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– General John Shalikashvili
former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
Countries to Discuss Space Code in Kiev
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Timothy Farnsworth

In an effort to garner wider international support for its proposed international code of conduct for outer space activities, the European Union announced last month that it plans to hold a series of consultations on the current draft.

Jacek Bylica, principal adviser and special envoy for nonproliferation and disarmament in the European External Action Service, said in an April 2 speech in Geneva that the first of these consultations will be held May 16-17 in Kiev. In an April 19 e-mail to Arms Control Today, Bylica said the consultations will be co-hosted with the Ukrainian State Space Agency and open to all UN member states that wish to participate.

A code of conduct would establish guidelines for responsible behavior in space that would reduce the risk of debris-generating events and increase transparency in space operations in order to avoid collisions.

The objective of the planned consultations is “to discuss the key issues and concepts within the code” in hopes of reaching consensus among countries who would like to sign on to the code, Frank Rose, U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state for space and defense policy, said at a March 29 event on U.S. space diplomacy.

In his e-mail, Bylica said, “As with any common rules of behaviour, the greater the support for the Code will be, the greater the benefits from it” to all space-faring countries.

The current draft of the code was released last June at a multilateral governmental experts meeting in Vienna. (See ACT, July/August 2012.) Rose said the language of that document provides “a useful foundation and constructive starting point” for discussions. He said he expected that these discussions would produce another draft of the code. Further consultations will follow until a “critical mass” of “key nations” agrees to the text, he said.

The meeting this month will be the first since the one last June. A diplomatic meeting had been scheduled for October 2012 to take advantage of diplomats’ presence in New York for UN meetings, but was postponed. Some countries argued that the close timing gave the impression that the code was part of the UN process, which the EU and United States sought to avoid. (See ACT, November 2012.)

The EU first proposed an international code of conduct for space in 2008. (See ACT, January/February 2009.)