Space assets, operated by an increasing number of governmental and non-governmental entities, offer the world enormous benefits unimaginable just a few decades ago. Today, these benefits are accompanied by significant risks and challenges stemming from dangerous orbital debris, the potential of destructive collisions, the crowding of satellites in geo-stationary (GEO) orbit, the growing saturation of the radio-frequency spectrum, as well as the threat of purposeful disruption. These challenges call for the serious involvement of all space-faring and other countries to ensure greater safety, security, and long-term sustainability of outer space activities.
Following United Nations General Assembly Resolutions 61/75 of 6 December 2006 and 62/43 of 5 December 2007 on “Transparency and Confidence-Building Measures (TCBMs) in Outer Space Activities”, and in response to the request by the UN Secretary General to UN members for "concrete proposals" for TCBMs, the European Union (EU) introduced its proposal for an International Code of Conduct for Outer Space activities and launched consultations to promote the development of a preliminary draft, which was released in December 2008.
The latest draft of the Space Code of Conduct was released on 31 March 2014.
A consensus report by the Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) on Outer Space Transparency and Confidence-Building Measures in Outer Space Activities, requested by UNGA Resolution 65/68, and finalized in July 2013, noted the EU's proposal for an International Code of Conduct for Outer Space Activities, as well as the open-ended consultations on the proposal held in Kiev in May 2013. The report was endorsed by the UN General Assembly at its 68th session. EU Member States co-sponsored the related UN General Assembly Resolution. The report endorsed efforts to pursue political commitments including a multilateral code of conduct to encourage responsible actions in, and the peaceful use of, outer space.
The EU held three rounds of multilateral Open-ended Consultations, in Kiev (May 2013), Bangkok (November 2013), and Luxembourg (May 2014). Overall, 95 UN Member States participated in this consultation process (61 countries were present in each round of consultations). The process of Open-ended Consultations, concluded by the meeting in Luxembourg, played a valuable role in developing a better understanding of positions, and concerns, of participating states. At the end of the meeting the Chair concluded that there existed broad international interest in the initiative and that many nations expressed their desire to move the process to a negotiating phase in which the draft Code developed in the consultative process could serve as the basis for future multilateral negotiations.
By promoting the draft Code of Conduct, the EU supports the notion that voluntary "rules of the road", grounded in best practices among space actors, offer a pragmatic approach to achieving, and strengthening, adherence to norms of behaviour in space. The Code of Conduct aims at enhancing safety, security, and sustainability in space by emphasizing that space activities should involve a high degree of care, due diligence, and transparency, with the aim of building confidence among space actors worldwide.
In the context of the EU-funded project entitled "Facilitating the Process for the Development of an International Code of Conduct for Outer Space Activities", which supports the diplomatic process, the UN Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR) has facilitated information dissemination and exchange of views on the concept of the Code of Conduct. To date, UNIDIR has organized four regional seminars (in Malaysia, Ethiopia, Mexico, and Kazakhstan) and helped the EEAS with the preparation of the Open-ended Consultations.