The Development of the Mandates of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS) and the Conference on Disarmament (CD) and the Collaboration Between the Forums
The respective mandates initially given to the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS) and the Conference on Disarmament (CD) leave a possible gap in the discussion of space matters internationally, especially since the discussion and deliberation of space matters internationally has evolved since the establishment of the forums. The purpose of this chapter is to focus on this development. In particular, it focuses on the evolution of the mandates of the two forums from their respective establishment until the present and the relations and collaboration between the forums. To frame the evolution of the discussion of space matters internationally, this chapter first gives a basic historical background overview. This overview is not meant to be exhaustive and all-encompassing but is intended to give a better frame of reference for the analysis that will follow.
The overview discusses the USSR–U.S. cold war and space race, European integration and space cooperation and the position of the People’s Republic of China within the UN. Thereafter, it examines the development of the mandate of COPUOS. This examination shows that just after the establishment of COPUOS, three interpretations of the mandate existed: first, that all military uses of outer space should be discussed in the UN disarmament framework and that non-military uses of outer space should be discussed in COPUOS; second, that ‘arms military’ uses of outer space should be discussed in the disarmament framework but that ‘non-arms military uses’ and non-military uses should be discussed in COPUOS; and third, that pure disarmament issues should be discussed in the disarmament framework but that, in addition to the ‘non-arms military uses’ and non-military uses, COPUOS is also mandated to discuss the limitation of the use of outer space to ensure that it is used exclusively for peaceful purposes.
During the deliberations on the five UN Space Treaties, these interpretations seemed to change, with the last interpretation prevailing. This is illustrated by the inclusion of Article IV OST and statements made by states. Following the adoption of Resolution S-10/2, however, the diverging interpretations reappeared. In addition, a fourth interpretation arose that called for close-knit cooperation between COPUOS and the CD. These four interpretations are still the status quo on the mandate of COPUOS. This chapter then examines the development of the mandate of the CD with respect to the discussion of outer space and shows that the CD, just like COPUOS, discusses ‘non-arms military’ uses of outer space and even exceeds its mandate by discussing certain peaceful uses of outer space. Lastly, the chapter reflects on the interaction and collaboration between the two forums, concluding that such interaction and collaboration is nearly non-existent.