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Thursday, July 22, 1999 Published at 09:37 GMT 10:37 UK


Space should boost all says UN

Access to space technology would improve weather forecasting

Developing countries with economic or environmental problems must profit more from space technology said United Nations Secretary General, Kofi Annan, at the last major UN conference of the century.

"We must ensure that the fruits of technical progress are made available to all people in all nations," said Mr Annan at the third UN Conference on the Exploration and Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, UNISPACE III.

[ image: Communication is vital to growing developing countries' economies]
Communication is vital to growing developing countries' economies
The conference, which runs in Vienna to 30 July, will address how space technology can tackle both global and regional problems, including ways of using space technology to help developing countries achieve sustainable growth and how to deal with the estimated 8,500 objects classified as space debris which could collide with satellites.

Similar meetings were held in 1968 and 1982, before the Cold War ended.

Benefits today and tomorrow

Mr Annan said the future benefits of space technology were almost unimaginable, but that even existing knowledge could be better used.
For example:

  • better weather forecasting could help minimise the effects of natural disasters
  • satellite monitoring could detect landmines and even the cultivation of illegal drugs

The Secretary-General warned that at the moment the advantages of globalisation are far from being equally shared.

"The telecommunications industry is estimated to be worth a trillion dollars annually, yet one-third of the world's population has never made a telephone call, and only five per cent has access to computers," he said.

"And as the technology moves forward, the gap widens between those who are part of the wired world and those who are not."

Industry participates for first time

Thomas Klestil, President of Austria, told the conference that for the first time industry and civilian representatives would take part in a UN conference, as full partners with governments.

"This new approach represents a fundamental change in the attitude of the UN and recognises that governments are no longer the only actors - or even the most important ones - when it comes to space applications. In areas ranging from satellite communications to launch services, the space industry has outpaced governments."

The moon landing
Industry is represented at Unispace III by a wide array of companies, including DaimlerChrysler Aerospace, Boeing and Aerospatiale Matra.

The conference has 3,000 delegates from around the world and their purpose is to develop and adopt "The Vienna Declaration on Space and Human Development", a blueprint for the peaceful use of space.

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