The United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs was initially created as a small expert unit within the Secretariat to service the ad hoc Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space established by the General Assembly in its
resolution 1348 (XIII) of 13 December 1958. It became a unit within the Department of Political and Security Council Affairs in 1962, when the permanent
Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space met for the first time, and was transformed into the Outer Space Affairs Division of that Department in 1968. In 1992, the Division was transformed into the Office for Outer Space Affairs within the Department for Political Affairs. In 1993, the Office was relocated to the United Nations Office at Vienna. At that time, the Office also assumed responsibility for substantive secretariat services to the
Legal Subcommittee, which had previously been provided by the Office of Legal Affairs in New York. Questions relating to the militarization of outer space are dealt by the
Conference on Disarmament, based in Geneva.
The United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs implements the decisions of the General Assembly and of the
Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space. The office has the dual objective of supporting the intergovernmental discussions in the Committee and its
Scientific and Technical Subcommittee (S&T) and
Legal Subcommittee, and of assisting developing countries in using space technology for development. 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 provided secretariat services in 1968 and 1982 for the two first United Nations Conferences on the Exploration and Peaceful Uses of Outer Space. For the
Third United Nations Conference on the Exploration and Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UNISPACE III) held in July 1999 in Vienna, the Office acted as executive secretariat and serviced the Conference within existing resources.
The Office is headed by a
Director and has two sections: the
Space Applications Section, which organizes and carries out the
United Nations Programme on Space Applications, and the
Committee Services and Research Section, which provides substantive secretariat services to the Committee, its two subcommittees and its working groups. The Committee Services and Research Section also prepares and distributes reports and publications on international space activities and on international space law.
Ms. Mazlan Othman of Malaysia serves as Director of the Office since December 2007.
The United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs provides substantive secretariat services to the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, its Scientific and Technical Subcommittee and Legal Subcommittee and related working groups. The Office also provides substantive secretariat services to the Working Group of the Whole of the Special Political and Decolonization Committee (Fourth Committee) of the General Assembly when it considers the item on international cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space. The Office convenes and services the
Inter-Agency Meeting on Outer Space Activities.
reports and studies prepared by the Office for the use of the Committee and its subsidiary bodies have ranged from background information to substantive studies in various fields of space research, including practical applications of space technology, space law and organizational questions relating to international cooperation in those fields. For
UNISPACE III, the Office prepared 12 background papers providing a comprehensive survey of the current and future state of space science, technology and applications and the promotion of international cooperation, as well as information on United Nations space-related activities.
In order to provide information to Member States, an international space information service (ISIS) was established within the Office for Outer Space Affairs. A number of directories, documents and other publications are issued annually as part of this service. In addition, under the aegis of ISIS, a web-site for the Office was established in 1996 on the Internet. The site provides further information about activities carried out by the Office and contains relevant documents on the work of the United Nations in the peaceful uses of outer space. The International Space Information Service also includes a
searchable online index to the
United Nations Register of Objects Launched into Outer Space. The Register, required by international space law, in maintained by UNOOSA on behalf of the Secretary-General.
As part of the Office’s technical assistance programme on international space law, CSRS provides a
searchable index to the Status of United Nations Treaties Governing Activities in Outer Space, which is available online.
Mr. Niklas Hedman of Sweden serves as Chief of the Committee Services and Research Section since January 2006.
As a result of the shifting emphasis from scientific exploration of outer space to the practical applications of space technology, the Office has been increasingly involved in implementing decisions of the Committee and its subsidiary bodies related to the promotion of international cooperation in the uses of space technology for economic and social development. Beginning with the first United Nations Conference on the Exploration and Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UNISPACE) in 1968, the Office has carried out programmes designed to disseminate information and provide training in the practical applications of space technology, in particular for developing countries.
After the Second Conference on the Exploration and Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UNISPACE 82) in 1982, the General Assembly, in its resolution 37/90 of 10 December 1982, expanded the mandate of the
Programme on Space Applications to include promoting the development of indigenous capabilities in the developing countries.
Since its inception in 1971, the Programme has organized, among other activities, over 150 training courses, workshops and conferences attended by more than 7,500 participants.
Mr Takao Doi of Japan serves as the Expert on Space Applications and Chief of the Space Applications Section since September 2009.