Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space
The United Nations Committee on Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS) was established on December 13 1958, as an ad hoc intergovernmental Committee by the UN General Assembly Resolution shortly after the launch of the first artificial satellite Sputnik I in 1957. It was established to review the scope of international cooperation in peaceful uses of outer space; to devise programmes in this field to be undertaken under United Nations auspices; to encourage continued research and the dissemination of information on outer space matters; and to study legal problems arising from the exploration of outer space. The Committee had 18 members at the time including India. In 1959, the UNGA established the Committee as a permanent body and reaffirmed its mandate.
In 1961, the General Assembly, considering that the United Nations should provide a focal point for international cooperation in the peaceful exploration and use of outer space, requested the Committee, in cooperation with the Secretary-General and making full use of the functions and resources of the Secretariat;
- to maintain close contact with governmental and non-governmental organizations concerned with outer space matters;
- to provide for the exchange of such information relating to outer space activities as Governments may supply on a voluntary basis, supplementing, but not duplicating, existing technical and scientific exchanges; and
- to assist in the study of measures for the promotion of international cooperation in outer space activities.
The UN resolution also requested the Secretary-General to maintain a Public Registry based on the information supplied by States launching objects into orbit or beyond. These terms of reference have since provided the general guidance for the activities of the Committee in promoting international cooperation in the peaceful uses and exploration of outer space. Today, the membership of COPUOS has grown to 70 members making it one of the largest Committees in the United Nations. In addition to States a number of International organizations, including both Intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations, have observer status with COPUOS and its two Subcommittees. COPUOS has two standing Subcommittees – Scientific & Technical Subcommittee and Legal Subcommittee. The Committee and its two Subcommittees meet annually to consider questions put before them by the General Assembly, reports submitted to them and issues raised by the Member States. The Committee and the Subcommittees, working on the basis of consensus, make recommendations to the General Assembly.
The Office for Outer Space Affairs implements the decision of the General Assembly and of COPUOS. The office has the dual objective of supporting the intergovernmental discussions in the Committee and its two subcommittees and implements the UN Programme on Space Applications. In addition, it follows legal, scientific and technical developments relating to space activities, technology and applications in order to provide technical information and advice to Member States, international organizations and other United Nations offices. The Office has multinational staff and is headed by a Director (Ms. Mazlan Othman since 2007).
The 54th Session of the UNCOPUOS was held in Vienna from 1-10 June 2011, which adopted a declaration on 50th anniversary of human space flight and 50th anniversary of the first session of UNCOPUOS.
The Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UNCOPUOS) is located in the Vienna International Center.
Wagramerstrasse 5, A-1400 Vienna, Austria
Telephone: +43-1-260 60 4950
India and the UNCOPUOS
India is a founder member of the UNCOPUOS and has made significant contributions to its work. Dr. Vikram K. Sarabhai, the Father of Indian Space Programme, was the Vice-President and Scientific Chairman of the first United Nations Conference on the Exploration and Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UNISPACE-I) in 1968. Professor Yashpal, the then Chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), was the Secretary-General of UNISPACE-II in 1982, and Professor U.R. Rao, then Chairman ISRO, was President of UNISPACE-III in 1999 and Chairman of UNCOPUOS from 1997-1999.
The Indian delegation proactively participates in the Committee proceedings through technical presentations, highlighting the progress of Indian space activities, and also in proposing topics for discussion and policy decisions keeping in mind the interests of India and other developing countries. The issues under active consideration of UNCOPUOS include Disaster Management, use of Telemedicine, Management of Earth’s Natural Resources and Space Debris Management Guidelines.
The United Nations has established Regional Centre for Asia Pacific Region for Space Science and Technology Education in India. Today this Centre enjoys a high reputation in the international scientific community.
To know about India’s space programme, please access the official website of Indian Space Research Organization at www.isro.org