UAE chosen to chair UN's Committee on Peaceful Uses of Outer Space

Announcement comes as militarisation of space is increasing

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The UAE has been chosen to lead a UN committee working to promote peaceful use of space.

The country will lead the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, with Omran Sharaf, the Emirati engineer who led its successful Mars mission, serving as the committee's director for 2022 and next year.

The committee has been in operation since 1959 and is one of the largest at the UN. It has 100 member states and plays an important role in peaceful uses of space, encouraging international co-operation and recommending laws and policies that support space exploration.

President Sheikh Mohamed said he was proud of Mr Sharaf and congratulated him on being elected.

“The UAE continues to make notable contributions to the space sector and we wish Omran every success in his new role,” he said.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, also expressed his pride over the UAE's achievement and said it was an honour to have Mr Sharaf appointed.

“I am proud of the UAE's victory as chairman of the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space,” he said.

“I am proud of the son of the Emirates, Omran, who has honourably held this high international role.

“The youth of the Emirates have brought us to space, are leading global files and are running international institutions.”

News of the UAE's election comes as some countries seek to use space for military purposes.

Quote
It’s a great honour for the Emirates to take the chair of COPUOS
Sarah Al Amiri, chairwoman of the UAE Space Agency

The use of weaponry and military technology in space has caused concern among experts over the years, as countries such as Russia, India and China perform anti-satellite missile tests. Some nations have launched an increasing number of spy satellites.

Sarah Al Amiri, Minister of State for Public Education and Future Technology and chairwoman of the UAE Space Agency, said: “It’s a great honour for the Emirates to take the chair of Copuos, particularly as we founded our space programme on international partnerships and collaboration and continue to place these partnerships at the core of our space sector development.”

Mr Sharaf previously represented the UAE on the outer space committee and on the International Committee on Global Navigation Satellite Systems.

He said this was a “tremendous chance” to serve the global space sector.

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, October 30, 2019.  
Public lecture from a project manager of the UAE’s Mission to Mars programme by Omran Sharaf at the Emirates Centre for Strategic Studies and Research. 
Victor Besa/The National
Section:  NA
Reporter:  John Dennehy

“As both a young nation and a relatively new entrant to the space sector, we have benefited from the amazing work of the pioneers who have gone before us,” he said.

“Alongside that heritage, we have also found scope to innovate and challenge what have become accepted norms and we look forward to bringing a spirit of open dialogue and co-operation but also seeking to define solutions and new ways of looking at some of the emerging challenges and opportunities facing our sector and, indeed, humanity.”

The committee is behind one of the most notable space treaties, the Outer Space Treaty of 1967, which has been signed by more than 105 countries so far, including the UAE.

The treaty outlines peaceful uses of space, including low-Earth orbit, the Moon and other space bodies.

However, experts have been voicing concerns for the past few years about some countries using space for the “wrong reasons”.

During the Global Aerospace Summit in Abu Dhabi last week, Maj Michel Friedling, head of the French Space Command, said space was no longer peaceful and immune from politics and war.

“The Outer Space Treaty of 1967 has allowed for the case of peaceful coexistence. And bridges were made between East and West during these decades,” said Mr Friedling.

“But space is and will remain a key factor of economic strategy and military advantage for those who master space and those who know how to use space services.

“So, tensions on Earth will reflect in space and it's already the case.”

The militarisation includes using weapons in space, carrying out cyber attacks on satellites, using technology that jams communications and possessing a large fleet of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance satellites.

Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in late February, a number of cyber attacks have been carried out on satellites operating over the country, often disconnecting its internet and communication services and cutting off the Ukrainian people from the wider world.

Elon Musk made his Starlink satellites available to Ukraine but warned that they could become targets.

Anti-satellite missile, or ASAT, tests use military technology to destroy spacecraft. They are a concern because they create high levels of debris that could endanger astronauts and satellites.

They are also considered a threat because such missile technology could be used in an armed conflict.

In November, Russia carried out an ASAT test in which it destroyed one of its satellites, creating thousands of pieces of space debris.

India ordered an ASAT test in 2019 in an operation called the Mission Shakti, resulting in high levels of space debris.

China destroyed one of its satellites in 2007 and the US followed a year later with a similar operation.

But the US government recently committed to ending ASAT tests and has called for a global agreement to urge other nations to follow its lead.

Updated: June 02, 2022, 6:53 AM
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