The EU leads a multilateral initiative on an International Code of Conduct for Outer Space Activities
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.
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 [394 KB] was released on 16 September 2013.
The draft introduces changes based on comments and suggestions the EU received during, and after, the multilateral Open-ended Consultations (OEC) which took place in May 2013 in Kiev (attended by some 140 participants from 61 countries). To maintain the momentum of the transparent and inclusive process established in Kiev, the EEAS co-hosted, with the Government of Thailand, a second round of Open-ended Consultations in Bangkok in November 2013. Based on this second round of consultations, the EU is preparing another revised draft of the Code for further consultations with the international community during a third OEC in 2014. EU Member States co-sponsored the related UN General Assembly Resolution welcoming this report, which was approved with consensus.
The 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. In its recommendations, the Group endorsed efforts to pursue political commitments including a multilateral code of conduct to encourage responsible actions in, and the peaceful use of, outer space.
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) aims at facilitating information dissemination and exchange of views on the concept of the Code of Conduct. To date, UNIDIR organized four regional seminars (in Malaysia, Ethiopia, Mexico, and Kazakhstan). Another seminar is planned to take place in Russia in the spring 2014.