domestic policies from some of the EU member states or in bilateral and multilateral transparency and confidence building measures (TCBMs).  This criticism is based on the fact that the joint ICoC can be seen as interference into the domestic policy-making of nations, who are already developing outer space policies on their own initiative

On a more positive side the Code has been praised since it can be applied to all types of outer space activities as mentioned in section 1.2, and therefore  is not only a tool for environmental protection, but also includes arms control aspects. Secondly the CoC also addresses military activities in outer space directly through section 4.2, were the subscribing states refrain from any action which “intends to bring about, directly or indirectly, damage, or destruction, of outer space objects unless such action is conducted to reduce the creation of outer space debris and/or is justified by the inherent right of individual or collective self-defense in accordance with the United Nations Charter or imperative safety considerations.” This means that the Code limits the testing and use of space-based and ground-based Anti-Satellites Weapons.

The open-ended consultations in Kiev in May 2013 were the first multilateral meeting held on the draft ICoC. The meeting aimed at getting different states on the same level of information and knowledge. At the end of the two days consultation the EU announced that the next step will be to re-view all the participants concern and opinions in order to incorporate as many views as possible in the Code.

The second open-ended consultations took place in Bangkok in November 2013. The Bangkok meeting focused on the actual content and wording of the proposed text, including the Preamble; Purposes, Scope and General Principles. A new revision of the draft based on the Bangkok consultations was realized on the 31 March 2014. This draft is the base for the third consultations taking place in Luxembourg on 27-28 May 2014.

For more information about the open-ended consultation process on the ICoC, please read Reaching Critical Will’s summary here.

Official documents

General Assembly documents
CD documents
COPUOS documents
Government documents
Reaching Critical Will document
Civil Socity documnet

General Assembly documents

2011: A/RES/66/27, Prevention of an arms race in outer space
2010: A/RES/65/68, Transparency and confidence-building measures in outer space activities
2007: A/62/114 and A/62/114/Add.1, Reports of the Secretary-General on TCBMs in outer space

CD documents

2009

2008

2007

2006

2005

  • 21-22 March 2005: "Safeguarding Space Security: Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space" (China, Russia, UNIDIR and The Simons Centre for Disarmament and Non-Proliferation Research joint working paper)
  • 9 June 2005:"Definition Issues Regarding Legal Instruments on the Prevention of the Weaponization of Outer Space" (China and Russia joint non-paper)

2004

  • 25-26 March 2004: "Safeguarding Space for All: Security and Peaceful Uses" (report of workshop)
  • 26 August 2004:"Verification Aspects of PAROS" (China and Russia joint non-paper)
  • 26 August 2004:"Existing International Legal Instruments and Prevention of the Weaponization of Outer Space" (China and Russia joint non-paper)

2002

2001

  • Possible Elements of the Future International Legal Instrument on the Prevention of the Weaponization of Outer Space" (China working paper, CD/1645))

2000

  • China’s Position on and Suggestions for Ways to Address the Issue of Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space at the Conference on Disarmament (China working paper, CD/1606)

1999

  • 4 February 1999: (CD/1569), "Canada Proposal concerning CD action on outer space" (Canada working paper)

1998

  • 21 January 1998: (CD/1487), " Canada Working Paper Concerning CD Action On Outer Space" (Canada working paper)

COPUOS documents

2007: Debris mitigation guidelines
2007: Session report

Government documents

United States

Russia

European Union

Reaching Critical Will document

Civil society and PAROS

  • The Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space is comprised of about 150 organizations worldwide. It has an annual meeting of experts and activists to bring attention to issues related to the militarization and weaponization of outer space, missile defence, and corporate profiteering by the space industry. The Global Network and WILPF sponsor the annual Keep Space for Peace Week every October.
  • The PAROS Working Group was formed in April 2008 at the annual organizing conference of the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space by members of the Network and the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF). For more information about the working group, please contact Carol Urner at carol.disarm[at]gmail.com.
  • The Space Security Index is the only annual, comprehensive, and integrated assessment of space security. Based on eight indicators of space security, it provides background information and in-depth analysis on key trends and developments in the space field. It is published by Project Ploughshares.
  • The Secure World Foundation works with governments, industry, international organizations and civil society to develop and promote ideas and actions for international collaboration that achieve the secure, sustainable, and peaceful uses of outer space.
  • Western States Legal Foundationmonitors and analyzes US nuclear weapons programs and policies and related high technology energy and weapons programs, including outer space technologies.
  • The United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research is a voluntarily funded autonomous institute within the United Nations that brings together states, international organizations, civil society, the private sector and academia to build and implement creative solutions for disarmament that will benefit all states and peoples.

The United Nations General Assembly is consensus-building body, where issues of international peace and security are collectively discussed among all UN member states. Its regular session convenes in September of each year, and after two weeks of General Debate, it breaks up into six specialized committees. Every member state is entitled to participate in each of the committees, where they consider proposals relevant to the substantive topics covered by the committee, and recommend resolutions for adoption by the General Assembly. While these resolutions are not legally binding, they can be normative—that is, they can indicate the establishment of customs, standards, and guidelines for appropriate behavior. Resolutions adopted by consensus also indicate substantive areas of agreement that are ripe for negotiation and can enable the creation of new treaties and the emergence of international legal norms. Furthermore, they demonstrate global governmental opinion, showing which governments support peace and security, and which choose to remain outside of or even impede the development of international cooperative security.

The General Assembly's work on disarmament is conducted through one of its main committees, the First Committee on Disarmament and International Security. Each year in the First Committee and then again in the General Assembly as a whole, a resolution on the prevention of an arms race in outer space (PAROS) is introduced and adopted by an overwhelming majority of UN member states. In fact, every country in the world votes in favor of negotiating a treaty on PAROS—except for the US and Israel, which abstain.

The PAROS resolution reaffirms the importance of the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, saying that PAROS efforts are in conformity with that Treaty. However, the resolution also notes that the current outer space legal regime “does not in and of itself guarantee the prevention of an arms race in outer space.” The PAROS resolution calls for states, especially those with space capabilities, to refrain from actions contrary to the objective of PAROS and to “contribute actively” to that objective. It argues for consolidation and reinforcement of the outer space legal regime, and says the Conference on Disarmament (see below) is the place for a new treaty on PAROS to be negotiated. A PAROS treaty would complement the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, which aims to preserve space for peaceful uses, if it prevented the use of space weapons and the development of space-weapon technology and technology related to so-called “missile defense.” A PAROS treaty would also prevent any nation from gaining a further military advantage in outer space and would hopefully reduce current military uses of outer space.

In recent years, the General Assembly has also adopted by consensus a resolution drafted by Russia and China on transparency and confidence-building measures (TCBMs) in outer space. TCBMs are a good step towards enhancing trust and international cooperation among states. They facilitate management of situations which could otherwise lead to international tension. Most states acknowledge that TCBMs do not replace a legally-binding treaty on PAROS but may function as a start to a step-by-step approach on preventing the weaponization of outer space.

In 2010, the General Assembly agreeedagreed to launch a Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) to explore TCBMs that could be undertaken to enhance space security. This GGE will commence in July 2012.

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